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

I Want My Life Back

The sound of gunshots and smashing rocks stampeded into the dark night. Just 12 hours earlier a four-foot wall of mud, rocks and trees had smashed through the camp at Wind River Ranch. Thankfully no one had been hurt, but all hands were wielding shovels as we battled to keep the water from capturing our buildings. That was nothing compared to the oblivion created by the second mud slide careening down the slopes of the "Twin Sisters" in Rocky Mountain National Park this past Thursday. In the dark, sprinting for our lives, I thought life might be over. When I signed up for this retreat in Estes Park, Colorado, I never imagined I’d find myself trapped here wondering if I’d ever get out.

More about the mudslide later. If you're reading this there's a good chance life hasn't gone the way you figured. As a matter of fact it rarely does. Three weeks ago I found myself yelling at God, "I want my life back!!!" Have you ever felt that way? Tragedy has inundated the past four years for my family. In one fall my father died, I was diagnosed with cancer and went through major surgery, and illness caused my son to drop out of school and return home. But even more painful were the poor choices made by my daughter, which led to prison. The net result has been financial burdens, lost friendships, strained relationships and nagging questions of our role in our daughter’s fall.

All of the above has felt like a mudslide crashing though our lives. The net result for me has been chaos; walking around in a daze trying to figure out how to move on. How do I get my life back? I know it's about grieving and acceptance, but this isn't what I had envisioned. At the same time, in my daily prayers I’ve told God that I know these are the perfect circumstances for my growth and that I accept where I'm at.

My cry of "I want my life back" came as I was driving to visit my daughter in prison. I love her dearly, but I'm tired of the chaos and I want my "normal" life back. After I logged my complaint to God I heard him reply, "You tell me daily that you accept the circumstances you’re in, but now you're telling me you want your life back. Which is it?" Contemplating that question, I first thought what I wanted back was the order, predictability and security that came with my old life. But, while the pain and suffering were less, the routine had lulled Steph and me into a rut. We were existing well, but were we really living? I began to see that my new life has far more opportunities than the old, but to embrace those opportunities I first had to let go of what was no more. I have to see this as a transition where I let go of what was and prepare for new beginnings.

Infidelity also causes transitions. Like a mudslide it forever alters life's canvas, spattering pain until what once was now seems unrecognizable. If you loved your life why wouldn't you covet that old life after it's been forever altered by betrayal or failure? But no amount of screaming "I want my life back" makes it so, it only impedes any forward progress. No one wants to stay eternally stuck, but moving forward first requires letting go of the old.

All transitions have three stages. The first is letting go of what was, the second is the stage of "no more, but not yet" and the third is one of new beginnings. In the Christian faith it's referred to as death, burial and resurrection. My God conversation helped me see with new eyes. I really don't want my old life back (it's already gone anyway), I really do want to embrace the new things life has for me, and I'm ready to let go. I realized my life isn't disordered, it has a great deal of predictability. I will spend the next season spending weekends going to see my daughter. I will spend the rest of my life going in for cancer check-ups. But it’s also allowed me to develop new empathy for those with cancer, for families with children in prison, and for parents with children who have conditions. I know what those situations are like and can speak hope into their lives. After seeing the suffering of those in jail, Stephanie found new meaning by expanding the library for the Travis County Jail. While doing that she was shocked at the number of those who couldn't read and drove an effort to set up a new literacy program.

I realize that the loss of dreams for your children, cancer, and death doesn't perfectly equate to an affair (even though we've also gone through that one). Regardless of the mudslide in our lives, so much of the solution has to do with letting go and embracing what is. The opportunity to create a new life and a new marriage is at hand. Are you willing to let go of what was and begin to see what can be?

What seemed to be gunfire actually were thousands of trees snapping as the weight of the debris accelerated downhill. I lead my little troupe to the middle of camp and eventually the noise faded into the dark. Everyone was alive and breathing, but the landscape had been forever changed. Initially we were all in shock and the reality of the still present danger was indelibly impressed upon us. Everyone moved to staff housing and the staff at Wind River Ranch gave up their beds to the pastors and wives who had come for what they had been told would be an experience of a lifetime.

