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

Grief-Transforming Loss

Yesterday my wife, Stephanie, drove to 2121 Main Street in Houston, TX, to sit, for an unknown amount of time, with a woman she befriended who was being released from prison. The amount of time was unknown because she couldn’t obtain information from the prison system regarding when she’d arrive at the bus station, nor what time her bus departed for her home in the Texas Panhandle.

2121 Main Street is in one of the worst parts of the city. I wasn’t sure how I felt about my little white haired bride traveling to that part of the city to wait for a woman who was a convicted felon. At the same time I knew that she’s not scared of anything; her attitude is “You can’t scare me, my husband cheated on me.” For Stephanie, caring for others is her comfort zone.

Upon arrival, finding a safe place to park proved a challenge. Her apprehension was first triggered when a gentleman, who offered to “watch” her car, approached her. She told him she’d take her chances. Then spotting a policeman on bicycle, she walked over and asked if it was safe to park here. “Lady, this is the worst part of Houston,” he informed her “and if you’re here to meet someone at the bus station this is the only place to park.” “You should be okay as long as we’re here,” he told her. A moment later they arrested someone for breaking into one of the cars in that parking lot and hauled him off to jail. Steph sat by the window for two hours, watching her car, hoping she’d have time to visit with her friend between the time when she was dropped off by the jail and her bus departing to take her home.

Finally, the van from the jail arrived and her friend (I’ll call her Gail) and another woman were set free to wait for the bus taking them home. All they had was the clothes on their back and a $50 check given to the inmates to help with their reintegration into society. The ladies had been told there was a bank nearby which would cash the checks. They walked to the bank and because they didn’t have an account with that bank (that’s hard to do when you’ve been in prison for years), they were charged a $6 fee for cashing the checks (even though the checks were from that bank). It was at that point my bride went ballistic; thankfully she didn’t make a scene, but I pity the CEO of the bank since Steph is determined to have that policy changed.

She made up the girls financial loss by buying lunch at McDonalds and was blessed to spend the first hour of freedom with Gail after 4 years of incarceration. Then it was time to go and the girls caught their bus home. Steph rescued her car and made the drive back to Austin.

What does this have to do with infidelity you may be asking, but to me it’s a great example of what happens with those who thoroughly grieve the loss of infidelity. Maybe the most brutal challenge we face as human beings is facing the changes in life which are brought about by tragedy or betrayal. How do we come to a place of acceptance and then to a place where that loss is transformed into something new and meaningful?

Apart from the journey Stephanie and I traveled during recovery, I can’t imagine how she would have ever been involved in an adventure like she had on Monday. Not only was she able to grieve the loss created by my betrayal, but she was able to accept it, grieve for what it meant to her and to our lives,  and ultimately allow it to be used for something greater than we both could understand.

When we as humans suffer greatly one of three things will happen: We will go insane, we will become bitter and resentful, or we’ll learn to love deeply and to have compassion for others who are suffering. Pain that’s not transformed will be transmitted, but on the other hand pain that is transformed results in a soul which is deeply concerned about the pain of others, and has far more compassion for the failings and shortcomings of others in life.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to explore how loss is transformed. Admittedly, the transformation of loss is at the latter stages of recovery, but having a guide to the path of transformation can be a useful tool. If you want others to help with that grieving process I hope you’ll join the AR community. Having others to support you in the process is a rare opportunity. Join us and find others like yourself who want to find something better beyond the pain of infidelity.




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transforming loss into gain

this came at just the right time for me. I am one yr into recovery from my husbands infidelity and depressed. I am afraid I am becoming that bitter person you spoke of. I plan to follow this closely and hopefully use it. My husband is trying hard, now, at first he said he would do anything but didn't do even the small things I asked. After asking for a divorce he is now putting 80 percent into this and very patient. I say 80 because he says moving, therapy, and a few other demands are financially impossible. He has the whole provider thing going. I asked him what was the point of being a provider if you have no one to provide for. Anyway have conceded or gave in on those points but feeling more and more bitter as it was my one and only friend he cheated with and she is every where in our lives here no matter how much we both try to avoid it. I really am fighting this whole bitterness thing and everyone has always seen me as a strong person. Not this time and I hate it. I am so ashamed I have been such a mess. Anyway as I said I will follow this closely and hopefully get some direction from it. Thanks for being here.


