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

Affair Recovery Steps: How to Live Without Fear After Infidelity

In infidelity recovery, how do you handle fear? For the betrayed mate, being deceived or hurt again can be crippling fears. For the wayward mate, these fears are much the same. They fear causing their mate more pain, but they also fear sabotaging their personal recovery. The pain of betrayal is heart-wrenching, so it's understandable to fear re-experiencing this pain. But living in fear is no way to live. You've worked incredibly hard to get to this point, and you deserve to be able to breathe. You deserve to have good days without constantly worrying that the other shoe will drop.

To start living without fear, I recommend this technique. While these affair recovery steps may not work for every situation, they've personally helped me find hope, healing and a way through some of the darkness after infidelity.

Remembering Your Potential Can Triumph Over Fear

Decades ago, the company I worked for visited an outdoor high ropes course for personal development and team-building activities. One of the challenges was walking across a 20-foot beam called the "Cat Walk." The beam was suspended approximately 30 feet above ground.

Before climbing up to the suspended beam, we each walked across a similar beam on the ground. None of us had a problem walking across the grounded beam, but the Cat Walk was another story. When I climbed 30 feet into the air to cross it, I froze. My mind was telling me I could do it since, just moments before, I had crossed the beam on the ground, but seeing 30 feet of airspace below my feet took my breath away. It left me paralyzed with fear.

Recovering from infidelity pain is not unlike this experience. When we're traumatized, it's easy to slide into a defensive operating system. In this state, it can feel as if the world's out to get us. We expect things to go wrong. Frankly, we fear the worst. Suddenly, routine day-to-day tasks, such as checking social media or even driving to work, can seem terrifying when recovering after an affair or a betrayal. You've done these activities before, but now you may fear encountering painful triggers and reminders in the process.

So how do you come to a place where you can move forward, where you can live as you always have, and tackle each day without fear? As I stood frozen, unable to cross the Cat Walk, the facilitator suggested I put on a blindfold. I thought that was an absurd suggestion; it frankly boggled my mind. But he persisted and, eventually, I gave in. The blindfold worked like a charm. Covering my eyes, where I could no longer see the 30-foot drop, eliminated my fear and allowed me to walk across the beam.

Focusing on 'Remember Whens' Instead of 'What Ifs'

A few years ago, Stephanie and I visited Israel. This trip had been on our bucket list for years. Something our guide said reminded me of my Cat Walk experience. He said that during World War II, one way that people dealt with their fears was by "walking backward." They would intentionally keep their hearts and minds focused on events from the past that revealed hope, love and the good in the universe. This allowed them to "back into" the future. When faced with fear, it helped them find the strength to move forward; it helped them remember that things were good once and they could be good once again.

Often, what robs us of joy are the situations we create in our minds. When recovering from infidelity pain, we can spend so much time worrying about situations that might never happen. We can also get really worked up about something on the horizon, expecting it to completely derail us. In reality, we're stronger than we give ourselves credit for. Remember, you've survived difficult and devastating setbacks, and you can survive whatever else comes your way.

Instead of spending time contemplating "what ifs" that produce fear, I encourage you to think about "remember whens" while recovering after an affair or a betrayal. Focusing on something solid, the times that you got through situations that seemed impossible, can help you push away fear and embrace your inner strength. Alternatively, fixating on everything that could go wrong allows fear to overtake you. When you're controlled by fear, it can feel as if you're going through life walking on a 30-foot high Cat Walk and, in the event of even the slightest breeze, will surely fall.

Choosing To Be Brave Instead of Afraid

When your mind is clouded by confusion and hurt, it can be challenging to recall "remember whens." I urge you to give yourself grace; you can get there. No matter where you are at this very moment, you can move forward out of strength rather than fear. You can arrive at a place that's full of hope and clarity. Even in the severest of crises, there's always hope for a breakthrough. Consider this story that someone shared with me, which has been edited to preserve anonymity:

As I walked on the beach, I considered ending it all. Just 15 minutes before, I had put my three kids and wife on a plane to go stay with one of her friends, and I had no idea when — or whether — they were coming back. Susan had given me no hope that she would return anytime soon, and I was truly lost. I drove straight from the airport to the beach, and I got on my knees and fell apart right at the shoreline. I couldn't see any way out, and I couldn't see how any of this would one day make sense or feel any better. I simply prayed and asked God to help me not end my life and, somehow, be a better father if I could no longer be a husband. I'll never forget the hopelessness and agony of that day.

