In my last blog, I explored the stages of restorative couples therapy after the trauma of an affair and the importance of establishing “Safety” and “Hope”. Reconnecting a couple to doing the behaviours that they hope their emotions will become in the relationship is critical. Reconnecting caring behaviours, even when it feels very difficult to do, is critical at this stage. At best, some couples are only able to be ‘considerate’ or ‘respectful’ because caring is to difficult. Time, energy and caring are essential reinvestment’s to restoration of the relationship. Building a process of safety and hope takes time, but it is necessary in moving forward to the next step of ‘Telling the Story’.
As this journey begins for the couple, the betrayed partner will often focus on where the involved partner and affair partner went, what gifts were exchanged, were they planning a future or other things together and finally, the degree of the emotional and sexual intimacy. The involved partner is usually opposed to discussing these details, so the betrayed partner needs to be able to communicate appreciation for the truth, even if it is painful, for healing to begin to occur. The therapist’s role going forward is to begin discussions around the meaning of the infidelity. Exploration needs to occur regarding ‘values’ and ‘vulnerabilities’ of the involved partner in giving themselves permission to cross the boundaries and threshold to infidelity. Underlying this, it is important to understand from the involved partner “What did you like about yourself in the affair that can be brought back into the marriage” A deeper knowledge needs to be gained towards understanding the context that created the vulnerabilities for the extramarital affair. Contributors associated within the marriage, individual, cultural double standards, community, transgenerational patterns, social and occupational norms and values must all be reflected on within the disclosure in order to better understanding the individual’s reasoning to engage in the affair. Also it is important to explore other contributing vulnerabilities such as underlying attitudes and beliefs along with symptoms of depression/mood disorders/narcissism/personality disorder/ and sexual disorder/impulsivity/attachment style and compulsiveness features. Exploring how power operates within the individual and their marriage and what role it played in the affair is also important. Finally, it is important for the therapist with the couple to better understand the deeper marital problems that lead to increase vulnerability without being caught in justifying the choice to become engaged in the affair.