Three Key Phases to Recovering from an Affair

by | Couples Therapy

Betrayal is awful; there aren’t many people who’d argue otherwise. But why does it happen? What causes someone to engage in relationship infidelity?

Typically, infidelity happens when the relationship is suffering from lack of emotional intimacy and often suppressing emotions over an extended period of time. 

The emotional and physical toll an affair takes on the relationship, and the pain and betrayal that follows are hard to overcome. But healing is possible.

How Couples Counseling Can Help: A Brief Look into the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method for couples therapy focuses on the couple’s history of conflict and integrates research-based strategies. Its goals are:

  • Disarm conflicting communication
  • Pinpoint partners’ shared dreams
  • Open support and care
  • Boost intimacy, respect, and affection
  • Break down communication barriers 

The technique can build a greater sense of empathy and understanding in the relationship.

Emotional and Physical Infidelity

According to Gottman, emotional infidelity starts when someone grows too close to a person other than their partner. Such relationships often start innocently but develop into something more.

On the other hand, physical infidelity is sexual interaction or intimate physical contact outside of a committed relationship.

Most affairs begin at this emotional level. Even if a betrayal never progresses to an actual physical relationship, the offense can be equally heart-wrenching, and recovery can be just as hard.

Gottman’s Three-Step Trust Revival Technique

While the pain of relationship infidelity can often feel impossible to remedy, recovery is possible. 

The Gottman Trust Revival Method is an evidence-based, couples therapy approach helping couples work through an affair. It contains three critical phases: atone, attune, and attach.

Step One: Atone

In this phase of recovery, the betrayer’s responsibility is to accept fault, try to make amends, and make up for their misdeed.

The betrayer must patiently allow their partner to process the pain their actions caused and show remorse for what they have done. Doing so can include no self-defense, making excuses, or being vindictive in the face of their dishonesty. 

Transparency is also crucial in this phase. The betrayer must be patient as the betrayed will have questions and need answers, even when it feels like an invasion of the betrayer’s privacy. The betrayers willingness to be transparent is more important than the transparency itself. 

Additionally, Gottman emphasizes that the person who was betrayed has a crucial role in the process: forgiveness. When a betrayer wants to reconcile, it’s the injured partner’s responsibility to forgive if they’re going to make their relationship last.

Step Two: Attune

According to Dr. John Gottman, attunement is a mutual desire and ability to understand and respect one’s partner’s inner world. He contends that in sharing vulnerabilities, neither partner feels lonely or invisible.

In this phase of the healing process, the attention shifts to reconstructing a new relationship. In the atonement phase, the couple allows time to mourn the loss of what once was. In the attunement phase, they begin to build the foundation for something new.

To that end, the couple shifts their attention from working on individual needs to focusing on taking care of their partner. Doing so allows each of them to tune into their partner’s bids for attention better. 

Step Three: Attach

The final phase in Gottman’s method is attachment, which involves deep conversation about sex. These conversions lead to a better understanding of a partner’s preferences and feelings in bed. This topic may be hard to address because the betrayed partner may feel anger, resentment, and fear.

Partners need to communicate their needs, sexual and otherwise, to have fulfilling sex. Talking to your partner about what they want in bed is critical in reviving a relationship.

Seeking Help Through Couples Counseling

The Heart of the Matter Relationship Counseling is a practice well-equipped to help you determine what led to your affair, identify how you can heal together, and learn how to build trust and commitment into your marriage going forward. 

To schedule an appointment, reach out today. 

Get to the heart of the matter and connect with the right therapist for you today.

Sign Up To Receive Latest Updates

Name(Required)

Our Latest Blogs

Do I Need Individual Therapy or Couples Therapy?

Do I Need Individual Therapy or Couples Therapy?

Sometimes when someone is struggling in a romantic relationship, they think about reaching out for help from a therapist. However, what isn’t always clear is whether that person should seek a therapist for themselves or for their relationship? Or should they get both?...

“Big” Emotional Responses in Relationships

“Big” Emotional Responses in Relationships

What could be happening when your (or your partner’s) emotional response feels bigger than it “should” be? Sometimes when I’m working with a couple on their relationship, they report to me that they have emotional arguments about what they consider to be “nothing”...

What is Discernment Counseling and When Is It Appropriate?

What is Discernment Counseling and When Is It Appropriate?

In traditional couples counseling, the therapeutic goal is to increase intimacy and deepen connection. When one or both partners are not genuinely committed to this goal, discernment counseling is appropriate. Discernment counseling is a specialized type of couples...