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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

EFT Couple Therapy - After the Affair: Common Reactions of Both Partners

Infidelity is one of the most challenging issues for a relationship.  Some couples don't make it after an affair has been discovered.  For the couples who try to salvage their relationship, grief, fear and doubt are major obstacles, which is why Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples (EFT) for couples addresses these issues in an effort to repair the relationship (see my articles: Coping With Infidelity and Infidelity: Your Spouse Cheated on You. Should You Stay or Should You Go?).

EFT Couple Therapy - After the Affair: Common Reactions of Both Partners
In my prior article, I provided a fictional vignette, which is typical of what many couples experience in EFT couple therapy when they're trying to work through issues involved with infidelity.

This article will focus on the most common reactions that the injured partner and the partner who cheated usually have.

Each person must be willing to weather the storm that infidelity causes, including feelings of betrayal, abandonment, rejection, broken trust, grief, fear and doubt, if they want to work through their problems.

If, prior to the discovery of infidelity, the couple already had a negative dynamic and engaged in fixed roles of pursuer and distancer, they will use the same maladaptive coping strategies to overcome this crisis, which is why so many couples don't survive infidelity--even many who want to save their relationship (see my article: EFT Couple Therapy: Overcoming the Negative Dynamic in Your Relationship That Keeps You Stuck).

Common Reactions For the Injured Partner
Infidelity brings many powerful emotions for the injured partner, including:
  • Anger: Anger and rage are common reactions to the betrayal and violation of infidelity.  
  • Avoidance: A common coping strategy is emotional avoidance with regard to interacting with the partner who cheated.  This might mean that the injured partner might ask the other partner to leave the household temporarily or permanently.  The injured partner might vacillate between being volatile and enraged to emotionally distancing him or herself.
  • Hurt/Sadness: Contending with the betrayal, shattered assumptions, doubts, fears and grief often lead to feelings of deep sadness and hurt.
  • Vigilance: Loss of trust, fear and uncertainty can lead to vigilance on the part of the injured partner to monitor the other partner's activities, phone calls, texts, email, and so on. However, no matter how vigilant the injured partner might be, it will never feel like enough to regain trust.
  • Powerlessness: Discovering an affair that was going on without the injured partner's knowledge can lead to the feeling that "anything can happen at any time in this relationship" and s/he cannot trust it and has no control over it.  Loss of confidence and an ability to influence the partner who cheated can cause the injured partner to feel powerless.
  • Self Doubt: The injured partner often feels like s/he isn't enough for his/her partner.
  • Fear of Abandonment: Feeling rejected and a sense of low self worth with regard to the affair can create a fear of abandonment.  There is often a sense that the relationship isn't safe anymore and abandonment by the partner who cheated feels like a real possibility.
Common Reactions For the Partner Who Cheated
A partner who cheated also experiences certain common reactions after the affair has been discovered:
  • Defensiveness: It can be challenging for the partner who cheated to deal with the injured partner's vacillating anger and emotional avoidance.  Many partners who cheated will be defensive about the affair in order to protect themselves from the rage and sadness experienced by the injured partner.  The partner who cheated might shut down emotionally in order to avoid dealing with the injured partner's emotions or because s/he doesn't know what to do to repair the relationship.
  • Guilt: S/he will usually feel deep remorse, regret and guilt for his or her actions and for the pain caused to the injured partner and the relationship.
  • Shame: Trying to cope with behavior that led to infidelity can create deep feelings of shame where the person who cheated questions his or her own self worth.
  • Sadness: Knowing that his or her actions created a crisis in the relationship usually causes the partner to feel sad about the pain the affair inflicted on the other partner and the relationship.  
  • Relief: Many people, who are having an affair, are actually relieved that the truth is now out.  Prior to the discovery of the affair, the partner who cheated is often worried about being found out, so there is some relief that s/he no longer has to hide the affair.
  • Doubt: After the discovery of the affair, there is often uncertainty as to whether the couple will stay together or not.  Even if they want to try to save their relationship, there is no guarantee that the relationship will survive the emotional upheaval that the discovery of an affair brings.
There is no particular order for these common reactions for the injured partner or the partner who cheated.  Many people go back and forth through these reactions--even people who want to work things out.

I'll expand upon this topic in a future article.

Getting Help in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) For Couples:
Many relationships, which could have been salvaged, end because the couples get stuck in a negative cycle and don't know how to change it.

Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples, which was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, helps people to change the negative dynamic that keeps them stuck so they can have a healthier and happier relationship.

If you and your partner have been unable to resolve your problems, you could benefit from working with a couple therapist who uses EFT.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused therapist for couples (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.