It's been several years and, I have to tell you Rick, there have been many "remember whens" since that day on the beach. I had no idea that there was still hope; everything was so dark for me and my family. But when we have tough times now, we consider our "remember whens" and they help restore our faith and courage. They help us remember the small victories we've had and could have again in the future. They help us make it through to the other side and give us hope when we encounter new challenges. "Remember whens," for us, serve as a bridge from fear to hope.

When recovering from infidelity pain, it's understandable to be afraid — and each mate will likely have different fears.

  • For the betrayed mate, they may fear that their loved one is still hiding things.
  • For the wayward mate, they may fear retaliation if they're fully transparent.
  • Both mates may also fear having to live in a pretend normal state, where they keep what's happening from their friends and family to avoid judgment.

Whatever your fears may be, know it is possible to overcome them. It may take practicing affair recovery steps that feel anything but second nature, such as walking blindfolded across a terrifying Cat Walk, but you can triumph over fear. The first step is identifying your fears. The second step is getting help to move past them.

Getting Help to Regain Strength and Overcome Fear

At Affair Recovery, we help couples and individuals recovering after an affair or a betrayal, and we believe any crisis can lead to radical transformation. Through our programs and courses, we walk with individuals as they find clarity, truth and strength after an affair or a betrayal. Over the years, our affair recovery steps and support have helped thousands of participants manage their fear and begin to transform their lives. Whether it's our Harboring Hope course for betrayed mates, our Hope for Healing course for wayward mates or our EMS Online course for couples, individuals gain invaluable resources to heal and small group support to thrive by participating in our courses. If you're having a difficult time moving forward and conquering your fear, I encourage you to register in one of our restorative courses.

It may not seem like it right now, but you are brave enough and strong enough to keep going. If you don't believe me, try to remember the moments in the past where things have worked out well or moments where God has come through for you. These are proof that you've made it through and can certainly make it through again. Lynn, one of our Survivors' Bloggers, has firsthand experience using "remember whens" to overcome her fear while recovering after an affair. You can view her inspirational and informative video here.

I sincerely hope that you will come to a place where you're able to live out of hope rather than fear. Also, I always enjoy hearing from you all, so I encourage you to leave comments below about how the "remember whens" strategy has worked for you. These affair recovery steps transformed my life, and I truly hope they can help you walk forward with confidence and strength.

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"To be honest, I don't think my wife and I would be together if not for this course. The shock of discovering that my wife was having an emotional online affair with her counselor shook my world and hers as well. We had no idea where to start and immediately Googled where we could seek help from. It was a blessing that Affair Recovery was high on the list of options. Affair Recovery provided hope where I thought there was none. Along the way, I gained understanding as to why my wife entered into her affair. I am better off as a person and husband for taking the course." — Anonymous | EMSO Participant, September 2020.

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walking backwards...

I think that concept is based on the faith that the Jewish people had in their God and beliefs. When your beliefs are shattered, and been betrayed by the one you love...what do you look back on as an anchor?

Many betrayers...some rightfully so...believe that much of what their past was a falsehood (to justify it all to themselves and others). The times I thought were good, my wife was in a bad place, having a "secret best friend", plotting and flirting her way toward an affair and eventually sleeping with her AP in our house and sneaking off to his nasty slum neighborhood.
I certainly believe that, at least for a while, my wife was living a lie and a completely fake life.

Needed to hear this

We are 19 months post D-day. The discovery of my husband's affair left me tumbling in an emotional wake of utter devastation. Instinctively, I wanted to push him far away, but sources such as Hope Now encouraged me to give it 90 days before making such a decision. I am so thankful for that encouragement! I never would have believed that we could EVER heal after so much hurt, but we are definitely on the path of recovery. The triggers are countless... Dates, names, songs, places, images, movies, words spoken, and sometimes they come out of nowhere... But they are getting fewer and further between. Despite my husband's renewed commitment to our marriage, fear raises it's ugly head now and then, and causes my mind to scream out how foolish I am to let my guard down, but I the concept of Looking Back and intelligently opting for selective Blinders helps me sort through some of that. I think it is fair to say that betrayed spouse suffers a unique brand of post traumatic stress, and rationalizing through emotions can prove extremely challenging. Your article today was something I really needed to hear. Thank you again for all the work you do.


