How Counselling Can Heal Hearts
Infidelity is the betrayal of trust in a committed relationship. It can be an extremely painful experience that can make you question your relationship, you as a person, and your partner. The emotional toll for everyone involved can be intense and it may feel like an insurmountable challenge to move towards healing. Counselling can be a helpful part of this healing, no matter which place you had in the affair. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the ways counselling can support individuals and couples who are struggling with the impact of infidelity.
The Impact of Infidelity
The impact of an affair is often felt in many areas of life, sometimes immediately, and sometimes later. These are some common impacts of infidelity, but this is not an exhaustive list:
1. Emotional distress: Finding out a loved one has been unfaithful can come as quite a shock. You might feel a bit numb at first as your body tries to make sense of what happened. You might also feel out of control as you move through many emotions, such as anger, sadness, anxiety, grief, disgust, and disbelief.
On the flip side, if you have been unfaithful, this can also lead to emotional distress as you experience guilt or shame. You might move through many conflicting feelings as well.
2. Loss of Trust: If your trust has been betrayed, it can feel like starting all over again when it comes to trusting others. This might include your partner (if you decide to try and work through this), yourself (should I have known? How did I miss the signs?), and others around you (if this happened with my partner, could someone else hurt me too?). The world might look a little less safe when we get hurt in this way. In some cases, a cycle develops where there is a pattern of mistrust and emotional distance from people.
3. Relationship Strain: The relationship you once had has changed. Aside from trust, things like communication and intimacy can break down, leaving you unsure about what the relationship is/could be. It can feel like you’re stuck, unsure how to move forward. Often there are questions about if you want to work to heal the relationship or go separate ways.
4. Self-Esteem: If you have been cheated on, this can sometimes feel like a personal blow to your self-worth and self-esteem. Am I not good enough? Not attractive enough? Not ______ enough? If you cheated on your partner, you might question yourself as well. Am I a bad person? What sort of partner does this? Will I end up doing this again?
Counselling as a Healing Path
The impacts from infidelity are often too overwhelming to tackle alone. Finding and leaning on support is important as you move towards healing. Counselling is often beneficial as both an individual support and (if you choose) a support for the couple together. Having a safe environment to make sense of your emotions, process what happened, and look towards the future can be extremely valuable. Here are some common things you might explore in counselling:
1. Emotional Support: This is for everyone involved. It’s important to express what you’re feeling and have your experiences validated. A counsellor may initially help you transition from the emotional distress to a place of feeling more regulated, and explore emotion regulation skills with you. This will allow you to dive in and process trauma in a safe, supported way.
2. Understanding Root Causes: You might not really know how things ended up where they are now. It can be helpful to explore contributing factors that led to the infidelity, like possible patterns individually or in the relationship, situational circumstances, and overall expectations/values. This can help “make sense” of what happened and shift the experience into long-term memory instead of being stored in the emotional part of your brain. It can also be a helpful starting place to healing parts of your life (with or without your partner) that aren’t serving you.
3. Decision Making: Infidelity might leave you questioning if you want to stay in the relationship. You can explore these feelings with a counsellor and come to a decision about what’s best for you, then shift to rebuilding the relationship or making a healthy goodbye.
4. Rebuilding Trust: Trust is built up slowly, over time. It can be a challenging part of healing. Counselling can help facilitate individual and couple explorations around trust, as well as process any frustrations or discouragement.
5. Communication and Conflict Resolution: If you choose to work on your relationship and move towards a future together, counselling can help explore areas of the relationship that could improve. Navigating conflict in a way that allows for both people to have space and feel heard, being vulnerable and expressing emotions instead of letting them build up, communicating authentically and openly, and setting (and respecting!) boundaries are some examples of what you might work on.
6. Ongoing Support: Counselling can also be something that you return to on a semi-regular basis, or as a support when new things pop up. Sometimes the impacts of infidelity can pop up later and require a bit of attention even after things have been better for a while.
Infidelity can be painful and challenging, but you don’t need to go through it alone. Counselling can help you navigate these tumultuous waters, providing a safe and supportive place to move towards healing and overall well-being. If you or someone you know is dealing with the aftermath of infidelity, don’t hesitate to reach out and seek the support of a qualified therapist. You’re welcome to book free 20-minute consults with our team to ensure you find the best fit for your counselling journey.