Attachment Injuries in Couples: Healing After Betrayals

by: Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych.

An attachment injury occurs when a partner is betrayed or abandoned, and trust is violated at a moment of critical need for support and care. The injury can be traumatic as the injured partner is left with a sense of helplessness, isolation, and intense fear about the other’s availability (Johnson et al. 2001; Zuccarini et al. 2013). These traumatic incidents occur when a partner’s belief and faith in the reliability and dependability of the partner is shattered. Examples of these types of injuries include marital affairs, emotional affairs, money mismanagement, violation of boundaries, abandonment at times of need during pregnancy, alignment with parents over partner, child-rearing conflicts, and lack of support during illness, among others. These traumatic incidences become a barometer of the offending partner’s trustworthiness, dependability, and reliability. The attachment bond between partners becomes frayed as a result of these injuries.

In these instances, clinicians at CFIR will address the lingering hurt and anger and heal the frayed bond. The emotional processing of these events is essential to the healing process.  Attachment bonds are emotional bonds.  The emotional accessibility and responsiveness to the injured partner’s experience facilitates recovery and healing.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation for Couples Post Affairs

Forgiveness and reconciliation after an extramarital affair is a complex process. Forgiveness occurs when there is an experiential shift in the injured partner toward the betraying partner— a movement toward softer feelings. This experiential shift requires an unpacking of different types of emotional reactions associated with these types of relationship traumas. The shattering of one’s sense of self, the other, and one’s sense of future identity in the aftermath of an affair can create instability and insecurity in one’s self and the relationship. These types of injuries result in complex emotional reactions that require resolution. Reconciliation, the next step in recovery, occurs when steps are taken to rebuild trust and restore the relationship after a forgiveness process. These steps are essential for the restoration of security.

The team of psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors at CFIR employ evidence-based interventions to support relationship partners beleaguered by emotional injuries in the aftermath of an affair. Steps to forgiveness and reconciliation and the interventions required for successful resolution of an extramarital affair have been delineated in research conducted by Dr. Zuccarini, C.Psych., co-founder of the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships. (Zuccarini et al., 2013). Clinicians at CFIR are prepared to support you in promoting healing in your relationship.

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