Why Marriage Counseling is NOT Good for Ending an Affair
Posted On February 19, 2021
Marriage counseling is NOT a good way to get your spouse to give up an affair. Only coaching and marriage retreats provide the skills for rebuilding marriages. Which you choose depends on your situation.
If a couple both want to improve their relationship and do not know how to go about it, I recommend them to attend a marriage retreat and not marriage counseling.
Retreats help people to learn skill rather than rehash problems. Repeatedly talking about problems can result in your spouse having even less desire for you.
Before your spouse is ready to learn skills, you can work to reattract, reconnect, and use the right boundaries. Doing that will make reconciling more likely.
My personal favorite retreat for couple’s is Weekend to Remember. This retreat has sound values for marriage and has many locations. Your church or denomination may also offer marriage retreats.
Keep in mind that these are only helpful when both husband and wife are motivated to improve their relationship and are committed to their marriage already. Talking an unmotivated spouse into going to a retreat will not result in improvement. You will just have a bad time with a resistant spouse. Keep reading to find out what to do when your spouse is not motivated to end his or her affair.
Why not marriage counseling for ending an affair?
What do you suppose happens when a couple goes to marriage counseling and only one of them is motivated to improve the relationship? If you think the counselor works to convince the reluctant spouse to work on the marriage, then you are mostly wrong.
A few counselors do try this, with the result that the reluctant spouse feels ganged up on and does not return to counseling. There is nothing that the counselor can do that will motivate a reluctant spouse to work on their relationship, let alone give up an affair.
When people who are having affairs go to marriage counseling, it is not because they wants to give up an affair. If they did, they would have given it up already. Most of the time, they are just trying to help the faithful spouse adjust to the reality of the situation.
Occasionally, people who are having affairs will go to counseling to appear to be working on the relationship. This is a delay tactic and also maintains the faithful spouse as a backup. People who want to have their cake and eat it too, know their spouse isn’t going anywhere as long as the marriage counseling is going on.
Marriage counseling with unmotivated spouses
To get away with an affair, a spouse may to go counseling to pretend to be working on the relationship. But, they minimally participate in sessions. They also don’t follow through with counseling homework. This is because they are trying to keep emotional distance in their marriage.
People who are having affairs, whether separated or not, are not motivated to become emotionally close. If they became close, they would lose all justification for having an affair.
It is also sometimes possible to bring social pressure on a spouse who is having an affair. The cheating spouse then goes to counseling in order to show family and friends that even counseling is not helpful for their situation.
Marriage counseling during an affair
Experienced, ethical counselors make it quite clear in marriage counseling that if an affair is going on, that the joint counseling will not help to build the relationship. The couple may continue in counseling to work on getting along as they dissolve the marriage.
Ethical counselors make clear that in order to work on building the marriage, the the affair must stop first.
In fact, the unfaithful spouse must stop all contact with the affair partner.
Often the counselor will recommend that each of them get into their own, individual, counseling. The individual sessions will NOT be used by therapist to persuade the cheating spouse to give up their affair. That would alienate the cheating spouse, who would drop out of counseling.
Do not be misled into thinking that individual counseling will ever help a cheating spouse to give up an affair. Most of the time, the cheating spouse is supported by the therapist. The cheating spouse feels validated and discovers that divorce if the best solution for being happy.
How about marriage counseling once the affair has ended?
Even if the affair has ended, it is not good to go to marriage counseling right away. If you have ever ended a relationship with someone you cared about, then you know that you are not ready the next day to work on building your relationship with someone else.
There is a time of struggle and mourning, after giving up an affair, that needs to happen. Not until then will the cheating spouse be emotionally invested in reconciling.
If you don’t take that time, you will again have the situation of a half-hearted person minimally cooperating with the counseling process. That’s a recipe for failure that can make both of you give up on counseling.
An alternative to marriage counseling for working together
Better to wait until you are both ready for marriage counseling so that the counseling is more likely to be successful. Even then, a marriage retreat may be a better choice than rehashing old problems. You and your spouse need to learn to enjoy each other again. That doesn’t happen by talking about your problems every week.
Relationship coaching is a better choice while your spouse is having an affair
Getting a spouse to give up an affair requires several skills. It is not helpful if your spouse is present while you learn that skills. That would make what you do seem gimmicky and contrived.
There are three main groups of skills that my clients focus on to end their spouse’s affair.
Reattraction. A spouse is not going to give up someone they are more attracted to in order to be with someone they are less attracted to. This is not all about physical appearance or doing more chores. These are the same things you would need to do to make anyone desire you for more than a physical encounter.
Reconnection. Your spouse has to enjoy being with you and talking with you more than he or she enjoys the affair partner. If it sounds competitive, it is. If the affair partner does better, you lose. Fortunately, getting good at this is a matter of skills.
Boundaries. Without proper boundaries, your spouse will end up enjoying you and his or her affair partner. You will be friended. Perhaps you will be a friend with benefits. Many people who seek to reconnect making their spouses glad for having an affair. They get an improved marriage and a lover on the side. Only the proper boundaries can prevent that from happening.
Your chances for ending your spouse’s affair
How much help you need with these depends on three things:
How damaged the pre-affair relationship was.
How competitive your spouse’s affair partner is.
How secure you are.
If your relationship was terrible for years, your spouse currently hates you, and the other person in your spouse’s life is wonderful, you don’t stand a chance. Fortunately, that is rarely the case. As long as you have some civil communication and a reasonably good history, you have a good shot at reconciling.
Notice that none of these things depends on going to marriage counseling with your spouse. If you are willing to learn how to reconnect while maintaining boundaries, you can win your spouse from the other person. Take your next step in ending your spouse’s affair.