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Most people agree that a sexual affair counts as infidelity, but what about sending a flirty text? What if your partner takes out several loans and acquires a large debt without your knowledge? Does engaging in virtual sex with someone other than your partner, connecting with How to get over an affair partner ex on social media or maintaining an online dating profile even though you are already in a relationship count as betrayal? The answer depends on how the people in the relationship define infidelity. As this poll illustrates, how one defines infidelity is subjective.
If counselors set the stage poorly from the beginning, they risk alienating one or both parties, he adds. Alsaleem believes his definition of infidelity not only works for clients of various backgrounds but also provides counselors with a buffer from their own biases about what infidelity is. He asserts that his definition allows therapists to remain neutral without minimizing ability. Technology has provided new frontiers in infidelity because it offers higher accessibility, greater anonymity and opportunities for cyber-infidelity, says Alsaleem, who presented on this topic at the conference of the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors IAMFCa division of the American Counseling Association.
In fact, technological advancements such as virtual reality pornography and teledildonics — technology that allows people to experience physical tactile sensations virtually — are adding new layers of complexity to infidelity and relationships. People can use technology to escape real-world problems and reinvent themselves, Alsaleem notes. One of his clients suffered from erectile dysfunction. Because of the shame and stigma associated with his condition, he turned to virtual sex as a way to accommodate for the deficit rather than dealing with the issue with his wife.
Alsaleem worked with another couple who were in a happy relationship, but their sexual intimacy had decreased because of common life stressors such as work and parenting. Rather than talk to his wife about it, the husband started watching pornography, which evolved into virtual sex. Situations such as this one further emphasize the need to clearly define infidelity and establish a relationship contract, says Alsaleem, who points out that the good thing about his definition of infidelity is that it applies to both real world and virtual world affairs.
If so, did you outsource this need to someone else? Relationship dissatisfaction is a common cause of infidelity, but it is far from the only cause. Alsaleem recommends that counselors consider three when working with infidelity. The first is dyadic factors, which are any relationship issues that lead to the couple not having their sexual or emotional needs met by each other. He points out that some mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder and narcissistic, antisocial and borderline personality disorders, may increase the likelihood of infidelity. People who experienced sexual trauma at an early age are also more likely to engage in infidelity as adults because the trauma may have affected their attachment, sexual identity and the type of relationships they have in adulthood, Alsaleem adds.
Survey data taken from Ashley Madison, a website that helps married people have affairs, reveal that certain careers and occupations are more correlated with infidelity. These careers typically involve frequent travel; expose people to trauma; feature long, stressful hours; or offer unhealthy work environments among the examples provided were military personnel, first responders, nurses, police officers and people in sales.
In fact, because the emotional response to infidelity e. The fallout from infidelity can also spill over into other roles that people occupy, such as being a parent or a professional. This can lead to guilt and shame if they are not performing well in another area because they are preoccupied with the trauma of the betrayal, he says. Despite having worked for a while with couples in crisis, Alsaleem found that none of the counseling tools he had acquired over the years adequately dealt with infidelity.
Alsaleem started jotting down observations of his clients dealing with infidelity and discovered several struggles that these clients shared regardless of the type of relationships they had, the length of their relationships, or their cultural or religious backgrounds. These shared struggles included defining infidelity, handling the emotional impact of infidelity, and navigating the ificance of the affair narrative.
SART describes seven milestones clients go through as they heal from infidelity:. Counselors must help clients resist making impulsive decisions and instead encourage them to make up their minds after completing the proper steps and understanding why they are making their decision, Alsaleem says. With affair recovery, Jennifer Meyeran LPC in private practice in Fort Collins, Colorado, finds it helpful to have couples write down their feelings and emotions, which can be intense.
From the beginning, she asks couples to share a journal and write their feelings back and forth to each other. After the couple has had time to identify and process the cause of the infidelity, Meyer asks the partner who has been unfaithful to write an apology letter and to read it to the injured partner in session. In this letter, the offending party conveys that they understand the pain they have caused and feel remorse for their actions. Even if the couple decides not to stay together, the letter helps repair the damage caused by the infidelity, and the partners can move forward and, eventually, into new relationships without carrying the pain and trauma with them, Meyer says.
Some therapists avoid having clients share details about the infidelity because they fear it will create more harm or retraumatize clients, Alsaleem says. He argues that narrating the affair is a painful yet crucial part of recovery that How to get over an affair partner help facilitate healing if done with the right level of disclosure. Alsaleem dedicates an entire day in his SART training program to teaching counselors how to help clients share their affair stories without retraumatizing both parties by sharing too much or too little information and without minimizing or exaggerating what happened.
