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

The Fantasyland of an Affair

fantasyland of an affair

In one succinct phrase, L. Frank Baum perfectly describes the feeling of suddenly finding yourself physically and emotionally lost. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy quipped to her dog Toto. When it comes to infidelity, regardless of the type this statement couldn't be more true. In Dorothy's mind mediocrity defined her life.

Maybe you’ve felt like Dorothy…there was allegedly no color in her life. There was no excitement to be found in the prosaic little town in Kansas. The drudgery of life on the farm left her feeling hopelessly chained to a life of misery, drudgery and unfulfilled expectations. Didn’t she deserve to be happy? Didn’t she deserve to ‘feel alive’ with passion and the fulfillment of her every desire?

Longing for More

Dorothy spent all her time longing for a better, more exciting life, and eventually found herself swept away by an ominous tornado that sent her helplessly spinning into a strange new land of fantasy. Unlike her old life, this new life was painted with vibrant colors and was full of song. She also found she was no longer alone; now a strange troop of friends entered her life: a scarecrow that lacked brains, a tin man missing his heart, and a lion with no courage. This motley crew committed to assisting young Dorothy and her dog Toto in her search for the Wizard of Oz. Oddly enough though,  flying monkeys, wicked witches, and deception left Dorothy pining away for the very thing from which she had longed to escape. She just wanted to be home again where she felt safe and cared for.

Is it possible the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was writing about those trapped in affairs or addictions? How often do indiscretions begin with feelings of mediocrity, or a desire to feel alive, passionate and understood; seeking freedom from the constraints of a life we no longer want, pursuing the happiness we believe we deserve? And like Dorothy, the dissatisfaction prompting the search for better life sparks a tornado, devastating everything in its path. Catapulted into a strange new fantasyland, the individual is left to wrestle with what to do. Only now, they have to operate with the handicaps of Dorothy’s team: they have no brain, no heart, and no courage.

My Spouse Has Lost Their Mind….

How do you decide what to do when somebody has lost his or her brain? If you've ever observed someone in an affair, it certainly seems they’ve lost their mind. I have seen successful men and women in extremely influential positions transformed into inept and incompetent individuals who seem incapable of making a rational decision. They become willing to jeopardize career, family, and future for this momentary pleasure. If the behavior of being “in love” were not socially acceptable, they would be certifiably insane. Everyone else can see they have no brain, and that reasoning and common sense are gone, but they refuse to hear the voice of any differing opinion about their actions, mindset or choices.

The loss of heart is also apparent. There is an illusion that if one is in love, they are finally in touch with their heart, but with infidelity, they’ve actually just lost what little heart they had. The selfish pursuits of personal gratification and self-glorification have nothing to do with heart; rather they are based on self-centeredness. Like the tin man, the person involved in an affair lacks the ability to truly love. People with heart are actually able to feel what impact their actions have on those who are connected to them. They care about the pain they are inflicting upon those they love. Love compels them to act in the best interest of another person. The total lack of love for those injured by their betrayal is one of the most astounding aspects of an affair. The path out of this dark morass definitely requires that they acquire a heart, not only to grieve for those they’ve wounded, but also to learn how to truly love. Their response to their own choices and collateral damage they’ve created will actually reveal their love or lack thereof.

Deficits in Marriage

Finally, courage isn’t a term used to describe those indulging in affairs. In fact, the act of betrayal highlights the lack of courage. Instead of exercising the courage necessary to admit what they’ve done and take responsibility for their choices, they hide behind a veil of secrecy, playing the victim and blaming others for their choices. Rather than having the courage to confront the deficits in their marriage while honoring their commitment even in hard times, they avoid difficulties of change, are afraid to face the consequences of their actions and fear releasing control because things might not turn out the way they want them. Ironically, it is this lack of courage that keeps them hopelessly trapped in the life they believe they need to escape. The only way to end the chaos is to let go. Unfortunately, because they lack the courage to let go and see what might happen, they remain immobilized, unable to face life's realities.

