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

The Affair Causing Habit

It was a strange name that pricked my curiosity, but I questioned the thought. Why was I so interested about her name? I was out to eat with my wife and our waitress had just stopped by the table to introduce herself. My normal routine would've been to ask how she came by her unusual and beautifully unique name. This was the first time I stopped to ponder, why would I do that?

A quick glance told me the restaurant was short staffed, and the waitress was responsible for too many tables. How will my asking her about her name benefit her? It would only cost her time which would not only make her job more difficult, but it would negatively impact how quickly other customers were served. How would it make Stephanie feel if I began chatting with our cute waitress about the origin of her name? Thankfully, after 45 years of marriage, Steph would still be hurt, which means she still cares. That's when this adolescent part of me (the part of me that wants what it wants when it wants it) spoke up and said, But if she wasn't busy and Steph wasn't here, it'd be okay. There's nothing wrong with asking someone about their name.

But is it possible that my justification was an excuse for me wanting to be entertained or wanting the thrill of flirting just a little bit?

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I've grown up, thankfully, so I could reason through this.

The current me said to the adolescent that lingered inside of me:

"I appreciate the role you played in junior high and high school. You came up with some brilliant solutions that got us through some really tough times, but we've grown up and have healthier ways of getting our needs met now. Deceiving ourselves into thinking we're being a good guy while using another person for our own gratification doesn't make us a good guy. Let's think beyond the immediate gratification and consider how things might play out. Maybe our interest in her name flatters her and makes her feel special. If she's in a committed relationship with someone, who's not making her feel special, will that cause her to feel closer to her partner or will it sew a seed of dissatisfaction?

What if the waitress misinterprets our intent and thinks we're interested in her? Two things could happen, neither of them good. First, she might set a hard boundary, letting us know in no uncertain terms that she doesn't appreciate being hit on or second, she might see us as someone interested in becoming more intimate. If she asks for your contact info, would you give it to her? On the other hand, how would you feel about having to disappoint her and tell her you're a married man? Would you just as soon she not know you are a married man? Would you meet her for more "harmless" conversation if you could? You didn't intend to give her the wrong impression, you just wanted to satisfy your own curiosity. Now she's feeling like a fool. Is that what you're going for, to make fools of yourself and others? This can be a slippery slope, and I'm tired of it."

The difference between a teen and a mature adult is the adult's ability to think beyond the moment and consider what the downside to an action might be. But longtime habits are hard to break, and we don't always see this so clearly. To you, it's satisfying to make someone else feel good about themselves, and in the process, it makes you feel good about yourself too.

Maybe you don't struggle with this exact issue, but there is something in your life you can relate this to. Think about it objectively. Is it wise? Is it considerate? Is it beneficial? Is it hurtful to someone I love?

Then the adolescent me continued the conversation with the current me:

"When we were younger, say 14, curiosity was a tool we used to engage girls, so we could chat it up. It was part of our strategy for getting girls and guys to think we were a good guy and it helped us develop much needed friendships. Making others feel good made us feel good. Finding a way to get peers to provide the validation that was missing in our home life was a brilliant strategy for a teen, but we've healed and moved beyond those wounds. Why would we apply an outdated strategy for getting validation in our new life where people love and depend on us. These days, we're the one responsible for giving the validation. Curiosity is good, but maybe we need to start asking which part of us is curious. Is it the adult who's being protective of his family or is it the child who is using old survival strategies? We need to be curious about why we're being curious!"

I was suddenly jerked back to present by an old familiar voice, my wife. "Rick. Rick. What in the world are you thinking about?"

"Curiosity, I was thinking about curiosity," I replied. I'll tell you more about it later once I figure it out.

Our goal at Affair Recovery isn't just to empower those impacted by infidelity to construct new lives of meaning and purpose, we would also like to help prevent the crises and destruction created by infidelity. For those rebuilding their lives, we'd like to enable you to avoid more suffering. Rarely do I meet individuals who were "planning to cheat." The majority of the time, old ways of being are applied to a new season of life. How we interact with others, what we perceive our boundaries to be, what we believe is appropriate (right or wrong).

Through the years, I've learned you can't 100% affair proof your marriage, but you can affair proof yourself! Time spent identifying and eliminating old habits that place your commitment to your partner at risk is worth every ounce of will power and effort. One of the goals of EMS Online and Hope for Healing is to help people identify patterns that put them risk. Monogamy is not a given, rather, it is a state that both partners must protect.



