How does marriage counselling help couples heal after an affair?
For a couple to recover from the infidelity and broken trust, it takes commitment, determination and a willingness to be vulnerable. With these ingredients, couples or marriage counselling can certainly help repair a relationship following an affair.
Infidelity, or being unfaithful in a marriage or committed relationship, can range from sexual infidelity, through different forms of physical contact with another person, to cyber affairs and emotional infidelity. The research suggests that in Australia, the most prevalent type of infidelity is an emotional affair. A person engaged in an emotional affair is getting their deep emotional needs met by someone outside of their relationship. In an emotional affair, one might have frequent contact with another person outside of the relationship, start to keep secrets from their partner, find themselves wanting to share any new or exciting personal news with this person first, spend a lot of time fantasising about them, feel deeply understood and accepted by them (while not feeling this way with their partner), discuss very intimate topics and develop a closeness and connection that does not exist within their marriage or relationship. It is reported that men are more sensitive to sexual affairs, while women feel more hurt when their partner has been emotionally unfaithful.
Whatever the nature of the affair, when a person discovers that their partner has been unfaithful, it can set off intense feelings of panic, betrayal, abandonment, anger, and a painful sense of loss. To put this in perspective, consider that research indicates an extra-marital affair is rated as the 5th highest stressful life event, just after a jail sentence and death of a family member. Naturally it can take a long time to process what has happened and establish trust again. When these painful emotions are activated, seeking help through relationship or marriage counselling is essential to getting back on track. Both partners need to want to rebuild and be willing to embark on this tough journey together.
Through counselling, an affair may be reframed and understood as a symptom of underlying problems in the relationship. So a couples therapist will explore the particular function of the affair; for some people it is a form of communication to their partner when other means of communicating have broken down. For others, it is a way for them to get their sexual needs met when sexual intimacy and desire has died of from their marriage. Or sometimes it is a way for people to have their emotional needs met when they feel devalued, ignored by or emotionally cut-off from their partner.
The process of working through these issues usually follows certain steps. The first step is about acknowledgement and forgiveness; the person who has had the affair needs to recognise and take ownership of the hurt and damage they have caused, and without their partner’s forgiveness, reconnection is not possible. The next step is to openly communicate and process how and why the affair occurred. Mourning the affair is also an important step, which involves working through the grief associated with the loss of trust and the loss of the old relationship. Once this has been achieved, couples can start to rebuild trust and identify how to deal with triggers of the affair that come up in everyday life. They may also start to rebuild sexual and emotional intimacy. The final stage of the process is about reconnecting and accepting; leaving behind the old relationship and cultivating a new partnership with a hopeful and positive imagined future.
Keep in mind that the most common response to traumatic events is post-traumatic growth. So with the right support, couples can learn to trust each other again and also achieve growth in their relationship. Mindwell Psychology, our Geelong based clinic, can offer support to couples experiencing this difficult situation. Make an Appointment today.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a type of psychotherapy that uses eye movements and other bilateral stimulation to facilitate the process of healing from trauma-related symptoms. EMDR is a relatively new form of therapy to treat PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). People who have experienced major traumas such as a sexual or physical assault, an accident, the sudden death of a loved one or major illness, can benefit from EMDR. This type of therapy is now also being used to treat:
- Anxiety (such as social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias)
- Pain Management
- Specific phobias
- Eating Disorders
- Self-esteem issues
- Somatic symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems
One of the most exciting things about EMDR is the short timeframe in which people can achieve real change in their symptoms. Prior to the introduction of EMDR it was thought that emotional scarring from significant traumas would take years to heal through traditional psychotherapy. However, the short-term results of EMDR for many people who suffer with mental health concerns are very promising. The premise of this approach is that the brain naturally moves towards healing, in fact we heal from psychological trauma in the same way the physical body responds to a wound or injury. When given the right input, this healing process can be facilitated or unblocked. In essence, EMDR is about activating the mind’s own natural healing processes.
