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

The 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? Since Affair Recovery was founded, we have helped thousands of people like you discover newfound hope and healing in their relationships. With a proven curriculum and support from a small group, pain and mistrust can be replaced by truth, compassion, and understanding.

Many couples and individuals who have come to our site for help ask about the validity and effectiveness of the 'group-dynamic'. It can be not only intimidating, but alarming to be in a group setting. While we understand the fear you may be feeling our hope is that after reading this article, you'll be able to see and process how the 'group approach' can be one of the safest and most healing environments you've ever experienced.

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 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

power of small groups

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 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, understand and ultimately, grow 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. 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 I'm 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 article, you can gain a better understanding of how and why the group approach is a tremendous gift to both spouses. If you're ready to get started on the healing journey, consider registering for EMS Online today at 12:00 PM CST. Don't wait – these groups sell out fast!

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Forgiveness

As a betrayed spouse I'm having a hard time grasping forgiveness and staying in the relationship when multiple emotional affairs have occurred and there's no trust...

Totally understand

It's been 3-plus years since D-Day for me and I still struggle with my wife's 2-year emotional affair with the married youth pastor at our former church. The lack of empathy is overwhelming as she said she understands the pain she has caused but then adds the BIG BUT when she says there were problems in our marriage (I agree there were, but she is the one whonl stepped out of the marriage boundaries and pursued her fantasy affair), so we are just stuck and in an eternal holding pattern. Sucks!

You are not alone

I too am still stuck. 3 yrs 9 months ago was my 1st D day. First of many D Days which included 2 other physical affairs in the past 12 years. The last affair was with a girl the same age as our youngest daughter and that physical affair lasted 3 years. My husband was 54 and she was 29. I was 56 at discovery. We have been married for 41 years now. We attended EMS weekend in September 2016. 3 days after returning I received a text from his affair partner telling me he had followed her to Sonic and told her he still loved her. This occurred 3 days before we went to EMS which they strongly suggested that all should be revealed, yet he did not confess there. He did admit when I confronted him that he did follow her but he didn’t tell her he still loved her. He is still in denial to this day about that because he claims it was only a “friendly” thing. Anyone who has dealt with infidelity KNOWS there should be NO CONTACT!! I am still trying to do all and anything I can to get past this tremendous trauma. It’s hard to accept that the person you are married to, who was active and faithfully attended church twice a week, was actually living a double life for so many years. When the betrayer has “no empathy” and just does not “get it”, makes it very hard for the betrayed to heal. I KNOW deep in my heart that I am doing what God has directed me to do. Honor the covenant I made with God and my husband 41 years ago. I am now dealing with anxiety and depression but I will not give up on praying and believing that God WILL restore what the enemy has stolen. It helps to remember that our spouse is not our enemy but Satan IS our enemy and has blinded our spouse to destroy our entire family. We have a beautiful family with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. Just wanted to encourage you and let you know that you are NOT alone. Continue to stand for the restoration of your marriage. With God ALL things are possible and He is faithful!! Don’t give up and allow the enemy to win. Pray for your wife and ask God to allow you to see her as God sees her. He created her in his image and has a purpose for her life, being your wife!! She is not the mistakes she has made but is who God created her to be. Put her at the feet of Jesus and pray for her with all that you have. The prayer of a husband or wife is the most powerful prayers. It breaks my heart to hear that your wife doesn’t get it. One day she will be the wife that God blessed you with and she will love and honor you as a Godly wife should. 🙏🙏🙏🙏

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