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Brilliantly put.

This was an amazing article that has alot of insiteful information. I believe it would be beneficial for couples to read these to protect their marriage. Thank you.

Powerful Insights

I am so glad I read this article by Rick as it provide a powerful insight into avoiding potentially destructive behaviour. I also relate to this conversation he has with his younger self, which is the source for most of our destructive behaviour in our relationship. I have started reading a book titled "No Bad Parts" which discusses and explains IFS, which seems like what Rick was doing in this internal conversation. I had stopped when I found AR, but this article makes me want to go back to it and dive more to learn how it can help me prevent future unwanted behaviour, and become more insightful int he process. Thanks for sharing this great lesson.

Very helpful

This was clear and to the point. I like the compassionate view towards the younger part which is seeking validation. I clicked on all the links within the article and the last one was broken.
Thank you for all you do.

Broken link

Moved beyond those wounds.

Apologies - link enclosed


The correct link is: https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founders/untransformed-pain-will-be-transmitted

Thanks for making us aware! We have fixed the broken link here. 


the Hope-Now team


Rick, the way that you wrote this was brilliant. It touched on an issue that really does need a lot of openness and self evaluation. We all have subconscious behaviors that can lead to risky situations (even if it is not our intention) and by not being aware of those behaviors and realizing the potential effects, we really are putting others in control by whether they can interpret our intentions (which of course no-one can because we are not mind readers). I would love for you to do more newsletters like this. Thank you for the work you do.

What next

" Curiosity, I was thinking about curiosity," I replied. I'll tell you more about it later once I figure it out.

I would like to know more about the conversation that you had with your wife after you identified your curiosity.
How much detail did you go into? What are/were your boundaries to protect you and your wife for that conversation?


This worries me because my husband “guarantees” he will never stray again after contacting an old lover and starting an emotional affair. My follow up question is always, “Is that confidence or arrogance? Did you ever think you would do what you did when we got married?” He has enormous curiosity and a lack of self awareness and how his actions come across to others.


This is me. I'm always seeking outside validation. I know it stems from my childhood. How do I change? I need more info on this topic.

Loved this content

I read this article & feel like it is touching on a perspective that we all could benefit from. It sounds like Rick is speaking in IFS (Internal Family Systems) language- which is an amazing technique to learn more about one's vunerable/wounded parts. My husband & I actually were introduced to IFS through AR when we were meeting together with Wayne during our EMS weekend. That kicked off a trajectory of self discovery on both our parts (my husband & myeself) that has benefited us then (a difficult & trying time) and continues to benefit us presently. Would love to hear what more you have to speak on this Rick. I can't help but think everyone- not just those brought to AR becuase of a crisis with infidelity- would benefit from parts work with IFS.

Loved this content

I loved reading this article and the insights in it. It sounds like Rick is using parts language from Internal Family Systems (IFS). My husband & I were introduced to IFS when meeting toghether with Wayne during our EMS weekend. Wayne took my husband through an exercise & it was powerful to observe. That kicked off a trajectory of self discovery for my husband & myself. We benefited from IFS back then during the EMS weekend, which was a difficult time. We also continue to benefit from it presently. And are experiencing life in a more calm & grounded place.
I think the everyone could benefit from going through parts work with the IFS model- not just ones who are lead to it by a crisis of infidelity. I think we would all benefit from more thoughts & insights like these, Rick!

I found this topic extremely

I found this topic extremely useful when considering the potential risks involved with infidelity. Shirley Glass states in “Not Just Friends” that you can’t affair proof your marriage, you can only affair proof yourself. I believe this applies here and feel like I can protect myself from the risks, if I take an assertive approach to keeping my boundaries clear for me. I have to keep myself safe from any possible threat of infidelity as it relates to holding my own boundaries and not letting others closer to me than my own spouse. I also need to keep communication very open with my spouse, and not let anyone in between us.
I’ve always loved her metaphor for this with her windows & walls theory.
We have to have our windows open to our spouse, and keep others outside our relationship with doors closed. If we open up a window for someone on the outside by becoming overly close, then it shuts the door on our relationship and doors consequently block the flow of energy between us and our partners.
Boundaries are imperative to keeping “us” safe. Not having good boundaries then leaves both parties open for allowing others to invade upon our relationships. This was a great reminder to us all how important it is for us to protect our marriage, and how quickly not being aware can lead us into temptation and or infidelity.

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-D, Texas