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

How to Survive Infidelity

The discovery of infidelity not only severely disrupts your life, but is a violation unlike  any other event. Most experts who deal with infidelity say that the betrayed spouse deals with anywhere from 50 to 100 different reminders and triggers about their spouse’s infidelity daily.  At the same time we have a God who is far bigger than our circumstances. As those of us who have traveled this road and have experienced true restoration can attest, the marriage we now experience is far better than what we once had or even thought we could have. What I heard Rick Reynolds say some time ago is absolutely true: you can never tell the end of the story by the beginning. I encourage you to stay the course and see what is possible with the right kind of help and support to survive infidelity.  

Over the years I have found that hearing a similar story to your own to be not only reassuring but instrumental for healing and perspective. When Rick asked me to share my story, I wondered what I could offer in terms of providing hope for those who will one day have to live through this nightmare.  As I began to go deeper into my personal experience, I felt the need to share some very practical, yet life changing suggestions which I hope and pray help you as much as they helped me. 

5 Tips for the Unfaithful Spouse

  1. You must stop the affair. You will need help to stop it. Find an experienced professional, spiritual leader, or someone who has lived through this type of situation. Getting the right kind of help from those who have gone through it before is critical to finding momentum in your recovery. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably realized your own efforts were not sufficient to prevent the affair and doing more of the same won’t be sufficient as you move forward to survive infidelity.
  1. Commit to creating an atmosphere of safety. Commit to openness and honesty on a daily basis. Be available by cell phone. Be willing to call from a land line (to show where you are). Hand over all passwords, e-mail addresses, bills, and give access to your mate in order to give him/her assurance. Make a decision to have no unaccounted for time in your day. If you’re going to give this marriage a shot at being restored, be willing to do whatever it takes to restore trust. The way to reestablish trust is to first trust your mate with what’s going on in your life.
  1. Take responsibility. As bad as your marriage may have been, and as rejected as you may have felt, it still doesn’t justify breaking a vow. Have the courage to say “I messed up.” Take responsibility for your own recovery.
  1. Develop empathy for your spouse. Daily express to your mate that you’re sorry for the pain that you have caused and/or appreciation that your mate is still there. Being able to express grief over what your actions have cost your mate is one of the first and most important steps to moving beyond the betrayal.
  1. Be patient and ask your mate how he/she is doing. If you see your mate is down, simply ask how he/she is feeling. Our first tendency when we see those storm clouds brewing over our mate is to run for the shelter, but in recovery, it’s best to be a tornado chaser by creating space to share about the pain.
  1. Don’t be defensive. Usually defensiveness sounds like, “well if you hadn’t…” We often times blame our mate and try to justify why we messed up. This defensiveness and attempts at justifying our infidelity only adds to the frustration, hurt and anger.

5 Tips for the Betrayed Spouse

  1. Express your feelings and thoughts without the destructiveness of rage. This one can be tricky, and is especially difficult if you are very early on into discovery. It will be somewhat easier if you are able to maintain the perspective that anger (even the rage you may currently be experiencing) is a secondary emotion. Instead of expressing your anger, talk more about the underlying feelings that evoked the anger. The underlying emotions might be hurt or fear.
  1. Avoid rapid-fire questioning. Ask questions slowly, always asking yourself if the answer will be information you want to live with the rest of your life, and possibly have a reminder and/or trigger attached to it. I would encourage you to avoid questions that paint a picture in your head. These comparison questions create the intrusive thoughts you’ll later have to deal with. Ask yourself if the questions you’re asking are helping you move forward or if it is for some other reason.
  1. Commit to forgiveness. This doesn’t have to happen fast, but for your sake you want it to occur. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can control your mate’s behavior by not forgiving. Remember, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiving isn’t necessarily the same as reconciliation, but if your mate is safe enough it paves the way for the possibility of reconciliation.  Forgiveness is also not a one time act. There will be layers to your pain which will necessitate a commitment, in advance, to forgive as you move forward.
  1. Allow yourself time and space to grieve and process what has happened. To attempt to heal the marriage too quickly can be devastating and is one of the leading factors of relapse for the unfaithful spouse. As Leslie Hardie says, “it’s not about the amount of time you give it, rather it’s about how you utilize the time you give it.”
  1. Recognize your vulnerabilities. Don’t let your hurt, pain, and anger drive you to behaviors and choices you will later regret. Avoid putting yourself in vulnerable situations.

