“It is so discouraging to put effort into therapy, emotionally, financially and in time, to come home struggling with the same issues. In my experience, you should see and feel a difference through the therapeutic process within 3 sessions with your therapist.”
Happy New Year! In starting my first post for 2016, I wanted to dedicate the article to those who are in need of help and can’t get it. That pertains to those of you currently in therapy that still feel greatly impacted by their partner’s infidelity. There are things you can do to heal, and it doesn’t mean that you have to change therapists if you enjoy working with your current therapist, but are still facing the same issues. It may be possible to work together on fine tuning your therapeutic needs, however progress should be made after a few sessions.
If you have been impacted by infidelity, it is likely that you are in the 80% ratio of people that want to know all details of the affair. If you are in the 20% that do not want to know about it, or only want some information, your needs should be honored by your therapist and your partner. This also applies to the 80% who want information. People ask, “Why does my partner want to know everything. I’m afraid that it will make things worse?” The hurt partner wants to understand what took place so their brain can make sense of the trauma and eventually move on. If something feels wrong, they will continue to seek understanding by asking the same questions over and over. Their trauma will not dissipate and more hurt will manifest in the relationship. They will remain in trauma and question longer than if their questions were answered honestly and consistently every time. Many therapists do not facilitate their sessions in this way, and unfortunately less proactive styles of therapy inhibit progress for couples dealing with affairs.
I want to identify what couples or individuals can do if they are unable to attend therapy, or, if their therapist has not helped enough, and you are still in significant emotional pain.
1. Identify who you are: Do you want to know details about your partner’s affair, or not? This may change in time, but find where you are pertaining to this topic at this time. Tell your partner and therapist your needs and make sure that they understand what this means. If you want to know details, that need must be met, with complete openness and honesty. This is an important key to healing, having your needs met, especially in crisis.
If you do NOT want to know details, identify and discuss what you need to heal with your partner. Perhaps you need more time together, more connection, time to talk that is just for you, simply to be held, etc… If your individual needs are not met, your emotional wounds will not heal properly and will take significantly longer to heal.
2. How to find a good therapist, or ensure that you are with a therapist that will help? Does your therapist deal directly with the affair, or do they skirt around it, discussing other aspects of your relationship and life?
An affair is a symptom of other issues, but that does not mean that a therapist can skip the step of processing the affair and go directly to what caused it. That should be secondary. In dealing with an affair, the affair should be the focal point of therapy, until that issue has been properly processed. Your therapist should have a clear idea of what will happen next in the therapeutic process.
Your therapist should be prepared to facilitate these needs: Allowing the hurt party to process the affair and have their questions answered (this may take a significant amount of time), feeling ok to questions over and over, feeling ok if the questing starts and stops over and over, eventually learning why the affair happened, how to prevent the possibility of it happening again, what should the couple expect through the entire process as far as thoughts obsessive or reoccurring thoughts, sex and the emotional impact an affair has on the couple intimately, how to reduce the potential for domestic violence after an affair, obsessive thoughts (when they will go away), how to identify attraction and what to do with it, what behaviors to watch out for that can lead to an affair, etc.
If you want to know about the affair, your therapist should encourage you to be open and honest in your relationship, while being gentle. If your style of communication is an issue in your relationship (example, yelling, shutting down and avoiding the topic), your therapist should give you tools that will help you with communication. Some people don’t know how to communicate in a healthy way and need to identify or be reminded about what is healthy and what is not. This greatly applies to 'Not communicating',' which will inhibit the relationship from healing. 'Not Communicating' is a big issue if it is present in relationships. This means that emotional needs are either not being expressed or not being honored, meaning they are being ignored. This is frustrating and many people may not realize that they are doing it, how to identify it, and how damaging it is to a relationship. A therapist should identify this as an issue in session if it presents itself, as they should be looking out for these communication styles and share what they have observed. They will also provide you with tools on ways to work on communicating better.
There is a vast amount that a therapist should be ready to cover pertaining specifically to infidelity to be most effective. Make sure that you are in the right hands. Therapy is an investment in your emotions, time and money. It is important to make good investments.
