Has Your Life Been Turned Upside Down by an Extra-Marital Affair?
An Affair Doesn’t Have to Mean the End of Your Relationship. Couples Therapy Can Help.
If your partner has had an affair you may feel:
- shocked and traumatized
- mood swings from angry one minute, to confident the next, then humiliated the next
- huge grief, a loss of sense of “specialness” and control of your life
- confused; one minute you want to stay in the relationship and the next minute you want to leave
- anxious, suspicious, and perhaps even feel like you are going crazy
- obsessed, dwelling on your partner’s lies
- betrayed; you can’t imagine ever trusting your partner again
- exhausted, you cannot quiet your mind and get a good sleep
The crushing revelation of your partner’s affair puts your mind and body into shock. Your view of yourself and the world you live in may be ripped apart. The self-assurance and security you felt in the past may feel naive and false. Remember that the greatest threat to recovery is the loss of hope itself. With couples counselling there is hope…
Online Therapy Available
To begin repairing your relationship
If you had an affair:
- you feel guilty and ashamed
- relief that the secret is out
- impatient with your partner’s incessant attacks and questions
- guilt over the children
- alone, hopeless, and not knowing which way to go
- a sense of loss of the good feelings you had when with your lover
- confused; unsure of whether you want to work at saving the relationship with your partner
It’s important to remember that the internal conflicts you have about the affair, while challenging, are very different from your partner’s. They are never as intense and profound as your partner’s because your sense of self has not been assaulted. You may feel desired by two persons whereas your partner feels loved by none. Unburdened by the secret of the affair, you may remain drawn to your lover, yet disgusted with yourself and guilty about hurting your partner and children. You may question whether you will ever have the same feelings you experienced with your lover again. You may be grieving the loss of your lover. However, you will most likely get no sympathy from your partner. This can leave you feeling very much alone and confused.
There are other betrayals that can hurt like an affair…
There are also betrayals in couple relationships which have some of the same effects on your partner as an extra-marital affair. For example: an undisclosed pornography habit, secretly going to see strippers, visiting “massage” parlours or escorts/prostitutes, or engaging in an internet affair.
Or perhaps because there was no sex in your “more than just friends” relationship, you consider it simply an emotional affair and perhaps see it as less harmful.
The consequence to your relationship can be very similar in these “affair-like” situations. Couples counselling can help repair the damage.
If you are like most people, you didn’t set out to be unfaithful to your partner when you first entered the relationship. You likely began with passion, and an idealized perception of your partner. This is how most relationships begin. We can be blindly optimistic and unprepared for what is required to keep our relationship on course. Affairs are the result of a relationship in trouble. An affair can be devastating. It shocks you and your partner into a painful reality. It is a huge violation of trust that can leave you feeling like your whole world has fallen apart. It stretches your relationship’s emotional bond to its limits. It has the power to be a death blow to your marriage.
But it doesn’t have to be…
The crisis of infidelity can be the wake-up call to what is seriously wrong in your relationship.
You may find that you cannot bear the pain of facing your partner to repair the damage caused by the affair. However, if you are willing to work at repairing the relationship through couples counselling, this can be the beginning of healing your relationship at its core. The crisis of an affair is an invitation to try again. It is an invitation to make your relationship stronger than it ever was. Marriage or couples counselling is a tool that can help you through affair recovery.
If you are deeply wounded, yet courageous enough to say you want to try to see if you can stay together, I can help. Even if you are confused about the direction you want your relationship to take, couples counselling can guide you towards deciding whether you want to stay in the relationship or whether you want to leave it.
Before you can rebuild trust in your relationship, I will help you understand that a heightened state of emotionality is normal after a marriage has been damaged by an affair. Through couples therapy, I will show you how to calm the waters so you can feel safe enough to talk to each other again. I will examine with you the unacknowledged problems in your relationship that led to the affair. What are your unspoken feelings? What set the stage for your crisis? What can change? What must you accept?
To begin repairing your relationship
The Benefits of Couples Counselling After an Affair
- discover what the “normal” emotional reactions to the trauma of discovery of an affair are
- get perspective; understand why and how the affair happened
- take responsibility for the pain caused by your unfaithfulness
- figure out whether to stay together
- forgive yourselves and each other
- rebuild trust
- recreate a new level of intimacy
How one couple who thought their marriage was over, benefited when they came to see me:
“We came to Allan Findlay as there had been infidelity in our relationship. At that time, we both thought the marriage was over but wanted to give it a last discussion. So, we agreed to six sessions, but stayed for much longer as we discovered marriage counselling with Allan was about learning how to love each other again, not just fixing a problem.
