If your world has been shattered by the discovery that your partner is having an affair, you might be wondering if your relationship can survive it, or if you should even bother trying to save it. Complicating the situation is that the world in which we live has made it increasingly easy to access other relationships. The complex definition of infidelity/affairs includes not only an ongoing sexual relationship, but could include a series of one-night stands, emotional affairs, sexting, or online fantasies and connections. Some of the latter options can be equally if not more destructive to relationships than a sexual tryst.
Affairs are often not about sex, but arise from emotional dismissiveness and avoidance in relationships. Despite the initial shock, hurt, and destruction, many couples can get through infidelity and get to a good place in the relationship again, with the right therapy.
The Gottman Method for Recovering from Infidelity
In her work with couples, Susie utilizes methods from the Gottman Approach to help couples recover from affairs and betrayal. This method involves a three phase approach:
The Atonement Phase: The Atonement Phase involves full confession, expression of remorse and apology, and verification that the affair is over, as well as dealing with the betrayed partner’s feelings and emotions. The couple begins to explore what went wrong in the relationship and how that led to the affair. Through this exploration, it is important that the cheating partner must take 100% responsibility for the breach of trust in the relationship. This first phase is usually the most difficult phase of therapy, and can take time to work through. Through this process, it is usually necessary for the cheating partner to have an enormous level of patience while their partner deals with their emotions, which is exceedingly difficult for many people.
The Attunement Phase: In the Attunement Phase, the couple begins repairing and rebuilding their relationship. They recognize that their previous relationship wasn’t meeting the needs of one or both partners and must change. Most of the work in this phase is around building skills in developing deeper emotional bonds, enabling better communication, learning conflict management skills, and attaining friendship and romance.
The Attachment Phase: In the Attachment Phase, the final stage, couples work on real forgiveness, deepening the commitment to the relationship, building a shared meaning for the future, and creating/re-establishing a strong foundation.
Can all couples survive affairs? Some couples can and some cannot. However, the likelihood of a relationship surviving infidelity increases if a couple can openly talk about the affair, their pre-existing issues and problems in the relationship, and make a commitment to work through the affair recovery process. This is a difficult conversation to have on your own as emotions and blaming often come in play and sabotage the conversation. It is important to have a therapist working with a couple during this time to tread through these delicate waters.
Contact Susie for more information if you are struggling with infidelity.