Meyer, a member of both ACA and IAMFC, often finds that clients want to ask the offending partner multiple detailed questions about the intricacies of the affair. Meyer is aware that the answers to these questions have the potential to create even more hurt and trauma for her clients, so she is honest with couples about this possibility and guides them through the process.
Alsaleem provides a brief example of how counselors can determine the appropriate level of disclosure when clients share their affair stories but he advises clinicians to seek further training before trying this approach.
He first asks the offending partner to be proactively transparent when sharing the affair story. Alsaleem also tells injured clients that they can ask anything they want about the affair. But before they ask, he helps them determine whether the question will help them understand what type of affair it was or why the affair happened.
If so, then it is a fair question, he says. He advises counselors to ask clients what they are trying to learn about the story with their questions and help them figure out if these questions are the best way to obtain that information while avoiding further traumatization. Affairs can evoke intense emotions in session, especially when discussing the affair story.
You can both ask for a timeout as well. Meyer also uses her own body language — such as scooting up in her chair or standing up — if clients start yelling uncontrollably, or she physically separates them for a few minutes by having them take turns going to the restroom or getting a How to get over an affair partner of water.
These subtle changes help clients calm down and not get stuck in fighting, she explains. Usatynski, an ACA member who specializes in couples therapy, approaches infidelity counseling differently from couples therapy where betrayal is not the presenting issue. In ordinary couples therapy, she strives to keep therapy as balanced as possible, focusing equally on the complaints of both partners and the unresolved issues that each brings to the relationship.
But when infidelity is involved, she intentionally creates an imbalance of power and initially allows the injured party to have all of the power. This treatment works only if the offending party expresses true regret for the harm they have caused their partner and expresses a genuine desire to rebuild the relationship, Usatynski adds. When betrayal is the presenting issue, this method requires that clients move through three phases as they process and attempt to repair their relationship.
The first phase addresses the trauma the injured client has experienced by allowing them to express all of their emotions about the betrayal. The partner who was betrayed can also ask any question they want about the affair during this phase, and the offending partner has to answer honestly.
Many therapists who work with betrayal are concerned about the injured partner being traumatized by finding out the truth, Usatynski says. She admits this is a valid concern, so therapists should support the injured partner throughout the process. However, she advises that therapists not shy away from the truth coming out because, as she explains, the only way to repair the relationship or build something new is with total transparency. If clients are hesitant to ask about the affair, therapists need to explore this hesitation with them. During this initial phase, the offending partner has no power to negotiate.
They must simply sit and endure the rage and inquiry of the person whom they betrayed, Usatynski explains. The second phase of PACT involves the offending partner providing the betrayed with whatever support is needed to correct the injury to the attachment bond between them, Usatynski says. This phase could involve declarations of commitment, appreciation or praise, as well as loving actions on the part of the offending partner. However, only the injured partner can decide what behaviors are reparative, she explains. The goal of this phase is resolution.
When Usatynski notices a client showing s of dysregulation e. What do you think is going on with him or her right now? The goal is interactive regulation — the couple learning the specific strategies that soothe, regulate and excite each other, Usatynski notes. Alsaleem compares infidelity to a heart attack for the relationship.
Alsaleem says several of his clients began therapy devastated by the trauma of infidelity, but by the end, they admitted they were almost glad it had happened because it ultimately led them to having the relationship they always wanted with their partner. For some people, infidelity is the catalyst that ultimately allows them to get unstuck, he explains. When clients decide to repair their relationship, Meyer helps them develop a new, explicitly stated contract regarding the rules in their relationship moving forward.
She asks them to write down their agreement about these new relationship rules including how quickly they would inform their partner that they experienced a compromising situation and what constitutes infidelity going forward and ways they could be vulnerable to future affairs. So, this new agreement can take many forms depending on the relationship. For example, partners in a committed relationship may agree that being involved with another person sexually is OK as long as they discuss it first with their partner or keep everything in the open. Of course, clients in infidelity counseling may also decide to end their relationship.
Even so, by showing up to counseling, clients have taken the first step toward ensuring that infidelity does not define the rest of their lives, Alsaleem notes. It actually has a silver lining. Contact her at hello lindseynphillips. Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association. Very well said.
You saved my life. Thank you. Im currently at a place where i have to act as the psychiatrist. O into realisation without being overly critical. She refuses we try counseling. This article was really helpful and provided me with a clear blueprint which somehow i seemed to be working on without knowing.
Hardest part is being ok with decisions they make and a lack of ability. Good luck. Well said so glad this blog is out there. This was helpful. Notify me of follow-up comments by. Notify me of new posts by. Search for:. Loading Comments Required Name Required Website.How to get over an affair partner
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Surviving betrayal: 11 ways to get over an affair