We slept that night while camp staff continued fighting the flood to allow us rest. It reminded me of the amazing people who walked along side us, holding us up, as we tried to recover after the devastation of my affair. Their sacrifice ignited my passion to help others trying to recover from the life altering events of infidelity. It made me hope that those of us in the Affair Recovery community will also stand strong, providing hope and life-giving support for those in need.

But maybe what most impressed me was the attitude of the staff. Instead of bemoaning their losses they were already seeing new opportunities. New streams now existed where there never were streams before. Yes the damage was extensive and insurance might not even cover it, but this also provided the opportunity to have new water features for the camp. The ragged scar left by the mudslide was seen as a new aspen grove seeded with wild flowers.

Admittedly it might be easier to see possibilities after your property is devastated than it is to see new possibilities after your marriage is devastated by infidelity, but at some point finding joint vision and passion is critical when it comes to moving on.

 

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The power of disaster

Your article deeply affects me and quiets some of the anger i am battling. Your article also challenges me to let go even more than i believe i am able on my own, to in order to move forward today. The bits of progress I make on my own are no match for the sweeping transitions that can come in the blink of an eye that are bigger than us and incomprehensible in the moment. Your honesty here humbles me and reminds me of the power and grace in impeccability in my own life in action and word. My betrayer stood in court yesterday and I was with him. He might have been jailed and in our lives it felt as serious as Estes Park. The aftermath wasn't pretty either. But Gods grace was with us and the sweeping transition it brought swept through our lives too to bring us to some place new and fresh. I feel full of gratitude today and your article truly captures how I felt and how I feel today. The timing was impeccable and has given me so much more to consider as I continue to grow in the aftermath of our own storm. So glad you were safe. We are too! and i have a deep feeling , that i havent had, that it really is going to be alright. Thank you for this.

nice analogy..

Every word you wrote it true and is a message that I needed right now in my life. The only difference...nature created the landslide, but my wife created the affair.

Wife creating the affair

And how does she feel now? Or maybe that does not matter....

Her remorse, repentance and

Her remorse, repentance and efforts are what has held us together so far. She is an example for all who have been unfaithful and how they should care for the one they betrayed. But our feelings are irrelevant, as all of our desire to make this work cannot bring back or make up for all that was lost. The sanctity of our marriage, the innocence shared between us, the respect, the honesty, the faith and the blind trust are all things that can never be restored to our relationship. Spoken or unspoken, they are lost.

I AGREE

The one I married doesn't see things the way I do. For me our marriage ended the day she had the affair. I am not saying her and I can't he a life together, but for me it is like having a good friend that you would not let anything bad happen to. We are raising two children together. I don't believe that you can break your marriage vows and then get them back. For me you only get one shot of being faithful to the person you married. I believe the Bible tells us to forgive. My marriage vows said for better or worse and a lot of people believe that affairs are covered here, but the way I see it if for better or worse covered affairs why would God turn around and tell me that I the wright to leave the marriage. Like you said a lot has been lost and for me its everything that marriage stands for. She choose to give it to someone else. It is going on almost four years after D-day for me. I am just now to where I can even begin to try to find out who I am now. At one time I was so sure of myself and knew where I wanted our life to go. Now I just take one day at a time and plan for nothing because someone will throw something at me that changes my plans and I won't have any control over it. I am in a 12 step program at church to learn how to let go of the affair. I am not in the program so I can get my marriage back. My marriage is gone. I am just trying to be happy again in life and not let the affair control 90% of my day. I can't tell you how long I will stay here. I can only tell you I am here right now. This passed Sunday at church the massage was about letting your old life die so you can have a new life. That's the way I see life after an affair the marriage has to die so a new life can start. My new life will never be marriage. I am not sure what one would call it but I don't call it a marriage maybe friendship. She tells me that she can't change what she has done in the pass. Well I can't change what the past has done to me either. We just have to meet in the middle some how. Good Luck I understand your statement of what has been lost.

