Three patterns of Recovery from Infidelity

excerpted from Esther PEREL: “After the Storm”, in Psychotherapy Networker (U.S.), Sept-Oct. 2010

Helping couples using Couple Therapy to recover from the immediate crisis that occurs when infidelity is discovered, is essential – but what happens to them after they leave therapy?

All marriages are alike to the degree that confronting an affair forces the couple to reevaluate their relationship, but dissimilar in how the couple lives with the legacy of that affair. I already knew the marriages I was tracing in my follow-up interviews had survived; now I wanted to assess the quality of that survival.

Specificities notwithstanding, I identified three basic patterns in the way couples reorganize 
themselves after an infidelity

  • 1. They never really get past the affair.
  • 2. They pull themselves up by the bootstraps and let it go.
  • 3. They leave it far behind.

Pattern 1:
In some marriages, the affair isn’t a transitional crisis, but a black hole trapping both parties in an endless round of bitterness, revenge, and self-pity. These couples endlessly gnaw at the same bone, circle and recircle the same grievances, reiterate the same mutual recriminations, and blame each other for their agony. Why they stay in the mar