My Spouse Is Actually Worse After We’ve Been To Counseling For The Affair

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who are upset because they are struggling to save their marriage after an affair and their last hope seems to be waning.  They knew that saving their marriage was going to be a challenge, but they hoped that if they were successful at convincing their spouse to go to counseling, this would help them to turn the corner.  And, it’s often almost devastating when this doesn’t turn out to be the case.

I heard from a wife who said: “I had an affair about two years ago.  It lasted for six months.  It was the biggest mistake that I have ever made in my entire life and I deeply regret it.   I’ve done everything that I know to do in order to help my husband get past this.  I have tried being patient and loving.  I have tried giving him tough love.  I have tried giving him time.  I have tried giving him support.  Nothing has helped.  I called my insurance company and got a referral to a counselor.  I begged my husband to go because I told him it was obvious that he was still hurting and that our marriage was still struggling.  He resisted for a long time, but he finally gave in, although it’s very obvious that he’s not happy about this.  We’ve been to four sessions so far and each time is worst than the last.  My husband comes home angry, sullen, and distant. I made the counselor aware of his reactions at home and she said that she would try different tactics.  She said that I shouldn’t expect miracles so soon.  Well, I didn’t expect miracles but I didn’t expect him to regress.  Honestly, it’s almost like digging up the painful past each time we go. If we make any progress during the week, it seems that we negate this when we have to continue to talk about things that are so painful.  It’s like it brings up his anger all over again.  I don’t know what to do.  I felt like counseling was our last hope and now that’s a bust too.”

I could identify with this wife because both my husband and I had our own issues with counseling.  However, I don’t think that you should let anyone else’s experience or opinion stop you from doing what you feel and hope is right.  And four sessions might not be enough time to give it a fair evaluation.  So in the following article, I’ll offer some tips to make sure that you are both getting something positive out of counseling or, if you are not, how to begin to turn the corner.

Understand That Things Might Get Worse Before They Get Better:   In order for you to begin to heal from something, you must first acknowledge and examine it.  You can’t tip toe around it or be afraid to speak it’s name if you are really serious about banishing it from your life or from your relationship.  And this can feel very frustrating and even like a regression when some time has passed since the affair was over.  And yes, it can feel as if you are ripping the scab off a wound.  But perhaps what you may not realize is that the scab hasn’t healed correctly.  So it’s better to start over and do it right than to continue to limp along with a wound that is an essence still not quite right.

It can help to ask your counselor to vary your sessions.  Perhaps if one session focuses on the past, the next should focus on the positive future.  Frankly, I am no expert and I am by no means a mental health professional so take my opinion for exactly what it is, but I believe that the counselor should always try to end the session on a positive note or at least leave you with positive homework.  You don’t want to come to dread these sessions or feel as if you aren’t getting anything out of them.  Because once this happens, one person might start trying to get out of going.  Or worse, one or both of you will take this frustration to mean that this is an indication that your marriage can’t be saved.

Try To Figure Out What Is Behind Your Spouse’s Regression:  Frankly, often what is making your spouse so upset is the very thing that you must identify and fix.  This can be difficult to admit.  Because it would be so much easier to just stop this process and allow your spouse back into their comfort zone so that you don’t have to face this conflict and feel like you are regressing.  But if you do give up, you are likely going to go right back to where you were struggling before.  Watch and listen to your spouse for any clues as to what might be the underlying issue.  Often, it is that the counseling brings back up those memories of betrayal. The faithful spouse often feels as if they are having to live through this betrayal all over again and that makes them feel like a victim once more.  It can help to give them a sense of control.   Make it clear that you are the one who is in the wrong and that you too are going through this all over again (even though it’s painful for you also) because of your love for them and because you truly want a healthy marriage again because you love them.

Ask them open ended questions.  Ask what you can do to make them feel more in control.  Ask what you can give them to relieve some of the pain.  Ask what they would like most from you right now.  They may not answer openly at first.  But make it clear that you are willing to hear them and support them whenever they are ready to talk.

If You Don’t Like Your Counselor Or Their Strategies, Find A New One:  There is absolutely nothing that says you have to stick with the first person that you see.  Just like it can take a while to find the right fit with a baby sitter, stylist, or any other professional that requires trust in order to have success, it can be worth it to keep looking until you find the counselor that you both like.  That doesn’t mean that you should stop counseling and then go on a long and exhaustive search.  But different people have different beliefs, philosophies, and exercises.  What works wonderfully for one couple might be awful for another.  Don’t be shy about asking about the counselor’s methods before you book an appointment.

Above All, Don’t Let This Discourage You Enough To Quit:  So many people will get very frustrated, feel very vulnerable, quit, and go right back to their comfort zones.  The problem with this is that they remain stuck in marriage that is only treading water.  So even if your spouse becomes very discouraged and refuses to go back to counseling, don’t get angry, throw up your hands and give up.  Find another counselor or find some self help resources that the two of your can do at home perhaps where you are more comfortable.  But do not quit.  Do not give up.  Keep trying to move past this.  You don’t have to be pushy about it or push your spouse too far, but you do need to gently try to provide both of you with what you need to move past this for good.  Because if you’re still struggling two years later, you’re both still hurting and neither of you deserve that.

As I alluded to, counseling didn’t go so well for us at first, but I was able to find a few things that did work a little better.  Most importantly, I didn’t give up.  If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog http://surviving-the-affair.com

 

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