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

Hope For Healing Excerpt: How Does The Unfaithful Make Amends?

Hope for Healing registration opens today at Noon CT.

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. Click the button below to find out more.

Register For Hope For Healing!

How do you communicate to someone that you're sorry you've done something that has forever altered his or her life? The following is adapted from our Hope for Healing course for unfaithful spouses.

In my own recovery, one of the most frustrating aspects of communication with my wife was her unwillingness to accept my apologies. Time and time again I would express remorse over what I'd done. But each time I'd tell her I was sorry, she'd usually respond in one of four ways:

  1. "You're sorry alright."
  2. "You're just sorry you got caught."
  3. "You're just sorry that I'm mad."
  4. "You're just sorry about what this is going to cost you."

I felt insulted.

Couldn't she see my heart?

Didn't she know how sincere I was?

One thing is for certain, I'm a slow learner. It took me years to figure out that saying I was sorry as a way of making amends didn't work and was never going to work.

How does the unfaithful spouse communicate their sincere remorse over the pain they have caused and help move things toward healing?

The root of this issue is found in our desire for connection.

Medical science describes this "need for connection" through what is known as Attachment Theory.

Detachment Dilutes Empathy

From the perspective of this theory, we are hard wired for connection. It helps explain why an eighteen-month-old goes into primal panic when their parent leaves the room or why adults begin to flood emotionally when their mate uses "that tone of voice." Oneness is another word for being connected, attached, or as we put it, married. This need for attachment is woven into the very fabric of our DNA. Connection is as important to us as air and water, which explains why solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments given to humans.

Without attachment, we eventually go insane and die. It is the intensity of this need that drives our desire for meaningful relationships. It is also the essence of romance. The loss of that connection leaves us gasping for relational air. This theory plays out every time a toddler begins to panic when their parents walk out of the room. Psychologists have labeled this reaction as attachment distress.

We adults are no different. We long to know that we matter to our mate and that they are there for us. Something as simple as a tone of voice or the rolling of their eyes can trigger that same flood of emotion experienced by the toddler. Disconnection from those most important to us knocks the relational air right out of us. At that moment, we all experience that need for connection, but rarely does it feel safe to reengage with the one who knocked the wind out of us.

A Protocol For Reconnection and Remorse

I remember an incident in high school where my little brother slugged me in the solar plexus, effectively knocking what seemed to be every molecule of air out of my lungs. As I lay on the floor, straining to get my first breath, I remember him laughing in triumph because he had finally laid out his big brother. His laughter stopped, however, as I coaxed air back in my lungs.

He began running for his life, locking himself in the bedroom. I'm not proud of my response, but in a fit of rage, I put my fist right through his door. I do wish that I could have seen the look on his face as he saw my fist come through the door, but I guess that is his portion of the story to tell.

While that incident may sound extreme, it is nothing compared to what I've witnessed couples doing when one of them felt disregarded, discarded, or disrespected by their mate. The impact of infidelity is particularly brutal. Similar to the incident with my brother, the person who's betrayed frequently finds themselves stunned, gasping for air, and unwilling to trust the person who just devastated their life. At that moment of detachment, it's as if we can no longer feel our existence in our mate's mind. It takes a significant amount of assurance before most people will feel safe enough to once again let their mate back in. To regain a sense that they matter requires you to reconnect through feelings.

To feel safe enough to reengage, your betrayed spouse must feel a synchronization of emotions between the two of you, as well as a sense of grief from you for the pain you inflicted. Your spouse needs to know you understand the nature of that pain, and they need to know that you are committed to making sure it never happens again. Betrayed spouses may in fact retaliate in kind so you can feel what they're feeling.

Betrayed spouses may get desperate, begging you not to leave them. Or they could get so depressed that they can no longer function. Maybe they go into savior mode trying to guard their family. Regardless of their response, they all need the same thing. They need to know that they matter to you, that you are grieved over what you've done to them, and that you care and are committed to making sure this never happens again.