If you are unable to see a therapist, share this information with your partner, discuss your needs and work on communicating in an open and honest way with one another. Try to be as respectful as you can, although this can be especially difficult. Having to tell all is very upsetting, and even terrifying for many people, but it is imperative if you are choosing to stay in your relationship. Full disclosure is also very upsetting for the partner who was betrayed, even though they are wanting the information. That is confusing, but it is part of the process of healing from an affair. A therapist should be able to facilitate such discussions and give you tools to use at home when these discussions take place. Be prepared to discuss the issue for 100s of hours. It takes between 2-3 years to truly heal from an affair. If you come into the relationship with this type of patience, you will mentally prepare yourself for being there for your partner, and if you are open and honest with him or her, and your relationship will heal much faster than if you are withholding information in fear of hurting your partner further. Additionally, your personal emotional growth and true self will blossom. Lying is more hurtful than anything you can do, especially at this point, and it will stifle your relationship and self-development in more ways than one.
If you have an issue with compulsively lying, you truly need to identify why you are doing this in your life, and/or why you are with a partner that continues to lie. If seeing a therapist, addressing these issues is imperative. As mentioned, if you are withholding significant issues (which may take time to reveal themselves) do not expect your relationship to heal completely and your progress will be limited. A therapist should be helping you to identify the sources of your need to lie, and give you tools to help you change this habit or compulsion. Honesty, mindfulness (being emotionally present and kind) and openness should be a key theme in therapy for couples and individuals in my practice. I have embraced this style of therapy because it has proven to work in my experience, and people heal faster when they apply these theories to their relationships and lives.
Having a therapist that specializes in the issue you are facing is recommended, but if you have a therapist that you like, share information that you have learned with them if they do not specialize in infidelity. Therapists specialize in fields that they are typically passionate or experienced in. It is so discouraging to put effort into therapy, emotionally, financially and in time, to come home struggling with the same issues. In my experience, you should see and feel a difference through the therapeutic process within 3 sessions with your therapist.
Please understand that ‘good therapy’ is not about coming home feeling good after every session. Growth is not always pleasant, it is often times challenging and uncomfortable. However, you should feel hopeful and empowered if you are given the right tools to facilitate emotional development. You should also be able to discuss your ‘bad’ feelings with your therapist, even if your therapist is the source of a trigger, or circumstance that stirred you up emotionally. It is ok to be stirred up if it correlates and facilitates emotional growth. How you deal with it in session is key to who you are. Please continue reading and educating yourself, as it is a step in the right direction. Additionally, if you are unable to attend therapy due to finances, there are therapists that work on a sliding scale, groups that you may attend in your area, and social services available that offer therapy.
In a nutshell, the best thing that you can do if you are impacted by an affair is to be open, honest and talk. Talk about it with your partner, or if you are separated and that is not an option, share your feelings with someone you trust. In doing this, please be mindful of their responses to you. If you are judged or told how to feel and when to feel, you are not being honored in your time of need. If you are disrespected or feel shamed because of your actions while coming to a therapist for help, that is a sign that you are not in the right office. Getting your feelings out, and most importantly, having someone listen that cares and honors your feelings facilitates healing. This applies to the person who has had the affair and the one betrayed by their partner. No judgement should be made by the therapist, their job is to help you heal and grow emotionally and judgment is not part of that equation. Once you have processed your feelings properly you will not feel the need to discuss the issue as often as you did. You may think about it, but the pain will be minimized and you will feel the weight lifted from you. That is a good day, but it takes time and a lot of work! Many blessings on your journey and know that I am here to help.
Kristy Cepielik has a private practice in Sierra Madre, California as a registered Marriage and Family Intern Therapist. She specializes in Infidelity and all aspects of separation and divorce such as Parenting in Crisis, Financial Therapy (getting your finances on track through divorce), Elder Therapy (life changes, hospice, depression, family support and care), Mindfulness and Spiritual Issues.
Kristy is the mother of 3 amazing children. She graduated from Pacific Oaks College with honors. Her undergraduate degree is in Communications/Public Relations which emphasizes Journalism. She is also an investor, published musician/songwriter and has a line of natural products she is developing that she and her business partner are launching in 2016. Becoming a therapist is a passion for Kristy and she truly cares about her clients.