In EMDR therapy there are typically eight different phases. Phase 1 involves taking a history and developing a treatment plan. Phase 2 involves learning ways to cope and developing calming skills to use in between sessions. The latter phases (3 to 6) involve reprocessing the identified trauma that is causing emotional distress. This reprocessing occurs through the use of bilateral visual, auditory or tactile stimulation. Bilateral stimulation is thought to facilitate accessing and processing of emotionally distressing material while simultaneously creating new links or associations in the brain, hence stimulating healing. When the therapist is using visual stimulation they move their finger or light bar back and forth in front of the patients eyes. When using auditory stimulation the therapist may use chimes or other sounds that alternate in each ear. Tactile stimulation is usually in the form of tapping or hand held buzzers.
EMDR has a growing research base and is considered as an effective treatment by many important organizations, including Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Health Organization.
If you or your child are seeking support for any of the above issues please contact Mindwell Psychology and make an appointment.
Many couples are looking for relationship counselling in Geelong as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is such a positive step to take when your relationship is struggling because according to recent Australian data, relationship counselling positively impacts 70% of couples. Being in a healthy relationship benefits not only our emotional health, the health of the family, but also our physical health and overall wellbeing.
So what are the effects of stress on a relationship? When one or both people within a couple are experiencing stress it can create a negative cycle whereby each person reacts to the other’s stress and this intensifies the situation, leaving you both feeling more frazzled, snappy, unsupported, or overwhelmed. When this cycle has been going on for a long time you might find yourself or your partner withdrawing, bottling up emotions, or find it difficult to communicate honestly without setting each other off.
It is so important for the couple to identify what each other needs when under stress and find ways to talk about this, in order to support each other and keep the relationship afloat. Instead, there is typically a lack of communication and understanding, the couple drift further apart and become more polarised on certain issues. Although it can be difficult at times to talk about what is driving the stress in your relationship and to express negative feelings about each other, couples usually find the talking process helpful because it leads to resolution. Once couples have been locked in a negative cycle and can’t communicate effectively, seeing a trained professional couples therapist or relationship counsellor to facilitate this process a must. It will lead to a better outcome for you, your partner, and ultimately the relationship.
Many people who seek therapy to deal with the impact of stress on their relationship find that they feel more supported, feel more understood by their partner, have more insight into how to support their loved one, are better equipped at dealing with other conflicts or issues that come up in their relationship, and feel more like a unified team.
If you live in the Geelong region, contact us at Mindwell Psychology to book an appointment for relationship counselling.
Are you suffering with anxiety and looking for some adult counselling in Geelong? If you struggle with symptoms of anxiety, you are not alone. In fact, in any one year in Australia approximately 2 million adults have anxiety. The good news is that Anxiety it is very treatable and counselling can help.
If you are an anxious person, you may work hard to hide this from other people. From the outside people may see you as someone who is always in control of situations, organised, very good at planning, someone who works very hard, is a high achiever or perfectionist, is always punctual or perhaps thoughtful of others. On the inside however, you might feel insecure, lacking in confidence, on edge, or maybe you feel on the brink of panic or overwhelm some days.
Your anxious feelings can lead to being very preoccupied with pleasing other people, even at great cost to yourself. Anxiety can result in you avoiding people, places or things just to make your life easier. It can leave you feeling constantly afraid that your performance at work is not good enough or that you will not have anything interesting to say at that social event on the weekend. The standards you set for yourself might be unrelenting and unhealthy.
Anxiety gets worse when left untreated. Over time you learn to manage or hide your true feelings, and you find ways to avoid certain situations that trigger panic in you. Yet as time passes, your life can become smaller and smaller, more and more controlled or restricted. You don’t experience any freedom in your life.
At Mindwell Psychology, we frequently work with adults who experience anxiety in all its forms. Our approach is to gain insight into the underlying causes of your symptoms which are unique to the individual. See our page about Anxiety Therapy for more information or Contact Mindwell today to book a session.