Couples Counseling – Building Trust in a Relationship after an Affair

Consistency Over Time = Results

“Success is achieved by a consistent working through of issues, each time with the partners taking more responsibility with the tools that they have learned from previous sessions. I have helped many couples, and I can help you” Dr. Kerns

Consistency is also vitally important when it come to building trust following an affair. After an affair the partners in a couple must reliably demonstrate, over time, that they have changed.

How is this achieved? When couples experience a betrayal in their relationship they are disappointed and angry. Many times in the first few weeks, the only civil conversation they have is in my office. Initially they may require sessions 2 times a week to assist in developing a new level of communication. In this time they are adjusting to living with their new reality.

How do we define our life together, now that this has happened?

Dr. Marie Kerns, PsyD. is a Skilled Psychotherapist, Supervisor, Adjunct Faculty, and Board Member. She is ready to help you and your partner navigate this tough time.

To make an appointment please call 949-285-5199
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How do I connect with my partner? We’ve lost that loving feeling. 949-285-5199

Most of my couples come into counseling feeling a disconnection from their partner. This may manifest itself as arguing, porn addiction, communication issues, affairs, the silent treatment etc.. So, what’s going on? Why all this distance?

As a therapist, my challenge is to deescalate negative cycles of interacting, while I help to facilitate building a secure attachment. A secure attachment helps to create safety in the relationship.

You may wonder what a negative cycle is and why it occurs. Some negative cycles begin when a couple is transitioning from one phase of life to another. Such as adjusting to parenthood or one partner getting a promotion at work. Many times a job loss brings new problems to the surface.

In any of these circumstances couples begin to blame each other for their problems. The stress of adjustment leads to insecurities. A new way of defining their life and the relationship serves to comfort and contain anxieties if a mutual understanding is developed.

Counseling can help a couple navigate this challenge of redefining their relationship and the adjustment to change. Without an agreement on the definition of their life together misunderstandings can develop.

Misunderstandings can cause conflict, leading to an increase in stress and anxiety. The change in each partners behavior, due to the misunderstanding, then leads to an increase in stress and anxiety, which manifests into further misunderstanding, leading to anger and frustration. The partners in the couple then begin to wonder why they married their partner.

This cycles continues and can be interrupted through counseling. 

 If you experience Conflict and/or Stress over: 

  • decision making
  • misunderstanding with your partner
  • not feeling appreciated
  • cybersex addiction
  • infidelity
  • problems with alcohol
  • gambling losses
  • lack of restful sleep,
  • improper diet,
  • the demands of life
  • overwork,
  • lack of work,
  • issues with lack of direction in life,
  • anxiety over being overweight
  • anxiety over aging issues
  • constant arguing and misunderstanding in relationships
  • confusion over what decision to make

As stated earlier a secure attachment helps to create safety in the relationship. When each partner feels the emotional support of their mate these life challenges are easier to work through.

Please follow my blog. I will continue to explore how I work with my clients to build a secure bond.

If you would like to make an appointment with me please call 949-285-5199

Couples Counseling – The Other Side of Increased Sexual Desire

In my previous blog I explored Mid-life women and Increased Sexual Desire. I will now discuss how many couples come into counseling with conflicts over Intimacy Issues. After years of parenting and living a domestic life together, deciding who takes out the trash, and arguing over dirty clothes left on the bedroom floor, how is it possible to integrate romantic desire? Will they ever be able to bring back the passion of their early years?

Esther Perel, (2010, p. 23) calls this double flame a paradox. In a loving secure relationship one flame is ignited and burns for the security of a committed life. This often conflicts with an opposing flame for the erotic, which requires excitement and novelty to ignite its flame, and to keep it burning.

For many couples this causes conflict in their relationship and they seek therapy. Jungian thought offers this type of paradox as a way to personal growth. James Hollis, a Jungian analyst states that, “We suffer authentically when we experience a conflict of opposites, a conflict between duty, say, and what we really want” (On This Journey We Call Our Life, 2003, p. 130).    

Perel states, “Love is about having and desire is about wanting” (Lieblum, 2010, 23), but it does present a problem, in that it leads us to think we have to have one without the other. This polarized thinking, in Jungian psychology, is a generally known principal called “holding the tension of opposites”. In holding two opposing positions the possibility of a third emerges, an answer that can change ones perspective, offering growth and maturity at the same time.  “ It is better to allow both options to continue to be present, working underneath the level of consciousness, …If one holds long enough, typically a third way emerges, an answer that one didn’t even realize was an answer to the original question” (Longpré, 2013).    

In the case of Alicia and Roberto, Perel works together with this couple to discover their pattern, “negative escalation, and how it follows a sequence of complementary reactions” (Lieblum, 2010, p.33). This pattern consists of one partner pressuring the other for sex, causing the pressured partner to distance. This is a typical scenario presented to therapists in couples sex counseling. Perel creatively uses interventions that increase this couples awareness of their own sexual desire and patterns, bringing them from conflict to understanding.   

 She suggested Alicia carry a notebook to journal any erotic thoughts. This brought awareness to Alicia of her internal desires and how often they occur. With many women I have treated in couples counseling Perel’s technique has brought dramatic results. Perel stresses that owning these desires is an important component to this exercise, in that it will bring Alicia closer to Roberto by seeing her sexuality as part of herself, and not just Roberto, a boundary she needs to acknowledge.   