The following is a simple tool for reconnection with your mate. If you're willing to place yourself in your mate's shoes, this simple process can truly help facilitate a new sense of connection between you and your mate.

The following is an example of how to use the H.U.R.T technique.


Tell the other person what you did to hurt them. (Don't explain why you did it or what your intention was. This isn't about you.) For example: On December 18 – January 15, 2023, I was unfaithful to you. I had an affair with another woman. I shared intimate details about myself with this other woman. I also shared my emotions, body, and time with her. I chose to share these things with her for this time instead of sharing them with you. I abandoned you, your love, and my commitment to you. I spoke only anger towards you when I chose to talk to you. I did not tell you I loved you. I made plans to leave you without your knowing. I blamed you for the way I was feeling. On January 6, I deceived you by lying and having my affair partner lie to you. I chose to live the secret of my affair instead of ending it. At the end of January, the truth started coming out, but it took me three months to do it. I controlled the flow of information because I was ashamed. I did not want to admit these things to you because I did not want to hurt you. I lied again and again to make myself look better, how ridiculous! You believed me and I shattered your trust. I betrayed you and I shattered your heart.


Tell them how you think it made them feel and then legitimize their feelings. For example: You must be feeling disgusted, worthless, unimportant, unloved, distraught, ruined, embarrassed, humiliated, inadequate, scared, confused, angry, devastated, worried, ashamed, alone, dismissed, undesired, uncertain, unappreciated, foolish, insecure, numb, betrayed, miserable, untrusting, disrespected, destroyed, dirty, unwanted, and hurt. You have every right to feel this way and more. I know I would; I would be worse.


Express remorse for your actions and how it makes you feel about yourself. For example: There are not enough words to describe the remorse, sadness, and emptiness I feel for treating you in such a cruel and undeserving manner. I was wrong to do the things I did. Regardless of what I've said, you've done nothing to deserve this. I feel ashamed, dirty, unworthy, hurt, untrustworthy, disgusted, angry, disappointed, sickened, empty, and lifeless for treating you and our love like it was meaningless.

Telling your mate how you feel about yourself as a result of your actions is the step that provides significance to your words. Simply saying I was sorry in no way reflected grief over what I had done to my wife. However, if my actions and words reveal that I'm not only taking responsibility for my hurtful actions, but that I'm also upset with myself for having wounded her, then she can sense that I feel as strongly about what has happened to her as she does and her need to get me to understand is eliminated.


Tell them you know this may take time and they can take the time they need to heal. Also, you can request that they give you time to address your issues so you can avoid doing this again. For example: I will be patient for as long as it takes you to heal. I will be here to do anything I can to help you regain ground towards a great future. I will also be working on myself so I can grow and be aware of my vulnerabilities. I pray that one day you will be able to forgive me for committing this wrong.

Hope for Healing is a safe place to heal for the unfaithful. Without shaming or condemnation, Hope for Healing provides insight on how to find and display empathy and humility, while gaining a deeper understanding of how you've found yourself in this place as an unfaithful spouse. We invite you to join us.

Hope for Healing registration opens today at Noon CT! Space Is Limited!

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.

"The sooner after D-Day you can become involved in Affair Recovery, the better. I went from not being welcome in my own home to sharing a bed with my wife once again - much sooner than I expected. EMS Online helped us to communicate effectively, and Hope for Healing really helped me understand the issues I have with myself. Meeting strangers that are in the exact same situation as you is so helpful. They become your friends and confidants." - E., Pennsylvania | April 2021 HFH Participant

Spaces fill up quickly for this course. Click the button below to learn more about Hope for Healing and to claim your spot.

Register For Hope For Healing!



RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:


As the betryaed

It is very hard to read articles about what the spouse who committed the infidelity should do for the betrayed -- or how they should act.