To that I can relate. My

To that I can relate. My husband says all the time, that the problems I worry about aren't really problems at all. He reminds me that we could get a phone call at any moment about one of our loves ones or even hear some news about ourselves. But I contend as you do, those things are a part of life and are somewhat expected. This, he had total control over and it didn't have to happen. This wasn't a part of Gods plan, but his selfishness. To know that he willingly made that choice, to bring that into our lives is different. And it hurts more when he makes those statements because to me it seems he minimizes the depth of the scar, my picture is forever changed because he willingly chose to change it. 16 months since D day for me, and it's better, but it still hurts. Though I very much want to, I'm still hesitant about trusting and moving forward primarily because of such comments. I'm just not sure he really gets it.

Do they ever really "get it"?

Do they ever really "get it"?

Wow - thank you for sharing

Wow - thank you for sharing your pain and your faith response. This couldn't have been posted at a better time for someone I'm walking alongside in affair recovery who said those very words yesterday, "I want my life back!" Intense pain brings our Savior near in comfort!

Moving On

I read your article; however I am stuck in between the pain and the moving on part. My partner of 16 years was seeing someone for over 6 months without me knowing about it. He finally told me about it last November and it devastated me. I could not function or believe that he could hurt me in this way. Then on March 2013, I found out that I have stage 4 breast cancer. I wanted to end my life. I asked God what do I have to live for? My family stepped in and have been my saving grace to me. I have received treatment for my cancer and I am feeling better. I still do not know what my future holds; however I feel damaged to ever feel that I can love again.

It Takes Time

I am so sorry to hear about your cancer, and that it was discovered so shortly after the revelation of your partner's affair. I wish you a full recovery in both things. While I cannot imagine how it feels to be facing cancer, I do know what it is like to live with the huge betrayal of an affair. It has been 2-1/2 years since I discovered my husband of (then) 15 years had a 10-month affair with a married co-worker. I never thought I could forgive him, even though I felt as though I no longer loved him before the affair. While he must have felt the decline in my love, I had asked for counseling for years, and felt devastated that he declined, yet handled our problems in this manner. I didn't want to stay in my marriage beforehand, and I thought for sure his affair would be the nail in the coffin. The good news is, we didn't stay in our old marriage, but created a new one, largely because HE wanted to. It took me 2 years to forgive him, but I saw him working very hard to fix the things that were broken between us. We attended weekly counseling sessions, began having dates again, and started having a couple of calls each work day. Initially, the calls were to build trust, but they also built back a connection. We look forward to hearing about each others' day. I don't know the situation between you and your partner. Nothing excuses his choice to betray you. But, 10 months is still pretty fresh for such a huge betrayal. Some things to consider: Is he remorseful? Does he want to stay with you? I know you may not feel like staying with him. I didn't want to stay with my husband. But his desire to stay together led to changes that have made our relationship new. You may not love the person he was when he betrayed you. But you might love a new him IF he is remorseful, willing to change, and willing to work to EARN your trust and forgiveness. If he can't, then moving on without him is best. I am so glad you have the love and support of your family. They are also a testimony of YOUR ability to love and trust. I have faith in that for you. I am glad you are feeling better. Please take care of yourself and love yourself.

Take heart

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:19-24

The Power of Perception

A well needed reminder of the power of perception. Perception is always our choice. And also a reminder to be grateful for each day. The challenge to daily continue to look at the disappointments and challenges in our lives as opportunities. And for me, learning to trust and have faith that God will use every seemingly negative life experience for growth, learning and supporting others. Thank you for all you do.

Letting Go

What a great article and analogy. No I don't want my old life back, but some peace would be nice. We are getting there. Slowly but surely. We renewed our vows and sometimes I feel like a "newly wed" testing the waters in this "renewed" relationship even though I have know him for 40 years! I'm sorry for the turmoil in your life right now. I pray for peace.

Thank you...

Thanks for your analogy and thoughts. I suffered through my wife's 5 affairs between 2009 and 2011 (We reconciled after each - each time I thought it was over - she was in counseling, and we thought she had a handle on her behavior). In 2010, after reconciliation, she became pregnant with twin boys (yes, they're mine ;-). But the last affair that broke me started just two months after the twins were born - while one was still in NICU. Needless to say, I was devastated - again. Through all of this, I can't even count how many times I yelled to the Universe that "I want my old life back!!!". In my case, what I finally realized was this: My wife was, in many ways, hiding her true self and true nature for our entire 20 year relationship. She was dealing with terrible self esteem issues, and assumed if I knew her REAL past and REAL nature, I would not want to be with her - so she kept it all hidden, and she put up a wall and pretended to be who I wanted her to be - and I never even knew. So - I wanted my old life back, but my old life was an illusion. The woman I thought I married never really even existed. It was a terrible mistake for her to keep herself hidden away for so long, and it did terrible damage to herself - not to mention the resulting devastation of our marriage and the impact on the kids and the rest of the family. But that realization that "she was NEVER what I thought she was - my life was NEVER what I thought it was" allowed me to move on and seek better and deeper relationships. I managed to be mostly healed prior to filing for divorce. I've now been divorced for almost 2 years and have met a wonderful woman who deserves my love and respect, and it's an amazing feeling. As a song by Tears for Fears states: "When you think it's all over, it's not over, it's not over".

Bits and pieces

Enjoyed the article and there are still bits and pieces I would like back and responses I'm not sure how to handle. For all my life the first 15-30 min of the day were mine for alone time, walk, whatever and I treasured that time. Since my husband's affair discovery he is almost too attentive, rises when I rise and we have "our time" which is great but I would like alone time when I can plan and do as I wish. And the second thing that is still hard is how to respond to certain things he says, for example if we go somewhere we went when we were dating ever so many years ago he will say romantic things such as remember when we came here and you ordered... and I ordered.... I feel like we have a new relationship and that marriage ended so I really don't know what would be the healthy feelings or response is.

thank u

Thank u for this. I'm so lost. My life has been a mudslide for years it seems. Found out my husband had multiple relations for about 6 of our 9 years together. Its been a year and a half. He's worked so hard but I feel stuck in the mud still. Angry, hurt, longing for what I thought we were. I love him love our family and want it to work but feel so much of US is lost. How do u fall in love again with the same man that hurt me so badly. Even if I let my past go, my dreams are changed forever...& I don't even know what they are anymore.

Rick thank you for sharing

Rick thank you for sharing this incredible story. You've been such a huge mentor to so many of us. I've been struggling with my husband's 5 year affair, with my first DDay 2.5 years ago. I'm currently in that transition phase - that you wrote about earlier this summer - "feeling kind of numb." But for every day that I want to just give up, and say enough, It's over - there is another day, where I want my old life back. This week I've bought a book on Grief Recovery and it's been emotional working through grieving the loss of our 38 year marriage. I love your sentence "are you willing to let go of what was and begin to see what can be? Thank you so much for these words. You've been such an inspiration and an encourager to my husband and I and I feel sad, that I didn't know your own trials. May God bless you and Stephanie through this time and I'm sure you're right - that God has even more opportunities for you and your family in the future. Sincerely, Debbie

Glad you are safe

This article touched me...especially your quote that "an affair changes the landscape of our lives". I just said last week I felt like it had changed my DNA. We are thankful for your safety. I know that must have been a harrowing experience. Thinking about you and your beautiful wife Stephanie and coming along side you in prayer for your family.

Dear Rick, I came across this

Dear Rick, I came across this message as I frantically looked for God's answer to help me in this mess. You see I have been married for 32 years, left my job 3 years ago. I have poured myself into other activities and now discovered that I have neglected by own huband. He is "was" I dont know anymore a wonderful, kind person and serves in our local church. Earlier this year, I accidentally discovered that he had been texting a girl "younger, married also serving in the church" and has gotten emontionally involved with her.Their relationship has become deep and they now seem to be 'in love' She told him that her husband ill-treats her and they have been for several counselling sessions but nothing helped. My husband felt sorry for her initially, then this turned into affection, then love, while I was oblivios to this 6 month relationship...it has not stopped. She has now filled for divorce, my husband says he wants us to be together, but, I know this is not true as he feels deeply for another person, he seems to want to be in the marraige and faithful to his outside love. He has privately opened separate bank accounts to save for their future. He has plans to leave me and make a life with this other woman. in the interim, he is doing everything to pacify me for fear that I will expose his behavoir or tell her husband, coz then she will have custody issues with their children. They console eachother with words like (it just happened- we did not mean it-we cant help our feelings-) She tells him what a wonderful person he is and that they are not meant to be - that she will find happiness, that he is the one love she has ever known, which only drives him closer to her coz he is the "loyal" kind of person. She makes him feel like he has made advances, so she could not help, but fall for it, now he feels guilty, coz, he feels responsible for her hurt emotions. Our children are married and moved on. He feels for her little children, so his 'loyalty' lies with her. He is distant in our relationship,. I'm now closer to God and praying for a miracle - I do not want my life back - I want a God given happier, better, life with him by my side, till death do us part. He does not feel the same as me.

