Recovering from Infidelity

Life certainly has its highs and lows, but infidelity is often experienced as one of the lowest points. It’s a challenging, traumatic experience, to say the least, and the task of healing from infidelity, repairing the marriage, and restoring trust can be most challenging. But with a renewed commitment from both spouses and good counseling, many marriages can recover and be stronger.

There is no one reason for an affair. The first question most people ask when they learn of their partner’s affair is, “Why?” And the answers they come up with are usually based on personal blame. They blame their partner, their relationship, or sometimes themselves.  Bottom Line: Usually there is no ONE single reason a person has an affair. There are usually many reasons: ongoing marital issues, personal/self-identity issues, and societal factors. (See The Monogamy Myth, A Couples Handbook for Recovering From Affairs, Peggy Vaughan.)

 Nevertheless, no one forces anyone to be unfaithful. Infidelity is a decision, even if it doesn’t feel that way. If you were unfaithful, it’s important to examine why you allowed yourself to do something that could threaten your marriage.

If unhappiness with your spouse contributed to your decision to have an affair, you need to address your feelings openly and honestly so that together you can make some changes.

 Another necessary ingredient for rebuilding a marriage involves the willingness of unfaithful spouses to demonstrate sincere regret and remorse. You can’t apologize often enough. You need to tell your spouse that you will never commit adultery again. Although, since you are working diligently to repair your relationship, you might think your intentions to be monogamous are obvious, they aren’t. Tell your spouse of your plans to take your commitment to your marriage to heart. This will be particularly important during the early stages of recovery when mistrust is rampant.

No marriage is immune from affairs. It requires ongoing honest communication to prevent them. All too often, when we think of “honesty,” we think of “brutal honesty” (unloading or dumping our negative feelings). For instance, if someone says: “Can I be perfectly honest?”… you know that the next words out of their mouth are likely to be some kind of criticism. But that is not “responsible honesty.”

Responsible honesty is a special kind of honesty that a couple undertake for the specific purpose of sharing “who you really are,” allowing each of you to fully “know each other,” so you can build a stronger bond, a stronger connection. Telling the truth in relationships is hard work, but it’s essential if we’re to develop intimacy and keep the relationship alive and growing.

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In summary, here are some pointers on rebuilding your marriage:

  • Healing from infidelity involves teamwork; both spouses must be fully committed to the hard work of getting their marriages back on track.
  • The unfaithful partner must be willing to end the affair (sexual or emotional) and do whatever it takes to win back the trust of his or her spouse.
  • Honesty is the most important factor in rebuilding the marriage. The future possibilities for the marriage are not determined by what happened in the affair; they are determined by what happens after the affair is known. Specifically, it’s determined by the degree to which the one who had an affair is willing to be honest and answer all their spouse’s questions about the affair. However, limit conversations about the affair to 30 minutes. Otherwise, if conversations go on and on, harsh emotions can erupt because it is such an emotionally charged issue.
  • The betrayed spouse must be willing to find ways to manage overwhelming emotions so, as a couple, they can begin to sort out how the affair happened, and more importantly, what needs to change so that it never happens again
  • Affairs are less about love and more about boundaries.  Affairs can happen in good marriages.
  • The major attraction in an affair is NOT the love partner but the positive mirroring of the self –“the way I look when I see myself in the other person’s eyes.”
  • The conventional wisdom is that the person having an affair isn’t “getting enough” at home. That may be true, but sometimes the truth is, the person isn’t giving enough.
  • Most people think that talking about the affair with the spouse will only create more upset. But without going into specific sexual details, a conversation about why the betrayer had the affair, with a good therapist’s guidance, that conversation can actually be a way to rebuild intimacy.
  • The single best indicator of whether a relationship can survive infidelity is how much empathy the unfaithful partner shows for the pain they have caused.
  • Gradually rebuild trust— through actions, not promises.
  • Allow time to heal—although time alone (without effort) is not enough.

If you have questions about the guidance I have written in the post, email me. If you wish to meet with me to address infidelity in your relationship, let me know via email: Jimcovington.nyc@gmail.com

Remember: A good marriage begins when we marry the one we love and blossoms when we love the one we married.

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Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.
Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.