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

Healing After the Affair: Whether to get help?

What Is Decision Paralysis?

Have you decided to make the life you currently have better? Or do you, like many others, feel paralyzed and unable to take the next step? If you feel as though you're stuck, due to being unsure of what direction you should take or who you should seek help from, we understand.

The Least Productive Decision

A number of people in our recent survey identified not getting help as the least productive thing they did after discovery of an affair. But what stopped them from getting the help they needed? Doctors report that telling someone they are going to have a heart attack rarely effects a change in lifestyle. Generally that individual will wait until they've actually had the heart attack to implement change.

According to research conducted by John Gottman, most couples wait, on average, six years before seeking marriage counseling. Are we simply unaware that we need to get help?

I don't believe that's the answer.

I think a possible explanation might be what psychologists refer to as "decision paralysis".

Too Much Complexity Hurts

Making a decision between one unknown and another can leave us stuck. In fact, people tend to be driven to irrational decisions because of too much complexity.

Two psychologists, Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir, conducted research revealing that the mere existence of uncertainty altered how people made decisions, even when they knew the desired outcome. For instance, imagine that you're in college and you've just completed an important final exam a couple of weeks before the Christmas holidays.

You have to wait two days to get the exam results back. Meanwhile, you see an opportunity to purchase a vacation to Hawaii during the holidays at a bargain–basement price. Here are your three options: You can buy the vacation today, pass on it today, or pay a five dollar fee to lock in the price for two days allowing you to make your decision after you got your grades. What would you do? Like the students who faced this choice in the experiment, you may feel some desire to know the outcome of your exam before you decide. So Tversky and Shafir simply removed this uncertainty for two groups of participants. These groups were told up front how they did on the exam. Some students were told that they had passed the exam, and 57% of them chose to go on the trip (after all, it makes for good celebration). Other students were told that failed the exam, and 54% of them chose to go on the trip (after all, it makes for good recuperation). The majority of those who passed and those who failed wanted to go to Hawaii.

But here's the twist: the group of students who didn't know the final exam results behaved completely differently. The majority of them (61%) paid five dollars to wait for two days. Think about that! If you pass, you want to go to Hawaii. If you fail, you want to go to Hawaii. But if you don't know whether you passed or failed, you'd wait and see? This doesn't seem logical. The majority of students were going to take the trip regardless of whether they passed or failed, but they wanted to know the outcome before they made the decision, even though they already knew the decision they would make regardless of the outcome.1

Is The Marriage Going To Make It?

The same dilemma exists for those hurt by infidelity: you don't know whether the marriage will succeed or fail (whether or not you'll pass the exam) but I bet you want a better life. If that's the case, why do we choose to wait to see what's going to happen before we take the necessary steps to heal from infidelity?

How does that make sense?

You might be thinking, "But Rick, I don't know whether or not I even want the marriage" and you're right, you don't know. But you do know that you want something better than what you have right now and doing nothing does nothing to get you out of your current frustration and overall situation.

You don't have to know the outcome before you make the decision to choose life after infidelity.

If you feel stuck I encourage you to take action. I recently spoke with a woman at EMS Weekend who had done nothing for her own recovery since discovery of the affair two and a half years prior. Although she had gone to marriage counseling, she postponed personal recovery work while she waited to see how the marriage would settle. She was frustrated and felt abandoned by her spouse. She knew she wanted new life but felt perpetually on hold. Thankfully she decided to take action at our weekend intensive. Even though she couldn’t be sure of the outcome, she moved forward and has experienced healing, restoration and overall understanding of her own recovery.

Each one of us can do the same. Our own life is always worth our recovery efforts.

Don't wait to decide what you're going to do about the marriage. Get help now from others who can provide positive support and expert therapists who can help lead you on this journey. Sign up for one of our EMS Weekends to jumpstart your healing, new life, and direction.

  1. Adapted from Made to Stick, by Chip Heath, 2007

Sections: 

RL_Category: 

RL_Media Type: 

AA Codes: 

Add New Comment:

Comments

I've done everything I could...he has not.

I've done Harboring Hope; I sought individual counseling from a therapist and worked with her for a year. I extended grace to my husband and what I have received in return is lie, upon lie, upon lie. He withholds info from our therapist saying he wanted to improve communication. When asked if there was infidelity he said he believed that is not important. He cannot stop contacting his affair partner. So here we are a year after reconciling and last night was another bombshell of him contacting her to talk to her about how he is feeling. In the last 6 months he has given her my phone number, my email address and continues to contact her even though I told him it would be an extreme violation of trust. He doesn't get it and says he's not cheating on me. At some point I need to make a very hard decision. I'm there.

