There are few events within a marriage that challenges its fiber and viability, as does infidelity. This noted, it is important to realize that a significant percentage of successful long-term marriages have survived episodes of infidelity. This fact in no way diminishes the impact, or pain associated with these events, but it does provide an important hope for getting to the other side of these moments when both spouses wish to do so.
As a starting point in understanding and addressing infidelity within therapy it is important to look beyond the onset of the extramarital affair and explore the issue of emotional intimacy within the marriage. Infidelity and affairs always occur within the context of both the partner’s individual style of connection (attachment) and their shared pattern of connection.
In the painful process of sorting through this complicated set of variables there is often opportunity for healing of the dynamics that set the stage for the infidelity. Clearly the individual who did not step outside of the relationship initially has the most difficult task in working through the sense of betrayal represented by their partner’s behavior, yet in the final analysis some shift in the emotional dance on the part of both partners is necessary and possible for the healing of the dynamics that led to the infidelity.
It is also a fact that some relationships are unable to heal following an extramarital affair, yet this has not as much to do with the affair as it does with the partner's ability to take the essential risk of emotional vulnerability in the face of this painful event. As so eloquently outlined by folks such as Brene Brown (https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability), intimacy, or emotional closeness can occur only in the context of emotional vulnerability, particularly to our deepest fear of not being “enough” for the ones we love.
Intensive marital therapy, such as that offered in marriage retreats can be a powerful tool towards opening the emotional door wide enough to allow in our partners. The opportunity to be cut off from the outside world, immersed in an effort to open to one another and oneself emotional doors which have been shut, or perhaps never opened is invaluable. When daily intensive individual and couples therapy is followed by the opportunity to have fun together on a wonderful vacation it can provide a great avenue to a new beginning.