Overcoming Betrayal

In her book, “After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful,” Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D. and board certified clinical psychologist from Westport, Connecticut, addresses the seemingly impossible, emotionally taxing task of rebuilding relationship following the discovery of an affair. Dr. Spring devotes space towards explaining feelings and responses of both the hurt partner and the unfaithful partner, explicating the physiological and psychological complexities that an event such as an affair poses.

Dr. Spring suggests outlines three definitive stages to beginning the work towards healing following a violation of trust within an intrapersonal relationship.

The first – and possibly most crucial stage – is for a couple to create and establish a language for the hurt and betrayal that has occurred. Dr. Spring illuminates the intense, almost PTSD-like symptoms that occur within the betrayed partner, who often experience competing physiological reactions: a hyperarousal towards the situation and need to defend themselves as well as a deadening to past interest and life in general. In an instant, the hurt partner may experience a complete loss of identity, sense of self. The notion of justice and a fundamental sense of order in the world may shatter in seconds.  Emotional work is twofold, as the betrayed partner encounters the task of not only forgiving the unfaithful partner, but forgiving themselves.

The second stage involves each partner, particularly the spouse who was hurt, making a thoughtful, self-interested decision about the affair and the future of the ruptured relationship. Difficult and painful, Dr. Spring suggests a raw, unhindered questioning of both the health and practicality of the relationship. One’s definition and understanding of love may need to shift, as if it is either unrequited or romanticized, it will be unhealthy and likely unsustainable. Concisely, partners must honestly ask themselves: should someone’s love for us be independent of the way they treat us?

The final stage involves conceptualizing concrete strategies for rebuilding trust and intimacy. Dr. Spring maintains that practical approaches to regaining normalcy are only possible after the first two stages have been fully and ruthlessly faced. Contrary to basic human wants and legitimate need for the desire to bond and connect, it is not until the third and final stage of healing that partner’s involved in an affair situation may begin to establish feelings of care, desire, and love for their mate.

At The Refuge Center for Counseling, therapists are committed to both the individual needs of clients but also the formation, re-establishment, and health of long-term relationships and marriages. Couples counselors are equipped with the knowledge and skillset necessary for the challenging work that surrounds addressing the betrayal and pain involved in an affair situation, and dedicated to the lengthy, yet often rewarding, work of helping couples reestablish health and intimacy within relationship even when it seems impossible.

Spring, J. A. (2012).After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful. S.l.: William Morrow.