Decisions

@marge, I’m so sorry to hear about your pain and frustrations. I am 7 months since D-day today. For the first time since this process I actually forgot it was even another month since then.

One thing I know my therapist has always empazised with me when my spouse was lying repeatedly and contacting the affair person was this, at some point, I am going to have to make the best decision for myself in that situation. At some point when I see that I’ve tried and that my spouse still hasn’t, I’m going to have to love myself more and give myself better no matter how hard it is. That’s what she told me, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s torment when they lie and hinder the process. To me it felt like I was reinjured and retraumatized with every new revelation and every lie.

Regarding this article, @affair recovery, I guess my only thing is...I haven’t decided between reconciliation or separation. Instead I’ve worked on self love, self empowerment, and accepting that this has happened. I’m working toward forgiveness but not “for the sake of reconciliation”...I’m working toward forgiveness for the sake of myself.

I do feel stuck, but not in the sense of healing. I feel more so stuck in the sense of committing to reconcile or walk away...

Is this article/video more based toward self healing? Or does it apply to making a decision to stay or go?

I loved the metaphor used with the college students. It made a great point. If I’m completely honest with myself I’d say that it’s fear, and feeling like I’ll trap myself in that relationship again that’s holding me back. I felt relieved on D-day. It was as though I was freed from one torture and thrown directly into a completely different torture. So that’s where the “trapped” feelings come from. Because I already felt trapped in that relationship even before this. I was giving so much and was drained and confused at my misery.

How do you really know if you want to reconcile or walk away?
Sometimes I feel very strongly in both directions.

I’m happy to report though that I do feel confident now that I can be alone and won’t be keeping the relationship out of “need”. Need to not be alone.

I’d be emotionally ok by myself. Something I could never say before.

Being Stuck.....

It’s been almost 5 years since D-day and I know to well the feeling of being stuck. We did marriage counseling right after discovery and continued for 4 years. I’m not saying it didn’t help but to this day I still question my decision on staying. My immediate thought was I was leaving and our counselor ask me to hold off on that decision for 6 months. I did and I choose to stay but I continue to question that choice. I’ve heard and read the many testimonies of how your marriage can actually be better. I’m not 100% sure about that? My marriage is different in many ways. My spouse has mentioned that I don’t do the things I use to do. I never really thought about it but she’s right. I don’t do a lot of the small things that I use to do and enjoyed doing them. I think being stuck is a position that a lot of betrayed spouses end up in.

Agree

I agree with you both. An affair is like a physical injury that you never get over. One moves forward, sideways and backwards but one is constantly reminded of the pain. I feel like I have forgiven my husband but with the forgiveness comes even more questions. Now that the anger and emotions have settled, I am left with the over whelming thoughts of disappointment and sadness. I wish I had left on DDay but for some reason I did not. I can only assume I am a weak person at this point. I am totally stuck in quicksand.

Undecided (always)

I totally understand what everyone is going through and I come to one decision one day, but the next I think I’m doing the wrong thing by staying.. My husband was a stranger to me for over 35 years but he acted like an innocent man..

There were so many things that I didn’t know about him, and just found out one day on accident (3 years ago).. Porn, Strip clubs, one night stands, affair/s... Still unsure because he has constantly changed his story. About 4 years ago, he told me to have an affair and that’s before I knew anything about his behavior .. It really bothers me with so much more than I can ever imagine.. Why would somebody who says they love you, tell you something like that (if anyone knows, please tell me?)...

He spent many nights running to bars and then lying afterwards about what he did.. He don’t drink anymore but now he is almost 63 years old and I’m sure it doesn’t come easily now (women) if he did go out. I just don’t think I could ever trust his heart with mine and it gets worse every day as I come to realize he basically looked at me as more of a placeholder if he couldn’t some day eventually replace me entirely..

I also wish that I never let him come back home after I made him leave the 1st time.. After all he still works in an area of town where there are multiple strip clubs, and he could have changed routes so many times in 3 years, but chose not to... (courier).. I just can’t get better and I’ve become a total hermit and just can’t leave the house anymore.. Will someone with knowledge of affairs help me understand why or what it means when your long time husband (father of 7) would tell me to have an affair? I thought it very bazaar...

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer