Category Archives: Couples Counseling

Therapy for Affairs, Cheating, Infidelity, Betrayal









In my therapy practice I treat couples who come to me with a wide variety of relationship and marital challenges stemming from an affair. In this article, I’d like to focus on some of the root causes of these challenges and talk a little bit about how therapy for affairs, cheating, infidelity, betrayal can begin to address problems in the relationship.



What Is An Affair?

An affair has often been defined as a violation of trust in a marriage or committed relationship, which frequently does great damage to the relationship when found out.


Does An Affair Mean My Relationship Is Bad?

Research has shown that it is a myth to think that affairs only happen in marriages where there is something fundamentally wrong. Affairs do happen in marriages that are good and healthy as well. Repair often takes time, patience, prolonged behaviors that promote loyalty and trust. Couples therapy is beneficial in helping facilitate the healing process.


Why Do Affairs Happen?

Some possible causes of affairs include:

1.  Schemas developed from early childhood.
2.  Negative family of origin role models, and values that breed infidelity.
3.  Losses such as death, job/career, financial that cause stress and loss of self identity and self esteem.
4.  Prolonged loss of intimacy, connectedness, romance, and support.
5.  Chronic disrespect from a partner in the forms of: criticism, contempt, and detachment which causes a  longing to feel wanted, appreciated, and attractive.
6.  High discrepancy in sexual drives where one partner feels continually frustrated, angry, and unsatisfied.
7.  Weak impulse control.
8.  Difficulties in keeping clear boundaries.
9.  Sexual addiction.
10. Difficulties in keeping clear boundaries.


How Do Affairs Happen? 

Some possible ways that affairs happen include:

  • A friendship that over time, becomes increasingly more confidential and personal
  • A work associate or friend who makes one consistently feel more wanted, attractive, smart, and appreciated in comparison to a partner who often attacks, criticizes, belittles, and takes one for granted
  • Frequently visiting pornographic internet sites and chat rooms
  • Contact with a high school sweetheart through Facebook
  • Vulnerable work situations such as traveling or working after hours or long hours with colleague of the opposite sex
  • Confiding with someone of the opposite sex about problems in your marriage
  • Fantasizing of having sex often with a work colleague or friend


What Happens During Disclosure Of An Affair?

When the unfaithful spouse discloses, there is typically a sense of relief. Strong feelings of anger, entitlement, shame, guilt, remorse, disgust, rejection, isolation and loneliness can follow.

The betrayed spouse usually will have feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal, disbelief, and shock. While some partners have a strong need to know all the details, some don’t. What works best is up to each individual. Often, the betrayed partner gets the urge to repeatedly ask for the details, over and over to help relieve anxiety and to find out if there is more to the story than told.


What Strategies Can Be Helpful After Disclosure?

It is helpful to mourn and accept the loss of innocence and recognize that the marriage has entered a new phase as there are many stages along the marriage journey.

For the betrayed, acknowledge and accept that this is a grieving process with its own trajectory, and feelings and thoughts can come up out of nowhere and be overwhelming, similar to post traumatic stress syndrome.

Try keeping discussions contained to appropriate times, when the time is right for you and your partner, so that it does not permeate every facet of the your day.


The Tasks for the Unfaithful Partner

This is an opportunity to move forward while becoming more aware of situations that lead to a weakening of boundaries with a person of the opposite sex such as going out for drinks, traveling, long hours working together where inappropriate conversations about one’s personal life may develop.

It may or may not be essential that the unfaithful partner share the details, depending if the betrayed partner wants to hear them or not. It may be incredibly difficult and painful to share due to fear of rejection and the enormous amounts of shame and anger. Keep in mind that minimizing, lying, and denial is more painful than the actual disclosure for the betrayed spouse.


Behaviors that can promote trust and reassurance include:

1. For the betrayer to write down their schedule everyday for their spouse.
2. Call often from land lines.
3. Make all social media including: emails and text messaging transparent.
4. Spend lots of time together. If possible, take time off from work. Most importantly though, to increase time for connection.
5. Examine the reasons how and why the affair occurred.
6. Identify areas of the marriage that need improvement.
7. Seek therapist support. Feelings of guilt and unworthiness may continue for a while. It is important to recognize the need to forgive oneself and to understand why the events happened and to realize that we are human and it is an opportunity to rebuild the relationship on a more positive note. Through therapy, one can restore a sense of dignity by focusing on one’s qualities of courage, integrity, and willingness to recommit to the marriage. A good marriage counselor can support an unfaithful spouse on what to say to the affair partner and when and how to overcome the various hurdles.
8. It is also important to address all residual feelings and grief towards letting go of the affair partner.

Other Tasks 
  • Once this has all been worked out and the changes have taken hold, it often helps to do something such as a ritual – renewing vows, and/or writing letters to each other.
  • Motivate unfaithful partner to be patient, kind, loving, spend more time in connecting.
  • Validate the difficulty of being together. Introduce balance – time to talk about the affair and times not to.
  • Important to set boundaries around this so that even when the other person is triggered they don’t impulsively act out in a moment of intimacy.
  • Don’t throw in the towel. If one gets discouraged, “How did you get things back on track before? What do you need to do to get it back on track now? Keep moving forward.
  • Encourage expressions of anger, hurt, rage, and fear. But, don’t allow abusive behavior. Always remember, “What are you trying to accomplish?”
  • If you are a practicing Catholic or Christian, seek God’s mercy through the practice of confession. Make full restitution with God and seek God’s guidance, mercy and strength. Ask for deliverance if you are undergoing difficulties with temptation. Frequently attend confession and receive the Eucharist and Daily Mass, if possible. With sincere effort, it will eventually release its hold.



The Role of Forgiveness

For trust to be rebuilt, it often takes consistent, loyal, positive behaviors over a long period of time that reinforces that one is trustworthy, repentant and has changed for the better. Therapy can greatly help in facilitating this process. Once trust is reestablished, forgiveness is a conscious decision and is a gift we give ourselves. It is also a process that takes time. When trust and forgiveness take place, we can now fully accept our partner once again. In forgiving, we need to ask ourselves, “What does my partner need to say or do that will make me feel that they really understand what I am feeling?” It is essential that the unfaithful partner consistently show empathy and patience to the partner who was betrayed over the course of this process. The betrayer at times may become impatient and resentful with the process of healing, feeling that their partner should have gotten over it and moved on. Unfortunately, this has its own trajectory that has its own time, depending upon the level of remorse, empathy, and trust that is being established and until there is full resolution.

With time, hard work and commitment from both parties involved, it is possible to have many more years as a couple, with a new, more healthy relationship, one based on trust and good communication.

Call or email us today for a consultation.

Phone Number: (401) 284-2933




Spring, Janis A. (2013-01-22). After the Affair, Updated Second Edition: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful HarperCollins.

Glass, Shirley (2007-11-01). NOT “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity (p. 42). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beall, Cindy (2011-08-01). Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken (p. 12). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Effective Communication in Dealing With A Difficult/Angry Partner








For individuals in a relationship with a difficult partner who have not found their way of communicating effective when things heat up and get out of control, I have found a technique derived from the Yale Communication Model to be extremely effective. The technique is as follows:

1. Use An “I” Statement On How The Other Person’s Behavior Makes You Feel And Then A Component That Addresses The Other Person’s Behavior.


“When you yell at me like this, I get really scared, and also feel hurt and belittled.”

“When you treat me like this, I start feeling rejected and unimportant and then I try to avoid you and don’t have the energy to do what needs to be done.”

“I know that you are really angry, as we both are. But yelling at me like this is not going to get me in your corner. In fact, it’s actually getting me more scared and pushes me away and will only contribute to a worsening of the situation between us.”


2. State What You Want.


“What I need from you is to talk to me rationally about what is going on for you rather than in a tone that is disrespectful and belittling.”


3. Set Limits On The Behavior If Necessary.


“Look, I need a time-out here. I can’t take you yelling at me. We can’t carry on this conversation if you are going to continue be red-faced and screaming in this way. This needs to stop. You clearly need to cool down and regroup. I’m going to have to end this discussion for now if you cannot adjust your tone and behavior. You need to think how you are speaking to me, and if it continues in this way, it’s going to make it impossible for us to connect.

“Look, if this abuse does not stop, you or I will have to leave the house for a while or I will call the police.”

“I know that you are really angry. But yelling at me is not going to get what you want. In fact, it’s only going to make me shutdown and push you away.”


4. Don’t Go It Alone

It amazes me how empowering this strategy can be. Many of my clients report an improvement in their relationship and how using this simple strategy can help build a sense of self-respect and empowerment in a difficult relationship over time.

However, not everyone feels comfortable or has success in implementing this without consistent practice and some professional guidance. Some people even say, “Wow I could never do that!” As with starting any new habit that is difficult, it takes practice, consistency and some guidance.

If you are in a relationship and dealing with a difficult/angry partner, please feel free to contact me for a consultation at 401-284-2933.

6 Communication Tips For Couples

6 Communication Tips For Couples

In my counseling work with couples I have found that difficulties with communication are a key stumbling block to building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

This article outlines a few communication tips based on what couples have found helpful in communicating their needs. This straightforward model, outlined below, helps you convey what you see as a problem, how you feel about it, what you want, and what you will do if it doesn’t happen. It is designed to be clear, concise, non-emotional, and non-judgmental. People who use this model find that communication is less likely to get off track and become attacking.

  1. Try to use “I” rather than “you” statements.

When_______________(situation or behavior)

Try to leave out “You” statements such as ‘You never, you always, you should have’…as this can make the other person become immediately defensive and start the “blame game.”

“When… I am yelled at like this… I am treated like this… I don’t get a response from you… my feelings are not taken into consideration.”


  1. State how you feel.

Saying, “I feel” gives the other person information about how the situation or comment affects you. It also helps you validate yourself and helps you feel more empowered.

I feel _______________.

Try to state both secondary and primary feelings. Secondary feelings (anger) are the result of a primary feeling (shamed, belittled).

“I feel… angry… hurt… belittled… humiliated… taken advantage of… unappreciated… abandoned… not taken into consideration… unimportant… disrespected… minimized.”


  1. State what you want.

It is important to let the other person know what it is that you want from them in terms of behavioral change.

I want ______________.

What it is that you want from the other person.

“I want … to be talked to in a respectful tone of voice… to be acknowledged and appreciated for what I do right… to feel loved and accepted… this mess picked up as soon as possible… a heads-up when you are going to be late… to feel more supported around your family… to feel that my feelings are recognized, and taken into consideration… to have some say in these decisions… you to stop yelling at me…to be treated with respect.”


  1. State what you will do if your wishes are not met.

If the other person ignores you, says, “no”, is passive-aggressive, or blows you off, you will need to consider using this step. “Or I will need to . . .”   is not to be used as a threat or a punishment, but is what you will do to take care of yourself without the cooperation of the other person.

Or I will need to _____________.

“Or I will need to… leave the room… leave the house… will need to make other plans next time… start considering other options… to other ways to take better care of myself… call the police.”

The most powerful tool you have at this point is to stop interacting with the other person if they keep persisting. Keep in mind that you must follow through with what you say you will do.

When the subject is being changed many times and the other person is trying to throw you off track by bringing up all of your other past sins and trying to get you confused, keep the focus on the main topic, the one in the present moment, which keeps the conversation in the “here and now.”

“Lets keep our discussion on the topic we started with.”


  1. Reinforce Efforts at Change

Be grateful for any efforts at improving the relationship. Some studies . . . have shown that gratitude benefits both the giver and the receiver,” according to Todd Reed, a communication author and coach. “When either of you does something nice for the other – lets you sleep in, washes the dishes when it’s your turn – take a second to show appreciation. Even if you’re just saying thanks for the small stuff, it can go a long way in solidifying your relationship.”


  1. Get Help

Sometimes emotions can get in the way of healthy communication. If you feel that you have already tried some of these tips and have been unsuccessful- do not assume that the situation is hopeless. Everyone needs help, once in a while, so consider either individual counseling to learn and practice these skills, and/or couples counseling if your partner is willing to give it a try.


If we can help in any way, give us a call at 401-284-2933.






Summary: Article on 6 Communication Tips For Couples to argue less and love more.