Can a Couple Recover From Infidelity?

I was counseling a couple recently and as the session was coming to a close I was asked point blank, “How many couples come to see you with infidelity?” I had to stop for a moment and think, “About 30% of the couples I treat work with infidelity issues,” I answered.

Then I thought: That’s what I see, but I bet most couples probably don’t even make it as far as the counseling room. Where cheating is involved, many couples likely break up after the affair is revealed.

I am thinking of tales from history — people I used to know before becoming a counselor, and just stories of friends and acquaintances who have had a cheating mate. Most quit. Most say adios. Most don’t even think about ending the relationship they just throw the cheating mate out. Just stop the pain of the betrayal and quit.

I might do the same, I don’t know. I don’t make any judgments about how people react because all of us are different and come with all kinds of experiences that influence how we might respond.

Some people could never recover from this kind of break.  Others who come in for counseling find ways to deal with it.  It’s hard, but it’s possible to wade through the issues that led up to the betrayal in the first place, because that’s what’s needed.

No one starts a serious relationship they care about planning to cheat. Having a relationship outside the marriage happens when two people are not connected in a deep way anymore.

The cheating, or betrayal, didn’t just happen; it started way before there was even a thought of acting. It’s during those times when a couple is probably taking each other for granted, and they are just not conscious of how each other is feeling. That’s when distance can set in.

It’s not uncommon for couples to be blindsided by their partner’s betrayal. But after looking at what preceded the cheating, people get understanding of how they might have been inattentive to their mate.

Now that’s not an excuse for finding another outside the relationship, but it helps to understand what led up to it.

For couples to rebuild and heal, though, there has to be some heavy lifting. It takes a lot for a couple to come into a counseling room after a severe break like this. The story of how the infidelity came to light get’s told again and the person who did the cheating feels humiliated and guilty. It takes courage to tell a complete stranger about a shameful act.

Sometimes spouses will read a phone text, or call a suspected phone number. Others will confront the person who had an affair with their mate. There is sometimes so much anger that it just gets sprayed in all directions. Sometimes it’s easier to dislike the other woman or man than to get mad at the person you love. You may feel intense hate toward your partner for what they did to you, but you still love them.

Maybe there is great remorse from your mate and you feel hopeful, but that feeling of being lied to and betrayed starts creeping in and you start seeing your partner with another and then you start wondering if he or she really loves you at all because if they did then HOW COULD THEY BE WITH ANOTHER!

The feelings are so complex. It’s really hard to know whether a couple can make it through the pain. Can the wounded one forgive? Can the pained one learn to trust again without getting a phone call or text twenty times a day? Can the one who cheated stop from feeling like the worst person on earth for hurting the one person who loves them? Can both learn a new way to communicate their feelings honestly even when those feelings are sad and mad ones?

For couples to move forward there has to be awareness — awareness of where each person was before the breach. There has to be healing and maybe amends so the wounded one can feel better. There has to be the beginning of true connection and understanding.

It takes a shift; it takes falling off a cliff again without a guarantee. It takes faith, and hope, and sometimes, sometimes it works.

Send your comments to


Read More

When One Person Is Unfaithful

Can a couple survive an affair?  I get this question a lot as a marriage and family therapist.  I’d like to say yes, but that is not always the case.  And yet, sometimes yes is absolutely the right answer.  Couples can survive an affair; an affair of the heart, an affair of the flesh, and an internet or phone affair.  Not all couples survive.  Sometimes there’s just too much pain to overcome.

But for others, two people sometimes find a way to move closer together.  They don’t ever put things back the way they were.  How can it ever be the way it was after one person finds interest in another outside the relationship?  A couple can’t go back to a place of innocence where true love blossomed and each believed in fidelity for ever and ever.  Something is irrevocably broken.

In many cases when an affair is discovered the person who finds out becomes devastated.  Often the first response is anger and disbelief.  How can this happen?  How can this be?  It’s almost unforgivable.  How could their partner have lied to them?

It’s also possible the person who finds out begins to worry what they might have done to create a situation where the other one left.  They also might wonder how they just didn’t know what was happening.  Often they feel stupid and duped, foolish and embarrassed.

