Case Study – Belinda & Craig

Overcoming Infidelity & Trauma

The story of “Belinda” & “Craig”
(fictional names – real client story – Altered facts to ensure confidentiality. Any resemblance to any person or couple is pure coincidence.)

A case study by Jacqueline Hogan, Couples Counsellor. 15/02/2024

Watch the Case Study

Listen to Jacqui talk about the Couples Counselling process, and how Belinda & Craig repaired their relationship.

Get insights into couples counselling, and the therapies and interventions Jacquis uses to help her clients through this difficult time.

Introducing Belinda 36 a self employed marketer and influencer and Craig 42 a barrister.

They’ve been married for 15 years and have two children they were struggling with emotional disconnection and that was exacerbated by Craig’s multiple infidelities over nine years ago.

When they came to see me that had led to deep impacts on Belinda’s mental health and previous counselling attempts had had little progress the initial assessment revealed avoidance as a coping mechanism and lack of remorse from Craig.

The avoidance contributed greatly to the resentment felt by Belinda and triggered her own abandonment issues from childhood trauma.

We conducted Gottman assessments and that highlighted deep loneliness, communication barriers in the unresolved trust, depression and anxiety were identified due to the increasing division and lack of emotional intimacy and connection between the two.

Both admitted that if it were not for the children they would have separated by now

[Couples Counselling Goals]

The goals included healing from past trauma rebuilding trust and prioritising their marriage for the sake of their children.

We followed the um a atone attune attachment model uh from the Gottman Institute um as a three part necessary process that I take all my couple suffering from infidelity through

Now as part of that I would have recognised is that when I do take people through this path it’s a lot of hard work it’s not easy it’s not comfortable and can be quite triggering so when I’m working with my couples to set them up for a little bit of a smoother process if you like is I help them work on their self awareness so that they can they can learn what’s going on for them in any given moment

So that when they are having these conversations they they can recognise uh their emotions shifting and changing and when they are becoming triggered so we can set it up for a little bit more success rather than being triggered and someone running out and slamming the door for instance or something like that

I teach them how to take a time out so I incorporate not only the Gottman therapies into the way that I work with couples through these these traumatic times that they’re suffering but I also incorporate the work of uh Terry Real so things like uh how to take a time out how to have a quick conversation about something um it doesn’t require going into too much longwinded conversation that sometimes people can struggle with for instance with the rapoport style conversation

So they had options that they could draw upon um and I also encourage them to have a reprieve and some space from talking about the problem um repeatedly but that wasn’t too much of a problem for them because avoidance was their coping strategy and as Terry Real would refer to that as a mystery stabilizer along with things like alcohol or uh working to excess to avoid talking about the problems.

So there’s many different ways um on the avoidance checklist that from the Gottman Institute this couple identified strongly with avoidance as part of their way of managing and just keeping their relationship stuck so it’s been a really stuck sad place at the beginning.

So we work with them on their self awareness and helping them to learn strategies for managing their emotions using mindfulness and some of the audios and hypnosis and meditations that are included in the members area of the website um and lot of the resources that they’ve been provided so there were lots of techniques that were incorporated into that


So they engaged in activities to deepen connection and manage conflict constructively so the progress was marked by their commitment to the process overcoming the setbacks and implementing the strategies that we provided to them such as the time out such as the self soothing techniques that they learnt understanding themselves and why things were triggers

We did deep inner child work and they began to think not only about their own awareness of themselves but they also learnt how to think more relationally about one another and that brought brought about more compassion and understanding in the way that we did that through deep inner child work recognising that a lot of what was going on now in this current situation uh and the fear response to uh the uh abandonment suffered by uh Belinda at the time in during her childhood was retriggered by this infidelity uh by her husband and that was unpacked and we work deeply with her inner child to uh help help with the healing process and there were also things that we did with uh Craig with his inner child work as well

And that generally does come up for most of the clients that I work with which really helps when learning the communication exercises that you learn um as it when you’re doing Gottman therapy which most couples counselors will do but I also work with that part of your brain that in the moment the compulsion to do what you’ve always done will be far greater and this couple was no different and so their go to was avoidance so they would Stonewall one another most often and go to opposite ends of the house.

