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

How Wise Are You?

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"Now I get it," an angry spouse shouted at their mate.

I doubt it, I thought to myself. I was speaking with a couple who had been working for 5 months to understand the "why" of the affair. While trying to explain the dynamics of the relationship and the frequency of contact with the AP the hurt spouse concluded,

"You obviously never loved me. I never did anything to hurt you."

"Are you serious? You were so controlling, I had no voice in our relationship; everything had to be done your way!"

"Well at least I was always honest with you . . ."

I was confident the truth lay somewhere between their two subjective realities. Unfortunately the trauma and pain created by the infidelity had left them both blind to reality. Neither could see a solution because both were self-deceived.

What Does Self-Deception Look Like

"An infant is learning how to crawl. She begins by pushing herself backward around the house. Backing herself around, she gets lodged beneath the furniture. There she thrashes about, crying and banging her little head against the sides and undersides of the pieces. She is stuck and hates it. So she does the only thing she can think of to get herself out—she pushes even harder, which only worsens her problem. She's more stuck than ever.

If this infant could talk, she would blame the furniture for her troubles. After all, she is doing everything she can think of. The problem couldn't be hers. But of course the problem is hers, even though she can't see it. While it's true that she's doing everything she can think of, the problem is precisely that she can't see how she's the problem. Having the problem she has, nothing she can think of will be a solution.

Self-deception is like this. It blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we're blind, all the "solutions" we can think of will actually make matters worse. Regardless of our situation, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our views of others and our circumstances and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions. To the extent we are self-deceived our happiness is undermined, and not because of furniture."1

The above passage reveals a sad reality for many impacted by infidelity. In the midst of the crisis, all we know to do is what we have already been doing. All too often we're blind to the larger reality of how we got here and we try to solve our dilemma using the same thought process that helped get us here in the first place. As Einstein said,

"No problem can be solved from
the same level of consciousness that created it."

Doing more of the same thing that helped create the problem won't solve the problem. We're limited in what we know. I once heard wisdom defined as three simple words, "I don't know"; and humility defined as "I can't". The person capable of uttering those words is at least open to new possibilities. The greatest contributors to self-deception are pride and shame. When someone won't listen it's almost always pride. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who's really proud? Usually it's impossible to make your point because they already know what's best and what needs to be done. While their way may be a good way, is it always the only way? Often times the proud are incapable of even seeing another way. When working with someone who believes they know every solution, I normally start my points by inviting them to "consider the possibility that…." To phrase my suggestions any other way only results in defensiveness.

It troubles me to think that I may not be aware of my own self-deception. What if I have blind spots created by my pride and shame that keep me hopelessly stuck in self-defeating patterns?

How Does One Combat Self-Deception?

The solution to self-deception is simple enough: compassion and concern.

Failure to view others through those two lenses leaves me blind to my contribution to the problem as well as my role in the solution.

Instead of considering their needs just as important as my own, I try to get what I need from them and begin viewing them as the problem rather than considering how my behavior contributes to the situation. The solution to pride requires both wisdom and humility. Being willing to consider maybe I don't know and I might need more than me to get out of this allows me to consider others and other possibilities.

Some of you might be asking what this has to do with infidelity. But please hear me – it's terribly important. When we betray another or someone betrays us, we typically think we know what needs to be done. We think we know what's needed to feel better. The problem is the strength of our reaction to the pain or shame is the very thing that blinds us to other alternatives. Whether you're the betrayed or the betrayer,

I encourage you to try to maintain an attitude
of compassion and concern for your mate.

This will help maintain some balance in how you see your mate. Continually remind yourself that you may not know what's best, and that you might not have all the answers nor the ability to do it all yourself. This mindset can open up a world of new pathways for finding a new life.

Finding and Maintaining Freedom

If you don't know where to turn, I hope you'll join our community at Affair Recovery. If nothing else, at least consider joining our Recovery Library. If you're looking for freedom from not only self-deception but pride as well, I hope you'll consider the possibility that you need a new, expert driven approach. Our EMS Online course is a safe place for you and your spouse to start a new beginning with expert care and curriculum from those who have gone through it before. You can register today at 12pm CST.

Are you a hurt spouse in need of some encouragement, hope and community? Consider attending our 1-Day Hope Rising conference on Saturday, October 6, 2018. Seats are filling up fast but you can still join this amazing conference from the comfort of your home via our live stream. To find out more information or to register click here.

1The Arbinger Institute. Leadership and Self-Deception. San Francisco: Berrett- Koehler, 2010. Print.



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I know both of us are, guilty

I know both of us are, guilty of this but I do not know how to stop it.

