Counseling For Infidelity

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Infidelity in romantic relationships can have significant adverse impacts. When a person in a committed relationship cheats, the betrayed partner may feel hurt, lost, sad, confused, or other intense emotions. Questions may arise about the reason for the infidelity and what the affair means for the couple's future. In these cases, therapy may be a useful way to start the healing process.

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Address infidelity in a safe, compassionate environment
Infidelity, sexual intimacy, and mental health

If you've recently experienced infidelity in your primary relationship, you may struggle to come to terms with what happened or feel unsure about moving forward. Being cheated on can feel like an immense loss, as you may feel you have lost the version of your relationship you thought you had and the trust you had built together before the affair happened. 

What are some forms of cheating?

Cheating can take various forms, ranging from an emotional affair (in which there is a romantic component, but not necessarily a physical one) to a physical or sexual affair (in which there is physical or sexual intimacy). No matter how one constitutes infidelity, the effects on a relationship can be profound and overwhelming regardless of how it manifests. 

In addition to negatively impacting the relationship and potentially leading to breakup or divorce, affairs can negatively impact the mental health of both partners involved – the injured party and the one who cheated. They can also sometimes impact the affair partner as well. 

Common reactions to cheating

A recent study found that infidelity can enhance depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and create remorse in the unfaithful partner. In addition, the study found that infidelity may leave some people at risk of turning toward coping mechanisms like substance use or unprotected sex.

For individuals who have compulsive sexual habits, or a sexual addiction, the act of cheating may also lead to intense feelings of disgust or shame in the aftermath of an affair to cheating. (Note: The terms "sex addiction" or "sex addicts" aren't officially recognized terms. However, the World Health Organization has "compulsive sexual behavior disorder" as an official diagnosis, which has the same traits and behaviors associated with being a "sex addict".)

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding an affair, recovery may be overwhelming for those involved, profoundly affecting one's mental health, and emotional and sexual well-being.
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What does infidelity therapy after infidelity look like?

A partner's infidelity can be a traumatic event that can leave a couple at a loss for how to move forward. Individuals may struggle to process the affair, while couples may struggle to envision how they can rebuild trust and find healing. In these cases, counseling could be a useful resource. 

Couples counseling 

Counseling can take multiple forms. For instance, couples who want to attempt to work together to move forward from an affair may consider couples counseling or marriage counseling. During couples counseling, the injured partner and the other partner can work with a therapist to address various factors, including the root causes of disconnect in the relationship, the emotions it brought up, and how to improve their communication and rebuild the relationship. 

A couples counselor might ask about the affair's circumstances and help the couple develop strategies for rebuilding trust and avoiding future affairs. Therapy might also aim to uncover existing relationship problems or unresolved issues. Techniques used in couples counseling may include role-playing, communication analysis, or exercises designed to strengthen the trust and communication between parties. However, couples' counseling can often require a commitment from both parties and an active attempt to make a change. 

Individual counseling

In some cases, individual counseling may be the preferred option. For instance, individual counseling may be more appropriate when the one partner who cheated does not feel remorse, if there are multiple affairs, or if the relationship has ended. In one-on-one sessions, a therapist or counselor can provide a place to discuss your emotions surrounding the initial phase of the affair and help you move forward. 

Your therapist may also offer techniques for managing the stress of rebuilding your life after infidelity, self-care suggestions, recommendations for addressing trust issues, tips for strengthening other relationships, or how to seek out other forms of support. If infidelity has caused low self-esteem, they can guide you through unpacking your beliefs about yourself in the aftermath of the affair and restructure unhelpful or untrue thought patterns. 

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Address infidelity in a safe, compassionate environment

Can counseling help you with affair recovery after an emotional or sexual affair?

Infidelity in a relationship can be associated with various mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Finding a path forward after affairs happen might not seem simple. For couples who want to try to rebuild their relationship, reestablishing trust and creating a healthy relationship can take time and hard work. For individuals whose relationships ended after an affair, time might be needed to grieve and process emotions in the aftermath of the affair before moving into a new relationship. In either case, moving on after an affair can be a challenging journey, and having the support of a mental health professional may help you feel less alone.  

Online counseling can help

Some couples and individuals feel hesitant to try face-to-face therapy, as they may not want to see their partner in person again during a separation or might feel too busy or preoccupied to commute to an appointment. In these cases, you might connect with a therapist in person or online through platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Online therapy may be convenient for couples navigating infidelity who want to take time apart while working on their relationship, as you and your partner can join the same therapy session from different locations. 

Research has shown that online relationship counseling is an effective alternative to in-person relationship counseling. A 2022 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that couples therapy delivered via videoconferencing yielded similar results to face-to-face couples therapy. While therapy may not erradicate infidelity from your mind, a licensed family therapist or relationship counselor can provide support, validation, and advice for moving forward—whether you are on the road to recovery on your own or as a couple. 

Takeaway

Infidelity can significantly impact couples and individuals, potentially leading to mental health challenges like depression and reduced self-esteem. For this reason, having the support of a therapist can be helpful for affair recovery, whether in couples therapy or an individual therapy setting. If you are looking for assistance dealing with infidelity, consider contacting a licensed therapist. You're not alone, and support is available.

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