Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

What are the 5 simple and proven steps that will protect your marriage?

What's the value of your marriage?

I have a friend who says you can always determine what's important to people by looking at their checking account. How do they spend their money?

If you look at your withdrawals, what would it say about the importance of your marriage? What percentage of your income is allocated to your relationship?

Another way to assess value is by time invested. Regrettably, most people probably spend more time planning vacations or their financial future than they do for their marital future.

You can also assess what we value by what we protect. We don't leave money laying around, because we believe it has value and we don't want someone to take our hard-earned cash for their own benefit.

Those who value money work not only at protecting it but at increasing the amount of it. They make time to create budgets and meet with financial advisers to assure a good return on their investment. They analyze companies before making investments to minimize risk.

Do you go to the same lengths in protecting your marriage as you do your money? Are you spending the same energy and effort on proactive marriage counseling? Often times I hear exhausted betrayed spouses tell their unfaithful spouses it's "too little too late." Yet, they didn't get to that place overnight.

All too often those who stray are under-invested in their relationships.

Their primary contribution to the relationship is their wage, and if money provides the sum total of your investment, what's the loss if you walk away? But if you've worked together, built a home together, raised kids together, and shared life together, the size of that investment may help you see there is probably something worth salvaging or at least attempting to salvage.

I'd like to keep it very simple this week. Here are five tips for investing in the recovery of your marriage. Yes! These work, even if it's been rocked by infidelity or addiction:

5 steps to protect your marriage

1. Protect the life that is "US":

Rare is the person who gets married thinking they'll cheat on their mate. Generally the opposite is true. Most newlyweds believe they're immune to marriage problems and that infidelity could never happen to them. Unfortunately, it's that very thought which makes them susceptible. No one plans to cheat, but given the right situation anyone can be vulnerable. Partnering together to protect your marriage places value in the relationship.

Marriages are made up of three separate components - a man, a woman and us together, which we call marriage. It's what makes recovery so difficult for those impacted by infidelity. There are three recoveries if you will, which must be addressed uniquely.

There is 1. your recovery, 2. your spouse's recovery, and 3. the marriage's (US) recovery.

This "US" is something I talk frequently about in marriage counseling. As an individual I place enough value on my life to protect it. I don't step into oncoming traffic; rather, I make sure it's safe before I step into a street. Far too often we don't consider the life that is "US". It takes a loving protection and even ongoing maintenance, just like feeding and protecting my own body.

2. Clarify the meaning of monogamy for your marriage:

Just recently, while meeting with a couple in marriage counseling I asked for their definition of monogamy. Given the fireworks that erupted over the next few minutes it was clear this couple had never come to a common understanding of that word. Assuming your mate sees things as you do can be a bit naïve. Without conversation, couples are at risk of tragic misunderstandings and endless relationship problems. It's also a great exercise to hear your spouse's heart for you and your future together.

3. Establish healthy boundaries for your marriage:

Strong, agreed-upon boundaries always outperform good marriages when it comes to preventing infidelity. Even great marriages have relationship problems, and allowing yourself to be in high-risk situations creates unnecessary potential for marital and personal destruction.

You may be thinking good morals are enough, but I'd challenge that thought. While our morals and values certainly guide us, our boundaries protect our values and morals from being stressed to the breaking point. Couples need to discuss and record their boundaries. If it's not written down it's like it never happened. Once it's written there is a clear understanding of the limits. Neither party can lie to themselves saying they didn't know. If they're not written down, then your boundaries don't really exist. Without planning, feelings and wandering emotions will be your guide.

People don't plan to fail, they only fail to plan. Develop your strategies for keeping you both safe.

4. Make it a point to brag about your marriage:

We naturally feel what irritates us, but appreciation requires focus. Whatever captures my attention captures me; whatever I focus on expands. If the irritating aspects of my mate or marriage are the focus of my attention they will grow and grow until it's all I perceive.

On the other hand, if I focus on what I appreciate about my mate and my marriage, it will grow and grow until I'm grateful to be in the relationship. This also prevents future marriage problems. Bragging about your marriage forces you to look for what you appreciate. It promotes pride in the life that is "US".

