Married couple holding hands at a marriage retreat for infidelity.

What To Look For In A Marriage Retreat For Infidelity

When your marriage hangs in the balance because of an infidelity, trying to save it can be overwhelming. A marriage retreat for infidelity is a unique way to focus on your marriage with therapists who specialize in your experience.

In the world of therapy, there is so much to choose from. So many modalities, so many styles, so many specialties. And, assuming qualified and experienced therapists grounded in evidenced-based work, there is room for all of it. Kind of the “time and place for everything” philosophy.

And that generous offering can be a mixed blessing. “Where do I begin?” “How do I find the right therapist without having to start over a bunch of times?” “How do I find something that my spouse will agree to and stick with?” “How do I find the right kind of therapy for our situation?”

While the following consolation may not help to answer your questions, it should give you comfort to know that the right help is out there. And those professionals who are ethically, empathetically, compassionately devoted to the calling of the therapeutic practice want you to find the right fit. They really do.

If your marriage has recently been shattered by an infidelity, it’s understandable that you and your spouse need ‘emergency care.’ And the eruption of emotions in both of you can make the search for a ‘marriage ER’ feel hopeless from the get-go.

That’s why we’re not talking about individual counseling — or even simply marriage counseling — but about a marriage retreat for infidelity.

Consider it a niche within a niche — marriage/couples counseling that focuses its attention on one critical wound with far-reaching consequences. And then place it into an intensive, multi-day format for an all-in immersion experience.

Why an intensive marriage retreat for infidelity and not just the regular ‘one hour weekly’ approach? Why is it important for you and your spouse to be in therapy together, and why is an immersion format beneficial?

First of all, there is a big difference between being an effective marriage/couples therapist and an effective individual therapist. Even without a big issue like infidelity, when a couple chooses therapy they bring the issues, needs and influences of two people to their counseling.

While individual therapy can be effective as an adjunct to marriage/couples therapy when infidelity is onboard, it can’t remedy the loss of trust. And the betrayal and loss of trust are at the very heart of infidelity.

By choosing a retreat specifically designed for infidelity issues and not just general marriage issues, trust can have the attention it needs. So can the other aspects specific to infidelity and its far-reaching consequences.

Now that the field is narrowed down a bit, you still have to know what to look for in a marriage retreat for infidelity. Some of the criteria will parallel that for marriage/couples therapy in general.

But again, it’s important to go the extra step to research the applicability of the therapeutic model and the therapists’ experience to infidelity specifically.

Here are some factors to consider when looking for a marriage retreat for infidelity.

  • Do the therapists specialize in and focus their work on marriage/couples therapy?

    It’s important that you work with therapists whose practices are devoted to working with couples. It’s not enough that they can and often do work with couples.

    If you need a good heart surgeon, you don’t want someone who divides his/her skills over the entire body. You want someone whose professional life is about the heart.

  • Do the therapists avoid taking a neutral stance?

    If your marriage is going to survive infidelity and come out thriving in the end, it needs to become its own entity.

    Especially when there has been a major breach of trust, taking sides or leaning into one partner’s feelings during therapy can be counter-productive. “Well, she does have a point.” “Hmm, maybe he’s right.”

    Therapists fluent in marriage/couples therapy, especially when there has been an affair, know that it’s the marriage that gets the deference. Their filter is calibrated to hear and express everything in the context of, “How does this serve the good of the marriage?”

  • Do the therapists understand the power of time intensity?

    John Gottman originated the concept of marriage retreat intensives with his “Marathon Couples Therapy.” These long weekends were based on neuroscientific research showing that couples learn more effectively in intense doses.

    Neuroplasticity, the growth and rewiring of the brain, is optimized this way, leading to quicker resolution and greater sustainability.

    By sequestering couples away from their normal lives for several days, distractions and necessary ‘re-hashings’ are eliminated. Focus is sustained, allowing important, time-consuming work to be done.

  • Will your marriage retreat for infidelity be private or include other couples?

    There are valid reasons for both formats. It’s only natural, given the nature of the issue, to be concerned about exposure and confidentiality. The shame and embarrassment that spouses typically experience after infidelity can make sharing difficult.

    But there are very experienced marriage/couples therapists who swear by the multi-couple format. The presence of others experiencing similar problems can lead to vicarious learning in a powerful, safe, effective way.

    Only you, your spouse and your therapy team can decide what will be safest and most effective for you.

  • Are the therapists vulnerable and transparent with their own stories?

    Marriage/couples therapy is unique in the sense that there is a sort of ‘egalitarian companionship’ on the journey. This is one reason you will often see husband-wife therapy teams in marriage/couples therapy.

    Because of the sensitive, highly vulnerable nature of marriage issues like infidelity, it’s imperative that the therapists establish a safe, non-judgmental experience.

    By sharing their own experiences, therapists increase client confidence and provide a learning opportunity by modeling healthy communication and reparative skills.

  • Does the retreat focus on teaching new skills and translating them into new behaviors through practice?

    One of the greatest benefits of attending a marriage retreat for infidelity is the opportunity to learn, develop and practice powerful skills. It’s not enough to gain new insights. They need to be practiced in order to become habits and a new way of thinking.

    Having the supervision of experienced therapists makes that process safe and helps to refine the skills as clients work on them.

  • Cost.

    It’s unrealistic to talk about attending a marriage retreat for infidelity without discussing cost.

    Admittedly, the marriage retreat intensive format is one of the most expensive therapy formats. Only you and your spouse know what you are able to afford.

    But if you are determined to make your marriage work, it’s important to consider the time-intensity factor. A good marriage retreat can accomplish the equivalent of 6-9 months of traditional weekly counseling in 2-3 days.

    Weigh that against the cumulative cost of weekly therapy. Consider also the amount of time that would pass before you experience relief that you need now.

It’s a sad reality of infidelity that its consequences are so costly in terms of time, finances, and emotional and physical health. Obviously the ideal would be for couples to enter their relationships prepared to handle adversity with healthy communication and protection of their marriage.

But life is here to teach us. And its benevolence, even in the obscurity of devastation, always meets us where we are, ready to offer the lessons again. It’s always our choice to say, “I’m ready now.”

If an affair has brought your marriage to the point of reckoning, a marriage retreat for infidelity may be the perfect way to say, “I’m ready.”

Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats