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  • Alexandra Scoleri

Surviving Infidelity, Rekindling Love, and Rebuilding Trust with Couples Therapy

Infidelity can feel like an earthquake, in the otherwise known and cherished world of your relationship. In a moment, it can feel like all of your belief and trust in your partner comes crumbling down and you no longer have a sense of your bearings.

When the rupture of infidelity enters the relationship, the pain and confusion may be too unbearable or be experienced as the ‘last straw’, leading to the end of the relationship. But for some couples, there is enough goodness, enough faith and trust, to consider that the experience of infidelity may be one chapter in the book of a loving and fulfilling long-term relationship.

Rather than becoming the destruction of our love and trust in our partner, it might be those very feelings of connection that we have cultivated over time, that allow us to eventually integrate infidelity as a moment in time – a moment when our partners made a horrible mistake which they regret and a wound that love has made possible to heal.

Understanding Infidelity

Infidelity is almost universally a painful and trust-breaking experience. That being said, how the pain of infidelity surges through the body of each person will be different – depending on their family of origin experiences, the relationship history and their values.

For instance, sexual infidelity may feel more hurtful but more forgivable for some people than the threat of your partner developing an emotional bond with others. Others who have been sexually betrayed may be tormented by images of their loved one sharing their body with another and plagued by feelings of jealousy and inadequacy.

A painful past may mean that what to one person feels like a minor discretion, such as their partner sexting somebody else, for another person leaves unshakeable anxiety about the possibility of ever trusting their partner again. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel following infidelity. Your experience is yours and it is valid. What matters is how two partners hold the pain of that experience together, and particularly how much the betraying partner is willing and capable of being present for the healing of their partner.

Love after infidelity

Some couples may be shocked by the renewed passion and romantic intensity in their relationship following infidelity, whereas other couples may be dismayed to feel they have “fallen out of love”.

The impact of infidelity on feelings of desire and affection will often mirror the feelings a person has been holding throughout the history of the relationship and the ways they cope. For example, if you and your partner have felt more like housemates than lovers for some time, infidelity might feel like it casts you further out to sea. This might be because it has always been difficult to speak about hurts and feelings in relationships and withdrawing is a way that we cope.

Feeling madly possessive and passionate, or distant and lacking desire following infidelity are all understandable responses to what is a complicated and distressing experience.

The rollercoaster of emotions

Infidelity brings up many complex feelings, particularly for the wounded partner. There may be a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from bewildering rage, catastrophic anxiety and feelings of intense vulnerability.

Partners who have been betrayed may feel confused when they at once want to kick their partner out of the house, whilst also wanting to feel close and comforted. Feelings can change from moment to moment, or day to day, leading to an experience of ‘losing your bearings’.

The partner who was responsible for the infidelity may feel a whiplash on the other side and oscillate between intense guilt, regret and a desire to make amends, whilst feeling defensive and wanting to retract in the face of their partner’s anger and mixed messages.

Surviving infidelity

Couples can survive infidelity, though it takes bravery and faith in what is valuable and worth saving in the relationship. Rebuilding trust is a slow and often arduous process, but most couples who get on the other side are humbled to find that their relationship is more solid and healthier than ever after healing from the trauma of betrayed trust.

Infidelity often necessitates the support of an experienced and compassionate therapist who can help couples understand their feelings and regain trust. Infidelity shakes the foundations of trust and commitment which are the building blocks of relationships, so it is important that the experience is properly addressed through therapeutic guidance, so as to not resurface in later problems.

Rebuilding trust

Reestablishing trust and commitment after infidelity is a complex task. Following the initial betrayal, the hurt partner may want more information about the event, but also about the future movements of their partner than they previously did.

This may feel invasive but it is a very normal response and it is often helpful for new boundaries about sharing information, what activities and relationships the betraying partners engage in for some time following infidelity. That being said, it is not a long-term solution and if monitoring becomes a chronic need, it may need to be addressed therapeutically.

Trust needs to be created through not only renewed agreements and relational parameters but most importantly through developing faith in your partner's willingness to “be there”. Committing to the difficult therapeutic journey of repairing infidelity is often the first step in believing that a partner really regrets what they have done and is devoted to rebuilding a healthy, trustworthy relationship.

Emotional reconnection

Rebuilding a caring, close and affectionate bond after betrayal takes time. Infidelity causes a crisis within most relationships which unleashes intense feelings about the event but also aggravates previous wounds and anxieties.

Partners must be willing to tolerate the anguish and really listen to, tend to and care for the pain of their partner. It is this willingness and care that allows for emotional intimacy to re-emerge and heal the hurts of the past.

The healing process

The journey of healing following infidelity is specific to each couple, but there are also some general principles that apply to the therapeutic process. Our couples therapists at The Spring Clinic often follow the Gottman Methods Couples Therapy approach to the infidelity of “Atone, Attune and Attach”.