It has only been 2+ years since discovery of my wife's affairs, but I feel just like Paul. Needing to hide and not getting he support because of it. It keeps us spinning...

Wow. I feel exactly the same

Wow. I feel exactly the same as paul0906.

I know how you feel

At times, I have felt such anguish and pain from my partner's betrayal and subsequent actions that there is no pain or fear of pain that would be worse than what I have already suffered. None. For me, being mugged or knifed or shot could not compare to the hurt and damage I have sustained at being betrayed. I am not saying Stephanie's actions are not for precisely the reasons you have stated. But I could easily do the same thing your wife did because I have no fear of someone hurting me. I have already been destroyed. And I too have been transformed. Transformed into having no fear of pain on this earth, other than what my partner can give me. And of that, I am rightfully terrified. I still adore my partner, with all my heart. And I am trying to rebuild the pieces. But my spouse doesn't get why it is taking me so long, and why I haven't already forgiven and forgotten. And Paul, I know part of how you feel. The betrayed cannot tell friends or family as that would expose the secret. And so the betrayed hurts in silence. It wasn't 30 years for us. That is just staggering. But going on 7 years now feels like an eternity.

response to paul0906

I understand completely your grief Paul0906. I think the key is to not try to morph your views with society on this issue. Society often has things very wrong and is usually not forgiving because society isn't in your shoes. Anyone can say they would leave their partner if they were unfaithful, but there is no way they can make a judgement of something they've never experienced. Your situation is unique, as is mine. I chose to stay as well because I meant the vows I said on our wedding day. Period. God doesn't say for better or for worse for nothing! No one promised life would be easy, but quite possibly there is a blessing behind all the pain that you would have never reached otherwise. Listen to the song by Laura Story called "Blessings." It will be helpful for you I hope. You are strong. You stand for something...integrity. You are standing behind the promise you made on your wedding day. God promises to reward those who follow his commands. He will not disappoint. He does not go back on his promises to you. Your staying with your wife will demonstrate to her what real love really is. There is no one who will ever be able to show her what true love really is better than your working on your relationship in spite of her faults. The pope was once quoted as saying, "True love only occurs when the sins and faults of someone you love becomes completely exposed and you choose to love them unconditionally and value them exactly as the same as before the offense." This is so powerful. You are doing the right thing, even if it feels bad. If she is "safe" to invest your heart again then go for it. I wish you blessings and God's peace.

I frequently thought I would

I frequently thought I would rather have had cancer... Not to diminish what cancer is for many... Infidelity, porn addiction and sex addiction are not easily dealt with and it is isolating. Between protecting the children from the truth, trying to preserve your family, and struggling through the trauma of betrayal was frequently something I felt I was not equipped to deal with. The lying infiltrated our financial security and I had very few options.... I was marked by his addiction. (It actually took decades to understand what was going on. He was an excellent liar and was very good at letting me stay in the depressing situation - working my heart out trying to save our family.

Paul, I understand what

Paul, I understand what you're saying as someone who's dealing privately after finding out about my wife's 1 1/2 year affair. I knew within 30 minutes of finding out about the affair (I stumbled upon evidence) that I had some critical choices to make. My impulse was to call my brother and parents and bleed on them thus getting the support I knew I'd get and need. AND I would have done that if not for my wife's immediate acts of contrition and sorrow. AFTER initial bouts of shame and disbelief and hatred, I decided to save my relationship with my wife's help and a counselor, opting personally not to tell a soul. Reason being, I didn't want my wife to go through the backlash and battery of questioning and external resentments that wouldn't be fair to her healing with me....talk about a gut check for me! I really wanted to initially tell anyone within earshot what had happened, and then realized I'd rather walk away from the relationship peacefully for the kid's sake than pour all that negativity and b.s. on the people I love to gain favor. In short, I'm sorry you are not getting the support you need, but seek private counseling if necessary so you can do what's best as soon as possible. Stop spinning your wheels: either you have a partner who wants/needs to heal with you, or SHE wants you to bury the past without reflection leaving your future uncertain. You're obviously strong and patient, but it's time. Maybe you reach out to ONE good friend or family member? THERE'S NO SHAME IN THIS! Best to you.

