We find it helps move discussion and decision-making forward if couples educate themselves about the different kinds of affairs and their implications. Therapist Emily Brown has written extensively on this topic in Affairs: A Guide to Working through the Repercussions of Infidelity.
Marital Affairs and Mediation
Marital affairs are complex and controversial. Unquestionably, they cause feelings of betrayal and regret. In mediation, we do not sit in judgment on the impact or causes of an affair. But we find that when there has been an affair, couples may need some time during mediation to talk about what happened. This conversation may be brief and reflective in tone -- a simple acknowledgment of the affair and of the hurt it caused. Or it may be a more extended and impassioned interchange. Either way, the discussion of infidelity in mediation is designed to create a foundation on which thoughtful planning for the future can be built.
When people call our office to inquire about mediation, they often ask, “Is it possible to mediate when there has been marital infidelity?” It’s a good question. Infidelity undermines trust, and some level of trust is needed to mediate successfully. And it's a common question: many of our clients come to us struggling with a sense of betrayal, or deep regret of unintended consequences. Here’s our answer:
In our experience, couples generally can use divorce mediation to rebuild enough trust to get the necessary work done so that they can reach a comprehensive marital settlement and obtain an uncontested divorce. By its nature, mediation is a forward-looking process: the focus is on working together to make good plans for the future, rather than on assigning blame for past actions.
So based on our extensive experience with this often challenging topic, our answer is "Yes." Couples who have experienced infidelity can indeed succeed in mediation.