Infidelity can feel soul crushing in many ways.  It is so layered, so complex.  Often times, men and women come into my office after discovering a partner’s infidelity feeling confused.  Before it actually happened, you likely imagined that if you were ever betrayed, you would be out the door.  Then it happens, and it’s so much more complicated than you ever thought possible.  

Everyone reacts to infidelity differently.  However, for many it rocks both the foundation of their relationship and the foundation of their sense of self.  It impacts confidence, self-esteem, safety, security.  It is wide-reaching and painful and can spur or exacerbate issues of anxiety, depression and even previous trauma.  Additionally, it can be difficult to talk about with friends or family because they may have judgements about your partner’s behavior, and your partner’s behavior may open the door to uncomfortable or unwanted gossip.  

Whether to stay or leave is often a complicated question to answer, especially when there are children involved.  Sometimes a relational betrayal can spur healing that deepens the intimacy within a relationship.  It can be an opportunity for couples to come together and create an intimacy far deeper than they imagined possible.  I enjoy working with couples in this capacity.  However, I also appreciate being able to support a partner in individual work as they reevaluate their relationship and rebuild their sense of self.

 

The question of whether to stay or leave after infidelity may feel most pressing, but it is secondary.  The real question is how do you heal?  

How do you recover the confidence, self-esteem, safety and security that feels so out of reach?  Infidelity is also betrayal trauma and can be traumatic for both the partner who feels betrayed and the partner who was unfaithful. As a therapist, I support my clients as they heal and answer those questions regardless of whether or not they decide to do the heavy-lifting required to salvage the relationship, or the difficult and painful work required to end it.  

There are no easy options. Recovery from betrayal trauma and working on the relationship is hard. Recovery from betrayal trauma and ending a meaningful relationship is also hard. It’s an excruciating place to be and it is also a growth opportunity whichever way it goes.

Sometimes couples try to jump to the issues that were prevalent in the marriage before the infidelity or look at building trust and emotional intimacy right off the bat. I don’t think that’s fair or reasonable. Building trust is not a fair expectation without consistence over time. The vulnerability required for emotional intimacy is not a fair expectation until the betrayed partner feels safe again in the relationship. It takes time. Addressing the trauma and the impact of the trauma is critical before looking at the relational issues that may have contributed to the infidelity.

Setting healthy boundaries and reasonable expectations is critical to repairing betrayal trauma. It’s a process and it requires both partners to tolerate each other’s difficult feelings. Often, infidelity occurs when there is a breakdown of emotional intimacy in the relationship. Rebuilding the emotional intimacy requires both partners to tolerate each others’ pain and this may be far more diffuclt than it sounds but it is critical and meaningful.

 

Emotional intimacy and the ability to be truly vulnerable in presence of another is challenging and also incredibly connective. The journey to find authentic emotional intimacy is sometimes painful.

Whether it’s an incident of infidelity or you’re the partner of a sex addict, the journey toward healing can be a challenging one.  I want to help you get through it and find a stronger, deeper sense of self than you ever imagined possible.  The rest of the answers will come along the way.

More From Us: