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

Does Time Heal All Wounds? Healing After An Affair

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.

Have you ever had a torn rotator cuff? It's embarrassing to admit, but I tore my rotator cuff playing on our Xbox 360 Kinect. For those of you who don't know, this is a virtual game you play on the TV. I mistakenly believed that if I carefully protected my shoulder, it would heal on its own. Four months later, I saw that my plan didn't work; I needed to have surgery.

The old saying "time heals all wounds" isn't necessarily true, especially when we're talking about healing after an affair. It's not time that heals all wounds but, rather, it's a matter of how that time is spent. Infidelity is one of those situations where doing nothing seems to make things worse.

Why Projecting Your Pain Isn't Helpful

While talking to one of our mentor couples, I asked, "In retrospect, what did you not know that you needed to know after the affair was discovered?"

The betrayed spouse first said that she wished she'd realized the affair was not about her. She said had she known this, it would've allowed her to focus on real issues rather than trying to change in order to control her mate's choices. If she didn't cause it, she said, then she had very little leverage to control the outcome.

When I asked her, "What was the least productive thing you did after discovery?" She said that it was her rage.

She told me her first response was to try to make him hurt as badly as she was hurting. She said, "I wanted to punish him rather than explore what I needed to do to move forward." She added, "Not only did it not make me feel better, but it also kept me from moving forward because I was trapped playing the role of executioner."

In retrospect, the one thing her husband could see was that getting the truth out was necessary before they could begin to heal. He said that the least productive thing he did was beat himself up with guilt and shame rather than begin to explore answers as to why he did it.

He said, "Rather than trying to discover how I'd gotten here and what I needed to do to keep from repeating my mistakes, all I could think about was myself and how badly I'd screwed up."

Now, he said he sees how beating himself up was only effective as long as he felt the pain. If he'd begun to explore what was driving his actions, he added, he could have shaved months off their recovery.

How to Work Toward Healing After an Affair

Infidelity creates a pain like almost no other in life and families. Lives hang in the balance of the choices we make upon disclosure. Mistakenly, we believe that simply letting time pass will heal all our wounds. It's what we do with the time that can create a pathway to healing, restoration and salvation. If we simply allow time to pass, alternatively, we can create a roadmap that keeps us stuck in our agony. Trust me: There is a better way to heal than simply letting time pass you by.

At Affair Recovery, it's our mission to be a safe place for even the most broken of people walking through what seems like unending hurt and sadness. To date, our restorative courses and programs have helped thousands of participants with healing after an affair. Whether you're interested in EMS Online or EMS Weekend for couples, Harboring Hope for betrayed spouses or Hope for Healing for wayward spouses, our offerings are backed by numerous testimonials, including this one:

"Harboring Hope has been the wisest choice I've made since learning about my husband's affairs and addiction. For more than six months, I tried doing it on my own. I wish I hadn't let my shame and brokenness keep me away because WOW! The Harboring Hope group was exactly what my soul needed: to be validated; a safe place to tell my story, to cry and, yes, to laugh; and know I wasn't alone. My story isn't over and yours isn't either. Join a Harboring Hope group and find hope and love!" April 2021 Harboring Hope participant.

We understand what it means to heal from something as devastating as this, and we want to help guide you during this time. I truly hope you will consider doing something for yourself by registering in one of our life-changing, research-based courses. If you're in need of insight regarding any of our programs, please send an email to info@hope-now.com.

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This course offers community for isolation and healing for shame, and that's just the beginning.

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EMS Online is our online course for couples to heal after infidelity. It often sells out quickly.

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-L., alumnus

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You have to tell the truth

I have been in so much pain and no matter what I do my husband will not be open with himself or co-workers. Here is my poem: Life is about doing the right thing. Never throwing someone under the bus, so you would look good. . . Life is about loyalty, caring and respecting the people who you love. Love is about including others. Love is knowing what their needs are. Love is about honoring commitments. Love is cherishing the hard work your loved ones do. Love is noticing what they do. Life is telling the truth. Life is being honest. Life is doing the best you can do.
Well, after 34 years of marriage I am tired of the pain and can not take any more of it.

Trying to heal

My husband is the one who did the cheating, it was a one night stand but unfortunately I was a witness to it. This happened 8 weeks ago. We are working on our marriage trying to figure out what went wrong. I guess I was one of those wives who believed we had the "happily ever after" kind of marriage. We would hear about friends divorcing over affairs and would tell ourselves "this would never happen to us". We love each other deeply but I think we just got too comfortable in our every day lives and we just lost our way. My biggest problem now is I seem to be suffering from PTSD, that one image of the two of them together remains in my mind from the moment I wake up to the time I got to sleep. When I have questions about the event he is more than willing to give me answers, he never brushes it away, he is always open about it. I can see the hurt and regret in his eyes and I do forgive him, I believe it was just a drunken mistake on his part. I just wish I hadn't seen them because that's the part I just can't get over. My heart is so broken that I don't know if I will ever be able to put it back together. I am no longer a trusting person no matter what the circumstances are. I just want my life back and I don't know how do achieve that goal. If time heals all wounds, can it also erase these images?

I truly cant imagine what you

I truly cant imagine what you are going through. I have no healing words for you but I just want you to know you didn't deserve to be put in this position. My husband had 2 drunken 1 night stands and I am utterly devastated. I can barely function imagining what went on with those encounters haunts me day and night. 1 woman I have seen and talked to and knowing what she looks like is torture. I pray for your mind, for your heart and for your peace. I wouldn't wish this on anyone

love stories

great article thanks for sharing

Fresh wounds

I just discovered, less than a week ago, that my wife of 20 years had been having a sexual affair for the past 11 months. I am in unimaginable pain, but I truly want to build a better marriage from these current ashes. Thanks for your guiding words to help frame the reality of rebuilding from here. First meeting with the couples therapist tomorrow.

Self healing

Seek healing for yourself. After sweeping my UH’s first affair under the rug 26 years ago and wanting to save the marriage, neither one of us looked at our own health and healing. Now, 26 years later, my UH is a sex addicted person. By not addressing the challenges in our relationship before his first physical affair with his ex wife, I am doing my own healing from this unbelievably selfish and evil life my UH has hidden for so many years. It has taken a polygraph for my UH to possibly finding his bottom? IDK for sure, because I can no longer trust him. This is an excruciatingly difficult journey going forward. There are so many layers of the onion that need to be examined and worked through in healing for yourself. It’s difficult enough working on trusting yourself since your world as you knew it has been shattered. Journey forward.

Being betrayed

This is my second marriage. In the year that I turned 60 on 2 January I found out that my husband had an affair that lasted 1,5 year. This shattered my world. We went through so much to be together. He has always been loving to me, caring and I love this man so much. He said the affair actually lasted 2 months but when he wanted out she started to threaten him to tell me and our children. He tried to pacify her by saying that he wanted to be friends but nothing more as he was not leaving me. It came to D day and four days later my son got married. I had a friend over from Namibia and my sister and her husband and I tried to act normal but a week after D-day I had to go to hospital with a blood clot and skin allergy which was just from the stress. My husband is doing everything to win me back and I have forgiven him and do not want to live without him. We follow the AR videos on internet and that helped us so much. I believe we are going to come out better than ever. I do, however, want to say that, although we always were Christians, we did not go to church except for Easter and Christmas. We did not give God enough time. We have changed that and I believe that saved us as well. Without God's love and forgiveness we can not do this alone. We still need to go to the memory of D day and I pray we will be able to do this with not too much pain again. I have never felt this pain and do not want this to define the rest of my life. Also I will not let that other woman win. She knew he was married and thought she could steal him. She did not succeed. So just to say from our side today we are winning and that should hopefully give others hope as well. As long as you still love each other and both want to work on the healing, it is worthwhile.

Long term infidelity that's not over

My wife recently revealed that she has had an ongoing affair with a mutual friend of ours for over three and a half years. She won't agree to completely cut off communication with him, so I really don't know what our hope is for recovering and reconciling. At this point, I'm just trying to understand how to heal for myself and what possible options are available to me.

Feeling lost

Hi I just recently discovered my spouse cheated on me. i discovered a conversation with her and another man . I did not know how to confront her. So I tried dealing with it myself so I can feel prepared to talk about it with her. The next day I found an ongoing conversation with the person. She was lying about the time she got off work so she can get up with him. I saw the conversation going on , and tried to make plans with her so she wouldn't meet with him. But she continued with the lie. I confronted her that i knew what she was planning and i packed all my things and left. I left my job and everything behind because I don't know what would I do if I saw her. I need help please. i don't know what to do anymore!!!

Time healing pain

I have been married to my wife for 32 years. 31 years and 9 months I have suffered in emotional and physical pain due to her betrayals. She will not talk to me about them, yet wants me to forgive and move on. The betrayals began after the first 3 months of our marriage, then the second, 26 yrs later. Three months ago I found out the second one was still going on after she promised on two different occasions
to stop. I caught her texting to him under the covers while in bed next to me at 2 am. This relationship has been going on now over six years. The extreme trauma, the pain and the anger from the first time I had found out, have have now overtaken me. I'm in a panicking mode. My wounds have never healed. They where just laying partially dormant, but always there.
My wife does not want to hear about the pain, she shows me no empathy, even when she has seen me breakdown. She does not want to discuss her affair and in marriage counseling denies it. I am tired of living with this pain. Our five children have grown and moved out to have families and make their way in the world. I just recently found affair recovery. I have signed up for the bootcamp. I need to find a way to heal. I'm 56 years old. I still love my wife, but I can't live the rest of my life hurting. I have contacted a divorce attorney. At the same time I will be inviting her to take the bootcamp with me. I want her to work with me to heal and create something better.
No, time in itself does not heal the wounds of infedility. It is what is done within the time.

time healing pain

I understand where you are coming from. I caught my husband 2 years ago. on 8 different occasions I caught him again and he would swear it was over between them and just us. It never was until I reached out to the women he was having an affair with and we started talking. She had no idea he was married. He never wore his ring, he told her we were separated. Once she knew for sure everything she was told was a lie she dumped him. By this point I had already filed for divorce because I did not see that anything was going to change and I could not cont. to live like that. I was setting bad example for my boy and I was miserable. Now he says he want to fix us, but does not want to talk about the past does not want to say too much of anything except lets move forward. He wont do counseling and says he doesn't need to do anything I do. I was am stuck. I am putting a lot of faith in affair recovery because I have to heal no matter what he does.

does tiime heal all wounds

I can totally relate to how focusing on my pain has held me back from healing. I just want answers: why, how long, other than the 2 I know about how many others? When caught 1, 2 5, 8th time why did you never stop see her but you now want to focus on us? I an confused and frustrated. I just want to get past this but having trouble without answers and truth.

Why don't I see many Women Cheaters

I am a WW - it's not just men. I thought Time would Heal - not true and that the A should never be talked about in all it's bad details. Again not correct. Coming clean and addressing the issues that I lied to myself (& him) about were so important to admit to myself. Then supporting my BH became more and more possible. Yes you need time but the work cannot be ignored.

Time by itself doesn't heal all wounds

I just second everything Rick has said here. My wife was silent. I denied my pain. Only after years, many years, did I allow the pain to surface. Then I challenged myself to express the pain, in all its detail, and challenged my wife to full disclosure, apology, empathy & repair. As Rick suggests, untended wounds get worse, not better, over time. We're in a much better place now.

Dear Guy in Pain

I am the unfaithful spouse, I feel pain everyday still. I am afraid to bring it up to my husband because he gets angry when I bring it up. It's only okay to talk about it if he wants too. He seems to be doing well (a year out). He isn't really doing much recovery work. What do I do about this? I don't know what to do with my pain. I also, don't want him to hurt alone if he is still hurting. You said, you just denied the pain. Do you think he is doing the same thing. I can't make him do recovery work but I do want him to heal. I need serous hope. How do people live through this? How do people LOVE through this? I am so broken.

Is this what I've been doing?

First of all... Wayne - Thank you for these videos. They are immensely helpful.

I am 15 months out from our initial D-day and had another one to a lesser extent about 6 weeks ago (a discovery of pornography use). In your video you said, "The betrayed spouse first said that she wished she'd realized the affair was not about her. She said had she known this, it would've allowed her to focus on real issues rather than trying to change in order to control her mate's choices. If she didn't cause it, then she had very little leverage to control the outcome."

Maybe I am still struggling with this and maybe not. I'm not sure. I understand that I didn't cause my husband to cheat. However, from the beginning, I have been convicted of my own failings as a wife. I have worked very hard over the last 15 months to change myself; to be the woman and wife God wants me to be. I hope it has not been as a means to control my husband but I'm sure there is an aspect of that in there if I am honest. I struggle with the idea that if I had been a better wife, this would not have happened. Isn't there a possibility that this is true? On the flip side, I have grown and changed a lot in the last year. I have worked hard on this recovery. When I found out that my husband had been lying to me throughout this recovery about pornography use, I did not react in the same way, knowing that I had been honestly doing my best to be the wife I should have been all along. Because of that, I was able to stand up for myself and insist that he really start working on his personal recovery. Prior to this, he was only willing to work on the marriage and would not do any personal work.

In many ways, I feel stronger and somewhat healed (although not completely). With this new discovery, I feel a new fear. I have released myself from the guilt I felt about my behavior during our marriage. With that release, I also feel free to walk away if he continues to lie to me about his recovery. This is not what I want. But I also don't want to stay in a marriage with someone who has been able to lie to me so easily if he is going to continue to lie and fake recovery. My fear is that I will uncover one more lie. There is no doubt now that he understands how important honesty is to me and to the continuation of our marriage. One more lie would mean the end. Is this what you mean when you said that I have very little leverage to control the outcome?