Roberto is puzzled that, “Alicia talks about wanting to be intimate with the person with whom she is playing seductive games, but on the other hand, her predilection is for erotic games of anonymity, of not knowing the person” (Lieblum, 2010, p.36). This is another common tension in the relationship that when skillfully integrated can have beneficial consequences.  

You may call Dr. Kerns for references or to set up an appointment at 949-285-5199. 



What’s Up with Mid-life Women and Increased Sexual Desire?

When a happily married woman comes into my office with complaints of increased sexual fantasies, or possibly even an affair with a man or a woman who is not her partner, how do I conceptualize her issues? How do I help this woman?   

I am relieved that as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, in the state of California, my job is not to direct her actions or pass judgment. I am here to help her clarify her issues, present her with information, and assist her in developing increased confidence and personal empowerment that will assist her in arriving at the best decisions she is capable of making for herself.  

Shellenbarger (2004), the author of The breaking point: how female midlife crisis is transforming today’s women, explains that being overwhelmed by sexual fantasies is an indicator of a mid-life woman entering liminality, which is often displayed by extremes of emotion and behavior. Liminality is defined as that in between place “The structural ‘invisibility’ of the liminal personae has a twofold character. They are at once no longer classified and not yet classified” (Mahdi, 1987, p 5). 

Connie Zweig (1997), a Jungian Analyst, asserts that the issues at mid-life are the call of the “Self” to begin an unlived life. She believes the symptoms that many women experience at midlife can be explained as an archetypal shift. Archetypes can be described as predetermined patterns of feeling and thinking that are common to the entire human race (Corneau, 1996). So what is this woman’s archetypal shift? Is she experiencing the loss of her youth? No longer a young woman, yet not one of the elderly, she is lost in the middle.

How will I help this woman who is lost between two worlds? Zweig, (1997) believes it is her shadow that forces mid-life women to face their unlived life with its limited choices, as the ego is destabilized and the sense of identity is shattered. Is this what all of her sexual fantasizing is about? Is she trying to regain her youth, or is this a distraction to avoid looking at her age? 

A woman’s shadow includes the parts of herself that are located in the personal unconscious, of which is unaware. Shadow elements are incompatible with the conscious personality and must be integrated to achieve wholeness (Weinrib, 2004).

The goal for this woman who is being overwhelmed by sexual fantasies would be to balance between restraint and exploration, as she tries to integrate these regained passions. Women in this phase can use this increased desire to integrate their new passion in a way that does not destroy the parts of her life that are valuable. Finding a new relationship to her renewed surge of needs and desires is at the core of this liminal phase of transition. This woman would benefit from looking at the object of her desire, exploring this attraction, as a possible projection (Shellenbarger, 2004). 

If she continues to operate out of old strategies and attitudes, symptoms may result. The symptoms are a result of a clash between the acquired personality and the demands of the Self and this clash may cause her to wonder who she is. The person she has been, is being replaced by who she is becoming, a normal developmental transition. Psychologically, the old self must die, so the new self may be born. This death rebirth is a passage. In traveling through the Middle Passage one may achieve their potential to earn the wisdom of mature aging (Hollis, 2003). As part of her therapy process, it is important to mourn the death of her youth, and accept the aging process that defines her new identity.

At mid-life, women benefit most from a form of therapy that brings meaning and symbolic value to their life. Mid-life issues are not about fixing problems and relieving symptoms as quickly as possible (Brehony, 1996). Jungian theory offers a mid-life woman a way to discover her purpose, as she enters the second half of life, gaining a deeper awareness of the unconscious forces that have previously blocked her growth. 

 In this case I would rule out: 

 1. Relationship Issues by referring her and her partner to a couples counselor . 

 2. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) which is a condition that is experienced as extremely distressing, unsolicited genital arousal lasting for hours and sometimes into days without sexual stimulation or desire (Leiblum, 2006).  

 3. Hypersexuality which is an excessive feeling of sexual desire.  

Dr. Kerns is a Skilled Therapist, and Clinical Member of 

  • AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists)  
  • CASTOC (Couples and Sex Therapist of Orange County).
  • CAMFT (California Association of Marriage Family Therapists)
  • OCCAMFT  (Orange County CAMFT)


Dr. Marie Kerns, Psy.D                                                                                                                                                                             Licensed Marriage Family Therapist MFC # 50443


University Tower – UCI Adjacent

4199 Campus Drive, Suite 550

Irvine, CA 92612

Did you know ?


Couples Counseling can help you and your partner learn to communicate effectively, decrease the reactivity that leads to loud demanding interactions, and eventually increase intimacy?

This is a process that begins when you make that first call.

    I’m Dr. Kerns and I am an Experienced Couples Counselor. You may call me now at 949-285-5199 or leave me a text message, and I will get back to you.

I have also had success with Pre-marital counseling, Trust Issues, Sex Therapy, Addiction to Love, Porn, & Sex, and working with Inter-Racial Couples.

I am a Skilled Therapist, and Clinical Member of:

AASECT – American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists

CASTOC – Couples and Sex Therapist of Orange County

CAMFT – California Association of Marriage Family Therapists

OCCAMFT – Orange County CAMFT

You may call me at 949-285-5199 or visit my Website at

Introducing Orange County Couples Counseling’s New Blog

COUPLES COUNSELING is my passion. In this new blog I will be posting helpful information and suggestions that support couples who experience challenges in their relationship.



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