Couples where some form of infidelity has occurred; most often feel physically, as well as emotionally drained, when I first meet them. This, as a result of living with one of the harshest and most extreme forms of stress that anyone can experience! In addition, the way the affair is revealed is usually very traumatic, as usually it’s a text that inadvertently pops up when the other partner quickly borrows their phone. In most cases, the deceived partner had no idea that the affair or indiscretion was happening, and they are most often in a state of shock as a result.
Couples where an affair or indiscretion has occurred are usually not doing well physically and emotionally. One of our first steps together is to get each member of the couple to start to take care of their health again, so that they can have the stamina to do the difficult work of processing the infidelity, and most importantly, what led up to it.
For many couples that have experienced an indiscretion or affair, they are at the lowest point in terms of hope for the survival of the relationship. It is my honor to have helped countless couples stay together and move forward. In many situations, it is possible to relaunch the relationship; it just requires time and a willingness on both parts to do the work.
Emotional affairs many times start off innocently, just sharing a bit more with someone and then just a bit more with the same person, until this sharing starts to become something you look forward to. You may begin to realize that you get a “buzz” from connecting with this person, and begin to feel like you need to hide the communication from your partner. In emotional affairs, there is no physical contact, but in some cases there can be a desire for it.
Physical affairs are usually kept secret, so it’s almost like they exist in an alternate universe for the persons who are engaging in it. In many cases, the people who are having the affair tend to have a terrible recollection of dates and times; this is partly due to the strong grip that the affair has on them. On the other hand, people who are having an affair can go to great lengths to conceal the affair by covering their tracks, and in some cases, accusing their partner of having an affair, all in an effort to take the focus off of them. Almost everyone who has engaged in a physical affair tries to conceal it, so that they can try to prevent hurting their partner, their children, etc.
I work with the person who had the affair to learn to regularly express remorse and provide comfort and soothing to their partner, even when the couple is relaxing and in a good place. We practice this in sessions, so that it begins to feel less awkward. Doing this is an essential part of healing, as it validates the loss and grief that your partner has experienced. When the one who had the affair is responsible for bringing it up, the deceived partner doesn’t have be the one to bring it up, and this alleviates a tremendous amount of stress while providing physical and emotional nurturing. Hopefully, by bringing up the affair and taking responsibility for the extreme hurt you have caused your partner, this will allow them to slowly begin to grow the seeds of trust.
It is very traumatic to learn that your partner is having or has had an affair. I usually find that the person who had the affair will be very hesitant in bringing up the indiscretion or affair when times are good, because they feel like they have caused their partner enough pain. What they learn, over time, is that when they integrate this, their partner begins to feel comforted and trust has the potential to be slowly rebuilt.
Finding out that your partner has had another affair is devastating. I also sometimes encounter couples during initial phone consultations where there has been more than one affair, and they have not had prior therapy. These remarkable couples are seeking help that is long overdue, as they have been surviving on their own with no professional help.
For these couples that are dealing with multiple affairs; an already steep climb back to trust from the first affair, now feels like climbing Mt. Everest! These clients sometimes feel somewhat different than “first time affair couples”, and most often they feel a sense of hopelessness that is palpable. I support and nurture all couples, especially ones that have experienced the chaos and shock of multiple affairs.
Does Your Spouse Still Have Feelings For Their Affair Partner?
In some cases, the partner who had the affair can still be involved with their affair partner, either emotionally and/or physically, and in some cases, a child has been produced. These are extremely complex situations that often require intensive sessions, to include a blend of individual and couples therapy sessions. In these instances, we would discuss if one or both of the partners could benefit from individual therapy, along with our Couples Therapy or Discernment Counseling. In individual therapy, they would work with an outside individual therapist, so that our Couples Therapy or Discernment Counseling work can remain prioritized.
“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
I have helped countless couples relaunch their relationship after an affair(s). Healing from an affair is slow and painful work but it is possible, as long as both members of the couple want to work on rebuilding trust in the relationship.
There are couples, despite the most intensive work, that do not stay together. Usually, at least one member of the couple feels that they can no longer work on the relationship. In this case, we work diligently to begin the process of closure, by honoring their relationship history, while also prioritizing the needs of any children and important issues that will arise during the separation and/or divorce.
I offer Discernment Counseling as a way for couples to pause, take a breath, and look at their options. It’s different from traditional marriage counseling aimed at improving the marriage. We don’t assume that you both want to preserve the marriage, only that you are both willing to take a look at what’s happened to your marriage and decide whether to try to repair it or move toward separation or divorce. Discernment Counseling allows the space to contemplate and discuss all options without a predetermined path towards reconciliation.
Discernment Counseling is:
- An opportunity to gain clarity and confidence about what steps to take next,
- To look at both sides of the problems (yours and your partner’s),
- To determine whether past counseling has been helpful,
- To understand the possibility of solving your problems and saving the marriage, or whether to head toward separation or divorce.
To learn more about discernment counseling, please watch my three videos which describe Discernment Counseling:
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Nearly everyone enters marriage with the dream of a lifelong union. But many couples reach a crisis point where separation or divorce is on the table. Sometimes it’s after years of emotional distance, financial problems, sexual problems, constant arguing, or an affair(s).
Nearly everyone enters marriage with the dream of a lifelong union. But many couples reach a crisis point where separation or divorce is on the table. Whatever the reason, sometimes one spouse thinks that divorce is the only way to solve the problem, while the other spouse wants to hang on and make things better. Then they fight about whether to divorce. Once the legal divorce process begins, the alienation and conflict can escalate, and before long all hope for the marriage or for a constructive divorce is gone.
Who is Discernment Counseling For?
I help couples that are considering separation or divorce but are not completely sure if it’s the right path for them, they want to take one more look before making permanent decisions with long term consequences.
It is also for couples that have made a commitment to each other but are unmarried. Discernment Counseling is for all couples, heterosexual, gay or bi-sexual couples, basically any two people who have made a long-term commitment.
What Does Discernment Counseling Involve?
I help couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards divorce, or take a time out and decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. I respect each of the partner’s concerns and am there to help them review their relationship. I emphasize the importance of each party seeing his or her own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions, as this will be useful in future relationships, even if this one ends. Discernment Counseling is considered successful when people have clarity and confidence in their decision.