What to do after the Affair

Cheating and Infidelity Recovery

Cheating and infidelity commonly lead to relationship failure. This video is meant to be a balanced perspective on considerations for both people in the relationship. There are a wide range of issues to consider when this happens to you. Social pressures and coping with the event itself is critical. Here are ways to stay grounded and identify the next step.

Today what I want to take a little time to talk about is cheating and infidelity. This is something that we certainly work with a lot with in our practice here, because we do work with so much sexual compulsivity. However, it’s not only sexually compulsive relationships where we see this. We also just see it in a lot of our couples work as well.

Infidelity is a common reason that a lot of couples unfortunately end. But it really is a workable issue for a lot of them. So here’s some of the advice that I lay out for people as I’m working with them on trying to repair their relationship after they have dealt with an affair or any kind of cheating.

Some of the things that I remind people are that if you’re in a relationship with somebody who has cheated, the hope of your relationship doesn’t instantly go out of the window.  A lot of times people will say things like “I just never thought that this person could do this to me”. And that’s an understandable feeling to have. However, the person isn’t completely different than who you began the relationship with.

You might be face-to-face with a different set of circumstances and you might be face-to-face with some underlying problems that you weren’t aware that were there. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person isn’t the good person that you picked to be in the relationship with. It also doesn’t mean that it [the cheating] was justifiable. It’s not the fault of the person who has been cheated on. However, there are likely some other underlying issues that are going to be important for you to talk about in your relationship, in order to really help it move forward.

In working with people who are dealing with an affair, or any kind of cheating, what I propose is that they first really learn how to talk about the issue. That can be a really hard thing to do. Emotions are you flying. The emotions are really intense. And it’s really hard to identify a way to be able to discuss this in a real grounded way that can work towards rebuilding connection.

This is where couples therapy really can come in to kind of help both parties work through their own defenses, help too communicate the contempt and anger that they have in a way that’s really going to help the relationship move forward in a real positive way.

The second thing that’s really important is to have support. Both people need to have support. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that you might not be able to be a support for each other in this particular situation. So if one person is really struggling with shame, one person is really struggling with anger, [or] one person is really struggling with depression, the other person might not be able to support you through that. And that’s just something, at these kind of the early stages of cheating recovery, that you really have to just accept. And in time you’re more likely to rebuild trust enough to be able to be a support system for each other through anything, including this. But it’s just not quite the time for that yet. So accepting that can be a really important part of it. Instead, find friends or family who are going to be really a a grounding force. Who are not going to judge you for having the feelings that you’re having about it. And who aren’t going to judge you or criticize you for having cheated.

For the person has been cheated on, if you really want to make the relationship work, surrounding yourself with people who are not going to necessarily enable you to allow it to happen again [can be helpful]. However, at the same time, [surrounding yourself with those] who are not going to treat your partner like the spawn of Satan. It’s not going to be helpful for you, based on the goals that you’re establishing, to have them come down on your partner constantly. If you’re surrounded by this, you’re going to start to take some of that on, because you’re already feeling a lot of negative emotion around it. So, focusing on setting some boundaries with them. You can say, “hey, this is actually what I need… what I need is just to have you hear me out… just to allow me to have the emotions that I have about it, and not to judge me”.

For the person who’s had the affair or who’s cheated, it’s important to have support as well. This support really needs to be [from] friends or family who are not also going to shame you for this. However, you want to be careful so that you are not surrounding yourself with people who are putting it on your partner, in saying that  your partner didn’t give you the kind of sex that you want, or that your partner is not attractive enough. Those type of things are not going to help you facilitate the goal of rebuilding your relationship.

The third thing, that is probably the most significant thing, is identifying together the underlying problems that could have influenced having an affair or having cheated. And this doesn’t mean that it’s anybody’s fault [the person who was cheated on], but there are likely underlying factors, that could be underlying factors of dissatisfaction, it could be poor boundaries, it could be a lackluster sex life. It could be a number of issues, and so being able to work together to unpack that and identify how this could have happened is a really critical piece to preventing it from happening happening again.

Most people don’t think they’re going to get into a monogamous relationship and end up cheating on the other person. A lot of times it ends up happening unexpectedly. And so, to have a good understanding about this means that there’s got to be a lot of exploring that happens. And sometimes this means working with a therapist on this, to be able to pack what happened.

Finally, what I want to say is that relationships are hard and cheating does happen. Only you can decide though if it’s something that you can live with or not. It’s not something that anybody else can tell you that you have to live with, or that you have to move forward [with]. [Or] that you have to try to make this relationship work. It’s also not something that means that you have to leave.

If you are trying to figure this out its it is good to get the feedback from other people… get a variety of opinions and get a variety of perspectives on it. And that can help you really decide for yourself what is the most appropriate thing that you want to do. If you want to work on this or if you feel like it’s an important thing to move on from it. If you do decide that it’s something that you want to work on, [or] it is it is a workable issue, it does take time to build rebuild that trust and to rebuild that sense of commitment in the relationship. And so know that it is going to be a journey, but it is something that you can work on.

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Our therapists who specialize in Infidelity Recovery

Dallas Chemical Dependency CounselorZach Ramsey, MS, LPC, LCDC, CSAT

Phillip McCulley, MA, LMFT

treepic2Michael J. Salas, PsyD, LPC-S, LCDC, CSAT

Heather Henry, LCSW, CSAT-C, CCPS-C

Articles on Relationships and Couples Therapy

In a previous article I talked about how couples can survive an affair. One major aspect of successful
resolution is the restoration of trust. The number one question I’m asked by people recovering from
infidelity is, “How do I restore trust?”

There’s no easy answer and no quick fix but there are ten aspects to healing to be considered:

  • Give it time. There is no set time for healing to occur but a safe bet is that it will take longer than you may think. You need to be patient and take it one day at a time.
  • Be willing to lose the relationship in order to save it. Both partners must grow in authenticity
    and transparency without fearing the other from leaving. This requires courage and a combination of self-respect and respect for the other.
  • Restore yourself first. You cannot trust another or expect anyone to trust you if you do not
    trust yourself. As you do repair on yourself, your relationship will experience meaningful growth and healing.
  • Accept the illness in the other. An affair is indication of something that is out of order in the relationship and/or the person who participated in the infidelity.
  • Admit mistakes promptly. Avoid blame and work to be honest and accurate – it doesn’t matter who’s “right.”
  • Share spirituality. Nearly every recovery program includes a spiritual element – explore ways to be spiritual together. This will help you find meaning in your suffering and in your relationship.
  • Make amends. Express regret for what you’ve done and do something to make up for it – daily! Reverse the blame habit by taking responsibility for your mistakes and taking concrete steps to make up for the error.
  • Remember it’s never going to be perfect. Allow each other to be human – there are going to be mistakes along the way.
  • Develop a support system. Spent time with others who can support you through your re-building process.
  • Have fun together. All work and no play doesn’t work. Healing comes through shared experiences, especially the fun ones. Play, in its own way is an act of trust.This work is not easy, but there is hope. Therapy with a Licensed Professional Counselor accelerates the process and provides support and guidance as a couple rebuilds their relationship and re-establishes trust.
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Articles on Relationships and Couples Therapy