It was stunning to find out how little we both knew of each other’s internal lives, what we had been thinking and feeling and the impact of our very set behaviours on each other. I did not know how my husband felt about his relationship with his parents, particularly his mother. I had not been aware that this had such a profound impact on his core confidence. Much of his early relationship with his mother was poor and this had been carried over to the communication style in our marriage. I did not realize how I needed to be far more tender and to see that little boy who had not been loved. That changed my anger to empathy and even today, encourages me to seek to understand him more rather than jump to judgment. I discovered that my ideas of what he was thinking were absolutely wrong. I am an intuitive person, but not on the same wavelength with my husband so much of the time.
We also both learned how our communication styles completely bypassed each other. When we thought we were getting our point across, in fact, that was not so. We were shutting each other down. Quite amazing after 25 years together to discover something so obvious was not that simple at all.
We both learned that in a relationship there are many small actions which have such large consequences and neither of us realized the impact. Being able to begin to discuss our issues in a safe place with a caring, neutral, but disciplined, person meant that we understood situations for the first time.
We have been able to apply these new insights to new events. If we are late home, we now know to phone each other early on and then later. These little touch points by phone let each other know that they are being remembered, thought about and respected. Seems small, but since we had never done such a thing, it had a huge impact. We have re-discovered each other and found out new things about each other. We have learned how to show we care for each other and we have rediscovered tenderness.
Infidelity is a tough issue to overcome and is the cause of so many divorces because the partners have not learned how to make the other feel special and appreciated. We often tell other couples about how we have learned to communicate, and they are shocked as both of us do communicate so well and even do it for a living! However, re-learning how to reach each other is the top outcome.
Allan patiently took us through the process of respectful communication so that both of us feel heard, safe, and loved too.
Allan may come across as quiet and gentle – a style that is very much appreciated. He is, however, tough at holding up the mirror to each partner. There are no favourites. The truth does come out – but in a manageable way. Allan is deeply empathetic but strong in moving you along a path back to a positive marriage. We often quote Allan when in the midst of a discussion and use his words as a way to remind each other of our behaviour.
Allan appears to be sweet, but he wants results. He pushes for accountability on both sides. He also helps with forgiveness. Marriage counselling has to set rules of engagement and future rules for the marriage going forward. To work these out with an expert gives such a strong foundation. Trying to maintain these boundaries or establish these rules alone or with a weak marriage counsellor would not have worked in our situation.
Allan is particularly concerned with teaching the partners to look at each other’s facial and body cues. It seems simple, but not so. I have even taught body language for business but was sadly lacking when it came to reading my partner! Allan prodded us along, sometimes shocking us but always caring for us and our special relationship.
We now feel unbelievably good. We know we have our marriage back. We also know we have something far stronger than the day we married.”
Not all therapists are able to help couples in the aftermath of the discovery of an affair. In a survey of people searching for a therapist for recovering from the impact of an affair, only 20% found the therapist very helpful and 57% found the counsellor unhelpful and frustrating.
Your emotions may be swinging from rage one moment, fear and despair the next. You need clear direction. You need compassion. As a therapist with many years of experience helping couples through the aftermath of the discovery of an affair, I know how to help you. You will need help to stabilize.
Within EFCT, I use the Attachment Injury Resolution Model (AIRM) which is a well-researched method to address the hurt and pain of betrayal, elicit feelings of remorse and regret and facilitate experiential bonding to create deep forgiveness and relationship transformational growth.
If you need help deciding whether to leave or whether to stay in your relationship, couples or individual therapy can help you make the best decision for your future. If you want to find the way to re-commit to each other, I can assist you to truly forgive and rebuild trust so that you can have a relationship that is stronger than it ever was before.
What another satisfied couple who didn’t know where to turn at the outset of an affair discovery said:
“We came to see Allan because my husband had a secret affair. I was desperate for answers. What I knew then was only what I had found out from emails. I picked up a book “After the Affair”. This book made sense to me. Uncertain where else to turn, I went searching on the internet and, thankfully, found Allan who had referenced that same book on his website. Though my husband had suggested marriage counselling, I was somewhat ambivalent, unsure whether I would pursue counselling with him as I was in so much pain. It was only after meeting Allan, that I felt he could help us. It was obvious to me that he possessed the necessary qualifications, skills and tools to deal with our problem. From the beginning, Allan stated clearly how our counselling would proceed and offered simple practical suggestions. After our first meeting, it was obvious that my husband was still denying the extent of his affair and eventually all facts were disclosed. He had been involved online and in person with a few women for over six years.
Since the situation was so chaotic and our emotions were running so high, Allan’s professional demeanour was a calming influence which helped us to stay cool and address what we needed to. Everything in my world had turned upside down. We needed direction to get through it all. We needed the structure of a regular weekly time to meet. It helped us to develop boundaries inside and outside the sessions. We learned to stop interrupting the other person when upset because we had lost complete control. In addition to the marriage counselling, Allan recommended that my husband see another therapist to deal with some of his own issues. This helped him a great deal and helped me understand him better. Ultimately, it helped us as a couple.
With time, we became easier with each other, and began putting the pieces of our lives together. Allan helped us to resolve the problems in ways that were comfortable and workable for our own individual personalities. Enabling us to come to our own understanding and acceptance of the situation was the biggest benefit. Our situation was desperate and I thought unsolvable. Allan taught us necessary skills for improved communication, how to better interact with each other, and most importantly, to be accountable for our actions. As a result, our relationship has improved and is much more like the one we once had.
Guided by Allan, we have worked on and are working on marriage issues. Marriage counselling gave us a place to begin and make small, steady steps forward which turned to larger steps and helped us to be able to look at dealing with that which we thought was truly impossible. Things are not 100% but they are continuing to get better. I have every hope for the future.” *
A woman in her 40s called for counselling after the disclosure of her husband’s affair. She was devastated. She had always believed that cheating was the worst thing a partner could do. She had seen a lawyer and was seriously considering divorce.
The couple had been having some minor difficulties together since the beginning of their 20-year marriage. The past two years they had neglected each other more. They were busy people with two active teenagers and their own careers. They felt they had an O.K. marriage until the disclosure of the affair.
When they came to counselling for their first appointment, both were in such emotional turmoil that I helped to create a safe place to talk with one another.
Over time, with couples counselling sessions, the woman was shown how long these extreme feelings of betrayal would typically last and encouraged to not make a decision as to whether to end the marriage until she began to feel more like herself again.
He was shown how to own up to his actions despite his shame. He learned to empathize with the pain and suffering his affair had caused his wife. After some months in therapy each began to feel calmer and able to maintain their composure. They were then ready to make a commitment to examine the neglected issues in their marriage that had accumulated prior to his affair. They both discovered how to communicate feelings, have respectful conflict, and solve problems as a team. They stopped avoiding issues as they had in the past.
After a year in couples counselling, they had recommitted to stay together and were having a much more satisfying marriage than either could remember. Communication flowed; big issues got solved or little ones forgotten. There was much greater emotional and physical intimacy. Their children saw how much happier their parents were, and their behaviour and the home atmosphere were more light-hearted. Friends and colleagues noticed how much calmer, content, and confident each of them was.
What You Can Expect from Couples Therapy After an Affair
Many couples enter therapy when they are in great distress and when their own efforts to solve the problems have been unsuccessful. Often issues have been developing for years without any success at resolution. Usually, one member of the couple is more eager to get help from a couples therapist. Often people think that as a therapist, I am going to tell them what is wrong and then tell their partner what he or she needs to do to change. It does not work that way. Instead, I help you build on the strengths in your relationship and guide you to solutions to overcome the challenges you face.
Marriage or relationship counselling can help save some marriages. It can also help you examine the problems and then decide whether you have the determination to work on them or not. Regular weekly couples therapy appointments are necessary at the outset to help you make immediate changes and generate hope.
Still have some questions?
When you book your phone consultation you will receive a link to my online calendar. You can then book a free Telephone Consultation appointment into my online schedule. I want to know a little about your situation so I know whether I can help you and explain the process if I can.
- First Three Couples Therapy Sessions. Both of you attend together for the first couples therapy session which is 90 minutes. During the first 90-min
ute session with both of you, I will hear the concerns that each of you have about your relationship. Each will be able to speak freely, and I will make the session as comfortable as possible. I listen with compassion to fully understand your situation. You can tell me what you hope to accomplish.
- For the second session each person will be seen for their own confidential individual session. This provides each an opportunity to share concerns the therapist needs to know without worry of hurting their partners feelings. A history of your significant relationships will be taken to help me learn about how you deal with emotions in relationships.
- The third session is for both of you. I will explain to you how each one’s attachment style established in childhood impacts your relationship today. Focus and frequency of sessions will be discussed.
- Subsequent Regular Couples Therapy Sessions.
All subsequent couples counselling sessions are 75 minutes long. I see you both together and we usually meet weekly for the next 6 sessions. As with any important endeavour, commitment and persistence are the keys to success. As progress builds, we can increase the interval between sessions to every 2, 3 and 4 weeks.
- Follow-up Couples Therapy Sessions.
I am committed to helping couples make lasting change. I anticipate that after you have accomplished your goals and counselling sessions end, that your relationship continues to improve. Follow ups are made after your last regular session to consolidate the changes and reflect on your journey of growth.
*All anonymous endorsements on this website were given voluntarily by my clients after the completion of their counselling and in keeping with principles of the Code of Ethics and Standards of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.
New Insights Counselling is located in midtown Toronto at Yonge and Eglinton serving North York, Etobicoke, East York, Scarborough and online throughout Ontario.