Responses To Infidelity
Divorce is one response to marital infidelity. Another would be to seek couple's therapy or counseling. With time to heal and the mutual goal of rebuilding the relationship, some couples emerge from infidelity with a stronger and more honest relationship than before. Relationship counseling can help put an affair into perspective, explore underlying relationship problems, learn how to rebuild and strengthen a relationship, and avoid divorce – if that is the mutual goal.
Marriage counseling is generally provided by licensed therapists or clinical psychologists known as couple, marriage or family therapists (see family therapy and emotionally focused therapy). These therapists provide the same mental health services as other therapists, but with a specific focus – a couple's relationship.
Relationship counseling typically brings partners together for joint sessions. The counselor or therapist helps couples pinpoint and understand the sources of their conflicts and try to resolve them. Partners evaluate both the good and bad parts of their relationship. Integrative behavioral couples therapy has shown success in increasing intimacy after an affair.
Intimate betrayal inflicts an attachment wound and this is sometimes irreparable, particularly when both partners are not committed to repair.
In her research, Candyce Russell, a licensed family therapist developed three Emotional Stages that typically follow an incident of infidelity:
Stage one: roller-coaster a time filled with strong emotions, ranging from anger and self-blame to periods of introspection and appreciation for the relationship.
Stage two: moratorium a less emotional period in which the cheated-on spouse tries to make sense of the infidelity, obsesses about details of the affair, retreats physically and emotionally from the relationship, and reaches out to others for help.
Stage three: trust-building for couples who decided they wanted to stay together and make their marriage work. In this stage, "showing commitment to the relationship was most important for injured parties to begin forgiving and building trust," Russell said.
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