My wife said she became disappointed with me and started to disconnect from our 21 years of marriage about 5 years or so ago. Then, when she was at her lowest and so was I (due to employment and financial circumstances that overwhelmed me during a 4-year stretch), she started going deeper with God. Unfortunately, as a assistant leader in our church's middle/high school youth program, she sought her spiritual guidance from our youth pastor, which led to a nearly 2-year emotional affair that she admitted was her only source of pleasure during our storms of life.

So when I finally exposed this to our head pastor, I thought that my wife would try to make amends. And while she has said she is sorry and has stayed with our marriage as we go to counseling both individually and together, I still have a very tough time with her being understanding and empathetic and truly trying to reconnect.

She has told me from the onset that she is "trying" to fall in love with me again. I understand I was a horrible and angry person during the years of financial and employment trials and that we were having a tough time communicating, but I was not the one who disconnected and strayed from the relationship and chose not to be in love anymore. I remained faithful and committed to my marriage while she made the choice to no longer love me, respect me or cherish me in our marriage covenant.

So now it is incredibly hard to want her to make that choice to love me again. She doesn't want to hold hands, she doesn't want to sit next to me on the couch, she doesn't want me to hug her (she has been willing to be sexually intimate) and she doesn't even want to pray together. She fears that I will resort into my old self that was angry at God (it has taken the last 2-plus years in counseling to get past my fears and to make God my No. 1 in life and not my wife -- which she said smothered her to the point where she felt she had to get away from me during my times of trial).

So now the ball is all in her court even though she is the one who betrayed me. It is very difficult to move on at times and press into the pain of knowing she made the choice to emotionally and spiritually disengage from our marriage. I have forgiven her, but I just hope and pray that one day (it has been 7 1/2 months since disclosure) and she still keeps her distance from me for the most part. And, on top of everything, we have sold our house of 10-plus years and are in the process of trying to move out of state to get away from everything since we both feel uncomfortable staying in the area and since we left our church of 9 years -- that we were so heavily involved in with our 3 children -- since the youth pastor (who has been fired) still attends with his wife and children. So now we are trying to relocate across the country to a place we know absolutely no one -- leaving our family and friends behind -- so we can try and start anew with a fresh slate and prayerfully can heal our marriage and start over.

Praying that some day God can reconcile and redeem this pain and heartache and transform it into something new with Him as the foundation for both of us and that we can some day be a testimony for other struggling couples! That some day my wife will love, respect and cherish me again! That is my prayer!

I am sorry to hear that.

As the unfaithful what you have written helps me to understand the impact of my actions much better. I too did so many things wrong and now almost 2&1/2 years later I'm starting to see the errors of my ways. I really couldn't see my selfishness at the time, I couldn't understand the true impact of my actions, I was mean, defensive, and just down right ugly! It's so hard because now my spouse has pretty much given up. Instead of being completely honest from the beginning, I trickled out truths over 2 years and quite frankly this wore him out. Why couldn't I just be courages and be honest? I know why. Because I was a coward. I only cared about myself and my well-being and I should have been caring about him! Boy did I have it all wrong! I do hope that your spouse sees the light some day! My spouse says it's too late for us but I will spend the rest of my days making amends. I will not give up hope, I will not stop trying, and pray that some day by some miracle things will change. I too hope that the same happens for you! The betrayed are VERY patient people. My husband has shown me nothing but grace and what love really is! He is a person that I can look up to and hope that our children become.

You "strayed", too. Remove the mote from thine own eye

When you say "I understand I was a horrible and angry person during the years of financial and employment trials and that we were having a tough time communicating", you disconnected form her as well.

I did much as you did. Gratefully, My wife didn't stray. However, trying to rebuild connection when I didn't support her financially, emotionally, spiritually, nor intimately, has been extremely difficult. It was worse when I focused on her faults - even though they paled in comparison to mine - rather than manning up, becoming humble, meek, submissive and loving her, even as Christ loves the church.

When I can consistently be the Christian I profess to be, for extended periods of time, rather than the hypocrite that I have been, then and only then does she feel safe enough to connect with me.

