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

Is Change Really Possible?

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"Accomplished more than months of regular couples therapy."

"I came to the weekend hopeless and left feeling encouraged and certain of a better tomorrow."

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The following is a repost from our Recovery Library. I penned it in 2011, during one of the most difficult times of my life shortly after some of the most significant losses in my life. I hope it encourages you and provides a healing and redemptive perspective as we walk together through probably one of the biggest crises of your life.

is change possible

Can I really change? Can your unfaithful spouse ever really change? Can your betrayed spouse ultimately overcome the remnants of betrayal and trauma and change? Not easy questions to answer by anyone.

I'll be 59 this year, and just looking at that number makes me feel older than dirt. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks; but can you? In my soon to be 59 years, I don't believe I've ever set a New Year's resolution. Lord knows it's not because I'm perfect, nor is it because I'm always happy with my life, for me I think it's not really wanting to.

Understanding Habits, Patterns & Loss

A few years ago, I read Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit," and I found the research fascinating1. I'm not sure I've ever analyzed my actions from the perspective of habits, but it caused me to take a new look at why I'm living how I'm living. 2011 was a challenging year where I had major life events such as the loss of a parent and major surgery for cancer. Given my profession, one would think I would have anticipated the impact of those trials, but I never imagined the subtle ways those events would change the patterns of my life.

In the book "The Law of Happiness" by Dr. Henry Cloud, he points out that only 10% of happiness is based on circumstances2. 50% of our happiness is due to our genetics and the remaining 40% we control through the way we live. From birth I've been fortunate to be one of those where the glass is naturally half-full, and I've enjoyed life, but as I reflect on this past year I realize I've changed and I don't like what I'm seeing. My productivity dropped, I've been in a funk, and I've been less motivated; so what changed?

Looking back, it seems so obvious. First of all, my routines changed. Major surgery has a way of doing that, but instead of running each evening when I returned home, I began turning on the TV as a way of handling the boredom of not being able to do anything. Rather than getting up and writing early in the morning, I began sleeping in telling myself I needed the rest. Optimism was replaced by self-pity as I dealt with the losses stemming from surgery and from the loss of my dad which resulted in a loss of motivation. The loss of motivation only served to reinforce the sitting on the couch and doing nothing. In addition, my new sedentary lifestyle resulted in my spending more time in the kitchen snacking at night since I had nothing to do. It was as if I abandoned many of my healthy habits for ones that made me heartsick. How do I change?

I know I'm not alone. According to Duhigg, major life events have a way of getting us to abandon the healthy routines we've adopted for older, more primitive habits. It's as if we re-adopt our old bad habits as a way of coping rather than continuing the healthy habits we've developed through the years. Even worse, those unhealthy habits seem to be etched indelibly in our lives, impossible to erase.

Just like my surgery, the trauma created by infidelity has the potential to change life patterns for both the betrayed and the unfaithful spouse. Healthy activities such as exercise and hobbies often go by the wayside. Mistrust and hurt feelings change our habits of relating to one another, and anger does the same. Hurt and disappointment can even change our spiritual disciplines, and I haven't even begun to talk about how our habits of self-care change. I wonder what percentage of people picked up old habits of smoking or drinking as a result of a betrayal or how many fall back into old patterns of avoidance or escape. How do we get back to a life we love that's full of meaning and purpose?

Beginning... Again

So where do we begin? The problem with habits is that they are unconscious. Our brains are amazingly efficient. In order to keep from having to figure things out each time we do things (such as brushing our teeth or saying hello), our mind creates thousands of routines that we do mindlessly. That's why we can think about paying bills while backing the car out of the garage. But our habits are fragile and it takes no thought at all to move back into old ways of being or acting. All it takes is a cue and the brain takes over, repeating a programed routine time after time.

For example, this past weekend, Stephanie and I were visiting friends. Two times when I went to the bathroom I walked out leaving the water in the sink running full blast. Both times I had to go back and turn it off. The second time I realized their faucet turned counter clockwise to shut off. At home my faucet turns clockwise. My normal routine for turning off the faucet didn't work at our friend's home. That's what I consider to be an insignificant habit, but what about those habits that govern how I relate to Stephanie or those that dictate what I do when I get home from work?

It's Not About Staying Miserable

Those of us at Affair Recovery aren't just interested in saving marriages; we're interested in helping those affected by infidelity find extraordinary lives of meaning and purpose. If the best you could do is save the marriage only to continue in a miserable life, would that interest you? We want to let the crisis created by the infidelity serve as a catalyst for positive change, but like me you have to take action. Pain that's not transformed will be transmitted, and I don't want the tragedy of what's happened to rob me of life. I want it to serve as the fertilizer that helps my life grow.

As I begin my program to change all the miserable habits that I've picked up this past year, I hope you'll join me by addressing the habits in your life that are holding you back. Over the next few weeks, I'll explore the steps we need to take to change our habits, and hopefully we'll help one another move forward.

If you're wondering how to change and truly overcome what you're facing due to infidelity, our EMS Weekend virtual intensive is the place. It's facilitated by myself as well as other therapists who have been through infidelity themselves and are true experts. After several decades of treating infidelity and addiction, I'm more confident than ever you'll find hope, personal restoration and the ability to truly change. Visit https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/ems-weekend to learn more and register. We'll see you there.

The easiest–and cheapest–way to start on this journey is to take our free First Steps Bootcamp. It's an online guide with 100+ pages of content and a full-length video of a mentor couple who was in as big of a mess as it can get. You'll take a big sigh of relief when you have a clear plan and learn that you're neither crazy nor alone in this journey, whichever side of the infidelity you find yourself on.

  1. Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Random House Trade Paperbacks.
  2. Cloud, H. (2011). The Law of Happiness: How Spiritual Wisdom and Modern Science Can Change Your Life (The Secret Things of God) (Reprint ed.). Howard Books.



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