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

Healing After an Affair: How do I Address Unmanageability?

Recently, I was talking with a client about the concept of powerlessness. In most 12 step recovery programs, the first step is to acknowledge we are powerless and our lives are unmanageable. Something I find to be an excellent antidote to powerlessness and unmanageability is acceptance. I also find acceptance to be a crucial part of healing after an affair:

  • acceptance of my circumstances,
  • acceptance that my best efforts have brought me to this place,
  • acceptance of my inability to affect change in myself as well as others, and
  • acceptance of who and what I really am.

Acceptance is the beginning of hope. Until we can accept that as truth, we are powerless. We will be destined to continue longing for change in areas we’ve never successfully managed to change. Rather than accept our own powerlessness and move on to a new, better approach, we continue to live with the problem and all the hardship that comes with it. I cannot emphasize this enough. Our powerlessness is not an excuse. It's the denial of that reality that keeps us in a cycle of perpetual failure.

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After we come to a place of accepting our powerlessness, it's not uncommon for those in difficult circumstances to cry out to God for help. We want to be delivered from our hell-on-earth circumstances that have most often been created by our own choices, often over the course of many years. For the hurt spouse, a sense of hopelessness can set in. They may ask, "If it's not about me, and if I can't affect change in my mate, then how can I ever be safe, and how can I ever trust again?" For the unfaithful mate, despair also reigns supreme. They may tell themselves, "If I can't stop, and if I'm truly powerless in the face of my behavior, then it's only a matter of time until life as I know it comes to a screaming halt." What should you do? Is healing after an affair impossible?

If you find that your best efforts at stopping hurtful or self-destructive behaviors (even, perhaps, after a significant amount of therapy or self-help) have resulted in a continued pattern of more of the same, then I'd invite you to consider the possibility that maybe your life as you currently know it is unmanageable. Unmanageability is not a concept about a single pattern of self-defeating behavior; rather, it is a concept that addresses every aspect of one's life. As human beings, our primary problem is pride. We believe that we can do it, or, at least, that we ought to be able to get it right and our mate certainly ought to be able to get it right. My pride makes me believe that there has to be something that I'm good at and something I can overcome when, in reality, I'm just living in a world of denial, believing that my mate and I have all we need within ourselves to overcome life's obstacles.

Once you identify the problem as unmanageability, the antidote will be (and always has been) unconditional surrender – acknowledging you are alone powerless to change it. If we are unable to see and acknowledge the unmanageability of our circumstance, then we will never be willing to consider the possibility that there really is a "higher power" that may be bigger than us.

If I accept my powerlessness over my behavior and circumstances and my own inability to manage my life or my mate's life, then there had better be a God who is bigger than me or else I'm up the proverbial creek without a paddle. If I'm left to my own ability and I've never gotten it right, what makes me think that I'm going to improve sometime in the future? I'm only fooling myself if I think I can change on my own or that my mate can change on their own.

Healing after an affair is much more tangible once we realize this, as it creates space to reach out and get the help we need from qualified professionals with personal experience in helping those with this type of trauma.

The reason for continued relapse always comes down to an inability to surrender. We will never be willing to do whatever it takes to recover if we believe that our latest effort or a fresh understanding of our motives will somehow propel us to a new way of acting and relating. It may, for a short season, result in temporary change, but even that change only reinforces the lies that we can change, that we can do it, and that we don't have to fully surrender. I believe that if we honestly review the course of our life, that we will notice a perpetual pattern of failing to get it right. The crazy thing is, we address healing after an affair very similarly to this. We will always be able to find an excuse as to why the latest attempt to get it right failed. Sadly, that excuse will usually fall at the feet of a family member or a loved one, but, in the long run, the only common denominator is you. But it doesn't have to remain that way. The inability to accept the unmanageability of our life only postpones what we need most, which is absolute surrender to a loving God who can do that which we have never, or will never, be able to do. . . CHANGE.

Healing after an affair is possible. Our research shows that 85% of couples who have attended the EMS Weekend retreat or completed the EMS Online course report report saving their marriage at the one-year point after participation. We can at least show you the way to help put your life back together, maybe even in a way you never thought possible. If you are the betrayed spouse, I recommend taking the Harboring Hope online course. It's a 13-week course designed just for you and is filled with expert guidance and a supportive community.

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Designed specifically for wayward spouses, Hope for Healing is a supportive, nonjudgmental environment for you to heal and develop empathy. Over the years, this 17-week, small group course has helped thousands of people find hope, set healthy boundaries and move toward extraordinary lives.

"I just finished Hope for Healing and am proud of the changes that I already feel in myself and my marriage. I found Affair Recovery when I was at the darkest point in my life, and this course has helped me to get myself on a true path to recovery." - S., Alabama | November 2020 Hope for Healing participant.

