What to do after?
BY PSYCHOLOGY SPECIALIST PIA C. AURSAND
Infidelity is a common reason for a couple to seek couples therapyThe experience of discovering infidelity when you have felt safe in your relationship is incredibly painful and counts as a crisis - for others, a trauma as well.
For most people, it will feel as if their entire life is falling apart. There can be moments where it feels as if you will never be able to trust anyone ever again.
Psykologvirke has many years of experience in assisting couples after infidelity. If you have already decided to give it a try you can easily schedule an appointment online in two minutes here.
For those who have discovered infidelity
To those of you who have recently become aware of infidelity in your relationship: What now? Maybe you've been going around for a while now suspecting infidelity and seeing signs that your partner is keeping secrets from you?
Maybe you have repeatedly brought this up with your partner and been met with avoidance and irritation? Maybe your partner has called you “hysterical” or “controlling” because you ask for reassurance and answers?
Maybe you have been thinking “What is wrong with me?” since your partner chose to become involved with someone else? Or perhaps you thought your relationship was so safe and healthy that “something like this could never happen”?
It happened anyway and it seems impossible to understand...
Psychological reactions in cases of infidelity
When one is closely attached to another person, such an event will trigger strong and painful emotions that can be labeled as separation anxiety.
This involved fear and emotional pain similar to a child who is afraid of losing the primary caretaker they are reliant upon for survival.
Even if, as an adult, you know that you can survive an eventual dissolution of your relationship, your body can react as if it is in deadly danger when your attachment to your partner is threatened.
During a crisis, our bodies cannot manage to be in constant pain - this is why it may feel like a “surging” emotional movement. Going from being filled with pain, stress, sorrow and anger to several hours passing without you even thinking about it.
And then you are suddenly filled with discomfort once again.
Going in and out of uncomfortable emotions is a common characteristic in times of shock and crisis and is the body's way of balancing itself, because it is taxing to be in constant pain.
For those who have been unfaithful
To those who have been unfaithful: perhaps you are in a crisis because you suddenly realize you have done something you thought was unimaginable? Maybe you have been living a double life and feel both relief and pain that the “cat is out of the bag"?
It can be unbearable to acknowledge that you have put your partnership and family at risk through giving in to temptation or desire.
Some ask themselves: am I a weak and immoral person? And who am I to have gone behind my partner’s back and hurt the person I love? Can I ever be forgiven? How can I ever truly apologize for my infidelity?
Should I stay or should I go? Separate or attempt a reconciliation?
Some are uncertain of what they want. Go all in with couples therapy after infidelity to save the relationship - or end it and move on with the person you have been unfaithful with.
It can take time to figure this out and may need many discussions. Discussions such as these can be difficult to do on your own without things escalating into painful conflict.
For others it is crystal clear that the relationship is one they want, and they are filled with anger and guilt and hope for reconciliation.
Maybe you are finally getting the acknowledgment and love from your partner that you have been longing after for a long time?
Perhaps you are finally resuming sexual relations and feeling the passion and desire that you believed was gone forever? Maybe you are finally feeling seen and valued in your relationship?
Why are people unfaithful?
The causes of infidelity are varied. In many cases, infidelity is a symptom that the relationship has not worked for a long time. The couple may have not had sex for a long time, argued a lot and felt an increasing distance. Or that their children take up all their time.
In a situation such as this, the reasons for infidelity can be more understandable to the person who has been cheated on. Even though infidelity cannot be defended or justified because of these reasons.
The person who has been unfaithful is always responsible for their boundary breaking actions, even in a relationship that has not worked in a long time
It will still be possible for many couples to have healthy and intimate conversations that allow them new insight in the wake of such a crisis.
How to move past infidelity?
One factor of success in couples therapy after infidelity is that both partners want to fight for their relationship. Both partners must also take responsibility for the lack of nurture and care in the relationship over time.
Another factor of success is how much the partner who has been unfaithful is able to fully and completely take responsibility for their actions, to regret and ask for forgiveness.
The partner who has been unfaithful must also work to reassure their partner that the relationship with the other person is over. It often takes a long time before reconciliation can occur, and it will be something that needs to be worked on continually over time.