Why can’t they just embrace honesty and take

responsibility for what they’ve done?

The answer is simple - to do so creates immediate change, as well as a loss of control. It requires courage to actually take personal responsibility for their life and actions. Frequently, those lacking the courage to take responsibility will hide behind the justification and rationalization that they don't want to hurt their mate, claiming they are acting in their mate’s best interest by keeping quiet. In reality, they are controlling their mate by robbing them of the information necessary to make informed decisions and to address the issues in the marriage. It takes courage to be authentic in a marriage, but like the lion of Oz, courage is a trait that is sadly missing in those betraying their spouse.

Is There Any Way Back?

Interestingly, this trip to the fantasyland of an affair often culminates in a longing for home. Like Dorothy, betrayers often realize that “there's no place like home.” But how do they return? It would be nice if they could simply click their ruby-red heels together, but unfortunately infidelity creates a bigger mess than a physical tornado and requires a much more elaborate journey. The journey back is difficult and can seem to go in circles, but the destination is more exciting, and ultimately more rewarding than the fantasyland. It takes time and effort, but it is absolutely our best hope for growth and happiness. Come back to reality. Rediscover your brain, heart and courage, and you’ll find there truly is no place like home.

If you believe there’s no way back I can tell you from experience that you are in fact, believing a lie. I’ve been doing this for over 33 years and I know thousands of couples who’ve found incredible healing in their marriage. It does however require the courage to take the first step. You don’t have to be fully committed; you just need to have the desire to explore the possibility of what can happen when you both receive expert care and a pathway to healing for your specific situation.  If you’ve got even the slightest desire to find out if your marriage can be saved, take that first step: give our EMS Weekend a chance. You can hear compelling and true stories from those who’ve seen their marriage restored by going here.

No matter what route you choose, at least do something. Start using your brain to see maybe you don’t know everything. Start using your heart to feel for those who are hurt and allow yourself to experience compassion. Finally, have the courage to take that first step and let go of control to see what could happen.



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Great article

...but when do we get to wake up and find out it was all a dream???

The scarecrow

Ok Rick, thank you for that slap in the face back to reality. I've acted as the scarecrow with no brains. I've hurt a lot of people I love. I cannot thank you and your team enough for EMS weekend and all you have done indirectly to resuscitate me from this lying dreadful fog I was in. This article is the epitome of my situation. I've always wanted to be back home and that nightmare I lived is over. I am grateful for you all. But most of all, I am grateful for my wife.


A Positively BRILLIANT Article! As the betrayer, the hardest thing ive ever done in my life was *letting go of my affair partner*. I did NOT want to do it. I was forced to do it. Insanely selfish right? And YES, I blame my partner (in part) for the horrid way he was treating me for years. It was a two way street. Was the affair "ok"? NO. Was it the right thing to do? NO. Facing the reality of a lifetime of bad marriage relating would have been much more appropriate, but I was so beat down in the marriage by that point (yes Im rationalizing here) that the lure of the affair was overwhelmingly powerful. Like a VORTEX... a Tornado.

Its the weaker way to go. Of course, every affair is different. After nearly 2 years, I still feel justified in my actions. Im a horrid monster right? Most people just throw in the towel and get a divorce if their marriages are that bad. I had an affair. It was an alternative route, and ultimately it woke us both up, and FORCED us to fix our failing marriage. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The pain and brain damage it caused seemingly never ended.

Oz article

Best analogy I have ever read. The rebuilding after the tornado takes a very long time though......it is definitely not just a "heel click" away.

Excellent Analogy!

This is one of your best articles yet! As the betrayed, I watched my husband go through all of what you wrote about. Makes me want to watch The Wizard of Oz again with new eyes! Thanks for all your encouraging and informative emails!

I wish there was a like

I wish there was a like button for the article and then one for the comments. All really great stuff!
Keep praying everybody :)

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