Healing Hearts: Overcoming the Trauma of Infidelity as a Team

Healing Hearts: Overcoming the Trauma of Infidelity as a Team

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I'm idit sharoni, lmft
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Affair Recovery, Betrayal Trauma, and Surviving Infidelity. The owner of Relationship experts private practice and host of Relationships Uncomplicated Podcast
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Recently, I had the honor of talking with Terry Real about post-affair relationship recovery. Specifically, we discussed the path to reconnection after the trauma of infidelity. I wanted to share his take on key factors couples can count on for surviving infidelity together. Read on for the highlights of our thought-provoking and informative discussion.


Terry Real is a renowned family therapist, speaker, and author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It, the consummate book on male depression. The founder of the Relational Life Institute, he is the marriage counselor admired and consulted by famous relationship researcher Ester Perel and celebrities alike.

An interview featuring Terry Real, a renowned family therapist, speaker, and author. If you are seeking to overcome the trauma of infidelity, trust Relationship Experts to assist you and your partner. Schedule a consultation with Relationship Experts today.

Terry Real’s newest book, Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship explores how individualism and patriarchy destroy intimacy and connection between partners.

Terry considers himself a therapist from the age of four, describing his childhood attempts to regulate the behavior of his erratic depressed, and violent dad. His love of writing has existed almost as long. After a doctoral program in literature, driving a cab in Boston, and writing an ill-fated novel as a young man, he discovered mental health work. He describes his first experience as a therapist-in-training as a calling. He was convinced then that he was destined to be a therapist.


As we dove into our conversation, Terry Real shared how important mentors were to him as he centered his education and career on healing relationships.

Encouraged by a key mentor to write a book about men and depression, he realized that his perspective was shaped by his belief that depression is a relational problem. He believes that their depression is directly linked to socialization that negates connections and relationships. The result of this view was his introductory book,  I Don’t Want to Talk About It

I expressed my gratitude to Terry for talking about men. I noted that women are often therapists, leaving (heterosexual) men to face a couple of women in couples therapy. Men often need to be understood beyond our perspective. I shared that his book was immensely enlightening and helpful. 

Terry surmised that the wound in women is a general damage to their power.  At the onset of adolescence, they feel disempowered and without a voice.

Men, on the other hand, are wounded earlier in life. As early as three years old, Terry believes many males are falsely empowered. They are wounded by disconnection. Manhood is marked by disconnection from emotion, vulnerability, and other people. 


Dr. Real believes the answer to relational disconnection is reconnecting to ourselves and loved ones. His work with men began because he believed reestablishing relationality is crucial to their healing and overall well-being. This led to four decades of relationship and gender therapy research, teaching, and writing.

He also explained that his favorite method of teaching such reconnection is his Couple’s Experiential. Offered four times a year, he meets with five couples for two days. Individual couples receive consultations as the other couples provide feedback. Observing therapists are then debriefed. All the couples receive relational life therapy and guidance to start the process of hearing and seeing each other clearly again.


Given my work with couples facing the trauma of infidelity, I understand that highlighting disconnection in relationships is vital. Thus, I asked Terry to share his thoughts on his new offering, Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship. Who is his audience, and what did he want readers to get from it?

Terry shared that all of his books are for anyone. Anyone can benefit. Couples and therapists alike will discover how toxic individualism is in relationships. 

He gets away from questions like “What stresses your relationship,” (finances, family, social concerns). He believes those are manageable for most strong couples. Even the dance of who pursues and who distances in the marriage isn’t the most pressing issue.

Instead, Terry asks a key question of struggling partners:


  • Is the prefrontal cortex, the most mature part of your brain in charge? This region supports thoughtfulness, compassion, and intentionality. You have the ability to remain in the here and now.


  • Is a less mature, primitive part of the brain in charge? Are you operating with a subcortical area of your brain that is simply helping you navigate the trauma? 