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Unfortunately, although this article relates a vital truth, my unfaithful husband continues to use his dependence on God as an excuse to not face his ongoing denial of need for help. We continue to have communication issues. He calls me angry but fails to change what I am angry about (his failure to maintain regular counseling, and a host of ignoring important matters in our household, and horrible name-calling when HE is angry)! Leaning on God is a vital step... But it is not the last or single one. Action towards reconciliation - as if the life of your children depended on it is.

Seeing people reconcile and

Seeing people reconcile and have better marriages AFTER an affair, how can you not believe in God? Not only God, but a God of Grace and Forgiveness. I am only making it through this pain because of my relationship with Christ. I don't see how people get through this without a personal relationship with Christ.


I had to read the video because I watched it twice and was lost. I agree with the turning everything over to God for healing.

Finding out about affair after husband’s passing

My case is very unique, I hope someone can help me! 53 years ago, I was 25 years old, we had three children ages, 2, 3 and 4 years old. Married only 5 years. We all went to Miami, Fla for a week vacation. He was a smoker and once we were settled in our rooms getting ready for bed, of course it was early, kids tired, etc, he asked to go down to bar for a drink and a smoke. I of course said yes, he did this most times we went away. Never stayed out longer than an hour. He came back in an hour. Next day he brings us out to a walkway with benches on it. Me and the kids sit on one bench he on another, him alone, him to the right of me and set back. I cannot see him if I glance to my right, have to kinda of turn half around to see him. Did not know why he brought us there to just sit. After a short while, a girl comes by walking her dog, has to pass me first. I look at her and the first thing I said to myself was, “why is she looking at my husband like that?” It was a look of recognition and happiness. Do not know what or how they communicated, could not turn around to see, kids hanging all over me. That night, around 9pm he asks to go for a smoke and drink again, I of course say yes. Only this time he does not return for six hours. Left me and the kids for six hours, never gave a thought or concern for us to see if we were ok. I never confronted him about this, I never remembered it again and it never came to me in all these years. About three months after he passed away in Dec of 2021, it came back to me like it happened yesterday. My husband had dementia for 14 years. In 2017 I took a video of his behavior toward me, to show the dr. if it became necessary, I never paid attention to what he was saying to me. Well, after the Fla. incident came back to me, I was cleaning out my photos on my iPad and came across the video, this time I listened, and in that video, he is saying, “so what if I did that with that girl, it means nothing, when we were down there, a guy came out, a girl came out, and another girl,so what, I stayed didn’t I, I did not go anywhere”. Then in his rant he of course turned it on me asking what did I do. Due to his wordage I believe there was another couple involved that night, it was a foursome. The hardest thing I was/am so destroyed by was his placing us on that bench, not sitting with us, knowing she would be coming by. He used me and my children to set up his betrayal to me. I went to a therapist who said, “it happened so long ago was probably not remembering it correctly”. I remember it like it happened an hour ago, down to what I was wearing and what she was wearing and what the dog looked like. I went to a physic, I was desperate and so broken, you have no idea. She was highly recommended, I at first asked questions that only he knew the answer to to be sure of her, she came back with the right answers. I did not tell her about his sitting us on that bench. He stated it to her that it was the wrong thing to do. He said it was four of them that night, and the ultimate is he confessed with seeing her twice a week for at least six months after that time in February. I am so destroyed I cannot tell you. I cannot think of the good times we had in our marriage, the fun things we did, trips we took. I can only think of his putting us on that bench to use me to set up my own betrayal by him. I was only 25, in my prime, only married five years, gave him three beautiful children, and this is what he did to me. Why now, why now did it come back to me when he is no longer here for me to confront him. I do believe that God did not want me to remember this because I know, without a doubt I would have left him in a second, I would not have wanted to ever to with him ever again, I know this, I know me, and God knew this also and did not want us to have the life we would of had. Help.

So sorry

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It must be incredibly difficult for you especially since he is no longer here and can’t try to apologize or make amends in any way. Now you feel like your entire life with him as been soiled and turned upside down with no way of making it right. I think it comes down to your willingness and desire to heal without his help. I know when I came to the realization that I’d be ok with or without my husband is when I truly began to heal (he had at least two affairs, one physical, one emotional plus inappropriate messaging with a coworker and a one night stand years ago.) I have the benefit of a truly remorseful husband who I can see the tangible ways of change and we’re still together years on. The benefit for you is you can focus on you and your healing without worrying about him, his behavior or if he’s sorry or not. You can work on your own healing. Your pain is no less valid just because he isn’t here or because it was so long ago. Grieving for the marriage you thought you had the pain you now have is vital. I pray for healing and comfort to surround and embody you.

Boot camp

He goes through the motions of listening to the video, however doesn't do the work. Gives trickle of information. Even as the mentor specific is not do this, to give truths to prevent more pain, he fails to do so. He then skips over uncomfortable parts and addresses what's comfortable for him.
Not a good start. And he wants to attend an EMS weekend, why?

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