Infidelity is one of the common problems for people seeking professional help. It is an extremely painful and traumatic event for a partner to experience and a major occasion for divorce. For couples who don’t divorce, infidelity is a main cause for long-lasting pain, disappointment and mistrust in relationship.
Most affair relationship is a fantasy relationship that is unlikely to work out in reality. Only 2.5% of pursued affair relationships make it to lasting marriages.
The damage of infidelity to relationship can be terminal because trust is broken. But the crisis can serve as a “Danger-Opportunity” for couples to find out what is missing or not working in the relationship and strengthen the partnership in the long run through couple counselling.
Why People Cheat
People have affairs for many reasons. For example, pain of a failed marriage, boredom with a routine and passionless marriage, a desire for adventure, feeling unloved and constantly criticized at home. Knowing what caused the affair is helpful because it sheds light on the needs and wants of the partner who had the affair and the shortcomings of the relationship. It also enables the couple to confront the issues honestly and overcome the inadequacies of the relationship eventually.
Sometimes, people have affairs to force a change in the relationship. For example, people who want to improve the relationship because they are deeply unhappy but do not know how to communicate their distress; or people who want to leave the relationship but feel guilty to initiate.
Couples therapist, clinical psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Sue Johnson speaks about why infidelity is actually a symptom of disconnection, and what most of us get wrong about cheating and lust.
The decision of whether to stay or leave is a big decision in your life. Basically, you have three options:
- Opt to leave: you see this breach of trust and fidelity has injured the relationship fatally and there is no way you can continue with your partner.
- Tolerate the affair: you choose to tolerate the affair and stay in the relationship for whatever reasons.
- Work on the relationship: you insist that your partner must end the affair and seeking professional help together to rebuild trust in the relationship.
Guidelines for Making Decision
- Make your OWN decision
- Do not rush the decision
- Get professional help to have clarity of the issues
- Do not make this decision solely on emotional factors, nor solely on practical factors
For some people, the impulse to leave after the discovery is high for one or both partners, to avoid dealing with the storm of emotions caused by infidelity. Because the final decision about your relationship is so important, it is essential for your own sake, as well as for your partner and family, that your decision come from real self-understanding, rather than from impulse.
To part is a solution but may not be the answer for most relationship problems. Because if you don’t know the reasons or meaning behind the infidelity, you may end up with a similar problem in your future relationship.
Before you make your final decision, it is worth to seek professional help to see whether your relationship can be saved and to have more clarity and understanding of the issues. The new clarity and understanding enable both partners to see things from different perspectives and create opportunity for change.
Discover Meaning of Affair
Couples who want to rebuild their relationship after an affair must discover meaning of the affair, or it will remain a profoundly threatening event. The article Shattered Vows: Getting Beyond Betrayal written by Dr.Shirley Glass, one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity, challenges everything you know about infidelity and help answered many questions couples wanted to know about infidelity and why it’s so deeply wounding and traumatic to the betrayed spouse.
The healing journey will be painful and probably very long. It needs commitment and hard work from both partners to rebuild trust and intimacy in the relationship. The couple needs to develop honest and open communication in the relationship as a foundation for rebuilding.
Many relationships survive infidelity through hard work and end up stronger than before. However, many couples are unable to handle the painful experience and distress when working through the affair, it is thus advisable to seek professional help to assist you in keeping the healing process fair and balanced.
Some helpful guiding principles for the healing journey:
- Affairs are about insecure attachment, and not about bad people doing bad things.
- An affair can be a wake-up call, an opportunity for learning and growth, rather than a tragic ending.
- A person who cheats may have been conditioned to be wary of closeness when combined with need.
- The idea that infidelity is about a mismatch, is oversimplified. Those who end their relationships on that basis often go off to create the same dissatisfying patterns in their future relationships.
- The degree to which the revelation of an affair is disruptive can be linked to two factors:
- The duration and intensity of the affair(s).
- The foundational degree of trust and level of functioning in the relationship.
