Love, Heartbreak

7 Things To Look For In A Couples Retreat When You Want To Heal Your Marriage From Infidelity

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Choosing A Couples Retreat To Learn How To Save Your Marriage After Infidelity

When your marriage hangs in the balance because of an infidelity, trying to save it can be overwhelming and choosing a couples retreat can be even more difficult.

 A marriage retreat for infidelity is a unique way to focus on your marriage with the help of therapists who specialize in your experience.

In the world of therapy, there is so much to choose from. There are so many modalities, styles, and specialties.

And, assuming there are qualified and experienced therapists grounded in evidenced-based work, there is room for all of it. Kind of like the "time and place for everything" philosophy.

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That generous offering can be a mixed blessing. You might ask questions like:

  • "Where do I begin?"
  • "How do I find the right therapist without having to start over a bunch of times?"
  • "How do I find something that my spouse will agree to and stick with?"
  • "How do I find the right kind of therapy for our situation?"

While the following consolation may not help to answer your questions on why people cheat and how to save your marriage when you're on the receiving end of cheating, it should give you comfort to know that the right help is out there.

And those professionals who are ethically, empathetically, and compassionately devoted to the calling of the therapeutic practice want you to find the right fit. They really do.

If your marriage has recently been shattered by infidelity, it’s understandable that you and your spouse need ‘emergency care’.

And the eruption of emotions in both of you can make the search for a ‘marriage ER’ feel hopeless from the get-go.

That’s why we’re not talking about individual counseling — or even simply marriage counseling or couples therapy — but about a marriage retreat or a couples retreat, specifically for infidelity.

Consider it a niche within a niche — marriage/couples counseling that focuses its attention on one critical wound with far-reaching consequences. And then place it into an intensive, multi-day format for an all-in immersion experience.

Why an intensive marriage retreat for infidelity and not just the regular ‘one hour weekly’ approach? Why is it important for you and your spouse to be in therapy together and why is an immersion format beneficial?

First of all, there is a big difference between being an effective marriage/couples therapist and an effective individual therapist.

Even without a big issue like infidelity, when a couple chooses therapy they bring the issues, needs, and influences of two people to their counseling.

While individual therapy can be effective as an adjunct to marriage/couples therapy when infidelity is onboard, it can’t remedy the loss of trust.

And the betrayal and loss of trust are at the very heart of infidelity.

By choosing a retreat specifically designed for infidelity issues and not just general marriage issues, trust can have the attention it needs, as well as the other aspects specific to infidelity and its far-reaching consequences.

Now that the field is narrowed down a bit, you still have to know what to look for in a marriage retreat for infidelity. Some of the criteria will parallel that for marriage/couples therapy in general.

But, again, it’s important to go the extra step to research the applicability of the therapeutic model and the therapists’ experience to infidelity specifically.

Here are 7 factors to consider when attending a marriage retreat after an infidelity.

1. The therapists specialize in and focus their work on marriage/couples therapy

It’s important that you work with therapists whose practices are devoted to working with couples. It’s not enough that they can and often do work with couples.

If you need a good heart surgeon, you don’t want someone who divides his/her skills over the entire body. You want someone whose professional life is about the heart.

2. They avoid taking a neutral stance

If your marriage is going to survive infidelity and come out thriving in the end, it needs to become its own entity.

When there has been a major breach of trust, taking sides or leaning into one partner’s feelings during therapy can be counter-productive. 

“Well, she does have a point.”

“Hmm, maybe he’s right.”

Therapists fluent in marriage/couples therapy, especially when there has been an affair, know that it’s the marriage that gets the deference.

Their filter is calibrated to hear and express everything in the context of, “How does this serve the good of the marriage?”

3. They understand the power of time intensity

John Gottman originated the concept of marriage retreat intensives with his "Marathon Couples Therapy". These long weekends were based on neuroscientific research showing that couples learn more effectively in intense doses.

Neuroplasticity, the growth and rewiring of the brain, is optimized this way, leading to quicker resolution and greater sustainability.

By sequestering couples away from their normal lives for several days, distractions and necessary ‘re-hashings’ are eliminated.

Focus is sustained, allowing important and time-consuming work to be done.

4. The retreat is private or includes other couples

There are valid reasons for both formats. It’s only natural, given the nature of the issue, to be concerned about exposure and confidentiality.

The shame and embarrassment that spouses typically experience after infidelity can make sharing difficult.

But there are very experienced marriage/couples therapists who swear by the multi-couple format.

The presence of others experiencing similar problems can lead to vicarious learning in a powerful, safe, effective way.

Only you, your spouse, and your therapy team can decide what will be the safest and most effective for you.

5. The therapists are vulnerable and transparent with their own stories

Marriage/couples therapy is unique in the sense that there is a sort of ‘egalitarian companionship’ on the journey. This is one reason you will often see husband-wife therapy teams in marriage/couples therapy.

Because of the sensitive, highly vulnerable nature of marriage issues like infidelity, it’s imperative that the therapists establish a safe, non-judgmental experience.

By sharing their own experiences, therapists increase client confidence and provide a learning opportunity by modeling healthy communication and reparative skills.

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6. The retreat focuses on teaching new skills and translating them into new behaviors through practice

One of the greatest benefits of attending a marriage retreat for infidelity is the opportunity to learn, develop and practice powerful skills.

It’s not enough to gain new insights. They need to be practiced in order to become habits and a new way of thinking.

Having the supervision of experienced therapists makes that process safe and helps to refine the skills as clients work on them.

7. The cost is affordable

It’s unrealistic to talk about attending a marriage retreat for infidelity without discussing cost for what may be a weekend getaway to remember.

Admittedly, the marriage retreat intensive format is one of the most expensive therapy formats. Only you and your spouse know what you are able to afford.

But if you are determined to make your marriage work, it’s important to consider the time-intensity factor.

A good marriage retreat can accomplish the equivalent of 6-9 months of traditional weekly counseling in 2-3 days.

Weigh that against the cumulative cost of weekly therapy. Consider also the amount of time that would pass before you experience relief that you need now.

It’s a sad reality of infidelity that its consequences are so costly in terms of time, finances, and emotional and physical health.

Obviously, the ideal would be for couples to enter their relationships prepared to handle adversity with healthy communication and protection of their marriage.

But life is here to teach us. And its benevolence, even in the obscurity of devastation, always meets us where we are, ready to offer the lessons again. It’s always our choice to say, "I’m ready now."

If an affair has brought your marriage to the point of reckoning, a marriage retreat for infidelity may be the perfect way to say, "I’m ready."

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Dr. Jerry Duberstein is a couples therapist and his partner, Mary Ellen Goggin, is a relationship guide. They offer private couples retreats, couples counseling and coaching (telephone, Skype, or in person) in the quaint seaport, Portsmouth, NH. To learn more schedule a 1/2 hour complimentary consultation.

This article was originally published at The Free & Connected blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.