5 Tasks for the Couple

  1. Find support. Try to find at least two or three people you can both agree would be safe individuals to share with. Having a safe place to process feelings, apart from the marriage, can be beneficial. It’s helpful for you to have someone of the same sex you can vent to and grieve with who is safe and has your best interests at heart. Your mate absolutely needs a trusted friend where they can do the same. If you don’t have this outlet outside the marriage, chances are painful emotions will build up and come out in destructive ways.
  1. Separate the marriage from the train wreck of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to your relationship than the infidelity. The infidelity does not rewrite your whole history, although sometimes it may feel like it does. While you can never go back to what you had, you do have the opportunity for something better.
  1. Make time to talk about the marriage and the effects of the infidelity. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to stop the dialogue about what has happened. If you cannot process through the effects of the infidelity, it will most assuredly stall your efforts to heal as a couple and create underlying dissention in your heart towards your spouse. Allow time for both of you to process what you are learning about yourselves and each other along the way.
  1. Arrange a problem-free time during which you have fun and enjoy each other. This is a must, otherwise you will begin to feel like your identity and your relationship are just byproducts of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to life. So try to find times where you don’t discuss the infidelity.
  1. Remind yourself and each other that your relationship can be better. You are building honesty and empathy that were probably not there before the infidelity. Your relationship will emerge from this so much better, if you let it. It will never be the same, but who wants to go back to the lie you were living? This is an opportunity to build a new foundation, with new patterns of behavior.

Affair Proofing Your Marriage

While you cannot affair proof your marriage, you can and must, affair proof your own life. This goes for the betrayed spouse too, who in many ways is ripe for an affair if healing does not take place for the trauma after the affair. This must be a vital step the unfaithful spouse takes charge of if they are going to prevent relapse and eventually reestablish trust with their mate.

  1. Assume that an affair could happen again and take precautions, rather than assuming it will never  happen again. Actively avoid putting yourself in harm’s way. Together with your mate, design “our rules” for keeping your relationship safe.
  1. Both parties need to understand that temptations don’t define us and behavior does not equal motive. We have to be willing to be honest about dangerous situations around us. Understand that if your mate is willing to share something that he/she is struggling with, then your mate is choosing to keep the marriage safe rather than to endanger it by hiding struggles or weaknesses.
  1. Commit to work hard at your marriage. Marriages take work. Be willing to put as much time into the marriage as you do into other activities which you love. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the hill, it’s greener where you water it.
  1. Be willing as a couple to talk about this issue. Be willing to honestly discuss any areas where the relationship is at risk, rather than just going through the emotions of it all. Auto pilot seldom works in recovery.
  1. Give back. If you’ve already recovered from a betrayal, be willing to give back to others who are still dealing with infidelity. There is no better preventive medicine than working with others who are coming along behind you. Their journey will be a constant reminder of the cost you incurred and experienced in your own journey.

There is truly nothing that the nearness of God cannot heal. The tasks on this list are just a few suggestions that will help you find and protect hope and safety in your marriage.

For more practical advice on how to survive infidelity listen to: 

Affair Recovery Webinar pt.1

Affair Recovery Webinar pt.2

and receive a free copy of a two hour webinar featuring leading experts in the field of infidelity recovery. During the webinar the panel answered multiple questions posted by individuals struggling to move beyond betrayal.

Rick Reynolds is the founder of AffairRecovery If you’d like more information on how to deal with infidelity please visit their web site.


 

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Comments

So Important

This is a great article. I was the betrayer in my marraige and my wife for several years has told me how important these things in the article are to our recovery. I have only recently embraced some of these concepts and am working on them all. I just want to encourage anyone out there that is early in the journey - these tools mentioned in the article are so important to learn. God can heal anything but we must be williing to make the changes and do the work. Thanks for providing this valuable information, I wish I had caught on sooner.

Thank you!!!!

This came at such a perfect time in our recovery process. Thank you so much for sharing in such a practical, encouraging way! Do you write anywhere else (ie blog)?

Great advice!  Thanks for

Great advice!  Thanks for sharing your story.  It is so nice to hear that you never gave up.

My husband & I are on year 3 and going strong.  :)

 

How to survive

Unfortunately my husband has not done the steps necessary for us to heal and move past this. 

Neither has mine

My husband does not want to take the blame for anything.  How do you move forward either way without closure?

It has been over 7 months--about 2 months I ago I discovered he has a borderline personality disorder and his whole way of thinking is distorted.  They can change but only if their internal pain outweights the benefits they are receiving.  I don't want a divorce but I cannot live with anyone who cannot be honest with me.    So very hard.   I need prayers.  I have been married for 26 years with 3 daughters and 2 of them refuses to have anything to do wth him and I don't talk with him unless absolutely necessary.  This is not easy but maybe the only way he will get the message.

