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

The Power of Small Groups

power of small groups

We know it’s hard to think straight when your life is in crisis. How could you know what to do with a ruptured relationship if you’ve never been in this situation before? Often times, couples and individuals who come to our site for help ask about the validity and effectiveness of the ‘group-dynamic.’ After all, you’re probably in the worst crisis you’ve ever faced. It can be not only intimidating, but alarming to be in a group setting. While we understand the fear you may be feeling I hope after reading this article, you’ll be able to see and process the fact that the ‘group approach’ can be one of the most healing and cathartic professional experiences of your life. When facilitated by expert help it can also be one of the safest environments you’ve taken part in. I know sitting with a bunch of strangers during this level of crisis can be off putting, and one of your biggest fears may be a bunch of people sitting around commiserating. I assure you, this is not the case and I’d like to ask you to consider the possibility that it may be exactly what you need.   

The truth is, we know how to help. With over 30 plus years of professional, expert experience treating infidelity, I’m more committed in my life mission than ever before. Without a doubt, I believe if both parties are willing, you can absolutely recover from an affair. Since Affair Recovery was started, we have helped thousands of people like you find hope and heal their relationships. With a proven curriculum and support from a small group, pain and mistrust can be replaced by truth, compassion, and understanding.

What we discovered at Affair Recovery that makes the process both unique & incredibly powerful.

One of the most effective tools for accomplishing the goals of recovery is participating with small groups comprised of others dealing with similar issues. The diversity of a group validates what you’re going through, allows for increased understanding of your mate, and provides hope as you witness healing in other couples. In marriage, we develop a historical lens through which we view our mate. As other couples in the group speak about their issues you see them as they are without the distortion of a historical lens. You more accurately sense what they feel, and you can relate to them and believe them. However, when looking at your mate, your perception is clouded by past events. It’s far easier to understand your mate and to gain perspective of your current situation through observing the interactions of the other couples in your group.

Groups provide more balance than even marriage therapy. In marriage therapy there is always the danger of feeling misunderstood or blamed by the therapist. Additionally, therapists have the difficult task of helping you understand your biases toward one another, which is tough because it’s difficult to see the flaws in ourselves. Participating with other couples in a group allows us to see our own flawed thinking without feeling judged, attacked or marginalized. Finally, witnessing growth and progress in other marriages provides hope and motivation to continue your journey of discovery.

Interaction with others normalizes your situation.

Our culture is far more tolerant of divorce than we are of exploring if a relationship can be saved. The societal pressure to leave your marriage can cause you to feel weak and foolish for even working on the relationship. Participating with others who are making the same choice eliminates that fear and encourages you in your decision. It inspires you and helps you realize, not only is it a courageous choice, it’s a wise choice because you’ll be able to see the benefits of exploring the possibility of salvaging the relationship. The group also supplies much needed support as you go through the process. When you are down and discouraged, feeling like you can’t go on, the group helps to pick you up. In the beginning of recovery when you feel misunderstood by your mate, a group affirms you and helps you stay patient as you wait for your mate to get it. Not only do you find a place where you feel understood, your mate also has support to sustain them as they seek to heal and understand and ultimately, grown in their own recovery.

Groups allow your mate to understand how they've hurt you.

You’ve told them over and over, but they still don’t get it. Your therapist has possibly tried to get them to see how their choices have affected you. Until you feel your mate cares enough to put themselves in your shoes it’s hard to believe you really matter to them. The most expedient way to develop empathy is through the group process. The historical lens mentioned above, defines how they see you, and how their own defense mechanisms inhibit their ability to understand the pain their actions have caused. Placing your mate in a group where they have no bias allows them to see the devastation in the other couples and amplifies their ability to hear you. As they see the impact on others they begin to realize how their actions have impacted you.

The antidote to defensiveness is taking personal responsibility. Recognizing themselves in the other participants begins to break through their self-deception and helps them see the truth.

The group process allows couples to begin having reasonable conversations.

One of the most difficult aspects of infidelity is the emotional flooding created by the trauma of betrayal. Once triggered, people who have been traumatized go into fight or flight and they lose all ability to be rational and communicate peacefully. Interaction with the group allows for rational conversations verses flooded conversations. Rational conversations can be emotional, but they are still controlled. Flooded conversations have only one function, personal survival. Groups require individuals to remain under control as they communicate. It’s this new behavior that provides the opportunity for a new type of communication, empathy, and understanding. That’s not to say that there won’t still be flooded conversations, but now the possibility for rational conversations exist.

Groups create forward momentum that helps you get through this process.

One other benefit of a recovery group is the synergy that comes from working together. As groups grow in their care and concern for one another new dynamics come into play. Each couple becomes a part of your process, encouraging you to succeed. This journey is difficult and it’s often the comradery of the group that helps sustain you even when it is difficult.

Feedback Received From a Small Group Member Following Week 9 of EMS Online:

"The curriculum on forgiveness was excellent. I would also like to say that am really seeing the value in the group experience. I felt the heartfelt sincerity from an unfaithful female in our group as she shared her assignment with her husband. I felt so much empathy for the shame and suffering she was going through. I realized that my husband is just as sorry and hurting from this as she is and has also expressed that very well and thoughtfully. Having empathy for her, because I am looking at her situation from the outside, helps me to have empathy for my husband. Due to the high profile nature of both of our jobs, we could not participate in a group like this locally, it just wouldn't work for us. We are so thankful for this online group experience." 

- EMSO Participant

 

Feedback Received From A Recent EMS Weekend Participant:

"I expected to meet a group of losers who were going to spend the weekend talking about their feelings. Instead I met other people like me who were “normal” (people w/ problems). We spent time on ‘us’ as a couple and me as an individual – but part of a couple. We confronted our faults, issues, and belief systems – we were forced to relook at what we both wanted for our marriage. We realized we need to spend (invest) time on us. We felt connected with the other couples immediately! We developed friendships based on a common experience. I believe this will be a life changing experience. I saw hard hearts softened, I saw beautiful smiles of joy on faces of people who came on Friday devoid of that. Thank you!"  

- EMSW Participant

 

I hope after processing through this document, you can gain a better understanding of how and why the group approach is a tremendous gift to both spouses. If you’d like more information about our EMS Weekend or our EMS Online program, please call 888-527-2367 or email info@hope-now.com.

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