Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP
Are you recovering from an affair? Are you recovering from infidelity? Recovering From Infidelity was written for D’Arienzo Psychological Group by University of North Florida (UNF) Psychology Student and Future Industrial Organizational Psychologist, Brandon Araujo, in January 2013. His article offers great insights about steps couples should take to recover from an affair or from infidelity.
In addition to reading Recovering From Infidelity, couples dealing with an affair would also benefit from taking Dr. D’Arienzo’s Relationship Tune Up Course. The information in the course is similar to what Dr. D’Arienzo uses when treating patients and clients in therapy or counseling sessions when couples are coping with an affair or just want to improve their relationship.
Infidelity is not clearly defined or determined by any specific behaviors; the definition of infidelity can vary between couples and even between the individuals within the relationship. For example, one partner may define infidelity as watching pornography while the other may consider it as having a sexual relationship with another person. Because of these different views, it is important to clearly discuss with your partner what you consider as infidelity.
If an affair is discovered in a relationship, it is vital to clearly communicate your thoughts about the situation to your partner. It is easy for one to become overwhelmed with emotions and make harsh impulsive decisions. In order to avoid these severe actions it may be appropriate to take some time away from each other to help calm down so that you may be able to think rationally about the situation. After calming down, communicate your rationalized thoughts and feelings with your partner; using a relationship licensed counselor or psychologist may ease this necessary action. By doing this you set the foundation for healing the relationship.
After setting the foundation, the next step towards recovering from infidelity is practicing mutual support. Kristee Williams states in her article, “Toward Mutual Support: A Task Analysis of the Relational Justice Approach to Infidelity,” that there are four conditions needed to practice mutual support and recover from infidelity. The first of the four is “mutual attunement.” This refers to the ability for both partners to express empathy for the other’s emotions created by the infidelity. Small behaviors such as, maintaining eye contact and crying with your partner can enhance mutual attunement. The next condition is “mutual vulnerability,” meaning that each partner exposes themselves to emotional risks in the relationship. This can be practiced by continuously sharing your fears, expectations, and emotions about the relationship with your partner.
The third condition is “shared relational responsibility,” which is the ability to take responsibility for your partner and the relationship as a whole. In many relationships there is one partner that puts in more work than the other. This causes that partner to feel unappreciated, which can lead to doubts about the relationship. To avoid these doubts, communicate with your partner about how much work you both are willing to put into the relationship and find an equilibrium. The final condition is “ mutual influence,” or the ability to influence your partner to respond to you. How often do you have a really great idea for a date night and your partner shoots the idea down? This is an example of poor mutual influence. In order to improve on this aspect, take turns with your partner deciding on things to do together, such as going to an art museum or going on a hike.
These attributes are occasionally seen as difficult to develop, but many couples find it easier with the assistance of a couples counselor or psychologist. Partners who are able to develop these four attributes in a relationship will be more likely to “experience new relational possibilities beyond the infidelity.”
Williams, K., Galick, A., Knudson-Martin, C., & Huenergardt, D. (2013). Toward
Mutual Support: A Task Analysis of the Relational Justice Approach to Infidelity. Journal Of Marital & Family Therapy, 39(3), 285-298. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2012.00324.x
D’Arienzo Psychological Group is a clinical, forensic, and organizational psychological practice located in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. D’Arienzo, a clinical and forensic psychologist is a local relationship expert specializing in marital counseling and couples counseling. Dr. D’Arienzo also provides corporate relationship training, soft skills training, and marriage seminars.