 

If we collectively did 2 of those suggestions it would be a lotI

It wasn't for lack of wanting to do those things, God Knows I tried to get the counselling for each of us. When the unfaithful refuse ... When they lie to manipulate their own "reality/lies", when they cannot or will not be honest, reconciliation is impossible...  a sex addict, like any other addict, will not do any healing work for themselves, let alone a marriage, if they fail to see their addiction. An unfaithful spouse will likely remain unfaithful if they continue to live in fantasy or escape (as in from reality or responsibility).

advice to the betrayed: nothing will be right unless or until the unfaithful is willing to do the hard work of dealing with their addiction/shame/guilt, fears,anger, ego, deep wounds behind their issues...

honesty

My husband also refuses to be honest about his very long affair, he say's the truth doesn't matter because it's in the past and whatever intentions he had he didn't go thru with them ( but not because he didn't want to, the woman was seeing several other men which he found out later and she had no intention of leaving her husband for him or any of the men. ) My husband took what he needed to help himself get over being  hurt by the "most wonderful woman he had ever met". He said that doing anything that I need to get over this isn't neccessary and I need to get over myself.  

The steps you list will not

The steps you list will not help in some cases. What about the man who has cheated many times over the time of marriage? 

Husbands

I have a new friend that went through a very similar situation as yours. She is a wonderful person and strong in her faith. Where my spouse had one long affair, her husband had mulitple during the course of her marriage. What hurts worse, mine or hers, honestly, as much as mine hurts, I cannot fathom what she and yourself are going through. I think in this situation, friends and family are so important but most importantly you have to continue to have Hope. Hope that things will get better, Hope that you will find someone new or be happy by yourself. God wants us to live for him and love him unconditionally. His love never fails, it never gives up, it never gives up on me (and you). Good luck, I'll pray for you as well as the other folks on here.

I just can't seem to move

I just can't seem to move past this. My husband had the affair with a co-worker. They still work together. He took her to our home. I can't go back there. He still works with her but insists nothing is going on. He has made alot of changes but I still can't trust him. She has filed for divorce. She did horrible things to her husband and my husband has agreed to testify against her on her husband's behalf. She told my husband about all the things she did to her husband. Court is coming up and she is denying the affair ever happened. I know my husband told her terrible things about me and I know it will all come out in court. We live in a small town and everyone knows what has happened. My cousin is one of the two superior court judges in our circuit. I feel I have been robbed of my life and my innocence. I feel all alone. I don't trust that he will stay faithful as I found out there was at least one other woman he was involved with via internet (he denied this until I had proof). I feel lost and helpless. Anything he does never seems to be enough. I know I am destroying any chance we have at repairing our marriage.  Help!!

Does time really heal all wounds?

I found out 1.5 years ago and my wife officially ended things with the AP in Oct 2012. Her affair went on for years, though mostly a long distance one, it was a very strong emotionally attached one (they talked marriage even though he was also married). Even though she is trying to get back into our marriage, for some reason I am struggling more than when I first found out. Back in the beginning my goal was to salvage the marriage at any cost. The more information I found out the more I wanted to be a better husband. Something happened to me emotionally a couple of months ago that I cant seem to shake. The emotional flooding is constant, the fear and guilt of what I did to cause her to stray is unbearable. There is more but I wont get into it. I just hope this is just a set back and that things will improve. I want to be like some of the couples I read about here that have made it and are happier than ever. Unfortuantely, I am more depressed than anything. Professional help unfortunately is unafforable so we have to go through this with free resources and each other.

Are there other husbands who are the betrayed?

I found out about my wife's affairs less than 4 months ago. She had her first affair within 3 months of saying our vows and a second about a year later. Both AP were individuals she worked with and were both married as well. The pain is still very fresh and I have constant reminders every day. After she took affair analyzers I feel as though our situation is somehow not a normal one (if there is a normal affair). I have not come across any stories that seem to accurately describe our situation. Since the discovery took place, I have read a lot of material on several websites as well as a few books on recovery. I have noticed that it seems like there are less women that are the betrayers than men. Though I can still gain insight from stories where the men are the betrayers, I feel that men and women handle the pain differently and have yet to find someone who understands how I am feeling as a man.
I am working my way through getting rid of my stuffing tendencies which have made it more difficult to deal with what I am really feeling. I am a very poor undergrad student, and therefore do not have the extra money to pay for the miscellaneous services provided to connect with others in similar cases. I have tried to confide in friends and family but none of them understand the depth of the pain, confusion, insecurity and depression associated with being betrayed as they have not been in such a situation.
I feel I am trying to handle this alone. Though I am a christian, I must admit that I feel as though I am still alone and that God won't give me a break. I feel like I get test after test from God, that I can't catch a break to recover from one thing before something else happens. I am already just holding my neck out of the water, but buckets are being poured over my head continuously. I know all the 'right' answers to the way I feel about God currently, such as He never gives us more than we can handle etc. but it does not stop my mind from feeling that God is not helping me out even when I cry out to Him.

What type of affair was it?

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