Sometimes he would retaliate and go to one step further and actually leave the house and go and sleep at their apartment overnight as well which would bring about more loneliness uh as as well so we set some boundaries around that.

And we help them be able to communicate with one another through a difficult discussion in a safe way so that they were able to allow themselves to be vulnerable to understand that they’re both hurting from different sides of the same coin.

Um and it’s very delicate uh work that we’re doing and it’s a delicate balance to make sure that they’re getting the emotional support from me from one another as the three of us are going through these sessions together and importantly they doing the work and the homework that I provided outside of session.

So what set this couple apart from many others that I work with and why they came through you know with Gold Star if you like is because they committed to doing uh whatever it takes no matter what attitude they were determined and having their weekly couples catch up

Each time they would come in and they’re like yes we struggled but we’ve still been having our weekly couples catch up from the website that we provided to them and because of that that has been the glue that’s become a ritual of connection now for them that uh in recent email update from them that they said that they still having at times they still do struggle but they’re in a much much better place than what they had been before where they were presenting to me when they were on the brink of separating and looking at divorce and getting um getting going through that process.

So part of what I teach couples and a big part of what I incorporate into the work that we do is I help them to connect to those parts of themselves during a difficult conversation their compulsion to do what they’ve always done that I’ve referred to before, their compulsion to walk away to avoid the topic altogether perhaps to get defensive to uh fight to win fight to be right to yell and scream and talk over the top of their partner to retaliate.

All these things these are autopilot behaviours from the freeze fight and flight response that we all have within us it’s in age it’s in all of us triggered by the fear centre the amygdala in our brain and when that’s triggered we become flooded as the Gottman’s refer to it I use that term and triggered interchangeably.

So when I’m working with a couple and one has become flooded I’ve got various techniques that I teach them that they can use in the moment but key to doing that in the moment and pausing is to have the awareness of that’s exactly what’s happening for them in that moment otherwise the compulsion to do what they’ve always done to do these autopilot behaviours will win out

And if nothing changes nothing changes and they’ll stay stuck in their suffering.

But these clients Belinda and Craig they did what they knew that they must do in order to save their marriage and their children from being exposed to these unhealthy coping uh strategies and these this conflict management style which wasn’t really management anyway it was just reactive and very childlike coming from their inner child.

[Couples Counselling Outcomes]

They learn to take a time out sometimes they made some mistakes before they got to that but they were determined to get back up and try again and again and again

And that’s what it’s like when you’re going through the couple’s counselling process some people come in here and think everything’s gonna be fixed in a couple of sessions, my experience that’s not the case because people don’t ring me when they just had the one argument or something like that it’s usually a lot further along something’s been going on there’s been some real suffering that’s been going on and they’ve drawn a line the sand said we can’t do this anymore either we’re gonna separate or let’s see what what we can do, let’s be open.

On average on average couples work with me maybe 15 to 18 sessions maybe longer and um that that is uh really aligned with the findings from the Gottman Institute as well who uh recognise that on average couples will have about 15 sessions um those that commit to the process anyhow.

But what they get out of it it’s really up to them so I can provide all of the support and all the resources but like Belinda and Craig the ones that commit to the process are the ones that get the outcomes that they’re looking for they want a connection.

They committed to putting their phones down it’s the 1 percenters that they chose to take everyday by sharing a love spark with one another and surprising one another sharing that fondness and admiration and being grateful for the other expressing that.

Being their word which was really important for Craig to start doing more of because he had been doing behaviours that didn’t line up he wasn’t home when he said he would be.

He’d say you know if we have a fight I’m not gonna leave next time but he would and these contributed to her her lack of being able to trust in him he wasn’t in integrity with their high value of trust and being trustworthy and even just for himself it was an incongruent feeling for him misaligned with his own values particularly working in a field where the ethics of trust and morals are highly important.

So regardless of what walk of life you come from who you are who you know what you do where you are people are people and we all have feelings and all suffer but if you’re willing to do the work you can change your story, you’re the author of your story and what you choose to do in moment by moment each and every day it matters

So ask yourself is what I’m doing today does that line up with my marriage values.

You may not even be aware of what they are and that’s why we develop the life values cars so that people can be more aware in that way too they can be more aware and make the right decisions in each moment every day in alignment with their marriage values their relationship values their own personal values what’s most important to me.

