Emotionally Focused Therapy for Infidelity

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Researchers have noted that in cases of infidelity, partners frequently use the language of trauma when describing their experience, communicating in life or death terms.

Sexual betrayal in marriage is extremely destructive to the relationship. Not only does it create unimaginable pain for the betrayed spouse, but it also tears at the very bond that holds the marriage together.

Looking through the lens of attachment theory, clinicians have developed the concept of attachment injuries and have gained a better understanding of their impact on the attachment-injured couple.

When one’s primary attachment figure is both the source of and the solution to pain and fear in a relationship, it results in a breakdown of the attachment bond and wreaks havoc on a marriage (Johnson, 2005).

Symptoms such as excessive rumination, hypervigilance, and flashbacks alternating with avoidance and numbing are key symptoms that have caused some to notice that many of the symptoms experienced by betrayed spouses correspond to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In essence, the incident is not a calm and distant memory, but is alive and present, continuing to hold a marriage relationship hostage to its destructive forces.

Infidelity has a devastating effect on attachment security and defines the marriage as unsafe (Johnson, 2005).

In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the focus is not on the actual sexual betrayal itself, but on the emotional effects caused by an attachment injury brought about by the betrayal.

The EFT therapist can help the couple deal with these violations of trust, and will work to provide experiences in session that will facilitate the repairing of the attachment bond.

The goal of EFT in couple’s therapy is to improve attachment behaviors which will in turn improve the distressed relationship. The therapist, therefore, will guide the couple to identify and understand their underlying emotions and establish healthier patterns of interacting to encourage openness and trust between partners.

Here at The Refuge Center for Counseling, we are committed to walking with couples through their valleys, cheering them on as they strive to rebuild their relationships, and ultimately celebrating their victories.

Johnson, S. M. (2005). Broken bonds: An emotionally focused approach to infidelity. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, 4(2/3), 17-29.