Affairs and Betrayal

Affairs cheating betrayal trust

Relationship Counselling Affairs

In this article I share my experience working as a relationship counsellor with couples where there has been a break of trust. I describe some common themes and how relationship counselling can help.

Here is what one partner discovers:

  • I looked on his email and found he was involved in Internet dating
  • I broke into her phone and found a message from her ex-lover
  • He told me that he met up with and kissed a girl from work
  • He just told me that he has been having an affair
  • I found out that he slept with someone else while we were engaged
  • I discovered that he looks at Internet porn secretively and lied to me about it
  • He lied about seeing a female “friend” and we argue about it all the time

The betrayed partners may to be wondering:

  • How could he do this to me?
  • Why is this happening to me? What did I do/ not do?
  • Why won’t he tell me the truth? Tell me all the details?
  • I can’t stop thinking about him with her. I’m obsessing about it
  • What else is going on ? ( my sense of safety is broken)
  • How can I ever trust him/ her again?
  • I feel so hurt and stupid for this happening?
  • Should I leave now?

The partners who had the affair may be wondering:

  • How can we get through this?
  • I want to save my marriage but she doesn't trust me
  • It sounds stupid, but I don’t know why I saw this other woman /man
  • Has it come to this? Do we need couples counselling?
  • How long before this all goes away and we can back to how it was?
  • I feel bad about what I did. I’ve said sorry, yet she keeps going on
  • When will she get over it?
  • She has lied to me. I don’t think I can get over that. It hurts my pride

Here is some of my responses to common questions

Can Our Relationship Survive?

Affairs / Betrayals break the bond of trust in a relationship. The emotional crisis and shock that follow naturally press couples to seek support and answers. Relationship counselling provides a framework to hold off making any big decisions so that there is time to work things through. It is not possible at the outset to know the impact of  betrayal on a relationship. 

Many couples do work things through and some don’t. A betrayal does change a relationship. Paradoxically it can make a relationship stronger as you have been forced to really look at what is going on. Trust returns over time, yet instead of blind trust, it’s an informed trust that comes through honest communication.

Wanting to Know the Details

Wanting to know the details in order to understand is an attempt to deal with feelings of hurt. The belief is that if we know all the details then we will feel better. Upto a point it’s only natural to want to know the details. The thing to notice is when going over and over the details is a way of avoiding feeling. It is only through the process of feeling the feelings that peace is found. Relationship counselling can help you express what you are feeling and give you support to trust the process of feeling.

Sometimes I see couples where an affair occurred some time ago. They felt they dealt with it yet the betrayed partner still brings it up. She hurts about it and wants to know ‘Why?”. He is sick of feeling bad about it every time she brings it up. They may have come to see me about something else. The “unresolved” affair is at the root of the issue.
  Sometimes couples come when the affair has just been uncovered. They are in crisis and shock. The betrayed partner wants to know the details. The betraying partner tends to cover things up and the details come out drip by drip. It’s a problem. All discussions prior to coming to couples counselling are about the details. One feels unsafe, the other defensive.

Taking Responsibility and Making Amends

Many men are conditioned to avoid being wrong and consequently avoid conflict. This is true for some women too. When the betraying  partners are faced with their wrongdoing and anger/hurt of their partner they feel shame and don’t know how to respond. As a result they can’t remember details, go numb, feel angry, distance, don’t want to talk it or become defensive.

The rub is that they need to take responsibility for what they have done. The betraying partners need to find a place of dignity and acceptance of making a mistake. They need  stay open, be present to their partner so he/she can work through the feelings. When they can hear their partner’s experience fully and are willing to engage, connection is re-established, their partner feels it and the healing starts.

Issues of Trust

A betrayal/Affair means giving up fantasies and illusions about love and relationships and that might involve grieving the loss of blind trust.

When you have been betrayed by your partner it doesn’t make sense to blindly trust them again. You need to move from automatic blind trust to building informed trust. Informed trust is not just there, it something you build and work at together over time.

Blind trust is the belief that love means your partner is always one with you and would never hurt you. Blind trust confuses trust with love and ignores the complexities of relationships and outside factors. Informed trust is a trust that his built by sharing one’s emotional self, by accepting the reality of who the other person is , by honest communication and working together to resolve differences and through having fun together.

An Affair is a Relationship Issue

An affair or betrayal is an attempt at problem solving something that has not been able to be worked though in the relationship. It’s true that the betrayer needs to take responsibility for what they have done . The 2nd step is for both partners to look at what could not be spoken about in the relationship that lead to the affair.

How Relationship Counselling helps.

Relationship counselling provides a framework to manage the crisis. 

  1. It gives you a structure and a plan to manage to
  2. Deal with the practicalities of managing then next few days, weeks
  3. Containment to deal with the shock and support express built up emotion
  4. Support to focus on what is important now and to take things step by step. It's best to allow time to work through emotions and gradually reach understandings before making big decisions that you may later regret.

Over Time Relationship Counselling It helps by:

  • Giving space to make sense of what has happened
  • Slowing down interactions so feelings of anger/hurt can be expressed
  • Understanding what was happening in the relationship
  • Detoxifying arguments and understanding patterns
  • Addressing concerns about trust and what to do
  • Helping you deal with what has to be dealt with to Rebuild connection and trust
  • Guiding you through a process so the issues are properly dealt with.
  • Reminding you that betrayals of trust go deep and take a long time to work through


If you are dealing with an affair  do come together  to relationship counselling. Individual counselling alone isn't going to address the relationship issues.

Give yourself time to work things through rather than feeling you must split up or move out. It be a relief to speak about what happened to a couples counsellor and give time to process what has happened with the right support. Avoid making big decisions until you have given yourselves time to work things through. Relationship Counselling gives you time. Time to delay making a decision of what to do until you are ready. Help yourselves make sense of what has happened.


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