It takes 2 very brave people

It takes 2 very brave people to be able to discuss what needs to be discussed in affir recovery. A counselor who is willing to work with each of you to navigate the necessary discussions would be effective. Effective and careful communication of important issues can do much to restore intimacy...ironically... Trusting each other to be mindful and respectful in the discussions, proactively addressing what might be a concern, understanding triggers are unexpected and very painful, understanding and being patient with withdrawals, moodiness, etc... Understand you are building a different relationship - not the one you had when you first fell in love romantically. I've been told by other survivors that it is deeper and worth it. But - It takes 2 trustworthy, committed people!


Hindsight is 20/20 for both parties. Looking back, I would have better supported my wife and helped her to feel more secure in our love and my need for her. She would certainly have communicated her fears, avoided low people and never let herself be with another man. It does take wisdom to move forward from the affair, but I'm struggling to move beyond it. Nearly two years and though the pain of it has lessened due to time, forgiveness is still not forthcoming. Is it just possible that someone cannot get over the betrayal, the deceit and the physical affair of a spouse? Like others, I'm tired of the fight in my heart and mind. I'm weary and want to give in, but my mind fights it off....but I'm tired of living with this. Maybe I'm just not strong enough to get over this.

It has been 7 years since I

It has been 7 years since I discovered my husbands affair,after 21years of marriage. The pain has lessened and I have tried to forgive,but to no avail. Yes I do believe that it is possible that someone cannot ever get over the betrayal, the deceit and the physical affair of a spouse. I met my husband when I was fourteen and we dated for seven years before we were married. At the time of my marriage I truly believed this was my soul mate. In the 21 years we were married, before the affair, I never once doubted my husbands faithfulness or trustworthiness to me. Well, wasn't I the fool to be had. In one moment everything the marriage was built on came crashing down. We have tried to build it up again, but I cannot even start with the foundation in fear of it falling down again. We did seek counselling from several counsellors and that did help, but only short term. I no longer discuss or even mention the affair since there is no more to be said and yes I am still married , now 28 years.

I am over 7 years out from

I am over 7 years out from Revelation. Up to that point in my marriage, I would tell people that my husband was the nicest and most honest person there was. All that was destroyed. I believe that I forgave him but it is reconciliation that has not yet taken place in our marriage. Isn't reconciliation a large part of his responsiblility? He just wants it to go away. Always a job change for him or some other kind of chaos in our lives (created by him) to force the focus off of the healing and growth. What do you do when you're stuck and the unfaithful spouse isn't interested in doing the necessary work to move forward?

This saddens and scares me. I

This saddens and scares me. I just found out after 24 years of marriage my wife was unfaithful right before our wedding. Similarly to you, we have been together since age 15. We have 6 children. I too held her I high regard despite difficulties with her anger throughout our marriage. I am struggling to find forgiveness and peace 2 months out.

I know how you feel

I have the exact same mental struggle and wonder if i can ever forgive and be happy with my unfaithful husband. I don't know the answer yet but pray God will give me the wisdom to one-day know. I too am tired, mentally, physically and emotionally. You are not alone

Marriage Support

These recent articles address many of issues that my husband and I are experiencing. (pimping tenderness, 5 simple steps that will protect your marriage, How Wise are You? Lack of Safety in the Relationship.....just a few. We are 20 years out from counseling with you. It appears as if most of the articles focus on the importance of the first months/years. I don't know if there are common issues/lapses that other couples tend to experience after many successful years. :) We began experiencing issues about 8 years ago. He began drifting away from the boundaries that he placed up. I spoke with him about this many times and each time he said he would put the boundary back up. The boundaries continued to slip away. ex. meeting with women at work alone to keep up on office gossip behind closed doors and many times taping paper up to cover the windows. Several of these women give me that deer in the headlights look and avoid me. Red Flags for me. He said they are 'just friends'. And when these women needed a listening ear who did they come get? Phone calls, emails, private meetings in rooms alone over and over again. I asked him what he would do if one of them made an advance? Oh, he'd handle it when that happened. Isn't this like playing with fire? It makes me wonder if he has forgotten what we went through. Most days after the discovery I would of preferred to have died than feel the pain. When the boundary lines loosened it triggered off overwhelming feelings as if I am reliving the past all over again night and day. Sweats, sleepless nights, shaking, high blood pressure, loss of appetite... The continuance of these issues has taken its toll on the marriage. He is mostly closed to articles that even mention affair recovery....".that was in the past".... "you should've been over it along time ago"..... If we discuss that part of our past he most often goes into a suicidal depression and talks about leaving. Little desire to share details of what/who is going on in his life...."he doesn't feel like rehashing it"....."don't ask" .."if something changes I'll tell you." I recently asked for his email accounts and passwords ..he did give them to me .. but he looked at me like...really?? that's why we are here....looking for hope and help. God Be in our Marriage......

