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

Is My Mate Safe?

after infidelity is my mate saveFrequently people wonder how they can tell whether or not their mate is truly in recovery. When someone has cheated, how can you tell whether they are sincere when they say, “I’m sorry”?

With infidelity is there anyway of telling whether or not your mate will be safe in the future? 

 

What are the elements of a sincere apology?

In John Kador’s book “Effective Apology,” he identifies five dimensions for apologies. I’ve used his first four dimensions and substituted the word “reform” for what he calls “repetition” for the fifth dimension.

For the offended party to feel safe there must be:

Recognition:

Without the recognition of what someone has done to wound another there can be no meeting of the minds or hope that things can ever change.

Responsibility:

If the offending party fails to take responsibility there’s no hope of the relationship being safe in the future.  Failure to identify how they’re responsible leaves them forever the victim and powerless to prevent the same thing from occurring in the future.

Remorse:  

Without remorse the offended party will never feel they matter to the offender. The grief displayed by the offender for the pain they’ve caused communicates the level of their remorse and the importance of the relationship.

Restitution:

Without restitution there is no sense of sincerity. Words without actions are, to be frank, mindless chatter. True grief is followed by action to try and ease the pain of another.

Reform:

If steps aren’t taken to assure this never happens again, the offended party is left only with good intentions. For trust to be reestablished there has to be reason to believe the necessary changes have occurred to assure there will be no repeat performance.

When it comes to taking responsibility for hurtful actions, have the courage to own your part. Hopefully your example will pave the way for a new dance in your relationship. For more information on how to receive forgiveness, check out my 3 part series "Are You Forgivable?".

 

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Comments

This really hit home!!

This really hit home!! Judging others is often what we do to make ourselves feel better. This world would be such a better place if we could learn to not judge others. I often will accuse my husband of not showing emotions, etc. I blame him on occasion as well. I really have to take a good, hard look at myself. Possibly I am the one with the weakness. It has been 3 1/2 years since our affairs and I am still moving forward. Thanks for all your advice, I really look forward to reading your newsletter each week.

When I first found out about

When I first found out about my husband's affair(s), I kept telling God about this sin or that sin. Whenever, I would tell God about his self righteousness, God would say what about your's? Pride? What about your pride? I soon realized I wasn't going to get God's cooperation on this. Does that mean I was responsible for his ongoing lust, deception, lack of gratefulness.... Absolutely not! What was wrong was that I was coming to God on a judgemental basis rather than one of wanting to see him delivered for his sake, the sake of our marriage, and the sake of the kingdom. I still see many of the same sins, but I take them to prayer in a different manner. Having said that, I can see why your post would be upsetting to the betrayed. I found it a little unsettling, and I hardly ever do this anymore.

a life unexamined

Perhaps the victim should turn their life into a victory. There comes a time to stop telling the other person what is wrong with them and focus instead on what can be better in me?

re: Restitution > what you're supposed to do

I think it's important to recognize that doing what you're supposed to do eg; being compassionate, taking emotional care of your spouse, allowing them to care for you, honesty, trustworthiness, having integrity, not cheating, recognizing when you need help (like from a therapist) and seeking it, being self-aware, not being defensive, the list goes on and on.....those things are not part of restitution. Just because you now decide to do what you should have done all along, things that, in doing, could have/would have prevented one from being unfaithful in the first place, are just what they are...how you're supposed to be....there are no bonus points or pats on the head or back for doing the things you should have done all along. Restitution, I feel, has more to do with tolerance while the offended spouse gets through the damage they've been caused....not to the point of having the offender become abused. I mean in a sense of patience, empathy, understanding and teamwork. Can you go more into what realistic expectations a offended spouse should have in the way of restitution?

spot on

pretty powerful comment and I couldn't agree more... it's been two months since i found out about my spouses inappropriate relationships and one thing i'm having a hard time with is really getting past the restitution phase. her AP is a coworker who she still works with and not only is she looking to get "promoted" but her father is interviewing with the company as well.. I'd really love to see other's thoughts on this comment

True remorse

I have been married for 18+ years. My husband has been unfaithful to me continually over that time, mostly with pornography, chatting etc but some relationships that have been inappropriate. He has never come fully clean at any stage and only reveals the minimum saying how sorry he is and that he will never do it again. He protects the women he has been involved with by insisting it would hurt me to do so. He is emotionally unavailable to me. I have forgiven him each time and try hard to keep things happy at home. I don't know what else to do as he also does the minimum counseling with no obvious improvement. I feel like a shmuck for putting up with this but I am a Christian and we have 5 school aged children who would be terribly affected by divorce.

Help

I kind of agree that I was looking for something clear cut. I guess that the whole situation is not clear cut. However, if there is no remorse, recognition or they do not feel responsible then why should I feel any guilt at this point. I keep saying I am still here and I wonder why. He sees the woman around town and tells me about it by saying I saw your friend today. He thinks it is funny. He has refused to go to counseling or anything. I can't even get him to go to church. At my wits end and wish I had left when I had the strength.

What I hear Rick saying is

What I hear Rick saying is that in spite of how deeply our significant other has hurt us, the true healing happens first with us. Meaning that I feel peace and freedom when I am being somebody that I feel good about. I am not a victim to other peoples behavior. I am empowered by knowing that I can respond peacefully to conflict and hurt and still take care of myself. I am not responsible for their behavior, but I am responsible for mine. When I acknowledge the hurt that someone else can inflict, I therefor also know my own power to hurt and can choose whether or not I continue to participate in hurting myself or others through acknowledging the power that I have, knowing my part, and how to not continue to participate in the lie.

truly not perfect

While i quite agree with Rick that we all, the betrayed, should look inwards to seek out our own failings, i think the focus is not so that we can submit to the fact that we brought this down on ourselves by being what we say they are. I am sure that Rick has made it clear that no one is responsible for the betrayal of our spouses but themselves. MC seems to be messing with my mind in so many ways. A guy says he/she does not know how he/she got into an extra marital affair. I have had passes made at me and still do, but I have my guards up and even though i was lacking true intimacy at home, while my husband shared intimately with his affair partner and cybersex partners, I stood to my vows and commitment even though I had a husband who has not been true to his. According to Rick's theory, if i see him as uncommitted to fidelity in his marriage does that mean i am not committed to fidelity as well? I will hold Rick's last statement though that through my commitment to be a better spouse, i may influence him to be one. I personally believe i allowed this because i gave him all the space he wanted, generously so and this he used as liberty to take my feelings for granted and look for challenging relationships outside, hooking up with someone new and seeking the thrill of a chase with someone new. He wanted to see if he still had what it takes. He had covered every ground with me because i let him do and be all he wanted and willing to forgo my comfort and convenience for him. That made me boring, predictable and non-challenging. He still has space but he knows that he is no longer the center of my life though he has my respect. He knows now that I will make my opinion count and I demand my respect as I do give him his. He knows now that I will no longer be a doormat. He knows now that I am well defined as a woman with or without him. He sees that I have my joy even though he had it burnt and buried before. He knows that I am here for the sake of my kids and I chose not to be selfish by leaving him solely for my own sake because the children are deeply attached to us being together, thanks to my efforts covering up for him when he is not home, making him out to be more than what he is.

I sent this article to my

I sent this article to my husband and asked him to prayerfully read it. I said that we BOTH have things to own and work on. We seem to be stuck with his not being able to talk about what happened to break the Trust in our marriage. His affairs were just part of the trust breakdown. We had been separated for three years before his first affair. (That I know of) I am praying that GOD will help us deal with the lenghty and painful process of openly confessing and healing from BOTH of our pain .

Self reflection on the journey to healing

I see the comments on here where I can see a lot of you are still in pain, it takes a long time and being a few years in I can relate. To me this article is not saying things are your fault, and in no way is it saying to stay in a relationship that is not safe or show no signs of change. This is a lesson I learned on my own through time that the healing process goes through emotions where you become very critical of each other, and sometimes you are right about your spouse, but at what cost and are you truly better in that moment? Maybe I'm right about this fault of theirs, but what faults of mine does he not have that I unknowingly use to push him away as well? This lesson over the past 18 months allowed me to communicate with my husband more effectively, focusing on what I needed from him, rather than just making him feel attacked or letting my emotions take over. My changes to become a better person inspired him to want to be better and to see my accountability to our success as a couple. This process helped me develop a new understanding from his perspective. I learned to understand how he felt like a failure because of his mistakes and faults, and by me working on my faults I realized its a long process to change ourselves so his changes would take time too. I Recovery is a journey with more than one turn, some places you walk it with your spouse and some you travel on your own to self reflect and grow even as the hurt spouse. Hang in there, only time will tell if you will make it together...but in the meantime learn and grow for yourself and either way you still get to move forward as a person.

I am approaching that year

I am approaching that year anniversary when I was told about the affairs. What came out of her mouth at first was that I caused her infidelities. It took me about 10 months of feeling depressed and anxious that I could not change enough to keep her from a fourth affair. I saw her complete the 5 Rs outlined above and believe she has made changes to keep her away from another affair. What got me out of my depression though was the full knowledge that I did not cause her infidelity.

thank you for the post

I am 3 months shy of the one year d day and my anxiety is high. Thank you for sharing your experience, as it helps me not to feel so "damaged" or "victimized". The people that make these choices and preform these acts are ultimately responsible, but are also forgiven! My husband still hasn't told the truth completely (as email documentation does not tell the same story as he chose to tell when "caught") now my reality begins...will I accept the vague differences and keep pretending or will I at almost 50 choose to not accept the lies? Again tonight I was told about why it is all my fault, even after a session w/ Rick this am w/ good, clear direction about how to talk to one another for the next few weeks. I will TRUST you LORD to take it from here. This mortal never can do enough, but I trust you Lord completely...finally. xoxoThank you!

He is not safe...

After finding proof that my husband has had continued contact with his af parters...its clear he is not safe. he has not confessed it...he has had 7 months to confess it. while he isnt a loss cause i know i must remove myself from our home. i also realize our relationship mimicks the relationship i had with my mother. she was pysically, mental and emotionally abusive...days and sometimes weeks of ignoring me as a child....over 30 years later i am with someone who can be the sweetest and kindest person yet ignore and stonewall...he has not dealt with his past issues and has brought that same behavior or lying, keeping secrets and being unfaithful into the relationship. I have admitted my wrongdoings because none of us is perfect but i know I will have to do what I did with my mother...while I love them both I have to love at a distance and detach....i think my mom has finally dealt with her issues....not sure when my spouse will but I can't wait around while he continues the behavior. I found out last year that his dad cheated on his mother, his brother has been unfaithful to his wife as well....its all unspoken and denial. Thats not how I want to live.

He's not safe...

That's huge that you can see the corresponding patterns of behavior in your mother and your husband. How empowering it must feel for you to have those insights and decide, this isn't how I want to live my life!

Beloved made it clear after

Beloved made it clear after 11.5 years together that it was no longer an option for him to forgo having other loves. When I said "I can only continue in this relationship if you can be content being monogamous with me," he left. I think that was a pretty unequivocal decision on his part not to make restitution and not to reform, no?

I have no interest in having multiple partners. And I did not sign up to spend my life with someone who does. I still love him, and I still sometimes feel guilty for having relationship preferences (e.g., monogamy and commitment) that make us incompatible. But he used to have those preferences, too. It is really disheartening to see him treating the exploration he didn't do as a teenager as more important than the life we shared together.

Not safe

He seemed to go through all of these five steps but I've found out twice that he was still in touch with her. I'm still here but will never trust him again even though he has told me that he no longer has contact with her.

Is he safe

My husband of 20years had an affair. It was with someone I knew he talked with but he assured me they were just friend. I believe him but what he said just didn't feel right 6montjs into his affair I discovered the true that it was a full emotional physical affair. As hurt as I was I knew we had become disconnected and could see how this happened. I gave him the choice to take a break for him to decide what he wanted. He was stead fast in that he made a mistake and wanted to work things out with me. 6 months after that I found out through someone contacting me he was still involved. I asked him to leave and he did. Now I see him trying to be a better father and saying all the right things to me about focusing on a better relationship with each other. I want to believe him but I can't get over the fact of how easy he lies to me and I don't trust him at all. Now 3 months have passed and I can't find any reason to justify that he is still in contact with her but I am still unable to get over the pain to trust him. Not sure what the next step should be.

Not safe

I was the one who first had an affair. I have been completely repentant, responsible for my poor decisions and hurtful behavior and ready to do anything possible to save my marriage and make myself safe for my husband. A week after he found out about my affair and kicked me out of our home, he began his own affair. It has been ongoing for over 7 months and while he keeps saying he's sorry and that he's said goodbye to her, he continues the behavior and continues seeing her. He blames me for everything and is not taking responsibility for his own affair and lies. I don't know what to do as he refuses to accept responsibility or even be truly sorry. He is not safe for me and I certainly can't trust anything he says or does. But i don't know what to do since I was the first offender.

What type of affair was it?

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