Couples therapy for infidelity with a private psychologist
Once the infidelity has been discovered, many couples want to get therapy as quickly as possible. It would therefore be wise to seek a psychologist that has great experience in couples therapy.
Couples with children living at home can be offered therapy from the public sector, but because there is often some waiting time and a more limited offer, many will seek out private psychologist.
The choice is dependent on finances as well as what the couple wants in regard to waiting times as well as how often they can have sessions and how many sessions they can receive. With a private psychologist, these various factors are far more flexible.
Expectations of couples therapy after infidelity
When in couples therapy for infidelity, you can expect that both partners will be heard, and that the therapist will attempt to understand them both.
This also involves that you may be offered sessions together and individually. This is so both partners can speak freely without having to adapt or worry about the reactions of their partner.
Moving on in couples therapy with a psychologist
It would be a good idea to meet often in the start of a therapy process. Both to form a relationship with your psychologist but also to receive support and follow-up through the initial period of shock.
Therapy research shows that couples therapy is most effective when there are not long breaks between sessions. Especially in the beginning and especially when the clients are in crisis. Therefore, we recommend at least one session a week to start with.
Some of what is important in the beginning is safeguard both partners and help them to find a common goal. This can vary depending on where the couple is in the process when they first start therapy.
For some couples, the crisis level will be so high that the therapist will have to discuss measures for sleep, food and breaks from the subject. How your recovery can be aided by the help of good friends and family. How much time the couple should spend together and apart and what boundaries to have in place for when they are in conflict.
Protecting your children and deescalating arguments
If the couple has children, how best to be maintain your parental roles during the crisis will be discussed. Some people have a strong network that can provide relief and take care of their children until the strongest emotions have somewhat subsided.
Violence can also occur in some relationships in the wake of infidelity. It will be particularly important then to create a safety plan that both partners can agree to, to avoid that either partner is injured, violated or intimidated.
How to work with infidelity in couples therapy?
A clarification process after infidelity can take many rounds. It is not a one-time exercise to decide to fight for your relationship or avoid relationship dissolution.
The job of the therapist is to identify the hurt feelings that lay under the avoidance, rage and bitterness and help the partners express their attachment needs.
The partner who has been unfaithful should expect to have to put forth great effort in convincing their partner that this will never happen again.
The other partner will normally have to practice expressing their need to be reassured rather than yelling and interrogating their partner with countless questions about details concerning the infidelity.
Both partners need to practice employing healthy strategies in order to strengthen their relationship. There are numerous tips and advice a good couple therapist can give.
Productive couples therapy can also end in relationship dissolution
Some relationships collapse after infidelity. You find that the road back is too far, that there is too little love left in the relationship or that the person who has been unfaithful has fallen in love and wants to pursue the other relationship.
In these cases, sessions with a couples therapist can diminish the fallout of a breakup, help the couple reconcile with the breakup and explore the reasons it all went so wrong.
The couple will be able to leave the relationship with a degree of mutual respect. This is particularly important when children are involved, and you will have to cooperate as parents for a long time.
When couples therapy for infidelity saves the Relationship
But there are many who choose to continue together after such a crisis. Some couples come out actually stronger, even if we would never recommend infidelity as a strategy to better your relationship.
Some couples experience falling in love anew and choose to be with each other on new and far better premises than before. They experience increased physical and emotional intimacy, a new depth in their relationship and greater curiosity towards each other.
They will also feel new, strong emotions of a rekindled attraction after facing the very real threat of losing each other.
After a successful couples therapy for infidelity, one female client said:
“When I hear how much pain he has had in his relationship with me, I can almost understand that he was unfaithful. He has talked about his longings and I just have not been present in this relationship.”
He said: “It was only you I wanted all the time, even when I was with the other woman. What she said meant so little in comparison of when it comes from you. Because you are the woman in my life.”
Online couples therapy or in-person therapy with psychologists in downtown Oslo
Psykologvirke offers couples therapy for infidelity and numerous other problematics for couples that in various ways want to strengthen their relationship.
Psykologvirke also offers simple and safe online video therapy for couples that live far from Oslo or couples that cannot do in-person therapy for various reasons.
You are more than welcome at Psykologvirke for commitment free therapy session. We will do our best to be of help!