• Healing Affairs and Betrayals

    Healing Affairs and Betrayals

    We’re wired to depend on our partner. Our attachment bond tells us that we can trust him or her to have our back and that our partner is our safe base. This knowledge helps us navigate the challenges of the world. Attachment scientists call this healthy interdependence.

    But humans are imperfect, and events occur in relationships that can shatter our trust in our partner. An affair or an event like a medical crisis where our partner doesn’t give us the comfort we need, can change how we view them and the relationship. In a split second, that secure base is gone, and we perceive our partner as emotionally unsafe.

    The injured partner feels afraid, which can manifest as anger. Reminders of the event can replay that anger and trigger questions as they try to understand: Why? How? In response, the injuring partner becomes defensive, wanting to “move past it” while feeling remorse, shame and the pain of not being trusted.

    Those feelings should go away in time, right?

    “Sadly, the idea that time heals all wounds is wrong,” says John Gallagher, LHMC of CouplesTherapyOrlando.com. As an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) counselor, Gallagher sees these kinds of attachment injuries often. “This type of relational trauma doesn’t care about time. Those old wounds can feel very fresh in the moment they’re triggered, and a couple is caught up in a spiral of questioning, accusing and defending. That spiral can cause more relationship instability. Fortunately, such injuries are repairable, but it takes some work and concrete steps.”


    According to Gallagher, some of those steps include:

    1. If the injured partner struggles to trust the other, things like telephone check-ins or reviewing telephone logs together can help. This can be temporary until a sense of safety is re-established.
    2. The couple needs to construct a narrative of the incident that makes sense to both of them. The story should help explain how and why the event occurred and include a plan for responding should it happen again. This can help increase the feeling of safety for both partners.
    3. Once both partners feel safe, they need to engage in an emotionally connected and vulnerable conversation about the injury in order to understand each other’s pain. The injured partner needs to fully experience the feeling that the injuring partner is there for them and responding in the way they desire. This helps reestablish emotional connectedness, which translates into a greater sense of safety and security.


    Repairing severe relationship injuries is not about the mere passage of time — it’s how we talk about and process painful events.

    “In my experience, a couple who has worked through a trust injury together comes out the other side stronger,” Gallagher says. “They understand themselves, their relationship and their partner better, and they’re better equipped to deal with challenges going forward.”

    Working through affairs and betrayals often requires professional assistance. If your relationship has been wounded, an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist may be able to assist you. Visit CouplesTherapyOrlando.com or call 407-579-2070 for a free consultation. We’re here to help.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.