If the other person is remorseful and wants to keep the relationship together he or she probably feels terrible seeing the pain they have caused their partner.  This guilt and shame can cause this mate to spin out of control.

Both are hit with something that feels like an explosion in their house.  They used to rely on things being a certain way.  Now everything is turned upside down and nothing is familiar.  What does a couple do when their world has been rocked with an affair?  Couples counseling can be a good place to start.  First it helps to have an objective individual listen to each person.  Chances are there have been a lot of conversations, and lots of tears and heartfelt apologies and promises.  Even so this is not enough to mend the damage.  That’s why a trained counselor is probably needed.

The first session is usually about figuring out what foot to put in front of the other.  Both people are in such a state of shock and the marriage or relationship has just imploded.  Slowly each person will unload what he or she has been feeling.  This is very helpful as many deep feelings get stirred up in this kind of crisis.  It’s helpful to talk about what one is feeling.  When you are guided by a trained professional you might even feel better.  That’s the first step.

What happens next is up to the individual couple.  Each person will have to decide what they want to do.  What would be right for them?  Sometimes both want to work on mending the relationship or marriage.  Sometimes one doesn’t know if he or she can.  This can also be explored in counseling.

If a couple decides to stay together this type of crisis often makes way for deeper understanding and compassion.  Couples learn to move more openly into their emotions and say a lot of the things they have kept hidden from their mate.  This allows a stronger relationship to emerge.  It’s possible to even heal from deep wounds.  It’s possible to build something better and become even stronger.

Interested in free counseling?  If you are dealing with infidelity in your marriage you may qualify.  Send me an email

Read More

What If There’s Infidelity?

Can a relationship be saved after a partner strays? It’s one of the hardest questions a couple can face. It’s different for every couple.  What kind of bonds are still in place after an affair varies with each relationship.  What is a deal breaker for one couple may not be the same for another.  What if there are kids?  Do the rules change then?

So the big question, can you rebuild a relationship after an affair?  I say yes.  I say it can be done.  I say it is possible. There are hard parts, like can you ever trust your mate again.  There are difficult feelings surrounding guilt and remorse and there is the mystery of forgiveness.  Is it possible?

If you are in a relationship, will you want to fix the rupture or will you want to be done with the relationship because you are in such pain?  Could you consider that this could be an opportunity for a deeper connection with the one who hurt you?

When couples go through a crisis they turn inside out.  It’s an earthquake of the highest magnitude. There is no one right way to whether a catastrophe in your relationship.  There are however, techniques and tools to help you find a way through the trauma, repair the relationship and rebuild it into something even better.

Most of us grow up believing that true love means fidelity.  Most couples prize this above all else.  If a partner has an affair it is seen as an affront and grounds for separation.  That is the pattern for most couples.

Sometimes the couples decide to work through the crisis and seek counseling.  I see this moment as a unique opportunity to create understanding of each other in a way unknown to the couple before the incident.  This understanding and awareness is not available before going through something like this. It is also the key to being good partners in the future.

When there is an affair, chances are the person who strayed has felt isolated or disconnected from their partner, maybe for a long time. In counseling the person who strayed begins to understand his or her part; what was happening to them before they left the relationship, what they needed from their mate that they couldn’t ask for.  This understanding of buried feelings is one of the keys to rebuilding the relationship.  When the person who strayed begins to understand what led them to wander, then they become aware of the pain they caused their mate.  This leads to true feelings of remorse.

The person who was cheated is often filled with anger and rage.  It’s not uncommon for the faithful mate to want to know details of the affair.  This part is best done inside a counseling session.  It’s important for the injured party to feel heard, and curiosity is a natural component of the healing process. But true healing occurs when the person who strayed understand the pain they caused in his or her mate.  When the person who injured the other realizes what they’ve done to the person they love, that’s when true healing can occur, for both.

No one ever wants to go through this in a relationship.  And if it happens it is possible to survive it and even thrive.

Send me your thoughts and comments.

Read More