Infidelity is among the leading causes of divorce and often causes the partners of unfaithful individuals to feel depressed, angry, powerless, and unworthy. Many report losing their ability to trust their partner and feel hopeless about their future together. Still, infidelity counseling can ease the pain of the betrayed partner and even save a marriage.
What constitutes infidelity?
Infidelity can be very subjective based on a person’s beliefs, values and expectations from the relationship. Viewing pornography, unfaithful behavior, sex outside the relationship, emotional affairs, in different degrees can be termed infidelity by a partner and may not be considered as forms of cheating in a relationship by another.
Any type of infidelity can strain a relationship if measures are not taken to manage the consequences.
Infidelity issues in men and women
- Men are more likely to seek attention or more sex by having one or multiple affairs as compared to women.
- They are more likely to cheat if they are feeling insecure
- Women are more likely to seek something to fill their emotional void or feel more desired by having an affair but sexual satisfaction can also be a factor
- They are more likely to see an affair as a way to end their marriage if they feel trapped.
- In heterosexual couples, women are also more likely to initiate divorce and be happy after that
A study has shown that men and women equally seek sexual or emotional satisfaction if their primary relationship lacks it. Also, both genders have negative and positive emotions as a result of their affairs.
Signs of infidelity
According to psychiatrists and relationship counselors, including Dr. Scott David Haltzman, Laurie Puhn and April Masini, the following signs can hint at infidelity by a partner:
- Drastic improvement in physical appearance
- Sudden change in routines
- Date nights getting almost replaced by work issues
- Becoming more and more secretive about financial transactions
- Being too comfortable with giving access to private things like mobile phone or becoming too protective about them
- A sexless marriage or sudden increase in sex
- Becoming more and more judgmental about you and the relationship, blaming you for everything
- Sudden interest in giving gifts or treating you better
- Blackout periods where they are away for long periods with no plausible explanation and can’t be reached
Causes of infidelity
- Lack of confidence in oneself or being unhappy with oneself
- Lack of communication
- Emotional or physical disconnect
- Lack of respect
- Desire for a new experience
- Avoidance of problems
- Low compatibility levels
- Domestic violence
- Financial pressures
- Personality disorder or psychological issues
- Childhood issues
- Sex addiction
Types of infidelity
- Object infidelity - Being obsessed with other things and neglecting the relationship
- Sexual infidelity - Due to lack of attachment or desire to experience something new
- Cyber infidelity - Sexting and chatting, watching pornography
- Emotional infidelity - Emotional attachment to someone else
Effects of infidelity
On the cheater
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Feeling guilty
- Feeling trapped and helpless
- Fear or resistance to speak up
On the uninvolved partner
- Low self-esteem
- Increased distress
- Self-blame or shame
- Poor work performance
- Post Traumatic stress (PTSD)
- Indulgence in high-risk behaviors such as:
- Having unprotected sex or sex under influence of alcohol/drugs
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Overeating, undereating, and over-exercising
Stages of coping with infidelity
Types of infidelity counseling
There are various kinds of infidelity or adultery counseling available for infidelity issues:
Marriage counseling for infidelity - Where both parties participate in the infidelity therapy. Although it is commonly believed that counseling is typically offered for the betrayed party, many cheaters also need counseling.
One-on-one or couples therapy - Most cases of cheating have something to do with one or both partners being dissatisfied with the relationship. One-on-one sessions can help uncover the reasons behind this and how to address it and manage the negative feelings towards the partner and oneself.
Cognitive behavioral therapy - If the problem pertains to matters like sex addiction, CBT can help. CBT also helps betrayed partners improve their mental health by bringing about changes in the way they act, feel, think and deal with the problem.
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How infidelity counseling helps
- Many infidelity counselors start the therapy process by educating both parties of the typical stages of coping with infidelity and recovery. They might inform a couple that a case of infidelity can be highly traumatizing and explain to them how trauma is typically treated in infidelity therapy.
They might also educate the couple that the stages that were first discovered in grief therapy -denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance- commonly apply to recovering from infidelity as well.
This gives both parties a better idea of what is ahead of them and helps them understand that what they are going through is totally normal and expected under the circumstances.
- A therapist might want to use body-based therapies such as sensorimotor therapy or mindfulness to release the trauma that is typically stored in a person’s body in such cases.
- Therapist that focuses on helping the cheater might help him or her to overcome feelings of guilt and teach this party in a way in which he or she can help the betrayed party recover faster.
Regaining trust is an integral party of the therapy since many betrayed parties have not only lost their trust towards their partner but also themselves. “How could I let this happen?” is a common question that therapists hear from the betrayed party.
- Therapists that focus on the betrayed partner, typically help him or her to overcome feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Infidelity typically causes a huge drop in a person's self-esteem so a therapist might want to focus on building that as well.
- Regardless of whether a couple chooses to remain together, one integral part of counseling is teaching both parties how to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting but without forgiveness, neither party can move on to either rebuilding their relationship or finding new love.
- Towards the end of the counseling, typically a couple is ready to discuss such things as factors that lead to infidelity.
Concerns and limitations of infidelity counseling
- Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations towards infidelity counseling. It takes a fairly long time to recover from infidelity, so a couple should not expect this to be a short-term therapy.
It is also a common misconception that the goal of counseling is to always try to help a couple stay together. This is not always possible or even recommended, especially if there has been repeated infidelity in the marriage, or if there has been physical or emotional abuse in the marriage.
- In such cases, infidelity counseling may focus on helping the couple find a gentle way to end their relationship and infidelity therapists might teach the couple how to co-parent their children if there are children involved.
- While coping with infidelity, the recovery process is unlikely to be linear. It is quite common for the cheater especially to be disappointed when they expected their partner to have reached forgiveness, and all of the sudden they realize that this is not the case.
Recovery process takes two steps forward and one backward quite frequently in affair counseling.
Fear of being ostracized-Frequently they are overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and are desperate to learn how to help their partner to recover. Still unfaithful partners also rarely seek help as they often fear that they would be judged or looked down on by therapists.This is naturally not the case.
How to prepare for infidelity counseling
- First thing a couple should do is to decide first whether they would like to attend infidelity counseling alone or as a couple. Some people even choose to work alone with one therapist and see another therapist together as a couple. It is typically recommended that you don’t use the same counselor for individual and couples therapy for cheating or infidelity.
- An individual or a couple wanting to start seeing an infidelity counselor should accept that this is not a good time to make big decisions about their lives. Many people rush into filing for a divorce or moving out of the house only to regret it later.
Be prepared to share facts and feelings with total honesty
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What to expect from the infidelity counseling
It may come as a surprise to you, but as devastating as infidelity is about 70% of the couples that experience it, actually stay together and are able to rebuild their relationship. Getting infidelity therapy or affair therapy for cheaters and those betrayed after an affair tends to increase the likelihood that a couple stays together, and it can also speed up the affair recovery process.
Yet, it is important to understand that not all marriages can or should be saved after infidelity. In such cases, infidelity counseling might help a couple to evaluate their relationship in an objective way.
Such counseling for cheating could help a couple to figure out whether their problems can be solved and whether they are willing to make the changes required to save their marriage. Still, despite all these negative things, infidelity doesn’t have to leave you scarred for life or tear apart your relationship.
Many couples report that their relationship was made stronger in the aftermath of infidelity. What these couples have in common is that they saw infidelity as a symptom of underlying issues within their relationship and began working to fix these problems. These individuals were willing to put in the effort to rebuild trust and learned to forgive one another.