Therapist Dr Sherman Helps Couples Renew Trust

Women's Dating

This Therapist Helps Couples Renew Trust and Connection After Betrayal

Jordan Sprogis

Written by: Jordan Sprogis

Jordan Sprogis

Jordan has been writing professionally for the better half of a decade, and she has bylines on various verticals that highlight the psychology and sociology of creating personal relationships. Despite recently tying the knot herself, Jordan remains deeply engaged in thoughtful conversations about relationships and dating with her friends. Now, she's excited to extend these dialogues to the realm of DatingAdvice.com.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

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The Short Version: Infidelity is at an all-time high: Around 44% of unmarried couples and 18% of married couples say they have had a physical or emotional affair. Although cheating is one of the leading causes of divorce, some couples make the courageous decision to remain together. This isn’t an easy choice to make, but it is possible to rebuild trust after betrayal, especially with the help of an experienced counselor. Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, an expert relationship and couples counselor, tells us how she helps couples rebuild after infidelity with weekend retreats and sessions. 

The main reasons couples divorce are lack of commitment and infidelity. While this statistic paints a grim picture, it also stresses the importance of maintaining a solid emotional bond and physical intimacy for a healthy, lasting relationship. 

But what happens when one partner cheats, and you’re not sure if divorce is the be-all, end-all solution many claim it to be? (If you’ve ever sought relationship advice online or from friends, you’ve likely encountered a variation of the “just end it” sentiment.) While breaking up may be the right choice in some cases, nobody knows a relationship better than the two people in it. 

Dr. Paulette Sherman headshot
Dr. Sherman helps couples reconnect after betrayal.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to meet Dr. Paulette Sherman. Dr. Sherman is a licensed psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience and extensive training in various coaching techniques, including The Gottman Method, a widely known couples-based therapy.

Dr. John Gottman, a pioneer in relationship psychology who has worked with thousands of couples and has produced more than 50 years of research, has developed numerous methodologies to comprehend relationship dynamics, enhance communication, and nurture emotional bonds.

“One of Dr. Gottman’s methods is the sound relationship house theory, where trust and commitment act as the two pillars holding up your relationship,” Dr. Sherman explains. “If either breaks, then your first marriage is over. And it’s time to start rebuilding what we might call Marriage #2.”

Through counseling sessions and weekend retreats, Dr. Sherman assists couples nationwide in rebuilding their relationships, particularly after experiences of betrayal like infidelity. These sessions give couples a fresh start, allowing them to learn from past mistakes and strengthen their bond in what some may call a second chance.

Rebuilding Trust After Betrayal

The million-dollar question Dr. Sherman aims to answer is: Can couples really overcome cheating? 

She says yes, but it requires conscious effort.

Understanding what leads to an affair is the first step before healing begins. Research suggests that motivations for infidelity differ between genders, with men seeking physical intimacy and women craving emotional connection. 

This dynamic can create a cycle where a woman might feel emotionally withdrawn, leading to a reluctance to engage in sex. In contrast, a man may feel his physical needs are being overlooked, which leads him to resist emotional connection.

Infographic displaying cycle of physical and emotional intimacy
Not to say this is a one-size-fits-all cycle, but quite often, women and men disconnect from one another when their physical or emotional needs aren’t met.

This isn’t an easy challenge to overcome, let alone come to terms with, especially from a partner you have trusted for a long time. But Dr. Sherman believes affairs hardly ever last because relationships built on mistrust from the outset aren’t likely to last. 

In fact, 11% of affairs turn into relationships. Of those affairs that do progress to marriage, 75% ultimately end in divorce.

But Dr. Sherman also addresses the signs before an affair even occurs. Signs of distress may manifest in withdrawing intimacy (as in less frequent sex or emotional connection), making unfavorable comparisons (“Jenny’s husband helps her with the laundry, why doesn’t mine?”), and feeling unsupported by one’s partner. 

Much of these actions and feelings relate to Gottman’s theory of the Four Horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Many individuals have also experienced feeling overwhelmed or flooded.

Stock photo of a man watching TV while woman is upset
Little actions (such as watching TV while your partner cleans the house) can trigger emotional responses in couples that eventually build resentment.

Dr. Sherman illustrates this with an example she’s seen dozens of times.

“A husband driving home may already be feeling overwhelmed and flooded before he even steps through the door of his home, all because of negative memories associated with that house. It’s as if his brain flips a switch, making it feel like an uphill battle to go inside,” she explains.

Addressing this negative sentiment override and flooding behavior is a challenging but essential task for therapists to help couples identify. Ultimately, both parties must be willing to work to earn back that trust — but it can’t happen overnight. 

Couples Counseling Isn’t a $5 Phrase

In their initial session, couples must be prepared to dive into the hard work right away. Dr. Sherman says some humility and forgiveness will be required, too.

“The most important thing that we do in the beginning is we’ll ask them what they’re willing to take responsibility for because they also have to be willing to work on themselves and not just change their partner,” Dr. Sherman says.

She’s also noticed couples typically delay seeking counseling for six to seven years. As you may guess, waiting this long is a problem — because the longer contempt builds, the more challenging healing will be. (It’s one of the reasons premarital counseling is so highly recommended.)

“They say men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, but I think we’re all from different planets because we grew up in different families. The conflicts themselves might not change, but what we learn is how to talk about them,” Dr. Sherman says. “If you dig deeper, there’s usually something more behind the conflict, like a longing or a dream. So, the trick is to ask questions, show interest in your partner, and connect with them empathetically. That way, you can support each other’s dreams and goals.”

Dr. Sherman offers two types of counseling so couples can choose the level of intensity they want to start with.

Weekend Marital Intensives

Dr. Sherman’s weekend retreats follow a simple, prestructured schedule so couples know exactly what to expect. 

Couples arrive Friday evening, and the retreat kicks off with an oral history session. This session encourages couples to reflect on their relationship journey from the beginning. 

From 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday, Dr. Sherman helps conduct intensive sessions individually and together. 

Stock photo of a couple fighting at couples therapy
Dr. Sherman wants to see the couple in action before developing an assessment.

“I do individual interviews with them and an oral history of their relationship. I watch them fight to see their defensive styles and the antidotes. Then, I give them an assessment of their relationship, based on in-person experience and assessments they filled out before I meet with them,” she explains. 

Just be prepared for Dr. Sherman’s pivotal question: What are the three main issues you want to address in your relationship this weekend?

Couples Counseling Sessions

Dr. Sherman offers remote and in-person counseling sessions for those unable to attend weekend retreats. Single sessions can last from 45 to 60 minutes, but couples can opt for double sessions lasting 90 minutes for more challenging issues or if they’d prefer to have a longer discussion.

In these sessions, Dr. Sherman focuses on helping couples identify barriers to a healthy relationship and work together to heal and establish positive communication habits, boundaries, respect, and intimacy. 

“I’m here to observe your situation, so I’m going to be honest and tell you what’s affecting your relationship,” Dr. Sherman says. “I know people don’t want to feel ganged up on and don’t want to feel blamed, so I’m always on the side of the relationship, not one particular person.”

Putting Your Bids in Every Day

The work doesn’t end with your weekend retreat or counseling session; continuing to practice the tools and techniques you’ve learned at home is crucial.

“Some couples choose to continue therapy after the weekend sessions. But they also have the flexibility to go at their own pace,” Dr. Sherman notes. “And our talks don’t have to be weekly; they can schedule sessions once a month or whenever suits them best. The key is to keep practicing the tools they’ve learned.”

Dr. Sherman emphasizes the importance of focusing on bids of attention — that is, small gestures or expressions that connect you to your partner.

“Sometimes, when you’re married, you can begin to feel like furniture. At first, you were such a new shiny object, but when you always see that person, your partner may start treating you like a low priority instead of the most important one,” Dr. Sherman explains. 

Stock photo of older couple cooking together
Emotional bids, like commenting on the weather or offering a hand with dinner, may seem small, but they’re powerful threads in building connections.

This is where small gestures, like bids, can make a big difference. For example, if your partner says it looks like it will rain soon, their comment doesn’t necessarily require a response — but to show engagement, you might glance outside too and say, “Hmm, looks like you’re right. Our garden will love it!”

In situations where trust needs rebuilding, these gestures become even more crucial: It’s not about the action itself but how your partner responds to your attempts to connect. 

Whether it’s recounting stories from your day, sharing a funny TikTok, or giving a quick hug as you pass by, these moments of connection gradually build the foundation of trust and connection essential for moving forward together over time.

If you’re experiencing infidelity and want to rebuild your relationship, visit Dr. Kouffman Sherman’s website to book or learn more about her approach and practical techniques in couples counseling. If you prefer a 12 to 14-hour weekend marital intensive with her, you can book it at Couples Therapy Inc.