Endings Aren’t Failures, An Interview with Therapist Maura Matarese (Part One of a Two-Part Series)
Maura Matarese is a therapist in Massachusetts who helps individuals and couples navigate the muddy waters of relationships. Maura is a licensed mental health counselor and registered yoga teacher who helps her clients understand the underlying cause of their current struggle, and then make authentic choices for their future. Maura works with both individuals and couples.
Maura was interviewed by Divorceify Co-founder, Casey Shevin. In part one of our conversation with Maura, we discuss her take on marital infidelity and when it’s time to call it quits.
Casey Shevin: In your work as a therapist for couples and individuals you commonly work with the issue of marital infidelity – can you tell us a little bit about your therapeutic approach to infidelity?
Maura Matarese: Infidelity is a common issue for my patients. These patients often feel pushed to respond to the infidelity in a certain way. I tell my patients: I can’t tell you what is right for you. Sometimes you follow your heart and deal with the guilt of leaving, sometimes you stay and you work things out; I’m here to help you look inside and understand what is going on so that you know what is motivating you. Then you can make an authentic choice for yourself.
Shevin: It sounds like you are saying people often feel pressured to stay married.
Matarese: When people are pushed to stay married they are typically only half in and only partially working on their marriage because they believe they should, rather than they want to. I’m really passionate about helping people improve the quality of their relationship, but also to have better endings. Because endings aren’t failures.
Shevin: What a relief for so many people to hear.
Matarese: In any marriage, if you want it to last, you have to choose the same partner over and over again. But sometimes, as time goes on, people have different needs, wants, and visions than their partner. I help them understand that and then make an authentic choice going forward.
Shevin: What about those clients whose partner leaves them for someone else?
Matarese: I have had lots of clients who were left for another person. And you know what? Years later, after they have risen from the ashes they say “thank goodness, I’m so happy now” — even though in the beginning they were really fighting to make that other person stay.
Shevin: Many people who have just discovered an affair feel like they can never recover …
Matarese: “You are in the shit” — that’s what I say to people who have recently experienced infidelity. You have been traumatized, but you can heal from trauma. You need to take responsibility for healing yourself first. You aren’t responsible for [your spouse] and helping them understand, but ultimately both people play a role in what happened in the marriage and they each need to understand the role they played. Then finally, do you want to do another marriage together or not? I have developed some online courses to help people take charge of their lives and heal from infidelity – those courses are listed on my Divorceify profile.
Shevin: Have you had clients decide to stay married after infidelity?
Matarese: People can absolutely heal from infidelity if they understand why it happened. And it can happen for many reasons. Sometimes people have decent, or even good, marriages and somebody looks outside. When they understand why it happened, the couple then needs to decide if they want to do another marriage with each other. Before they can make an authentic decision around this, they need to heal themselves.
If you can learn from it, you can transform. Even though [infidelity] is one of the most painful relationship crisis a marriage can go through they can rise from the ashes of infidelity and really just learn so much about themselves and have a much better marriage, but it takes time.
Shevin: When should someone pump the breaks on divorce after an affair?
Matarese: No one ever regrets doing their best. Often the person who was cheated on feels helpless and they want to do something, so they call a divorce attorney. They think, “I don’t know what to do, I’m shattered – part of me wants to stay with them, part of me wants to kill them.” You need time and compassion to weed through those feelings and heal before making an impulsive decision.
Shevin: When is it time to call it quits?
Matarese: Most people need to feel like they have done their best and that they have asked for what they want. Sometimes I have to remind people that you can ask for what you want, but you can’t make someone do what you want them to do. I help people come to terms with that. You have to ask for what you want, but ultimately, you have to make yourself happy. I help my clients identify what it is they feel they need from their spouse, to ask for what they want, listen to their spouse’s answer to that request, and then make the best decision for them based on their spouse’s response.
Maura Matarese is a Divorceify professional. Read more about Maura and view her profile in our professional directory.
Stay tuned for part two, where we discuss kids and divorce, conversation coaching and uncoupling counseling.