Getting Past an Affair in 10 Therapy Sessions
My Partner Had an Affair. What is Happening to Me?...and to Us?
When an affair occurs a few things generally happen in a marriage.
For starters, the partner that was betrayed oft
en oscillates between a desire for reconciliation and negative feelings such as hopelessness, grief, and/or rage. This partner might also be considering divorce or have mixed feelings about divorce.
The person that had an affair often finds themselves stuck in a cycle of guilt, shame, and regret (this usually happens once the affair has come to light, and the secret relationship has ended). This partner often wants to find a way to ‘put things in the past’ and move on and he/she might harbor secret resentment about what they think led up to the affair.
Relationships are built, and not randomly happened upon.
The marriage can recover, but the rebuilding process must start anew. Couples often require outside help to recover from an affair. The emotions are simply running too high to process through and repair alone.
Furthermore, once couples have rebuilt basic trust following an affair both partners often want to address patterns that were prevalent before the affair happened. This means creating new patterns so that the relationship is more fulfilling for both partners.
What Will We Do in Therapy?
I can help many couples put the worst of the affair behind them in 10 sessions.
From there, couple’s typically commit to an additional 10-18 sessions to work on building a future that is satisfying and built on trust.
In working with couples that are trying to move past an affair, I follow a general protocol while also recognizing the unique individual needs of each couple. (Sometimes a couple’s individual situation requires a different approach altogether.)
If this timeline seems too quick or too good to be true, let me assure you, its not! However, there are conditions:
both partners must come to the table ready to face their pain and do the difficult work of rebuilding. This requires a willingness to be honest and vulnerable. Sometimes people need individual healing work before they can engage in a healthy relationship.
Ten Sessions to Move Past an Affair:
The first 2 sessions are all about being heard.
In these sessions, I get to know you as a couple. I learn more about your history and what brought you together in the first place. I also work to understand your patterns of communication and conflict. We might start talking about these aspects, but we don’t really tackle them until later in the process.
Then, I generally meet 1:1 with each partner separately. I typically do this only once and I am careful to give each partner equal time. After all, I am not on anyone’s ‘side,’ I am on the side of the relationship and its potential to bring meaning into your life.
After this 1:1 session, we reconvene together, and we share any information or insight we gathered from our 1:1 sessions.
At this point, I have enough information for us to really start the hard work of getting past the affair. This involves ensuring that the betrayed partner’s pain is seen, understood, and addressed. This also involves working through strategies to rebuild trust. After 2-4 session of this difficult work many couple’s starting noticing a shift and begin feeling better. Then, I work with couples to address triggers. Triggers are events, feelings or thoughts that arise that re-ignite negative feelings about the affair. Triggers must be attended to. We can learn to self-sooth or reach out to a friend or family member for support. Our partners can also act to soothe our triggers.
Once both partners are ready, we start working on what is to come. The memory of the affair and some of the difficult feelings are still present but in just 10 sessions we can usually at least put the affair in the ‘rear view mirror.’
The Final State of Therapy
In the sessions to follow we address unproductive patterns that have been present in the marriage even before the affair. In this phase, we work together to describe your pattern of relating and conflict. Once we know the pattern, then we develop tools to tweak and change those patters into behaviors that are helpful and not harmful.
Couples vary greatly on how long they remain in this phase of therapy. For some couples an additional 5-10 sessions is all that they need to get new patterns going and step into their new life together.
For other couples, particularly couples with a longer history together, we work for a longer timeframe.
I always prefer to do a termination session with couples at the end of our work together. This is a time to say ‘good-bye’ but most importantly a time to summarize what was learned and changed. Sometimes, instead of a termination session couples choose to come to therapy once a month or even once a quarter to ‘check-in’ and capitalize on all their hard work.
If you are ready to move past an affair and step
into a better relationship, you reach me at:
Amy Howard, LPC
512 221 4155
20 min Initial Consultation No Fee
55 min Couple’s Session 110
80 min Couple’s Session 160