Wow!

Rick, I am so glad to hear that you are okay after being in that mudslide. I am so sorry to hear about all the difficulties you have been facing in your life. Your article was such a good reminder for me that others also go through hard times and come out alright on the other side. Sometimes I can start to think that I am the only one having a difficult time; thank you for sharing. I will be praying for you and your family. You have been such a blessing to me and have helped me see how God can work through me and in me even in the worst of times. Nothing happens in our lives that is beyond Gods watchful eyes or to big for Him to handle. It is in the valleys of our lives that we can see the hand of God working the most miracles, even if it is just the miracle of bringing us through to the other side alive. I know that the only way I am still alive after the devastation of my husbands affairs is by the grace of God. It was in those hard times that I came to see the great love my Abba Father has for me. His love for us is so deep and so vast we can't even begin to comprehend it. He weeps when we are hurting and his desire is that we will draw closer to him through our difficult times so he can comfort us and guide us. He wants to give us beauty for ashes.

Thank you.

So grateful that you felt lead to share this story. I truly needed to hear it. The pain is still real grieving the loss Of my old life and friendships, but at least I can lean on Something that is real and true and see the future as something new and fun. Grateful for your sweet spirit to serve others. Praying for you Rick.

WOW! God has spoke to me

WOW! God has spoke to me through your tragedy. The resounding verse He keeps giving me is Genesis 5:20. "You intended to harm me, but God untended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." I am so thankful for that reassurance. I am journeying through the worst time in my life, yet I know He is there. This article is so timely in that, our home has been turbulent and crumbling, eroding, washing away, much like what Rick witnessed in Colorado. The trauma of the past, gosh....it's got to be over 12 years now, has never reach a point of healing for either my husband or I. The traumas and deaths in our marriage caused walls to be built by both if us. To the point neither of us saw the other's pain. I was so vulnerable and not keeping a hedge of protection around myself, we were so disconnected. I did what I swore I would never do. I began to slip down the ever so camouflaged slope downhill. What began as emotional, soon turned physical. I was sick with myself. Sick. My husband told me he understood, loved me and forgave me. And for a few years I kept dipping my toe in those muddy waters. Thus fights, hurt, anger, pain, disgust. Eventually he retaliated to try to hurt me and feel better and all he found he ended up with was self loathing for what he had done to another. Someone he just met in a bar. A innocent woman just used for his purpose. We drifted further and further away from our church family, our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Neither of us coped well. Eventually we began self medicating with alcohol. Which provided the vehicles and foothold for more evil, regrettable things. I finally got my head back to our family, our daughters. I struggled and was wishy washy, but was home more and more and backed away from poor influences. That often left me home alone. My husband was about to the end of his rope. Between my recurrent depression and instability, the affairs, the debt. His drinking escalated, often including our 21 year old daughter. Everything was roaring down hill, out of control like the floods Rick witnessed. as the tension mounted and arguments escalated, my depression plummeted. Like floods rising and destroy and forcing what was once up to be down. On Wednesday, May 8, 2013 I hit the bottom. I did not realize how sick I was. My husband had always been my support system. He would see if there was a dip and accompany me to my psychiatrist. However, the past year had been so erratic that we had agreed to try a different clinic, out of the country. Long story short and over $30k out of my husbands retirement, which must be paid back, I returned home, free of all medication for less than one week. By the beginning of May, it was all gone from my system and I was suicidal and unstable. I was asking for help but no one saw how desperate I was. I had become a very good actress and could fake my way through about anything. Even my anguish with my life. We both had callused our hearts to a point of functioning at best, no relational experiences with one another. So that night, He stayed out late, again, at