Is it important to me to go down the pub and drink 10 beers overnight or is it more important to me to have close loving relationship with my partner and children and go for a walk each night.

When I’m working with couples and particularly with Belinda and Craig one of the things we identified was abandonment issues that that she was um um experienced in her childhood uh and the way that her parents fight and um had that impacted on her and her her stance that she would take in the dance of their conflict.

And breaking that intergenerational cycle so that their children could have parents modelling to them the ideals that we all seek, being the partner to one another the husband and wife to one another that they want for their children in the future teaching their children this is what a healthy relationship looks like.

And this was the leverage I guess for them that this was the motivation for them to do the work because there wasn’t much left at the beginning and towards the end of working with them for a little a little bit over a year uh and doing intense work gradually they’re on a good path to recovery.

And they continue to do the weekly catchups, they continue to use the resources and the skills provided and sometimes still they’re a little bit little bit wobbly and make mistakes and that’s perfectly normal.

So I hope that this is you found this helpful and I look forward to sharing some more stories with you perhaps you could give me some feedback on uh whether this is useful or what else you’d like to see videos on.

Thanks very much I’m Jacqueline Hogan your couples counselor and coach uh in person in McCrae and online via zoom and we have retreat options available for people who wanting to do some fast work I come down have a little bit of a holiday as well we look forward to hearing from you soon thanks very much.

Background & Introduction

Belinda, 36, a self-employed marketer influencer, and Craig, 42, a barrister, have been married for 15 years with two children. They struggled with emotional disconnection, exacerbated by Craig’s multiple infidelities 9 years ago, leading to deep impacts on Belinda’s mental health. Previous counselling attempts had little progress.

Client Assessment and Goals

Initial assessment revealed avoidance coping mechanisms and lack of remorse from Craig. The avoidance contributed greatly to the resentment felt by Belinda and triggered her own abandonment issues from childhood trauma.

Gottman assessments highlighted deep loneliness, communication barriers, and unresolved trust, depression and anxiety due to the increasing division and lack of any emotional intimacy and connection between the two. Both admitting that if were not for the children, they would have separated.

Goals included healing from past traumas, rebuilding trust, and prioritising their marriage for the sake of their children.

The Couples Counselling Process

Interventions focused on self-awareness, gratitude, atonement, and inner child work. They engaged in activities to deepen connection and manage conflicts constructively. Progress was marked by their commitment to the process, overcoming setbacks, and implementing strategies like time-outs and self-soothing techniques.

During the process they came to know each other more deeply than they ever had before as they were both guided gently through inner child work and grew far deeper empathy for one another, through this they were able to recognise their fears and emotions and think for relationally rather than just themselves. This was an emotional breakthrough that saw them go from division and loneliness to compassion and understanding. Meaning they were now in a better position to be vulnerable and do the work on their marriage they needed to do rather than seeing each other as the enemy. They went from me versus them to US (as Terry Real coins it).

Instead of getting triggered by their partners shut down behaviour, they were able to understand the behaviour and support one another.

Therapeutic Interventions & Relationship Repair

Belinda and Craig achieved a renewed sense of closeness and authenticity in their relationship. They learned to prioritise their marriage, navigate setbacks, and communicate effectively.

I spoke to Belinda and Craig recently, and they are sustaining the progress they’ve made.

Couples Counselling Outcomes

Belinda and Craig’s journey demonstrates the transformative power of commitment to counseling and relationship repair. Their ‘no matter what’ attitude and determination, offer hope for couples facing similar challenges.

For Relationships in Distress

Are you struggling in your relationship?

I hope this case study has given you hope, and that you can learn from Belinda and Craig’s journey and be inspired by it. Inspired to make a change, pick up the phone and take the first step to improve your situation. As I say in the video “without change, there is no change.”

I hope you have a renewed sense of how commitment to counselling (and each other) can rebuild trust, and restore the foundations of your relationship.

Through the process, finding new ways to love, to forgive, all the while improving communication, and changing behaviours, as I’ve just spoken about.

If your relationship is in trouble, seek professional help, it can only help, and as a couples counsellor, I’m here to help you. It’s what I do everyday.

Click on the ‘Bookings’ button above to get in touch, and let’s have a free short chat, about what’s going on for you.

Kind Regards,

Jacqueline Hogan.

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