marriage problems

Healing Your Heart After an Affair

Healing from an Affair  Uncommon Love Infidelity Counseling Portland

When an affair happens it can be difficult to sort out what to do next in your relationship.  Both the partner who has the affair and the partner who doesn't can get lost in confusing cultural messages, advice from friends, and strong rolling emotions.  

It is a difficult time for both parties, but not an impossible one.

I know it is really hard for both of you, but you will get through this heartache and you can get through it together.  

I work with couples every week who are working through the aftermath of an affair and have found the stages in After the Affair by Dr Janis Abrahms Spring really help couples move through the process of coming together in this difficult time.  I would love to read your comments about the book if you have read it.

I have added some suggestions of my own, but do recommend the book as a guide in addition to working with a relationship specialist (coach or counselor) for a bit as your decide how you want to move forward.  

Stage 1: Emotion Overload

It is common in the weeks (and sometimes months) after an affair is uncovered for both partners to be caught up in a tidal wave of emotions.  It is not unusual for both of you to feel anger, sadness, fear, shock and a whole range of other emotions during this time.  Conflicting choices, new questions, and loss may visit unexpectedly.  It can seem pretty overwhelming.

Taking time to notice, experience, and name the feelings you are going through can be very helpful in the healing process.  You are not alone in the sometimes extreme feelings you are experiencing.  

I recommend working with an individual counselor if not a couples counselor to help get clear and to have someone other than your partner or the person you had an affair with to share this experience.

It is also important to find a friend who you can talk to about your experience.  Choose a friend who respects you and your partner and who will help you take the high road instead of someone who will fuel your hurt.  It is important you don't go through this alone and both of you have community support.

Stage 2: Do I Stay or Do I Go?

Both of you may be unsure if you want to stay or leave, and you may have received mixed messages from your friends and families.  Unfortunately even in this confusing and overwhelming time, no one can choose for you.  

Take time to explore the following questions individually to help clarify what you want:

1.  What commitment expectations do you have for your partner?  How can you communicate those clearly?

2.  What draws you to your partner, how are they unique, how is your relationship special?

3.  What could have been improved before the affair?

4.  What history do you have rebuilding trust with partners, friends, and family?

5.  Are you willing to change the ways you interact with your partner?

I recommend working through these questions individually to become clear on your own: is this relationship a good fit for you right now?  Again, working with a professional can help in difficult and confusing times.

Stage 3: Rebuilding

If you two do decide to stay together and recommit you are committing not only to each other, but to a trust building process that will take weeks, month (maybe years).  

I recommend focusing on the following to help guide your relationship recovery (in no particular order):

1.  Say goodbye to the person you had an affair with.  Reassure the partner who didn't have the affair it is no longer occurring.

2.  Take action to increase open communication in your relationship.  Share your pain and be open to hearing your partner's pain.  Talk through differences of opinion, and dis-satisfactions so you can stay connected.

3.  Take specific steps to earn back trust and stay committed to the process.

4.  Develop a new shared vision of your future and create new ways to connect going forward.

5.  Forgive your partner and yourself.

Let me say it again: I know it is really hard for both of you, but you will get through this heartache and you can get through it together.  

I am happy to talk with you about options, help you find a counselor or therapist near you, or set up an appointment to help you and your partner reconnect after an affair.


gina senarighi portland relationship coach

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

Three Ways to Know Your Relationship Needs Work

Does Yoru Relationship Need Work? Uncommon Love Couples Counseling in Portland

So many couples wait until they have done MAJOR damage before coming in to talk to a professional. 

Statistics show that most couples finally make an appointment six months after symptoms of dissatisfaction become a problem.  So how do you know if it’s the right time for you two to seek help?

Here are a few symptoms to watch out for so you can get support sooner rather than later.  Marriage therapy, couples counseling, and relationship coaching can be of great service to you if you get in to see someone early in the game.

Negativity – Continued negative contact over time makes it difficult to repair damage and return to sweetness together.  If you or your partner is having trouble seeing the bright side, or envisioning a positive future for the two of you now is a great time to call for professional help.  There are three key ways negativity shows up:

    • Resentment -- Built up (often unspoken) feelings of negativity toward your partner.  Usually this is a small voice inside your head saying “you never…”  Over time resentment eats away at the good stuff you have between you.
    • Criticism – Blame and critique of one another instead of solution finding.  When you find yourself here it’s important to find a place of mutual accountability.  For many couples that’s a struggle.  You may want help getting past blame.
    • Contempt – Attacks on each other’s character.  This is where it gets ugly.  When one or both of you is having a hard time seeing the good in the other it’s a real good idea to get some support.

Rigidity – Remaining open to the influence of your partner instead of becoming inflexible is critical to long-term relationship health.  If one or both of you is getting stubborn or inflexible you could use a little coaching to help shift things into a positive direction.

    • Defensiveness – Becoming defensive when in conflict (or otherwise).  This can mean there is some unresolved hurt in your partnership.  Professionals are trained to create a supportive environment where you can share with greater care.
    • Stonewalling – Withholding affection, ignoring or distancing from your partner.  There are a lot of reasons folks stonewall, but the long term effect of this is only to create more distance between you.   Patterns of stonewalling are more easily changed with the help of a coach or counselor.

Turning Away – While it is important to have independent time and space, turning away from your partner when they are requesting help or support can decrease the longevity of your relationship significantly.

    • Invalidation—denying the validity of one partner’s experience or feelings.  Ouch, it hurts to hear a partner put down or deny your experience.  Those hurts are costly in the long run.
    • Avoidance or Withdrawal – Physically or emotionally withdrawing from one another completely.  This leaves one or both of you lonely- and who wants to be lonely in a relationship?  The goal of relationship coaching is to help you move toward each other with kindness once again.

If you have noticed any of these signs and want to remedy your relationship, relationship coaching may be right for you. 

Remember, every relationship needs a tune-up now and again, just don’t wait so long you have to call AAA from the side of the highway! Invest in your relationship health now, and you can be even stronger together.

 

Looking for an LGBTQ professional in Portland?  Click here for a free consultation.


couples counseling in portland | online couples counseling

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).