Working With Infidelity: After An Affair, Who Owns The Relationship?

Every therapist deals with affairs—sexual, emotional, internet. And although most therapists say they use a “systems approach,” it’s hard to maintain that perspective when cases are presented as involving a selfish Betrayer and a heartbroken Betrayed. Or a deprived, desperate partner and an indifferent, withholding mate.

Supporting the dignity and humanity of both parties gives a couple the best chance to reconcile. The idea that the Betrayer has to beg forgiveness and accept whatever relationship the Betrayed demands is a disservice to both parties, and it typically leads to client dropouts or treatment failure.

In cases involving infidelity, challenging patients’ stereotypes about both power and sexuality is vital—which requires insight, creativity, and self-discipline from the therapist.

Workshop participants will learn fresh ways of looking at affairs, fidelity, and sexuality—so that they can better evaluate patients, sort out individual and relationship issues, and help people heal from the experiences of powerlessness, grief, rage, and damaged self-esteem that are common on both sides of betrayal.

This workshop challenges common clinical ideas, covering topics including:

  • Why are affairs so common? (hint: it’s not because all men are pigs)
  • The typical belief that the Betrayed acquires power as a result of being betrayed
  • How much is sex an issue in most affairs? What can be done about desire discrepancies?
  • Under what conditions should couples reconcile after an affair?
  • Pragmatically, what does forgiveness actually mean?
  • How can we get couples to explore reconciliation as partners rather than as adversaries?
  • “That’s not infidelity, it’s just internet chat!”
  • How relationships can thrive when one partner uses pornography
  • Helping clients draw and maintain boundaries around the wounded relationship
  • The existential issues confronting both parties when there’s been an affair—and why it’s crucial to address these

Cellphone records, email passwords, intimate details of when & where—after an affair, does one person gain the right to whatever information they want? And even if they do, is demanding such information wise? Does the unfaithful person have to leave the house if the angry party demands it? Who decides if the children get told—and what they’re told? In this workshop we’ll examine the nuts and bolts of power dynamics and sexuality in the wake of actual or perceived betrayal.

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