There is one act that can rip a relationship apart. It can cause intense painful emotions, feelings of loss, anger, disbelief, and totally change how a person sees themselves and the world. Even the word can cause strong and different feelings in each person.
An Affair (creating a secret attachment to another person outside the relationship)
The ultimate betrayal of a relationship.
When infidelity happens in a relationship, the emotional fall-out, and the feeling of the world being pulled from under the feet of the relationship, can leave a couple not knowing where to turn. How can the relationship survive this? Is it over? Are you leaving or staying? How do we tell friends and family? What about the children?
The person who feels betrayed goes into a state of shock. Even if they in hindsight knew something ‘was going on,’ it still feels like a massive punch to the stomach. Many affairs are discovered (often through technology nowadays) and even the fact that it’s been discovered, rather than admitted to, causes the feeling of betrayal to intensify.
The head will fill with so many questions and statements and it’s often too overwhelming to even try and sort it out.
How did I not know?
Can a couple survive an affair? Our EXPERIENCE is yes, they can and they do
How could he/she do this to me/my children?
How will I ever live without them?
Am I really that ugly/boring/worthless?
What am I going to do?
The person who has betrayed their partner will also be swamped with emotions. Shame and guilt, relief that it’s been discovered, disbelief in what they have done, justification of being in a poor relationship. They may be unsure what they want, how to move forward. Do they leave or stay? Can this mess be sorted out?
The results are so messy, that even if the affair is ended, the couple struggle to know what to do. All the old hurt, arguments and blame surface, and these get in the way of trying to find a way forward.
Affair Recovery Counselling is the first step. Drawn from the research and knowledge of Esther Perel, the Gottmans and Janis Abrahams, this counselling explores the affair directly, what it means to the relationship, and discovers whether the couple can move from this into couple counselling to build a new relationship.
Sometimes the couple come to the realisation that the relationship needs to end, but many learn that with the right therapy, they can build a new and stronger relationship. Affair Recovery Counselling differs from general relationship counselling as it focuses on the affair, what it means to the couple, how to start rebuilding trust, and respect, so when the couple counselling starts, the foundation for effective counselling has been laid.
This type of counselling can often produce a feeling of hope. Hope that the relationship can grow, that trust can be rebuilt, hope that the couple have a future. The counselling is not always easy, especially at first, but gradually the damage is repaired and the recovery process starts to take place.
Post Affair Trauma (PAT) is often experienced in the wake of an affair. Normally experienced by the person betrayed, it can occasionally be experienced by both partners.
PAT is similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), caused by the trauma of finding out your partner has been unfaithful. This will cause hyper-vigilance in the internal survival mechanisms, causing flashbacks, strong imagined (real or not) images, a feeling of being on high-alert and constantly looking for evidence of further ‘danger.’ This means the process of rebuilding can only take place once the PAT response has subsided and the intensity lowers. The counselling helps with this process, so the couple, if this is what’s decided, can move into general couple counselling without the intensity of the PAT response.
How it works.
If the couple have experienced an affair, the Affair Recovery Counselling starts, and at some point, if the couple have decided to stay together, gradually the counselling moves into other areas of their relationship, and becomes the more standard couple counselling. There isn’t a fixed programme of how many sessions are needed, it’s dependant upon the counselling proceeds and when the couple are ready to let go of the damaged relationship, and start building a new better version from that point.
The Gottman Approach focuses on 3 phases that the couple are supported through; Atonement - Attunement - Attachment
Atonement centres on rebuilding trust, working through how and why the affair happened.
Attunement focuses on the problems in the relationship which may have led to an affair.
Attachment looks at recovering intimacy and love back into the relationship