Recent articles in the New York Times, Does Couples Therapy Work? And Wall Street Journal, Couples Therapy for One: To Fix a Marriage, Some Go Alone suggest that couples therapy is not always the answer to fixing a broken relationship and I tend to agree.
Instead, understanding one’s own sense of self, becoming grounded and focused- that becomes the recipe for moving forward, whether you were the one involved in an affair, cyberaffair, cybersex or other activity that was not in the relationship contract, or the one who was blindsided by your partner’s behaviors. It takes both people working on healing the hurt to get the relationship on track. It is not uncommon for the person who has been betrayed to take the stance that they did no harm so they do not need therapy… and that works fine… almost never.
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Why? Because when deep betrayal rips at the fabric of a relationship, both parties end up hurt. While the person betrayed may not have any obvious part in their partner’s indiscretions, that person unfortunately becomes the collateral damage of those indiscretions. The relationship is essentially involved in a train wreck. Regardless of who caused the train wreck, both people have been hurt and damaged and to get back on track, both people need to heal. Whether that healing is through individual therapy or coaching, couples counseling, intentional meditation, self-help books or workbooks- those are just the details. The most important thing is to heal from the wounds of the betrayal and feel good about oneself. Both must do this.
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In many ways, infidelity and betrayal in a relationship becomes an opportunity for growth. Certainly we hope we embrace opportunities that don’t always come to us in the midst of crisis, but often, the crisis becomes the impetus for change. If only one person seeks to grow, the other person is left behind and instead of the couple getting back on the train, one party steps onto the bitter bus.
Regardless of whether a couple stays together after the infidelity, healing and understanding are essential so the patterns are not repeated as the relationship continues, or into future relationships. People change after crisis and surviving the crisis of infidelity is no different. Knowing that the change can be for the better- that each party can decide to embark on a journey of self-growth that will enhance their future is the best chance at saving the relationship.