Terry shares that your nervous system is constantly scanning for your safety:  

  • If the response is, “Yes,” your prefrontal cortex remains in control. Terry refers to this as the “Wise Adult” part of you. 


  • If your body answers, “No. I’m in danger,” your limbic system is triggered. Your body is awash with hormones and chemicals. As fight-or-flight sets in, your appreciation of context slips, and the sense that you’re part of a relationship team is lost. You start to see yourself your partner in a win-lose battle. This is the Adaptive Child part of us.
A woman and a man, both with upset faces, look away, symbolizing the fight-or-flight stress in a relationship where the sense of being a team is lost. Trust Relationship Experts in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to assist you in surviving infidelity together. Schedule a free consultation today!

Terry very clearly maintains that such negativity is not based on reality. It is a result of your brain and how you experience yourself. Unfortunately, that “you vs. me” mode means resolving anything relationally is nearly impossible.


So, what is the road back to each other? Terry believes it is deliberately bringing your connection to mind when hard times happen. 

In his new book, he advises couples to “remember love” during conflict. Remember that you care about your partner and want to improve your connection. They’re not your enemy. Staying in your inner Wise Adult place gives you the capacity to negotiate and fight productively. It’s okay.

However, if you remain triggered and immature, Terry notes that you will succumb to unproductive interaction. You’ll be more prone to dominating your partner, revenge, or pulling away. None of which restore the closeness you both want. 

This concept is crucial. So, I asked Terry to explain what occurs when that primitive part of you is triggered. What do you do when your Adaptive Child shows up and your Wise Adult is unavailable?

Terry shares that getting settled into the part of you that can use new relationship skills is pivotal.


Terry advocates the following for remembering the love and remaining connected:

  1. Take a break. Let your feelings come and go. Don’t try to control them. This practice is called relational mindfulness. Remember the entire relationship, keep the context in mind, and hold on to the thought that your partner is not your enemy. 
  1. Acknowledge how fear is affecting your ability to relate to your partner. Terry asserts that the destructiveness of individualism is based on the problematic idea that you lord over nature, controlling it. The desire to powerfully control your partner is fear-based. 
  1. Breathe. This helps you pause, wake up to the fear, and seek the more mature part of yourself. It takes time and practice to override your automatic, Adaptive Child, fear response. When you get good at it, you become adept at employing what Real calls “Second Consciousness.” In that consciousness, you can take a step back, center yourself, and remember that you’re in your relationship, not ruling it. At this point, you can be productive and relational.

Essentially, Real asserts that reconnection is possible when you get comfortable with parts of yourself that can become skilled at reconnecting. 


As we talked, I was curious whether relationship disconnection is a cultural or societal theme in our country. Perhaps we aren’t to blame. After all, aren’t we encouraged to trust ourselves first? Aren’t we advised to lean into self-care and self-focused thinking? 

Consequently, we often lack the internal skills to stop and reach for our more loving, mature, and calmer selves. Being from another culture, I notice how difficult this is for a lot of my clients. Terry agreed, noting that the focus is often “me, me, me,” even though partners are sharing a life.

Terry’s book was inspiring for me because he communicated this concept so clearly. He described empowering couples with guidance and new skills. He shared that he sees relationships as a sort of “biosphere.” We don’t control them.

He maintains that we can choose to pollute our “relational biosphere” with anger and control. This resulting isolation and coldness will just harm both partners. He asserts that clearing the air by deconstructing individualistic thinking and patriarchy is the key to change.


As we continued to talk, Terry further emphasized that focusing on who is right and who is wrong is a wasted effort. So, what really matters?

A couple embraces, navigating the trauma of infidelity. When you and your partner decide to make your relationship work in ways that benefit both, it fosters unity and happiness. Discover how our Affair Recovery program with Relationship Experts in the USA can support you in healing from the trauma of infidelity.

Determining what you will do to make your relationship work in ways that work for both of you matters most. You’ll both lose if only one of you gets what you want. Additionally, the “losing” partner makes the “winning” partner pay in other ways, says Real.

