Few things can rock a marriage more than infidelity. It can leave you reeling in anger, rejection, loneliness and confusion about where to go from here. It’s important to understand that infidelity usually is the result of some dynamic in your marriage. It is less common that infidelity is the result of a whim or mean-spiritedness. If your relationship has been upended by an affair, getting the right couples counseling is vital. With proper support, your marriage is likely to be back on track, or well on its way, after about a year. You’ll still be healing, but it’s likely you’ve begun repairing and rebuilding your relationship. If you’re still in couples counseling 1 year after an affair, what should you expect from the therapeutic process?
What Leads To An Affair?
Most often, it’s some need that is not met within the marriage that leads to an affair. What that specific need is greatly varies from couple to couple. It could be that you and your partner lost or damaged your emotional connection. Another reason could be physical – you and your spouse’s sexual needs and desires are not aligned. Perhaps you’ve been stuck in a sexless marriage and are not sure how to repair it. Any number of problematic dynamics within your marriage can lead to an affair. So, in order to recover from the infidelity, you will need to identify the dynamic(s) and begin the recovery process with guidance from a good therapist.
Therapy 1 Year After Infidelity
Let’s begin with the reminder that couples therapy can only work if both partners are committed to fixing their marriage. It’s not uncommon for couples to continue therapy a year or more after the infidelity has occurred. Healing after an affair takes time and effort. With the right guidance from an experienced couples therapist, a couple will work on improving their communication skills and rebuilding their emotional connection. You will gain insight into the patterns, triggers, and other dynamics that contributed to the rift and find ways of fixing them. You will also gain a deeper understanding of your needs, reactions, and limits. In fact, with the right support, most couples become more connected after infidelity. This is because you’ve learned and put into practice critical skills that will keep your relationship strong for years to come.
Reintegrating Unmet Needs
In therapy, the goal is to reintegrate unmet needs and desires back into the marriage. For example, if the affair resulted from one partner seeking out a more adventurous sex life, then therapy should focus on the couple learning to communicate their needs and desires better and then explore how to make their sex life mutually satisfying.
Similarly, if your spouse embarked on an affair because they felt unfairly criticized, judged and insulted at home, therapy will help get to the bottom of this emotional rift. You’ll consider what led to this unpleasant and stressful family life and work on improving how you two communicate.
If Therapy Isn’t Working
If you’ve been in therapy for some time but have still not been able to integrate unmet needs, there are a couple important questions you should ask yourselves:
- Are you compatible?
- Are you in the wrong type of therapy? Might you need a more skilled approach?
It is certainly possible that some couples will not be able to bridge the gap that resulted in the affair. This is a difficult and painful realization. A good therapist will be able to facilitate a constructive discussion about incompatibility and help the couple move towards a solution, even if that solution is separation. This is a particularly sensitive area to navigate, so make sure you’re working with a therapist who is qualified to help you with this kind of discernment counseling.
If you feel that you and your spouse are still committed to making your marriage work but may benefit from a different therapist or type of therapy, know that there are options. Don’t give up on your relationship too soon. Instead, seek out an experienced counselor who can better guide you toward the right solution for your marriage. This could be the right time to explore an intensive marriage retreat instead of continuing with traditional weekly sessions. Take the time to educate yourselves on the differences between intensive couples therapy and regular couples counseling and see which is a better fit for you at this point in time.
If you’d like to learn more about our approach to couples therapy, click on the link below.