Can an affair recovery program save our relationship? As you know, I’m wholly dedicated to helping committed couples save their marriages with recovery in mind. Half of my practice is traditional couples therapy. The other half is focused on couples seeking guidance and support in the aftermath of infidelity.
My program, It’s Okay to Stay, is my approach to the latter.
It isn’t a vehicle for unhelpful venting. Instead, I developed a recovery journey, by which committed couples can move forward and heal.
That said, I recently met with Dr. Marie Murphy on her podcast, Your Secret is Safe With Me.
Dr. Marie and I Agree…
Dr. Marie’s work centers on providing shame-free, blame-free, and non-judgmental relationship coaching for people coping with complicated or stigmatizing relationship situations. Specifically, Dr. Marie helps people who are cheating on their partners decide what’s truly right for them.We discussed my work and what it takes to truly heal once the secret of infidelity finally comes to light.
As we talked we agreed that we share the same goal: to reduce shame in favor of honest relationships and lasting recovery.
How My Roadmap Came to Be
Early on, a female client, wounded by her partner’s betrayal, asked me simply for a way to navigate the rollercoaster of emotion she was enduring. I realized then that such disorientation and confusion required direction. Many couples just need to know how to get their relationship bearings and how to determine where they’re headed.
So, I took my cues (and training) from various other affair recovery programs: The Gottman Institute, Esther Perel, and Michele Weiner-Davis. From there, I was able to devise a program, or roadmap, that fulfills three main levels of post- affair healing.
Dr. Marie asked a key question about the wounded partner who inspired my program and their initial response to the roadmap. A question, I think, that sums up what so many hurt, confused partners express at that point:
“She’s the one experiencing confusion, hurt feelings, and grief, right? She wants to know, ‘if I invest in trying to make my relationship better and the affair recovery process, what’s going to happen, what can I expect, right? ‘”
She’s exactly right. That woman experienced, as does any hurt partner, something very intense after an affair. They want next steps and something substantive to hold on to. Yet, it mustn’t be overlooked that the unfaithful partner needs a roadmap too. Both partners are in crisis. Thus, I feel it is my job to help them both.
Facing the Shame Everyone Carries
Dr. Marie wholeheartedly agreed that the crisis applies to both partners, noting that often that the unfaithful partner is subject to an immense amount of societal blame. Their emotional needs and experiences are given much less credence than those of the partner they hurt.
Her mention of shame reminded me to acknowledge how much shame impacts the hurt partner as well. In fact, the title of my roadmap program, “It’s Okay to Stay: 8-Week Roadmap to Healing After Infidelity” addresses the very real shame betrayed partners feel for deciding to stick with the relationship and work on recovery.
Sadly, it is not unusual for couples to hide the infidelity or deal with enormous doubt from loved ones. Dr. Marie noted that she also sees many couples who cope with loved ones who fear infidelity might be contagious, infecting their own relationships. Of course, there is no shortage of out-right judgment either(“How could you have done that?” “What’s wrong with you?”).
We agree too, that shame creates significant loneliness for these partners. In effect, there is no one to talk to but their therapist and each other (which is not always possible). Therefore, Dr.
Marie and I are committed to helping people
- get honest about the affair
- digest the information learned from the experience
- gaining emotional clarity and a new vision of themselves
“What the Roadmap Looks Like”
In the interview, I described the steps involved in my roadmap to recovery. In particular, how couples can increase the chances of saving their marriage and how they can ascertain their readiness to begin a fresh relationship together.
I share openly with Dr. Marie that often the road to recovery after an affair will take some twists and turns. I do not pretend otherwise, instead, I simply provide some relationship mile markers. These can provide hope and encourage couples to keep moving forward toward complete healing.
Their journey with me starts with understanding the basics of infidelity. We deal with the false notion that cheating necessarily means the relationship is over.
There are ways to increase the odds of healing as a couple. I ask the hurt partner to look at their partner through an expanded, holistic lens. What can they trust about them (are they a good father, provider, etc)? Perspective, commitment, and recognizing the richness of the relationship are key to turning things around.
Dr. Marie put it nicely, noting, “You don’t have to be sure that you want to stay together. But you do have to be sure that you want to explore the possibility of staying together.”
With that distinction in mind, I guide my roadmap clients towards healing:
Phase One of Healing: Stabilization
Ending the Affair
Staying is the first step in a new relationship process. However, discussing how the affair ended is vital too. Dr. Marie noted that the betraying partner must be clear that they are not skipping over the feelings and decisions that come with stopping the affair is vital. She’s right, but this is tough. The hurt partner may struggle to come to terms with the realities of their partner’s feelings about the affair partner.
We come up with a transparency plan next. The betraying partner is encouraged to be completely forthright and honest. Transparently providing answers and information about the affair is a must. However, I am careful to ask the hurt partner to consider whether every morsel of information is helpful or productive.
We deal with the difference between remorse and regret. We get beyond “I’m sorry” to explore how to express remorse effectively.
Phase Two of Healing: Reconnecting
This is the point at which the betraying partner learns how to stay with the feelings that arise without getting defensive or withdrawing. The hurt partner, too, learns to talk about the affair without getting overwhelmed. I help both parties replace unhelpful patterns of communication.
This difficult yet imperative part of the process. It’s one that I do with the couple. Otherwise, it can become fraught with misunderstanding.
Phase Three of Healing: Restart
A New Relationship Agreement
When the couple is sure they can honor the affair chapter and draws up a detailed plan for their new relationship, they are ready to push the “restart button”
A Maintenance Plan
With this in place, we complete our journey together and couples are ready to have sessions with each other alone. This alleviates anxiety about moving forward without me.
All in all, coached by experts, guided via specialized coursework, and provided key implementation tools, the support I offer is proven and effective.
We are all imperfect. It can be a release to acknowledge our flaws and realign our sense of integrity. Recovery from infidelity can happen with the right tools and the right direction. Non-judgemental support and compassionate understanding are available to you and your partner. It takes time to change, but you can choose to heal and transform.
I do hope this discussion was helpful. Dr. Marie and I know how tough it is to begin affair recovery.
Please consider a 45-minute free consultation to see if my infidelity recovery program, It’s Okay to Stay: 8-Week Roadmap to Healing After Infidelity can help you heal and establish trust. Simply visit here to pick a time to meet with me for an in-depth conversation via Zoom.