Understand Hurt Partner’s Experience
- Shattering of reality
- Violation of the specialness of the relationship
- Broken trust
1. Shattering of Reality
For the hurt partner, there is a profound sense of shock, at having been deceived, left out, taken advantage of, and manipulated. It is like a tsunami suddenly come and sweep you away. The hurt partner is forced abruptly to live in a new reality that is not anticipated, cannot imagine and understand. Everything now comes into question. It is natural for the hurt partners to ask similar questions again and again because they cannot understand and make sense of what had happened.
The involved partner normally experiences significant guilt and shame, and usually has difficulty tolerating the hurt partner’s emotional turmoil and questioning, and wanted the hurt partner to get over this as soon as possible. But the hurt partner’s hurt, anger and resentment need to be constructively expressed and openly acknowledged by the involved partner.
Couple counselling can help to provide a safe space for the hurt partner to ask questions in a non-accusatory way and adjust to the new reality, to normalize experience of both partners and facilitate communication between them.
2. Violation of the Specialness of the Relationship
The experience of betrayal includes the violation of the sense of specialness in the relationship. Intimacies that were thought to be shared only in the relationship have been shared elsewhere. This includes sexual and emotional betrayal. Often the emotional betrayal can be more painful than the sexual. This violation can lead the hurt partners to question whether they are just replaceable goods. The failure of the involved partner to reassure the hurt partner repeatedly and being remorseful for his/her actions, will prolong the healing process.
Couple counselling can play a significant role in helping both partners through the isolation of anger, hurt, guilt and shame into a more productive and compassionate communication.
3. Broken Trust
The most significant impact of affair to a hurt partner is broken trust because trust is the glue that holds a relationship together. Love alone is not enough and commitment is all about trust. Broken trust is one of the most difficult dynamics to restore in relationships. Without trust, intimacy suffers. When emotional intimacy dried up, so does sexual intimacy. Defensive walls go up. Communication breaks down. Distance replace closeness. Resentment festers. Hostility kills kindness and caring. The atmosphere turns toxic. And relationships slowly disintegrate and die.
The process of rebuilding trust requires effort, time, motivation and total commitment from both partners. The presence of a counsellor as a neutral third party is crucial to create a safe space:
- For the hurt partner to question the involved partner in a non-accusatory way to rebuild trust, to mourn losses and explore new way of relating.
- For the involved party to be honest, transparent and attentive to the hurt partner’s questioning and needs to feel safe again.
A video clip on “Can you repair a relationship after an affair? “By Dr Sue Johnson
We believe there is no one single approach that can treat a person in all situations because each person is unique and whole. We thus tailor our counselling approach to each individual’s needs and personal circumstances. Our approach helps our clients learnt more deeply about their personality system, deepen their awareness of their innermost motivation and belief system that drive their habitual thinking, feeling and behavioural patterns.
We are using an integrative approach by combining the most powerful and profound human psychology system such as the Enneagram, a personality system based on our neurobiology and evolution, with the most effective and cutting edge couple counselling technologies such as Emotionally Focused Couple Counselling and Gestalt Couple Therapy, to help our clients understand themselves and their partner better to address the following questions:
What are their habitual patterns and how does that hinder their relationship?
How can they deepen and heal their relationship?
How can they rebuild trust?
What are the key ingredients for healthy intimacy?
What is the role of presence in sustaining loving relationship?
Begin with Individual Session
An individual session in the beginning for each person to identify the issues and establish goals of the subsequent sessions. The need of couple sessions will depend on the outcome of the individual sessions.
Individuals are required to take a free online Enneagram personality test (both classical enneagram test & enneagram test with instinctual variant) and submit their test result in the “Schedule A Session” Form before coming for the fist session. The objective of the test is to identify the possible personality issues that individuals are facing in relationship difficulties.
Our service fee is a sliding scale based on individual’s or couple’s joint monthly income:
- $100 per session for monthly joint income of $2500 and above
- $50 per session for monthly joint income below $2500