I too have struggled with

I too have struggled with similar issues. I have not been a very present or loving spouse for several years, I was simply existing alongside my husband and only loving him in ways that were comfortable to me; I ignored his love language which was affirmation and physical touch (especially the physical part). I freely admit the part I played in our marriage failure, reminding myself that the choice to cheat was his choice, not mine. It’s helped me to think that 1/3 of the problem was with me and the other 2/3 with him (childhood trauma, huge holes looking to be filled, falling away from his faith, etc). My counselor told me something that has helped me process this so well. He reminded me that no, I have no control over my husband’s choices, but I DO have something else that’s more important! I have INFLUENCE. The grace I show helps him heal from his shame, the love I’m teaching myself to extend gives him hope for a better marriage in the future, my forgiveness frees him to choose more wisely. As his wife, and as we become more closely knit and intimate, I have great influence over his decision-making. It’s good for me to not think of myself as a controlling wife, but as a “woman of influence”.

time heals all wounds

I have now been in this place of back and forth attempting healing and when that gets too hard or painful, back to denial for almost 15 months. Not complete denial but it is clear my spouse wants to just move on and put this behind us. However, I still think about it. Daily. Sometimes hourly. Sometimes minute to minute. Well, in fact it is never really gone. There are days that are better than others, but if that grocery store errand he went on runs longer than I feel it should....off go all of my anxiety alarms. I'm so angry this is part of my life now. I beat myself up for why couldn't I just walk away. Then he is kind, generous and seems sorry for what happened. The thing people don't see in all of us that have been cheated on is the long term trauma and wounds. The actually turning of our worlds from right side up to upside down. We can't catch our balance. Someone wrote exactly what I've been feeling. It's no better with or without him because I now have that pain engraved inside of me. yes, I'm sure it will lessen,with time and counseling, but for those that cheat, it never will ever really end for us - being betrayed is incredibly painful. Yes, they want forgiveness, and I believe that is the way as well, but how to overcome the over-riding feelings on those bad days when you feel like someone has taken your soul and crushed it. Our physical life is absolutely awful as each time we begin to get intimate, I have major feelings of anger. Frustration at myself. Triggers abound. So instead of healing the physical chasm, we just stay apart because it is actually painful for both of us. I did go through Harboring Hope because honestly I needed strength to leave. Then I didn't leave. The worst part: he is not an outwardly bad guy, and actually never treated me badly. Instead we have become more of a "team" (this sounds positive but maybe I should rephrase and say "room mate"). This gives me anxiety even more because there were no signs. There was only a "by chance" reason that I found out, and I was absolutely, utterly stunned. Deer in headlights stunned. God put a buffer around me for a few weeks. I felt like I could overcome the situation. I felt like I almost was not in my body. I went to work and performed like a champ. I kept saying "thank you God for keeping me strong"....and then I fell apart about 3 months later. Time is not on all of our sides. I'm older, and like people on this feed have said, we feel like a thief came in and stole a big chunk of our valuable life. AR has been my lifeline for many months. Now I know I have to be brave enough to go even deeper to either heal or leave. This limbo stuff is extremely unhealthy.

So long ago...still hurts

My wife and I are almost 60. Just before our 2nd anniversary (May 1983) my wife left me for just over 2 months. During this time she has sex with 4 different men. One she met at work and actually dated a time or two (or 3?). The other 3 were a result of "going drinking" with friends at a bar, dance place. She said the last one she just can't remember if she did or not. 3 of these were admitted to me after we decided to get back together. The 1st she told me while we were apart - told me in such a mean, hurtful way.

So this was 38 years ago. We've had 5 children together and are deeply in love, more so than ever. She has apologized for ever hurting me and I have apologized for being a jerk. I told her that I have a lot of questions that I DON'T want the answers to because I may not like the answers. I don't want to dwell on details.

Aside from the initial shock, I haven't really dwelled on it for 37 years. Sure, thought about it from time to time, but that was about it. Suddenly in the last year I have started to dwell...ruminate on her affairs. Picturing her in my mind doing it, how she felt, what the other guys were thinking, does she ever think about them, and stupid- but do they remember their time with her, asking questions (to myself, and I don't want answers. Too painful).

So what I'm wondering is why, after all this time does it hurt more now than it ever has? Why do I find myself dwelling on this almost every day - some days worse than others.

I know she has been faithful since then. She is the only woman I have ever been with. I know we are deeply in love, more now than ever. But suddenly...it hurts.

Is this because of the lockdowns? I know people are depressed. Is this fertile ground for old emotions to grow?

My wife knows that I think about what happened a lot, but doesn't know the depth of the pain. And I don't want to share it because I don't want to hurt her, don't want her to think I haven't forgiven her, and heaven's sake don't want her to start thinking about it if she isn't.



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