Recovering from Affairs and Infidelity
Over the many years I have been working with couples here in Orange County, I have discovered that one of the hardest problems for couples to heal from is when one (or both) have had an affair.
I constantly find myself first helping couples understand what defines an affair. I have found that the first most characteristic of an affair is secrecy. One partner sometimes hides from his/her partner a person in his/her life. This could be someone he/she knows well, such as a co-worker, or someone he/she hardly know, perhaps someone he/she met at a bar. Sometimes a partner doesn’t hide the person but rather is secretive about how much time he/she spends with someone. This could be time spent in person, on the phone, text messaging, emailing, etc…And finally, sometimes what is a secret is a sexual act that he/she committed with another.
Affairs can be emotional, sexual or both. Defining an emotional affair is usually more difficult to define than a sexual affair. I find it easiest to define an “emotional affair” as a relationship a person (who is part of a couple) has with an outside person that has greater emotional intimacy than he/she has with his/her partner. Sexual affairs are usually easier to identify. It involves any sexual relationship outside the committed monogamous relationship. The most disruptive affairs to a relationship are those where the affair was both emotional and sexual.
Affairs usually occur when there is also problems with self-esteem, addiction (either alcohol, drugs, and sex addictions), and/or deficits in the relationship (for example, poor communication/emotional cut off). However, any problems a person has or the relationship has in NO way condones the betrayal of an affair.
Affairs negatively impact both the perpetrator and the victim. The perpetrators often feel depression and sadness due to the shame and guilt. They often grieve over the loss of feeling trusted. They usually feel anxiety. Lying, cheating and betraying are serious harms to commit to another, especially against another you love.
The victims usually obsess about details of the affair (and experience intrusive images of the affair) and often continuously watch and search for further signs of betrayal. They often feel sadness and depression over the loss of trust in their partner, the relationship and in themselves. Victims usually feel that the biggest damage is that they can no longer trust themselves and their intuition.
Multiple affairs often speak to a greater problem. Many times I find that beneath the affairs is a Sex and/or Love Addiction contributing to the pattern of betrayal. Please refer to the Sex & Love Addiction page for more information.
Recovering from an affair is possible. It does take time and commitment. Often couples recover and find a renewed intimacy. Individual therapy and couples therapy are usually warranted for successful treatment. However, I do a thorough evaluation before I provide a treatment plan.