How Can I Save My Marriage after Infidelity?
Infidelity does not have to destroy your marriage. Professional counselors have intervention strategies to save your marriage, but both partners have to agree to the plan and work the plan every day. Are you, the injured partner, willing to try? Are you the participating partner (the person having the affair), willing to try? Is your marriage worth saving?
Are you experiencing fear and trembling? Infidelity can induce those feelings. But many couples have saved their marriages. If you want to save your marriage, counseling is a way to fix a broken one. But what can you expect if you choose counseling?
A 19 page “Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy” article titled “Treating Affair Couples: Clinical Considerations and Initial Findings,” presents a conceptual model of response to infidelity and infidelity-specific couple-based intervention. Many interventions incorporate cognitive-behavioral, insight-oriented, trauma-based and forgiveness approaches. Infidelity is the most frequently cited cause of divorce and doubles the likelihood of divorce. The discovery of an affair can have an overwhelming and devastating impact on the couple.
Core beliefs essential to emotional security may be shattered. The injured partner may not be able to move forward with the relationship. The injured partners report feelings of:
- inward feelings of shame
- overwhelming powerlessness
- loss of sense that the future is predictable
- loss of control
Stage 1 – Dealing With the Impact
Some of the components of Stage 1 are setting boundaries, self-care techniques, timeout and venting techniques, emotional expressiveness skills and discussion of the impact of the affair, and coping with flashbacks.
The injured partner must gain a more balanced view of the offender and the event, decrease the negative feeling toward the offender and allow compassion to enter this experience, and give up the right to punish the offender. But before these three outcomes can be achieved, the emotional turmoil and destructive exchanges must be contained. Partners need to learn how to communicate feelings in a constructive manner and reach decisions about how to set boundaries regarding involvement with the outside affair person. Couples must explore the factors that placed their relationship at risk for an affair and improve their ability to negotiate basic changes on how to interact and manage daily challenges in their relationship. The counselor helps establish the rules and helps hold the partners accountable for following the rules.
Stage 2 – Searching For Meaning and Understanding
The factors addressed in Stage 2 are aspects of the relationship such as difficulty communicating or finding time for each other, external issues such as job stress, financial difficulties or conflicts with in-laws and issues specific to both partners such as beliefs about marriage or social developmental history.
Now that the partners have established a truce and are clearly attempting to move forward, insight-oriented couple therapy strategies can help the couple move to the next level where partners come to understand current relationship struggles from the perspective of partners’ developmental histories with their affective components, strategies for emotional gratification and anxiety containment. These components may be reconstructed to focus on identifying each partner’s consistencies in their interpersonal conflicts and their coping styles. Then the role of the partners’ respective pasts can be seen as they played throughout their marriage and how their individual dynamics may have helped create the potential risks that contributed to the partner’s extramarital affair.The counselor’s experience and training along with the counselor’s listening skills help the partners begin to understand the infidelity.
Stage 3 – Recovering and Moving Forward
In Stage 3 the couple is encouraged to address the issue of forgiveness, consolidate what they have learned about themselves, each other and their partnership, reexamine their relationship, and decide how they wish to continue. With professional counseling and with both the injured partner and the participating partner (the person having the affair) actively committed to the counseling process, the decision to end a marriage will be made in the most responsible way, and the decision to continue the marriage will put the marriage on a solid path. A professional counselor is the essential key to moving forward and allowing the past to become the past.