Pursue a Peaceful Solution Schedule a Free Consultation
A man on a bench with a woman while he is holding hands with another woman

The Good News About Infidelity – The Present: Part 1, Phase 1

Rachel Alexander April 21, 2022

{4 minutes to read}  This article, part of the series with our partner and friend, couples therapist Meredith Keller, LPC, ACS, explores unfaithfulness and infidelity, challenging the misconception that they always necessitate the end of a marriage.

While an affair usually signals marital issues requiring attention, infidelity need not necessitate divorce. There has long been the belief that divorce is the only reasonable and self-respecting response. But Meredith proposes that this might not be the only option, and is perhaps not even the best or most mature recourse.

There are many ways that partners can be unfaithful; many of which are achieved while fully clothed. Obviously, there’s sexual infidelity, but there are also emotional infidelities, financial betrayals, and a myriad of manners in which partners are disloyal to their primary relationships. Whenever one spouse is deliberately hiding something important from the other out of fear of the consequences of exposing it, whether “it” is a romantic relationship or a gambling habit, the integrity of the relationship is likely being traduced. This article deals with the ordinary lipstick on the collar, phone calls taken in separate rooms, kind of infidelity. It’s worth noting, however, that all sorts of relationship trespasses can be healed with remedies outlined in this series.

Meredith says infidelity doesn’t have to be a marital fatality. The breach is repairable with professional intervention. She breaks the intervention into three stages:

  1. The Present (which I have broken into two phases)

  2. The Past

  3. The Future

The Past and Future will be discussed in subsequent articles. Here we begin with:

The Present – Phase One

Spouses who have just learned of an affair are in crisis. Let’s call the spouse who had the affair, Lane, and the injured spouse Ryan. It is not that both parties aren’t injured and in need of support, however, the first stage of Meredith’s therapeutic intervention takes up the immediate needs of the spouse who just learned of the affair. The initial therapeutic focus is to help Ryan deal with the intense, hurt, negative feelings. If possible, it is optimal for Lane to be present. Lane’s presence in and of itself can be an important foundation and critical step in Ryan’s healing process.

If Lane is able to be present for and listen to Ryan; to validate what he is hearing from his injured partner, the couple can begin to bridge the disconnect and heal the divide.

Often the injured spouse feels not only diminished but abandoned. For Lane, the spouse who had the affair (who is also dealing with complex feelings), being with Ryan, the injured party, requires a deep level of care, patience and commitment, not to mention ego strength. When Ryan can experience this kind of turning towards from Lane, the very one who turned away, the experience can be antidotal to abandonment and disregard.

This first stage of working with a couple in crisis aims to achieve two things: to address the critical negative feelings and begin building rapport between the parties; this may help the couple move out of crisis and into a state of more willingness to work on the relationship and prepare for what needs to happen next.