Transforming loss into gain

Paul0906 you have put into words exactly how I feel. Its a year since I found out about my husbands 2 year affair and although I do feel so much better now there is still a feeling of grief simmering below the surface. I mourn for the marriage I thought I had and the biggest challenge is having very few people to support me through the grief. Like you I have protected my husband and have only disclosed his infidelity to 3 close friends. Sometimes it's more than I can bear having to keep this secret and the anger and resentment does flare up. I hold back from telling people because I know it will change their perception of me and my husband and I don't know if I can live with that. I think your use of the word 'stigma' is exactly right.


My wife had a one night stand in April and came clean about it about 3 weeks later. We have talked about it a few times. I WAS shocked, angry, and depressed to name a few. Iam still hurt to this day, She was on a business trip so this wasn't planned. I have discovered emails back and forth the night she told me, and in June. And (1) phone call he made to her. I know more probably more about him then she does, the internet is a wonderful thing. He is engaged, his soon to be wife doesn't know, and I believe hes done this before. He travels. One side of me wants to let his girlfriend know. The other says let it be, cause my wife and I have taken some steps to continue our marriage. It seems as if iam doing must of the work for the one that was cheated on. Its feast or famine with her.Maybe iam thinking to much....Any advice

pain can be good

My betrayal was a stab in the back coming after caring for two terminally ill parents who died 5 months short of each other. The betrayal and it's aftermath showed me that I was married to someone I never knew, someone I allowed to have the most intimate access to my being. I had been living with a manipulative and deceptive stranger. I had given what was the most precious gift I had to someone who walked all over it and piled crap on it. I had lived a lie with no security or future, all my dreams died in a swift blow and my past became nothing but ashes and gall. I lost dreams and my memories became questionable scenarios rife with doubtful meaning. The ground I stood on which I thought was solid was revealed to me as sinking sand. With the help of Rick on this site, I chose to wade through the pain which was pushing me on every side, threatening to engulf me, to focus on if I will let these painful experiences define me and decide my future or if I will use them to define my future and mature in spite of it. Truly speaking, I totally depended on God and released my soul to Him for healing and redefinition. Since my spouse is yet to fully grasp the changes he needs to make within himself, doubts creep in and the pain comes again. In time I saw that when fear comes in, pain comes in as well in fresh waves. So I have placed my trust in God to turn him around for his own sake and not for me or the marriage. Anything he does, betrayal or not is no longer about what I want but its for the Lord to deal with. This has freed me from fear and then pain. I have since developed a strong empathic character for him and others. I have become transformed within and outside. In one day, 3 different people commented on me, "YOU ARE....LOOKING PRETTY, REALLY PRETTY", "MUM, YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL". Spouse, "YOU ARE BLOOMING.". I believe that this is due to peace from within and a true release from the hold of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of more hurt.

Pain can be good. Part 2

I really appreciated you comment as I can relate most to all the hurts, disappointments. I want to get to the point you shared so eloquently of letting God have his way with your spouse, regardless of his actions. Thank you for sharing.

Praying for the loss to be transformed

It's been a year and a half since my wife had to disclose her affair to me because she was pregnant. I can only describe the year and a half since that discloser as hell on earth. In the months after the discloser I tried everything I could to keep the marriage together, but all she wanted was out. It has now been nine months since she finalized the divorce. She has continued the relationship with her AP and doesn't want anything to do with me. It breaks my heart to think how good the marriage once was and now I question every good memory we shared. We have two lovely boys that have had their worlds shattered. I pray that their loss can be transformed. Oh how I pray that the loss we all have experienced can be transformed into something good, something God can use. I don't want the pain to be for nothing. God is good, but I need His love and support more than ever.

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