Boundary Violations

Wow. I feel SO badly for you! 20 years and back to struggling with the basics again. I wonder how many other people are that far out from betrayal, yet still finding their marriage relapsing? As you said, most articles here deal with the earlier years, which obviously aren't the end of the story.

Only 3 years along here, and no substantial healing or true reconciliation yet because (as I put it to him) not enough of the "right things" have been done to bring about much healing, and deeper issues raise their ugly heads every week but aren't resolved. But one of those right things, earlier on, had been my unfaithful's agreement to put some boundaries in place. But now, some that he instituted himself, he is trying to undo, as if some arbitrary time period of his own vague choosing had expired and I should be "fine" with their stoppage, and as if he's "proven" himself worthy. He's spoken as if he's forgotten HE was the one who initially suggested them, and as if *I* was the one who forced them onto him, when I simply welcomed them. (clear blame-shifting) Meanwhile, he still throws in my face that "we both know" he's NOT trustworthy. So why on earth would I ever agree to lifting boundaries that help me feel a wee bit more secure? It's hypocritical insanity! Some other agreed-upon boundaries/rules he broke right after making them, and still argues against following them...I believe because they are the more "public" rules, which someone might question him on. So, there is still that unspoken attitude that implies I "should be past this by now" because "I haven't done anything wrong" (of late), despite me having cautioned him early on to NEVER try to rush me into healing.

So yes, I get your triggers and how they toss you right back into "yesterday." Our bodies' cells don't forget, either, unless we're TRULY healed from all the trauma. And yes, it IS playing with fire to lightly dismiss these concerns or protocols. People like this do not introspect or face themselves, when really, they should not be trusting *themselves* to do the right things and therefore SHOULD be following tested protocols like clockwork.

I also receive the threats of leaving me flat (and sneakily starting to walk out the door within minutes), and often over the slightest of arguments, so I definitely do NOT feel at all safe yet. And like you, I often have to press for daily or weekly info or sharing, making me feel I'm not even a part of his waking life. I can't trust that if anything does happen that involves any of my biggest fears, that I'll ever hear about it, though we had talked about those kinds of scenarios and what I wanted from him then, early on. I'm quite sure any slips would become yet more secrets I'm not allowed to know about.

Every article or video I've shared is all 'forgotten' in an instant, or maybe never even heard in the first place? So how is healing ever supposed to begin, much less last, with people who are that self-absorbed? How depressing that perhaps I can take 'comfort' from the fact that in another 17 years I might be dead and rid of all this pain, or have just walked away from what seems like a hopeless battle.

You stepped on my toes

Thank you for this insightful call to truth.

I can understand the dynamics

As far as my situation is concerned it falls on deft ears expecially lyaing on the fact that he won't read or listen to this acticle after 19 mo of no progress or healing. I understand he is hurting and that he feels hopless enough to say he is moving out like today. I stumbled on this article as i was walking myself through this site as if i was brand new. Rereading article once read early on. It brought on a whole new meaning to most of what i favored and now i can completely relate to what message is being sent. How can i get him to do the same. I found it informational for myself yet i think he can gain some insight in why and whats occured between is. He might even have some insight on his own behaviors yet that is not why i wish for him to re visit this. I'm going to email it and print it out in hopes he may give it the time of day to re read. Once what we found interesting enough to favorite. Great article. I wish i revisited this alittle sooner. I'm afraid it may be too late.

Husband actually told me the rumor about his affair

My husband was the CEO of a non for profit he left abruptly claiming the board was against him within an hour his director of development left. 28 years old lives with her boyfriend no kids we however have 4 . Stated a few weeks after that there were rumors at work about the two of them having an affair because they were always together.
Told me about it and laughed because he is very conservative and she is very liberal and just not a person you would call well put together. A real slob not of a middle class persona.
About 6 months later I noticed my husband meeting for coffee as he would tell me and now for over a year has been stopping to visit her at work on his way home which is about a half hour out of his way.
He comes home and shower right away! Well I watched his patterns and checked for evidence and found it every time. They have been having a very high sexual affair for over a year and a half now!
I tried to confront him but he is hell bent he isn’t. Then the gaslighting begins. I have also followed him and took pictures of his whereabouts to confirm my theory.
I was too scared to confront as he came out of her office but I have consulted a divorce attorney and ready to catch him again and confront on the spot.
I do like be him but my trust for him is gone . I do not know if he wants to save this marriage because he is having his cake and eating it to and I and our children do not deserve that. I have never even considered having an affair.he is a full blown narcissist and that’s where she come in putting him on a pedestal. I really would like her boyfriend to know what the hell she is up to. He owns the house they live in and if he finds out he may throw her out. Mine won’t have the picture perfect family and his whole status will be messed up. He is very pretentious and a who’s who I know attitude.
How should I handle this?
I have lost a good quality life because of this
Thank you for your help

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