Therapeutic Interventions For Infidelity: Rebuilding Trust

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Long-term relationships can encounter bumps in the road from time to time. For monogamous relationships, a potential problem couples may face is infidelity. Infidelity, or “cheating,” can involve any type of inappropriate sexual, physical, or emotional behavior occurring outside of the relationship, or contrary to the clear agreements within the specific relationship. In some cases, infidelity can indicate a more significant concern within the relationship. Since infidelity is a violation of trust, which is the foundation of most relationships, an act of infidelity can be difficult for a couple to recover from. 

Partners grappling with the impacts of infidelity may want to reach out to a couples therapist for support. These trained professionals can use a variety of different relationship techniques to help couples reconnect and begin to rebuild their relationship after facing this significant hurdle. A therapist can also help you identify what may have caused the infidelity in the first place. 

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Causes of infidelity

Some people may think that infidelity only happens in relationships or marriages that are profoundly disconnected or inherently flawed, relationships with a fundamental mismatch in values or expectations between partners, or relationships that are already experiencing significant challenges. The truth is, affairs can occur in all kinds of relationships, whether the couple is experiencing relationship problems or not. 

While the causes of infidelity can differ, a common theme is that one partner’s needs are not being met, and they seek a way to meet those needs outside of their current relationship. This reason may stem from a variety of relationship issues, such as:

  • Personal dissatisfaction with some aspect of one’s individual life: frustration with work, sense of inadequacy, etc.
  • Lack of affection or sexual intimacy in the relationship
  • Resentment in the relationship, such as if one partner perceives the other isn’t pulling their weight when it comes to tasks related to parenting or domestic obligations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sexual addiction
  • Lack of reciprocity or changes in the relationship
  • Fear of emotional intimacy or commitment
  • A social context that condones or promotes infidelity, such as if one partner grew up in a household where one of their parents frequently cheated on the other
  • Conflict avoidance
  • The belief that extramarital sex is something to which one is entitled, based on gender, status, or other qualities
  • Life cycle changes, such as becoming new parents or empty nesters
  • Boredom

Impacts of infidelity

Infidelity whether it is a physical affair or an emotional affair, can devastate romantic relationships, potentially creating mental health challenges for both the unfaithful partner and the betrayed partner. The unfaithful partner may feel guilty or defensive, potentially wishing to “rewrite” the relationship’s past to provide justification for the affair. If the affair has ended, they may also feel a sense of grief and loss, depending on how emotionally significant the affair was.

The betrayed partner may also feel a sense of grief and loss, though their grief is likely related to the loss of what they perceived their relationship to be. They may also mourn the loss of trust and emotional intimacy between themselves and their partner. They may want to know everything possible about the affair, or they may want to avoid anything that reminds them of their partner’s infidelity. They may also develop symptoms of anxiety and depression; these results can occur in the unfaithful partner as well.

Since infidelity can have such a profound impact on a person’s life, it is not uncommon for the betrayed partner to develop symptoms of acute stress that closely resemble those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While these symptoms do not typically last for as long as a PTSD diagnosis would, they can still be concerning and might include:

  • Hyperarousal, or the state of always being on edge
  • Flashbacks related to the moment a person found out about the affair, or to memories that, in retrospect, the person now knows were associated with the affair (such as not being able to get ahold of their partner for several hours at a time)
  • Intrusive images, thoughts, or feelings about the affair
  • Continuously watching for further signs of betrayal
  • A sense that no relationships are stable and that nobody can be trusted

Therapeutic interventions for infidelity

Ilona Titova/EyeEm
It is possible for a romantic relationship to heal from an affair, but recovery can be a lengthy and complex process. Depending on the severity of the affair’s impact on a relationship, it may be helpful for the couple to participate in couples therapy with a licensed marriage and family therapist to learn how to rebuild trust in their relationship.

Infidelity therapists may practice a wide range of therapy techniques to help both the unfaithful partner and the betrayed partner move past their sense of hurt and loss and treat any symptoms of mental health conditions that may have been caused by the affair. These types of therapy techniques may include:

  • Emotionally focused therapy: This approach typically works by helping couples form a stronger emotional attachment to one another, thereby allowing them to address conflict as a team and move forward together.
  • Solution-focused brief therapy: This type of therapy may be ideal for couples facing a specific issue (like those surrounding parenting or finances) rather than a fundamental difference in their relationship. Solutions-focused brief therapy is often a short-term intervention and focuses more on finding solutions to problems rather than addressing the root cause of problems in the relationship.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is one of the most popular forms of therapy and is based on the idea that one’s thoughts and behaviors are intricately connected. It works by helping people identify their automatic, unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more positive thinking patterns. 
  • The Gottman Method: Created by Dr. John and Julie Gottman, this approach can help couples identify the strengths in their relationship and use those to get through conflict. The goals of the Gottman Method are to increase the intimacy and respect between a couple, help them communicate more effectively, and teach them how to empathize with one another. 
  • Narrative therapy: With narrative therapy, couples learn how to look at their lives from an outside perspective by telling stories about themselves and the challenges they’re facing. By making couples the experts of their own lives, they can learn how to problem-solve more effectively, challenge their automatic thoughts, and bring positive change to their relationship. 

Seeking the involvement of mental health professionals may be especially beneficial if the infidelity involved what is known as an “emotional affair.” The definition of infidelity can vary by couple and individual. However, most people would likely agree that being intimate with someone who is not your partner would fall under the scope of infidelity, and emotional affairs involve a degree of emotional intimacy. 

There are many ways in which an emotional affair might happen, from a partner making a one-time mistake to an ongoing relationship with someone else due to a sex addiction. Emotional affairs often move beyond a sexual relationship to one with a romantic and emotional connection. The impact of a partner sleeping with someone else versus the impact of a partner falling in love and beginning a new relationship with another person can be significant. Couples counseling may be a powerful way to find healing after infidelity. 

Finding support for your relationship after infidelity

If you are hoping to reconnect with your partner and save your relationship after infidelity, you may consider seeking out couples therapy. It can be challenging to find a therapist with whom you and your partner are both able to connect and who can accommodate both of your schedules, especially once you factor in other obligations such as work or childcare responsibilities. 

If you and your partner are struggling to find an in-person therapist with whom to work, online therapy could be a helpful alternative. Through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples, you can meet with a therapist from the comfort of your home or anywhere else you have an internet connection. Online therapy typically has more flexible and convenient scheduling options, allowing you to chat with a therapist on weekends or in the evenings. This can make it more convenient to get the support you and your partner need. Plus, you can each connect from separate locations, if necessary, for joint sessions. 

The efficacy of online couples therapy

Want to find out how you can heal from infidelity?

Couples therapy can help partners successfully move forward after an issue like infidelity. In one study, researchers found that 60–80% of couples who sought counseling after affairs were able to repair their relationships, with many reporting greater relationship satisfaction after the conclusion of the intervention. Research has shown that getting couples counseling online can have similar outcomes to working with a couples counselor in person. 

One study that interviewed couples who had completed an online couples therapy program found that many felt more in control, comfortable, and immersed during the therapeutic process. Whether you are addressing infidelity or another significant challenge within your relationship, online couples counseling may be what the two of you need to reconnect, rebuild trust, and strengthen the foundation of your relationship. Recovery may be possible after an affair.


Infidelity can have a serious impact on a relationship or marriage, potentially leading to symptoms of mental health conditions for both partners similar to symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder. Still, it is possible for a relationship to be saved after experiencing infidelity if both partners desire to make it work. If you and your partner are struggling to move past infidelity, you may consider reaching out to a couples therapist. They can help you and your partner process the situation together and equip you both with tools to help repair the relationship. 

A couples therapist may employ a number of therapeutic techniques including CBT, solution-focused brief therapy, narrative therapy, emotionally focused therapy, or the Gottman Method. Online relationship counseling can be a convenient way to find support for your relationship if you are aiming for affair recovery, particularly if you’re facing barriers to in-person treatment. When you find a therapist who is available online, you and your partner can get support according to your availability and comfort, which may help both of you stay committed to the healing process.

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