Have you wondered whether conventional couples therapy can help you heal from infidelity? Is it effective for affair recovery?
Do you want helpful options in the aftermath of infidelity?
You aren’t alone. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information out there to truly educate struggling couples. Though it seems that conventional or traditional couples therapy is the only way to go, there are more options to explore. Let’s discuss your affair recovery choices here.
To start, we’ll discuss conventional couples therapy and answer questions like
“Is couples therapy useful in the aftermath of infidelity? “Or “does it harm us to try?”
Then, we’ll explore more highly effective options for couples who have experienced infidelity, chosen to stay together, and are trying to heal.
As you read on, please know that it isn’t easy for me to discuss counseling in this manner. Why? I do realize that, in some ways, my views might be considered “throwing stones” at my training as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
However, my intention here is not to throw couples therapy under the bus. Instead, I hope to open your eyes to what can help and what isn’t likely to support the changes you want to make. When you’re done reading, the decision will be placed in your well-informed hands and you’ll be equipped to move forward with affair recovery.
Before we dive in, two important disclaimers:
- Conventional couples therapy refers to week-to-week ongoing sessions with no predetermined timeline or specific roadmap. You simply vent and discuss your joint issues.
- What I share here is true for many couples in the aftermath of infidelity but may not apply to all couples. This means that, in some situations, conventional couples therapy can actually be a helpful part of treatment.
The Operation was Successful But the Patient Died…
Is conventional couples therapy effective for couples who want to heal from infidelity?
Sadly, I do not believe so. Everything I’ve seen during a decade of working with couples informs my view.
Why do couples’ post-infidelity processes fail?
Nearly one of every two couples that consults with me has been through unsuccessful couples therapy. What happened?
I learned that at least one of the following occurred:
1. Lack of structure
When it comes to lack of structure, couples say things like:
“We keep having the same conversations. I complain about him and he complains about me and the therapist is sitting there trying to be a referee… but we’re not getting anywhere and we’ve been doing this for months.”
I call those venting sessions. While it’s good to vent, inevitably, couples say:
“Our therapist doesn’t seem to follow anything. Every session can start and end wherever and deal with whatever we want to discuss. We’re not moving in any specific direction and not learning to independently deal with issues outside therapy.”
Therapy models not designed as roadmaps fail for a reason.
2. Lack of expertise
When it comes to lack of expertise, couples often share the following:
“Our therapist doesn’t specialize in couples therapy specifically. So, it’s more like individual therapy with two people in the room. It feels like the relationship is not addressed but only our individual issues.”
In addition, many therapists offer couples therapy but do not specialize in relationships or in infidelity recovery. Couples note:
“Our therapist isn’t really an expert on infidelity recovery but he took us anyway. We feel we’re not getting anywhere in the healing. Just more and more talk and spinning in circles.”
3. Bias and/or discomfort
When it comes to bias, couples share things like:
“Our therapist took my wife’s side and both made me feel horrible and unfit because I “committed infidelity” or “I brought this upon myself.”
The truth? Therapists are people and most people are biased. Thus, some therapists let their opinions dictate what happens in the room.
When it comes to clinician discomfort, couples also say the following:
“Our therapist spent one or two sessions discussing the infidelity and then moved on to working on our marriage suggesting we should have date nights and scheduled sex.”
The reality is that most therapists are highly uncomfortable with infidelity, let alone talking about it (much like sex issues). Sadly, such therapists push couples to work on the relationship before any real healing occurs.
Finally, another area of failure in infidelity counseling relates to outcomes.
Many couples share experiences like this:
“Our therapist said he has no idea whether we’ll be able to survive this. He said that we should be patient because it could take months or even years in therapy!”
Again, conventional therapy models are often open ended and less structured. This causes many therapists not to commit to an outcome.
To be clear, it’s actually in therapists’ codes of ethics not to promise clients any result at all. Yet, as ethical as it may be, it also exposes couples to treatment that has no guarantee, no time limit, and no specific conclusion.
All in all? Conventional couples therapy can still be considered quality treatment whether you stay together or end up divorced. Hence the old saying, “The operation was successful but the patient died.” Is it fair that no specific outcome is considered success?
Perhaps your therapist is just being honest with you but, as a therapist, I like to take more responsibility. It is important that I give a more specific estimate based on my experience with similar cases and my expertise. I think it is fair to get that outcome from a professional.
So, Can Conventional Couples Therapy Do More Harm than Good?
Unfortunately, it definitely can. The couples I’ve spoken to on a daily basis for years now reveal that they felt discouraged. They lost hope for their relationship, experienced lower self-esteem, and more. This is damage.
Those who chose to stay felt sentenced to a marital jail. Unhealthy patterns of resentment and conflict avoidance are their penalty for staying in the relationship after infidelity. This is individual and relational damage.
Is this something you experienced as part of your healing journey? Do you want to avoid it altogether? Let’s see what other methods exist for you to consider for effective affair recovery.
What are the alternatives to conventional couples therapy?
Whether you’ve been through the more traditional therapy route or have yet to decide, you need to know your options. To stay together and heal after infidelity, the following affair recovery alternatives may help:
- The DIY: books, blog posts, consume information
- The Non-professional: help from a non-professional (life coach or relationship coach) who doesn’t have the proper training to deal with such a serious emotional situation.
- The Professional and Transformational Process: combines help from a licensed professional (psychotherapist) who has the experience and knowledge to make them an expert in infidelity recovery with a method that is research based and proven to work.
What can you do to find the solution that is best for you?
If you want to save your relationship after infidelity, the following tips can help. Learn what to look for and prevent ongoing weekly scheduled arguments at the therapist’s office with these tips:
- Look for a roadmap or a spelled out plan to reach your goal
- Look for expertise and experience
- Ask about bias
- Avoid individual solutions for a relational issue
- Look for tools & guidance in implementing them
- Seek out content
- Look for clear, solid solutions that worked for others in a timely manner
- Read testimonials and reviews
I talk more about those in the podcast episode. See player at the top of the page.
Finally, I hope this discussion resonates. You are not alone.I consider this post a service to any couple in the aftermath of infidelity, trying to navigate the world of couples therapy, struggling to understand who can help and in what capacity.
This post is also dedicated to those who attended or attend session after session, feeling like you’re not going anywhere. You may feel like you don’t have tools to handle the pain and truly heal. I hope you feel more equipped to make a wise counseling decision. It is a choice that has the potential to save or break your relationship.
I also greatly appreciate the couples who speak to me every day, relate their experiences about trying to fix things, and share what was helpful and what was not. I truly believe this information can help you start healing your relationship with the best type of support and guidance.
OTHER SERVICES PROVIDED BY RELATIONSHIP EXPERTS
If you and your partner are facing multiple relationship issues, our therapists at Relationship Experts provide a wide range of services to help you build and maintain the relationship you’ve always wanted. Our Miami, FL-based counseling office offers many different services online besides Marriage Counseling, including Affair Counseling, Communication Counseling, and Infidelity Recovery Programs. We also offer online therapy sessions throughout the state of Florida for other types of relationship issues.