Our relationships are a blessing – a complicated, life-giving, joyous, and often messy sort of blessing. We are deeply and fundamentally relational, and that’s by divine design; and though we long for relationships and find ourselves feeling fulfilled and at our most connected when we are in flourishing relationships with other people, it’s also true that relationships are most often the cause of much hurt and disappointment, especially in the case of infidelity.
It’s a puzzle we struggle to resolve, like a moth drawn to the very flame that sears it. However, in God’s design, relationships can also be a deeper blessing. While we bring sin to our relationships, we have hope that God can and does work in us to make us the kind of people that can flourish. In a romantic relationship, for instance, there are many things that can disrupt the happy partnership between the two people.
This may be an uninvited third party whose words undermine the confidence of the couple, or a lack of consideration shown by one partner to the other. God can and does transform us into the sort of people that walk confidently in truth (as opposed to gossip and innuendo), and God can also make us the sort of people that seek to put the interests of others before our own.
When a relationship faces challenges, the partners in that relationship have a few choices to make. They can choose to face the challenges head-on, or they can ignore them and hope that time and circumstance will shift things around and make the problems go away. Christian couples counseling can help a couple work through their difficulties as well as strengthen their partnership so that they have the skills to face future challenges with confidence.
If a couple’s relationship has been rocked by an affair, Christian counseling can help a couple rebuild on a stronger foundation. But what is Christian couples counseling, and how can it help rebuild intimacy after the devastation of infidelity?
How does Christian counseling work?
Counseling can help you address long-standing issues as well as recent developments in your relationship that need attention. Apart from this more remedial and restorative action that counseling performs, it can also function proactively, helping a couple maintain the connection they have and giving them the tools that they need to overcome trouble when it does eventually come. When an affair happens, it may be a sudden development or the result of simmering unresolved issues.
Who is Christian couples counseling for? You don’t necessarily have to be a Christian to take advantage of Christian couples counseling. Christian couples counseling is a form of psychotherapy, informed by a counselor’s faith in God and blended with current therapeutic strategies and interventions.
The counselor works with a couple to help them understand and adjust the dynamics of their relationship; overcome challenges in how they communicate with one another; and help them in developing the skills they need to cope with the challenges they are facing.
More specifically, Christian couples counselors will use the same tools as their secular counterparts, including using techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, emotionally focused therapy, and more.
What separates Christian couples counseling from other forms of counseling is that it is rooted in and consciously tries to ensure that the couple understands themselves and their relationship in light of who God is. It uses a biblical understanding of relationship dynamics to inform its approach.
Your counselor will seek to know you and your story, as that will help them to know how best to address your situation. As they get to know you as a couple, you will start to feel more comfortable with them and become willing to explore your relationship with a person who would otherwise be a total stranger.
An affair touches some of the most intimate aspects of a relationship, and so working with someone you can be vulnerable with goes a long way toward tackling the issues effectively. The reasons why the affair happened must be discussed, identifying your feelings and reactions to the affair, and trying to understand the sinful motivations and behaviors at work in the situation. Your counselor may choose to meet with you individually or together as appropriate.
There are many possible reasons why people commit the sin of adultery, including perceived lack of fulfillment, low self-esteem, sex addiction, revenge, or something else entirely, and therapy can help a couple to come to grips with the “why” behind the affair.
In your discussions, your counselor might make use of an approach to therapy that is strength-based and places an emphasis on the positive aspects of your relationship, with a focus on self-reflection rather than blame, or they may use what is known as the Gottman method which will address areas of conflict and equip you and your partner to better problem solve, improve the quality of your friendship as well as deepen your level of intimacy.
The betrayal experienced due to an affair goes deep because of the intimate bond that marriage requires, and having a counselor as an independent third party that can walk alongside a couple can help them by mediating conflict, and helping to provide a place to explore the hurt being felt and the impact of the affair.
It is for the couple to decide if they want to carry on with their relationship, but a counselor can help them explore their options, whether to end the relationship or learn how they can repair broken trust and begin navigating the healing process.
Infidelity involves a breach of trust (whether emotional or physical), and Christian couples counseling can address the fractured relationship with God that an affair brings about.
Apart from the repentance and reconciliation that must happen for the couple to move forward together, there is also a need for seeking the Lord and his forgiveness through repentance, prayer, and leaning on the promises of God in Scripture. Sin breaks relationships, and that is a dimension that Christian couples counseling is equipped to address.
Recovering from infidelity
Every relationship is unique, and so the process of recovering from an affair also varies with each couple, but a couple’s recovery from an affair can be a lengthy process, especially if the couple has the desire to reconcile with one another and God.
It can take around two years for a couple to recover from an affair, but that depends on the couple’s capacity for communication, problem-solving ability, tolerance for conflict, whether there is acceptance of personal responsibility, a capacity for honesty, and their attachment style (meaning their ability to form emotional bonds and enjoyable, empathic relationships with others).
Even where there has been repentance, reconciliation, and forgiveness, it may still be difficult for the partner that was betrayed to trust their partner, and they may both continue to struggle and have difficulty understanding why the affair happened. An affair disrupts a relationship, and it means the couple can no longer look at their relationship in the same way as before the affair happened.
Without question, a couple can survive an affair and rebuild intimacy. Christian counseling for infidelity can allow a couple to grow a stronger and truer bond. The couple can use the counseling space to discern the state of their relationship and its potential future, and they can learn the skills to help them recognize any negative patterns of behavior, strengthen their emotional bond, and build accountability in the relationship.
Though infidelity strikes a blow at the intimacy that God intends for marriage, it is possible to rebuild a marriage that is stronger and healthier than before the affair. The techniques that a couple is taught in therapy can help them learn how to move forward after the affair, cultivating an open and honest relationship that is neither mired in the behaviors and thought patterns that led to the affair, nor the negative emotions unleashed by infidelity.
Christian couples counseling can support you in fostering a greater connection emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically than previously known; and demonstrates the healing that can happen when two partners are fully committed to reconciliation. If you are experiencing the pain of infidelity, please reach out to our reception team to help get you started on your road to healing.
“Heartbreak”, Courtesy of Marah Bashir, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Bands”, Courtesy of Sandy Millar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Date”, Courtesy of Taylor Hernandez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Snuggling”, Courtesy of Becca Tapert, Unsplash.com, CC0 License