5. Don't try to please your mate, rather make sincere attempts to enjoy them and honor them:

If merely 'pleasing' your mate is your goal, then your mate is responsible for your overall identity and success. If enjoying your mate is your goal, then you determine your success. When Stephanie and I first got together I didn't hang out with her to please her. I was over there because there was no place I enjoyed more.

I don't know where I ever got the idea that after marriage my role was to please her. When I enjoy being around her, my life and home are a true pleasure. Frankly, I find it to be a great honor to be married to Stephanie. Alternatively, when I'm fixated on trying to please her my marriage becomes a chore and I begin wondering what I'll get in return. I start keeping score which never works and, quite honestly, never comes out in my favor anyway.

When you enjoy your mate, they see how you're into them. Enjoyment clearly communicates they matter and that you want to be with them. When we enjoy our mate, even if we fail to meet all their needs, they don't feel slighted because your attention allows them to write off the disappointment.

At Affair Recovery our mission is to restore those impacted by infidelity to extraordinary lives of meaning and purpose. What's the benefit of working through the trauma of infidelity if your best outcome is a miserable life?

The goal isn't survival; it's a new and better life.

You can't go back to what you had,and it's a difficult moment when I share that truth with individuals in crisis. The focus becomes not going back, but going forward and building the new of the marriage and relationship.

If you're looking for that new life and a way to move beyond the hurt and trauma you may feel trapped in right now, I hope you'll give some thought to attending our next EMS Weekend. While the country may be in various forms of lockdown, our virtual EMS Weekends are happening each month, providing expert insight and revolutionary forms of care for those in crisis. I hope you'll give my staff and I a chance to help change your life and your marriage.

Hope Rising 2020

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Hope Rising Conference for Betrayed Spouses.
Hear from our expert speakers and participate in small group lunch sessions, expert breakout sessions, and couples Q&A—all in the comfort of your own home!

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Enjoying your spouse

I have been reading and studying affairs and marriage for over a year and your last bullet about enjoying your spouse really  hit home for me and my current situation.  I am 14 months into recovery from my spouse's 4 affair.  This time we really seem to be attempting to do recovery and heal our marriage right.  I am working hard to meet my husbands needs that he feels were going unmet.  This is not easy when you are recovering from an affair.  I had started to fall into the trap of feeling it was a job and not a pleasure.  Thank you for teaching me something new and to help me continue to heal myself and my marriage.  As I am something to enjoy...so is my husband. 

enjoying your spouse

Yes, I agree, you must enjoy your spouse and believe that he enjoys being with you. But after an affair, it DOES feel like a chore and the confidence blow of being betrayed sometimes makes it impossible for me to believe that he wants to be with me. It's a very sad catch 22.

I missed the mark

Unfortunately, we didn't really consider 2 & 3. Now, 2 years after divorce, I'm still struggling with issues not resolved.


I haven't heard of the 100 appreciations yet but it will now be a part of our recovery process. Thanks for the small steps ideas.
We are 20 months out from our last Dday but still have days of struggle. Much appreciation. AR has been amazing for us! We started with a virtual weekend and I did Harboring Hope for my own healing and my UH is set to begin Hope for Healing next week, his choice to join, YAY! I am happy to say that we are looking more out the front window on our journey now than we are spending time looking in the rearview mirror. God Bless you all at Affair Recovery. Recovery is possible!

Monogamy: staying one flesh

Monogamy: staying one flesh while in God.

It would be good to hear what my UW says, as we OFTEN have differing definitions on things. Not that we are conflictive, rather, show contrast. Frustrating.

We are 5.5 years out from her confession, 20.5 years in from our commitment. We’ve always had uphill wend in our marriage; dissatisfaction in perpetuity.

I’ll try the 100 appreciations. I like our potential.

100 Appreciations

Were actually doing the 100 appreciations in our MFL group this week. I’m 10 months from our first dday and 7 months from the last dday. It is a constant struggle. I keep wondering if it’s worth trying to save our marriage. I do love my UH, but live alone isn’t enough for me to stay. The only reason I can find is that our children are the most valuable investment & I know divorce & broken homes can have a negative impact on kids. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to work at. This requires divine intervention.


What do you mean by boundaries? Would you please give some examples? Also, I used to brag about my spouse all of the time, but since discovery, I mostly just feel foolish since he had been cheating for 25 years. Now, I mostly just feel indifference. Will theses five strategies really help?

What type of affair was it?

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-D, Texas