  1. Atone – The betrayed partner is given space to express their feelings and ask questions about the infidelity. The betraying partner is supported to access their remorse and to respond non-defensively to their partner’s pain.

  2. Attune – Partners are guided to deeply listen to each other and respond in ways that allow for reparation and care to be expressed.

  3. Attach – Issues adjacent to the infidelity and goals for the future of the relationship are addressed. Healing not only the past but strengthening the future.

Couples therapy Melbourne

We offer couples therapy in Melbourne to help partners move through the pains of infidelity at The Spring Clinic. Our couples therapists know the devastating consequences of this experience and can provide a non-judgmental and empathetic space for couples to rebuild the relationship they most desire.

Couples therapy opens a safe space for partners to express and explore the complexity of their feelings in an unbiased and supportive setting when couples may otherwise feel uncomfortable sharing their experience with others for fear of judgement or hasty opinions. Most importantly, if you are seeking couples therapy in Melbourne for infidelity, we have couples therapists who are available now and ready to support you in the wake of the crisis.

The therapist's role

A couples therapist’s role following infidelity is to provide a light in the dark, by helping to explain some of the confusing thoughts and feelings that emerge post-infidelity. Our experienced therapists have supported couples through betrayals of trust and are able to remain calm, caring and supportive throughout what they know is a very pained process.

At The Spring Clinic, your couples therapist will begin by hearing your story and comprehending the reverberates of this injury in your relationship. The healing journey for each couple will be their own and your therapist will formulate a treatment plan which meets you where you are in each step of the way.

Couples therapy after infidelity

Infidelity and the betrayal of trust in intimate relationships can threaten even the strongest of relationships. If you have been hurt by a breaking of trust or you are sitting with the shock and regret of your decisions, couples therapy may be the support you need to find your way through the crisis of infidelity.

Human beings are complex, intricate beings, and even our beloved partners may be full of contradictions that we struggle to understand. Couples therapy after infidelity is founded upon an understanding and compassion for the complicated experience of being human beings and humans in relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions About Infidelity

What are the common signs that someone is falling out of love after infidelity, and can it be reversed?

Couples sometimes ask how they can “know” if their relationship is lost or if their feelings of resentment or disinterest in their partners will recover following infidelity.

The short answer is that love is a choice and that after infidelity, it is about whether you wish to choose your partner again and have faith in your potential as a couple to heal, grow and rebuild.

Couples therapy doesn’t always guarantee recovery of lost feelings of affection, but trying can be the difference between regaining your feelings of love or letting them continue to fade.

How can couples therapy in Melbourne help rekindle love and rebuild trust after infidelity?

Couples therapy in Melbourne at The Spring Clinic has a team of trained and caring couples therapists who are versed in the steps towards healing after infidelity.

Partner choosing to go to couples therapy after infidelity is one step on the journey – it is evidence that you both really care and are willing to try what you can to work through things.

The therapeutic journey will be unique to each couple after infidelity, but it will include being guided to hold the pain of our partner, developing a shared understanding of the event and experiencing renewed moments of emotional intimacy.

What are effective strategies for coping with the emotional fallout of infidelity and surviving the aftermath?

Following the crisis of infidelity, it is expected that you may find daily life to be more challenging. Not only would you expect more relational conflict, but sleeping, eating, working and socialising may become difficult.

It is important to add in more self-care during this time – spend time doing the things that help your body and mind to feel pleasurable and calm, whether that be swimming, listening to music, dancing, getting a massage, getting acupuncture and so on.

These resources will also help cope with the emotions and anxiety that might occur throughout the therapeutic process. The more supported you are by yourself, others and each other, the more possible it will be to get through the pain necessary for healing.

Is it possible to bridge the emotional distance that often follows infidelity, and what approaches can help?

Emotional distance after a betrayal is common and couples therapy is a valuable resource to help get the conversation moving again between hurt, confused and upset partners.

Your couples therapist will not only facilitate an accepting space to speak, but they can also offer activities at home to begin to slowly and safely rebuild emotional and physical intimacy.

Most importantly, they will sense where the two of you are in your journey of healing and help you take the small but brave steps back towards vulnerability and connection which eventually regains emotional closeness.

Can rebuilding trust after infidelity be successful, and how do therapists guide couples through this process?

Infidelity is essentially a betrayal of trust and rebuilding trust is there for the aim of couples therapy following such an event.

Couples therapy can successfully be rebuilt following an event of betrayal, although the time this takes for each couple varies depending on the existing health of the relationship, the psychological mindedness of each individual and the commitment to the process.

Our couples therapists guide couples through a process of expressing their feelings of hurt and regret about the event of infidelity, help couples to soothe and care for each other in their distress and eventually, reorient towards their relational goals.

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