The expectations of marriage have greatly changed in the last decade. Today’s marriages have more freedom, choices and expectations of happiness than ever before. In the new model, people expect their spouses to help them feel less alone with their fears, feelings, fantasies and needs. Spouses are expected to be best friends, lovers, co-parents and intellectual and emotional equals. This is not all the pressure marriages are facing. Today, people have the freedom of leaving if they feel that there is something better out there. The constant images of ‘ perfect couples’ all over social media is not helping the situation either.
Couples who choose to stick to the marriage for the sake of the children are faced with an alternative: remain in the marriage for the sake of the children but enter into an affair to have their unmet needs met. Affairs become a place to get the satisfaction that they are not getting in their marriage. People who have had affairs will often say that they did it because of how the “other” person made them feel. It really wasn’t so much about appearance or sex appeal. They were unfulfilled or unhappy with their spouses.
What’s interesting is that the affair comes as a shock to the partner who never suspected that their spouse was unhappy in the first place. The underlying reason for this is usually that the couple may not know each other very deeply because of faulty or nonexistent communication. The partner who cheated may be 100% responsible for stepping out of the marriage and betraying their partner, but both individuals must look at the state of their marriage before the affair.
This is why counseling after an affair becomes important because without it, people become stuck in a victim mentality where one is to blame and the other must stay angry and hurt. Marriage counseling after cheating helps people to move through the pain and anger so that they can build on a new and improved marriage. The affair doesn’t end the marriage, but the inability to heal and move past it will!
How can counseling help after cheating?
- It helps you understand what happened
It is very easy to get caught up in pointing fingers at each other which only escalates the pattern of blaming and shaming. It is unproductive to keep blaming each other. Moreover, it creates a serious downward spiral which makes it harder to recover. In order for healing to take place, both of you must feel heard, validated and have your feelings acknowledged for the affair to make sense in any way.
- It helps you learn to commit rather than act out your dissatisfaction
Affairs are bad behavior regardless of the reasons. They are just a show that a person is willing to put their own needs over their partner’s or the good of the relationship. Affairs create dishonesty and deception. They’re frequently acts of desperation for people who cannot express what they want in marriage or who feel that their pleas are unheard. It is only in marriage counseling that couples will develop the deeper communication required if they want the marriage to survive after an affair. Without the help of a therapist, it will be quite impossible for couples to move past the cheating and rebuild on their trust in one another. The communication may be seared and without the help of a marriage counselor, it will not be rebuilt.
- It helps you to learn to work together to re-build trust
It is impossible to rebuild a relationship after an affair when only one person is committed to the process. Both individuals must re-commit to staying together and becoming better people. There is no point of being at odds over who was right and who was wrong if the marriage is to survive. In order for the relationship to make it after cheating requires the couple to work together to design the parameters of the marriage moving forward. New behaviors and new boundaries will be created. These small changes will cause trust to be gained on a continuous basis.
- It gives closure
Sometimes, going for marriage counseling after an affair may not mean that you will get back together. You may decide to divorce each other even after counseling, but there are benefits to be gained from the counseling. One, counseling can help you gain closure because you have a better understanding of what went on and what led to the cheating. The blame shifts from one person to another but therapy allows you to personally benefit and become a much stronger and more confident person. Although counseling may not repair your marriage, it helps you have a fresh start and ensures that you don’t take baggage and damage into your next relationship. Closure may just be more important than restoring the relationship.
- It improves your intimacy
Lack of intimacy in marriage, whether physical or emotional, can lead to cheating. Sometimes having children gets in the way of intimacy between parents. This is because they get caught up in their duties as parents and forget to take care of their needs as a couple. The strain on intimacy can push one partner to have an affair. Marriage counseling is the avenue in which couples can improve their intimacy. In counseling, you will learn how to communicate effectively, empathize and understand each other which helps rebuild and restore your intimacy.
- It helps build on healthier ways of conflict resolution
Constant arguments, disagreements and fights can drive an individual to have an affair as an escape. Conflict is expected in marriage. The problem only comes about when the conflict is not correctly resolved. Unhealthy ways of conflict resolution put a strain on the happiness and satisfaction that one gets from the relationship. Counseling helps you to create healthier ways of conflict resolution which come in handy when you face another conflict. Unhealthy ways of resolving conflict can include violence, manipulation and emotional abuse. After an affair, these may be seen in a relationship. For a couple to get over this, counseling is a necessity.
Cheating is painful, hurtful and can bring out the worst in people. Nevertheless, marriage counseling helps to heal and move forward in a healthy matter, either individually or as a couple. Yes, counseling can indeed help after cheating.