The point here is that it makes sense to make your relationship work. Work together and everything changes. Create an abundant win-win situation.

Along those lines, I asked Terry how his new book offered hope to couples interested in surviving infidelity together. Could his viewpoint help partners attempting to overcome the trauma of infidelity specifically?


Terry noted that the trauma of infidelity is a terrible wound.  He believes the early pain, shock, and confusion must not be overlooked or dismissed. In his work, he prioritizes respecting the trauma with critical care. He pays close attention to basic needs, asking:

  • How is your sleep?
  • Might a short-term antidepressant alleviate the distress you feel?
  • Can we try EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy to reduce the thoughts and images in your mind?

He deems this form of addressing the trauma of infidelity as acute care or damage control.



Terry acknowledges that “existential affairs.” happen. Sometimes, no cause is apparent. The unfaithful partner is just weak, careless, or selfish. Yet, in most, often, there are very real reasons for the affair. To determine the real problem in the aftermath of infidelity, Terry explains that there are usually two key questions to ask:

  1. Is this primarily about the immaturity of the unfaithful partner? Did they cheat due to selfishness and thoughtlessness? Are they entitled?
  1. Did this affair occur because the relationship needed a shake-up? Is the relationship stifling, dead, or characterized by conflict?


During our discussion, Terry asserted asking people why they don’t cheat is often more effective than asking them why they do.” He shared that he, himself, won’t have an affair because he does not want to

  • hurt his partner.
  • address his children’s disappointment.
  • interfere with his own integrity.
  • deal with the damage to his professional life.
A man looks away from a woman, representing a couple in the aftermath of infidelity. Every unfaithful partner has their own reasons for infidelity. Collaborate with the Relationship Experts team to gain understanding of why infidelity occurs and to navigate the healing process from infidelity in the USA and globally.

Every unfaithful partner has their own reasons for infidelity. Their internal reasons not to be unfaithful have been voided. Why? According to Real, one or both of the following has happened:

  1. Entitlement: they are selfish and their reasons aren’t forceful enough. They believe they deserve what they want.
  1. Indifference: The relationship is so exhausted that the desire to safeguard it is gone. Getting caught is no big deal. 


Terry Real pointed out that answering the questions above is the initial phase of affair recovery. Understanding why infidelity occurs simply helps couples embark on the longer journey of surviving infidelity together.

 He approaches the healing path forward in two ways:

  1. If the affair is primarily linked to selfishness, then teaching the unfaithful partner how to relate is the focus. They are too rooted in individualism. 
  1. If the affair is primarily linked to the relationship, then restoring relationship vitality is the goal. 

Neither situation is unsolvable. Terry shared that he does not believe that infidelity is a relationship death sentence. He wants couples to know that he wants much more than their survival. The trauma of infidelity can be an opportunity for each partner’s transformation. It can transform the relationship into the connection they’ve been longing for. 

I am extremely grateful for our time with Real. I hope this conversation was as beneficial for you as it was for me and my team. One of the most important takeaways? How you relate to your partner matters. Resist the desire to demand what you are due and seek mutual fulfillment instead.


Please consider our Infidelity Recovery Program as a means of learning how to reconnect and heal together. Consider the following options for surviving infidelity together below.

  1. Learn about our Affair Recovery Program and what we offer.
  2. Read the reviews and testimonials of our clients who finished our program.
  3. Schedule a free 45-minute consultation, receive more information, and start healing immediately!

We hope this information is productive and helpful for you. Thank you for spending time with us and learning more about how to create healthy relationships!


Watch the Episode on YouTube

I’m Idit, your blog writer & podcast host.

practice owner relationship expert PODCASTER
blog writer

I am the owner of the highly respected Relationship Experts private practice based in Miami, Florida and focused on affair recovery. In over a decade and together with my team, we help couples with surviving infidelity and healing from betrayal trauma

A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Affair-Recovery and Infidelity Counseling in The United States and worldwide.

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