I pray the past four years have lead to healing, hope, forgiveness, compassion and a deepening of love one for another, to where you two have cleaved together, one flesh and one heart. I'm not there yet, but I sure pray to be some day. My wife is amazing and I have been a fool to treat her as anything but the queen and beautiful daughter of a loving God that she always has been.

Words are nice but actions matter

Actions count. I did not care much what my wife said to me. When I learned she cheated on me I filed for divorce. She begged me to take her back but I was not impressed until her behavior backed those statements up. That was 7 months ago. We are doing great. But had she not demonstrated her commitment to me and her remorse I would have ended it. We never stopped loving each other. That helped too.

This gives me hope

I betrayed my wife and before that I've always said actions speak louder than words. Our D day was last week and last night was the first time we've had a stable safe time to really speak and I told her everything. And let her know I knew she had a decision before I even came over. But I told her regardless of that I am owning up to my actions and will continue to do so even long after. And I made sure that she knew I would be here for her as well since its important for us both to take action before we can even consider repairing our marriage.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story,
I am in a very similar situation.
It is raw and painful,
Would you mind sharing in more detail what you mean by your wifes actions.
What did she do to demonstrate her devotion?
I am at a loss and desperately want to repair my marriage.
Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you

I want to fix what I have done

My situation is much different as my girlfriend and I were not married. We were in a long distance relationship for three years when I betrayed her with another woman. The affair went on for six months before the one that I betrayed her with disclosed our affair to my girlfriend. The affair was on the outs when the disclosure was made so ending that affair was a non-issue. I have since made a full disclosure to my now ex-girlfriend. I am hopeful for a full recovery but the issues are very complicated. My ex has a love interest that she is unsure how she feels about him. Distance is a issue as we are still 1800 miles away from each other. I am doing my best to make amends and we have both been doing a great deal of reading from various articles that are on this site. We have been to couples counseling twice but the distance makes it hard. I have offered to make the move so that we can be closer but I am in a wait and see as it relates to that. I do love this woman and would like to spend the rest of my life with her. How do I make amends with the distance being a large obstacle?

It's Hard

As an unfaithful, I know that my actions has caused my wife to not only believe my apologies, but to say things to me that hurt as well. I do believe that actions speak louder than words. But it's hard at times. I know the damage I've caused and the hurt I have put my wife through. But I keep telling myself that her anger is from the extreme hurt and disappointment that I have caused. And as long as it takes I will apologize, but most importantly I will show her by my actions. This is a great article, and thank you for writing it. It has helped me.


Rick, I used your recommendation 9 months ago. My wife had left after finding that my addiction to porn was still active. I used the HURT format to draft a letter of remorse to her. I even used some of your verbiage since it seemed to fit our situation well. Over the last few months (we are still separated) the few times we have spoken she has brought up the letter. She says she reads it every two to three weeks to remind her of just how despicable I am as well as for a basis to demand a divorce. I understand that this comes from a place of anger and woundedness, but it really seems to have been counter-productive. Did I miss something?


What you missed is that you wrote the letter in the first place. That technique is about communication and being vulnerable, not to create a living document that she relives every times she reads it.

The process in rebuilding trust is to speak this new truth you are learning about yourself and living that truth through your actions. Trust me when I say I know from experience how hurtful a letter can be.

Amends are about living with what you did and changing your behavior. It comes slowly but as many have said, the betrayed are looking to move forward as long as you put in the work

The missing step: CHANGE!!!

I agree with the steps but #4, Tell Them How You Feel about what you did to them. In my marriage, before & after my husbands adultery, life was all about him . . . And still is. In my marriage, #4 would be another soapbox for my husband to turn it back to himself. When expressing himself in that manner, it was as if he was feeling sorrier for the hurt & trouble his adultery caused him - and tried to convince me that his hurt was greater than mine. Our marriage is still in trouble as he has not CHANGED even after going through 911Marriage. He is "SO SORRY" it happened but not sorry enough to make the necessary changes in himself to make himself and our marriage healthy.


