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

Bad Advice for Hurt Spouses

bad advice for hurt spouse

Often times I come across articles about infidelity. Recently I found yet  ANOTHER article about infidelity among our public figures. I feel bad for the hurt spouse. In the wake of these public betrayals, everybody seems to know what the hurt spouse ought to do or what he/she's going to do, but if you've paid attention, most of the hurt spouses are strangely quiet. I find that's the case for most people after a betrayal. The shock that sets in after a betrayal does that to people, regardless of their income, status or social media prowess. Rollercoasters and life suddenly take on a strange similarity.

Do you want to know what the hurt spouse really wants? - They want to have their lives back, to have a partner who's faithful and who adores them. I bet they'd like to wake up to discover this was just a bad dream. Do you think they might like to be married to people they're proud of, or someone who's simply faithful? Maybe they'd like to have the life they always dreamed of. One thing I know for certain, the famous folks are no different than anyone else going through this nightmare.

Even better, I know something else that most people forget. What these hurt spouses "want" constantly changes. Why do we accept what someone says, during the most painful moment of their life, as gospel truth? The emotional rollercoaster created by infidelity is so severe that people shift from hope to a profound despair in 1/200th of a second. And we fall far faster than we get up.

A word of advice to all those who are close to someone who has just discovered infidelity - please be there for them. Let them talk, cry if they want, mourn if they need. Far too often, well-meaning people give the worst advice to those who are grieving.

If you’re a betrayed spouse, you probably heard one or all of these messages early on. If you’re an unfaithful spouse, please understand your spouse has probably been told one or all of these messages and they are incredibly misguided and hurtful.

The last thing the betrayed spouse needs is to receive one of these following messages:

1. Grieve alone. 
It's amazing how many people want to exit stage left when someone begins to cry or express his or her pain. As humans, what we need is community. We need others to cry with us and validate our feelings. Addressing pain isn't a sign of weakness, it's normal and it takes courage. It also brings healing and peace. I've never known anyone who's really worked through his or her grief to blame anyone. Instead, they're able to come to a place of quiet acceptance. If you're alone and have no one who understands, subscribe to our Recovery Library. You’ll find stories of survivors who have made it through to the other side and are enjoying peace of mind.  You don't have to do this alone. 

2. Don't cry; they’re not worth it. Go find someone who'll treat you like you deserve.
Please let those who are betrayed work through the pain of their loss. It's the only way they can truly heal. Don't encourage them to gloss over it by minimizing the magnitude of their loss, rather, walk through it with them. Throwing away a marriage of any length of time is just not that simple, easy or wise.

3. Time heals all wounds. Just give it time.
That's simply not the case when it comes to grief. Encourage those who are hurting to talk about it with safe people and to process it accordingly. Encourage them to  face it head on. Ask how they are doing. If they want to talk, then listen, but for heaven's sake don't pretend there's nothing wrong and fail to ask how they're doing. If they don't want to talk, they'll let you know, but at least they'll know that you're there for them and a safe place for them to process their pain. 

4. Get back to work so you can get your mind off it. 
Busyness doesn't heal pain. It might allow someone to avoid moving through the pain and loss for a season, but eventually the pain needs to be addressed. If you really want to help, then help carry their load so they can find the necessary space to deal with their loss. 

5. "Get over it" “Move on” or don't feel bad.
This may be the saddest advice of all. Far too often the unfaithful spouse will grow impatient with their mate's grieving, and try to shut them down or hurry them up. In this scenario it's still all about them, and their mate's pain serves as a painful reminder of their own failure. Their egocentric state has them believing that the betrayed mate's grief process is being put on as an act to punish them for their failure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Don't re-traumatize the betrayed party by telling them they're "jacked up" for grieving or rushing them to heal when they have been completely devastated. 

6. "Revenge is the best medicine" or do unto them as they did to you.
Pain that's not transformed will always be transmitted, which is why it's so important to address the pain and not avoid it. Revenge only makes it worse. Not only do they have to deal with the pain of the one who betrayed them, but they now have to deal with their own loss of self-respect and the problems created by their behavior. Not only do "two wrongs not make it right", but it's impossible to really transmit pain. In the long run, it still has to be addressed.

What should you do, then....?

If you want to help anyone in the midst of this pain, show them how much you care about them. Keep them close to you, and tell them how much you need them and appreciate them. Love them and take care of them. Don't look down on them unless you're helping them to get up.

Have you been a victim of bad advice? Watch the video below to debunk that bad advice and hopefully find some freedom and healing. We recorded this Video last year when we released the 2nd Edition of EMS Online and we are re-releasing it for the first time for you today!



If you’re an unfaithful spouse and genuinely looking to help your spouse heal, one of the wisest decisions you could make would be to enroll in our Hope for Healing course. It will provide detailed information on how to help your spouse heal as well as what you should do for your own recovery and relapse prevention. Our monthly EMS Weekend is a safe environment with Rick and our team of therapists who have all experienced the devastating effects of infidelity and have found new life.



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