the bar, again. And I cried. I felt unneeded, unwanted, unworthy, worthless, broken, used up, like trash. I felt as if I had swirled down into a dark place at the very bottom of that ugly, awful, deceptive, slippery slope. Much like the mud and debris that eventually was sucked down to the very bottom of those valleys where there was no where left to go. The crying was done. I was numb. Thursday, May 9, I woke and lay in bed listening to my husband of 22 years, prepare for work. As he exited the bathroom and entered the bedroom, I asked him to hold me for a few minutes and just snuggle. I've always loved that! Less than half an hour later, he left. I got up. Went to the living-room and l checked to be sure all three of the girls cars were gone. At that point, I researched, gathered what I needed and overdosed. Long story short, I was brought back to continue life. But I had created a whole new hell for my family. A mere couple of weeks after I came home, he left me. Just for the weekend. That was over three months ago. As soon as our baby turned 18, he filed. I will be served this week. But you know what? It's been a terrible year and excruciating 6months. I have lost the ability to work in my company, lost my girls who all moved out at once partly because of partial truths they had heard about me. Lost income, lost family, lost respect, and now packing to sell and let go of our home. I've got nothing. Yet, I have everything. I didn't get here quickly. But God has been more than faithful, with everything. Meals out with friends, gas money, grocery money, meat for our freezer, underwear (that's pretty funny, God!) and a new family, my chosen family. I had screamed out, just as Rick. "God! Why are you doing this?! I can't go on! I can't do this! This hurts and where the heck are you?? Just give me my life back....please" And He hasn't, praise The Lord. Through this storm, I am emerging a new woman in Christ. Yes, it all still hurts. But it's not killing me. Some things are hard to do alone. I'm finding to be creative and that with Him I can. I am seeing our daughters heal and return. I'm seeing daily miracles and provision. The sun is beginning to shine in the aftermath of all the destruction of this storm. I rely on God for everything. And He provides. Never in a hurry, but always on time. I still love and am crazy in love with my husband, with everything I could possibly hold in my heart. I would give my life to protect him. But I also now know who I am and whose I am. I know I'm forgiven in Jesus Christ. I still hurt for sure. I still cry. I still have times of wanting to manipulate or control to try to make him want to work on our marriage. But I shut them down and remember who I belong to and who is in charge. I don't think I ever would have come to this trust, faith, humility and brokenness without losing everything earthly. But I'm at peace. I am beginning a new life. I no longer cry out for the old one. Baby steps with my support system. And a release of my husband. God can do His work much better when I get my butt of His throne. I accept that my husband does not want to work at it. That he's done. However, I will never accept that as my choice. I pray for all of our family. I pray for the opportunity one day for the two of us to go to an EMS weekend that we may heal together, as well as the finances to do so. I pray for our children and that we may learn how to co-parent. I pray for their healing and that they not repeat what they have witnessed the past few years especially. And I pray praises. It was no accident that I read this story a couple days ago. Nor was it coincidental that at the beginning of August, I left our home to try to get my feet under myself. My road trip was to ultimately end up on Colorado. Camping at those very same parks. Alone. Miraculously I was led to a friend from high school and her family and God kept me there. In Nebraska, never getting to Colorado where Rick experienced this at the same exact time. My Father is so cool! We all walk this walk, if we look and think, have been on the journey Rick speaks of. Where we cry out. But, wow, when the son shines and the rainbow comes out.....wow. I don't know what my rainbow is. I don't know what tomorrow holds. But I know who holds tomorrow. And He's got it all covered. I need not want my old life. Thanks, Rick, for being an inspiration as well as an instrument for helping recover from affairs.I look forward to the day when I and hubby, will meet you and begin a new life together, maybe even a new marriage, good Lord willing. Blessings!

God bless you! Stay the

God bless you! Stay the course, I'm proud of you!!

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