My husband continuously says "I can't believe I've hurt you like this". I am so sorry. It feels so much like a canned answer.
I feel he just doesn't get it.

The unfaithful

As an unfaithful, I'm not sure what to do. We are not married, only been together barely 6 months, and the discovery (and the incident, a one night stand) was less than a month ago, so it's all still very fresh. We are engaged, tho not living together. I'm staying with friends, and he's at his parents house. He says he's forgiven me, tho he's very angry and hurt, which I know is normal. Our sex life is going completely out the window, and no matter what, everything I do seems to backfire on me somehow and I'm always in the won't, even if I'm really not. Is there anything I can do in order to help him thru this? What can I do to reassure him that I would give up my very existence rather than cheat on him again? To reassure him that he is the only one for me?

Amends for the betrayed . . .

We are almost at the end of year 2 on this journey. My spouse of 30+ years has yet to write or say the words of remorse my heart and soul yearns to hear. Counselors (Joint marriage counselors (2), currently looking for a new one) have not been helpful in showing or guiding him on what to say or write that will convey true remorse and/or hold him accountable for his actions. We have signed up for the EMS Seminar. I pray he will find resources/ feelings to share from the seminar that will give me what I need to stay in this marriage. He lacks empathy and remorsefulness. He says/writes the words but there are no feelings of sincerity behind them. Thank you Rick, I am going to share this article with him this weekend in hopes of giving him some guidance and direction. Is it possible to teach someone empathy at 60+ years? In addition he doesn't have a Mentor; he feels he doesn't need one. In one of Samuel's recent video blogs he stresses the need of a Mentor for the unfaithful, statistics have proven this to be valid. Am I asking for too much?

Appropriate Remorse & Written v. Spoken

I love love LOVE this format. Mostly. The only part I struggle hearing is his remorse, and I usually only struggle to hear it if it's a pretty moderate to severe hurt (like a gas-lighting, false judgement, minor but really triggering transparency incident, relapse, etc.), or when it's a reaction-base blanket apology like "I'm sorry I hurt you.". It's because he's played the martyr too many times and verbally beats himself up as part of his remorse. He really milks it sometimes and I can sense when he's doing it just to be emotionally manipulative (to get pity and comfort from me, or to illicit an emotional connection so he feels better). There are times where I just can't listen to his remorse because it feels like he turns it all back to being about him and getting what he wants - validation, soothing words and comfort from me. All selfish reasons. I can feel when he's apologizing and sharing remorse to make himself feel better and get validation v. establishing safety and really trying to empathize and connect with me and the hurt he's caused me.

I have found something that works for both of us though! I tell him to give me 24-48 hrs to take care of myself so I can actually hear his apology. He uses that time to write a little restitution letter (in a similar HURT format, almost always adding in is commitment of how he wants to treat me, a D what he's going to do different). Then, when I'm ready, we sit down and he reads it to me and let's me keep it. This works for us for the more *moderate* to severe hurts he causes that can really contribute to feelings of unsafety, deep hurt, betrayal, etc. It works for me because it shows he's taken time and thought into it. AND because of the extensive trauma I've been through I really struggle remembering the good and holding onto it. So it's very helpful to have something to remember and refer to so that when the hurt tries resurfacing from that incident, and can pull it out and validate and remind my hurt self of the beautiful apology for that incident - and let it go.

For the day-to-day little hurts and misunderstandings we can usually handle spoken after we've had a little break.

For disclosure? I refused to hear it outside of my therapist's office. And I told him I didn't want to hear anything about his feelings of remorse. I just wanted the accountability, not the fake, immature, selfish, emotionally manipulative expressions of remorse he was more prone to using back then. Disclosure was NOT a time for connecting via remorse when it took him over a year to be accountable with a compete disclosure.

Anyway, just thought I'd share another perspective on the HURT format in spoken v. written form as well as thoughts on appropriate remorse. For us, it just depends on how significant the hurt is, how healthily he can express remorse, and whether or not I'm in a place to hear his remorse.

excellent info for unfaithful

As the betrayed spouse, I listen to this with tears in my eyes. My husband is so not there. How long do I have to wait? a
A phrase from a previous article, drowning i discouragement, perfectly describes where I am.

Response to the list of feelings to describe how the unfaithful

My wife was the unfaithful she has said many of the things on the list are the things i did to cause her to have the affairs how should i respond

Also, amends

No apology means much without a concrete plan for amends, including (in the case of unfaithful spouses) professional and personal help with staying accountable. Otherwise, it’s just words. Covert (Vulnerable) narcissists, for example, can talk a great game but have much less success with following through when they’re asked to do difficult things - even though one would think that losing their marriage and family also would be difficult, but in my experience, they don’t truly believe that their spouse will leave hem until it’s actually done. That’s one great reason why many spouses should probably separate, at least initially, after D-Day, so that the betrayed person has some space away from the emotional abuse, and the betrayer can experience a real consequence. But I can attest that actions speak much louder than words, and time alone will not heal those wounds.

How the unfaithful makes amends

He regrets the affair and feels ashamed. He says this is not the man he wanted to be and then says he can't forgive himself for ruining my life and his affair partner's. So whilst seeking some sort of forgiveness from me, he still wants forgiveness from her. It feels like he still gives her equal status. So this doesn't come across as full remorse to me.

Why I am now divorced

My ex-wife, the one who was unfaithful, shattered my very existence when she finally admitted to a 2-year emotional affair with the married youth pastor at our church.

From the start after discovery, she did not try to empathize with the pain she caused and would say things like, " I am sorry, BUT...."

That BUT always negated any type of sorrow her she may have had because then she would spew off things about me that she said led to her affair, so my heart remained shattered.

We attempted marriage counseling for a couple years but it didn't work, in large part because she refused to try and make serious amends to connect and make things right. She always made me feel like I was the bad guy, even though I was the betrayed, so basically for the next 6-plus years things went downhill.

Ironically, it was me who did everything under the sun to try and save the marriage. In retrospect, I should have just left her from the start because I put myself through unimaginable pain to try and win her back. That was my bad as she never truly attempted to reconnect all the way the day she handed me divorce papers after Thanksgiving 2021 and we officially divorced in January 2022, thus ending a 27-plus year marriage with 3 adult children. So sad to destroy a family.

But nearly two years later, the Lord is faithful and good and has led me to a strong Christian lady who experienced the same devastation in her marriage with an unfaithful spouse.

We will be married in May 2024 and I both know the importance of loving and communicating openly and with God as the head of our covenant marriage. It is so incredibly wonderful to be in a loving relationship with someone who actually cares about my heart and listens compassionately.

Had only Mt ex-wife attempted to be humble and compassionate in honestly dealing with the devastation she caused in our marriage - as spelled out in this article from Affair Recovery - then maybe we could have healed and kept our covenant marriage intact and moved past her affair. But alas, her heart was hardened and my heart was shattered and she danced all over the remnants of my brokenness on a daily basis until ending our marriage. So unnecessary and so painful.

Making amends

This week’s article and video are excellent. This helps me understand what can help me repair. You’ve identified and described what I need when I have been unable to do so myself.


Would something this HURT exercise be done in the Hope for Healing course? My WS does not want me constantly sending him videos to watch - whereas I’m eating these up, learning how to heal the best I can - he prefers to find his own way & says he’s doing is own work. He is open to going to Hope for Healing, so I was curious if this would be included or do I need to try to find a way to gently suggest this video at some point?

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

Free Surviving Infidelity Bootcamp

Our experts designed this step-by-step guide to help you survive infidelity. Be intentional with your healing with this free 7-day bootcamp.
I would highly recommend giving this a try.
-D, Texas