By Hugh McGeary, Managing Director of Counselling Services, Catholic Family Service

Read Part 1 of this series: Honesty at All Costs

Read Part 2 of this series: Taking Ownership

Read Part 4 of this series: Trust and Forgiveness


To understand personal vulnerability, you must gain insight into why you were vulnerable to act against your own values and personal preferences. Most of us have a moral code as well as an idea of how we would prefer to be in the world. When we have gone against this code, it is usually a symptom of things being out of whack in our lives.

Although they are not excuses, it is important to identify the reasons things are out of whack. Then we can take steps to reduce our vulnerability and increase our capacity to stick to our promises.

The following may contribute to our vulnerability:

  • Distress
  • Addiction
  • Mental health
  • A negative internal narrative about ourselves and/or our partner
  • Avoidance of difficult conversations or decisions
  • Triggers from trauma in our past
  • Over-compartmentalization

When you say “I don’t know why I had the affair,” your partner is not reassured. If you don’t know then you are vulnerable to doing it again. But if you do know, then you can take responsibility to deal with the contributing factors and make it safer for your partner to trust your ability to self-regulate in the future.

Sometimes, we need to create a “crucible for grieving” containing the space, patience and opportunity to work through the grief and loss associated with a betrayal of trust. It is important to understand that everyone has their own process and pace and to be patient while they work through it. Partners who become impatient, tired of hearing repetitive apologies or weary of working through stages where there is regression will interrupt the grieving process and the path to healing.

Normalizing the process includes understanding that grief is not a step-by-step linear process with closure at the end. It’s more of a gestalt where things that distress us at the time are in the foreground and dominate our field of view, emotions and energy. Over time, these things move into the background, but are never really gone. They can be triggered to come to the foreground again, even many years later. In a paradoxical way, being okay with this process and not seeking a false sense of closure usually allows couples to keep the trauma in the background as they learn how to “live around” the trauma.

Catholic Family Service’s Affordable Counselling Program helps people deal with a full range of life events from coping with daily pressures – like job loss or relationship problems – to addressing mental health issues and breaking intergenerational cycles of abuse. If you are feeling confused, overwhelmed or uncertain, we can help you. Reach out to our Engagement Team at 403-233-2360 or by email at