Thanks for your comment. We are 8 months post d-day. Everything you said rings true for me. The triggers, the fear, everything. It's comforting to hear others experience the same. Blessings to you and your marriage.


I do, in fact, use this technique, but thanks for the reminder.

Help, I've fallen and I can't get up

I hope this technique works for others, but I have to say, because of my husband's continuing infidelity, even using what he learned at EMS to increase my trust, and then betray it again, that I feel more like I have walked out on the beam blindfolded, only to find that he is already on the beam, just waiting to push me off, time after time.

My fear is that when I do gather the strength to climb out of the abyss and try to venture out onto the beam, I won't be able to walk out there because in spite of my courage, I am not in control of my journey. My husband can at any time throw me off the beam. All I know is that God knows exactly what is happening, and from Him I draw the ability to climb out of the abyss time after time, because he will never leave nor forsake me. I feel like a boxer that continually goes down in the fight. Each time I stand up I am weaker. I just need to focus on the fact that I can do all things through Him that strengthens me.

In my case, eliminating my fear cannot be based on the "remember when"; it cannot be placed on our past because all of a sudden the past is not what I thought it was. Eliminating the fear can only be placed on focusing on Christ, knowing that he experienced betrayal, and knowing he understands and loves me.

The past is not an anchor. It was an IED.


going back to work when everyone knows

My hubby and I completed EMS Online back in December, it was one of the hardest things that we ever had to accomplish. I had a relapse. Yes, I was the one who cheated and i relapsed over the holidays HARD and went to file for divorce after our classes were done after the first of the year this year. My affair was very public with coworkers knowing and my family knowing (his and mine). VERY MESSY... Anyways, God had other plans and through me going through a major emergency and hospitalization and several surgeries it became apparent that my husband and I still loved one another and my AP did NOT... i was so ASHAMED and ANGRY, But over the course of a few months my husband's ministering grace to me and forgiveness to me in spite of my awful treatment of him before won me back to the Lord and ultimately to our family. I was finally able to see what I was doing when he was quiet and kind and helping me unselfishly as opposed to when he was yelling and screaming and chasing me... I couldn't see HIM until I was in a place where I needed him.
Now, I know that I need him for the times when I am short on patience, because he is much more long suffering than I. I know when I feel panicked, I can turn to him for his strength. It has almost been a year since our big reveal or D-Day... I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but I love him more and respect him more. He has been my hero in more ways than I can begin to say... we have so much further to go, but I am incredibly grateful for my husband. I had no hope, no plan, before, but now I have him and God and my children. Together we are developing a plan on how for me to go back to work and be successful and safe. We are trying to build more trust.

It's good to hear that it's

It's good to hear that it's OK and actually important to remember the dark days sometimes. There's so much emphasis at AR for the betrayed person not to dwell on intrusive, repetitive thoughts. But our spouses DID betray us and cause horrible dark holes in our lives. I had forgotten until seeing this video that I too flashed on the idea of walking into the water and not coming back out. Not an intention, but like watching a scene from a movie about Virginia Wolfe. Anyway, I find it healing to acknowledge for a moment how dark things got. It does make the good moments even better. Yesterday was 1 year from Dday and we focused on creating loving moments to rewrite the history of the day. But something was nagging at me -- we neglected to acknowledge at all just how dark my world was 1 year ago. I've labeled it now and moved on! Thank you, Lynn.

Wish I could even imagine

My 1 year d Day is a week today
I wish that I could even imagine a day without the darkness. Let alone - remember it :(
I want to be able to talk like other survivors but
I don't know how
So much praise for people who have done this

infedility over and over again

I have gone through infedility for 32 years on and off in our marriage.The last time was an affair that lasted for 2 years which I thought finished after the 1st 2 months only to find out again and the 2nd time and 3rd time. Only now I have taken my husband back as he said he had a wake up call and has not contacted her even though she tried to continue to contact him.Only now we talk openly about his affair and how he needs to make me feel safe again.I still cannot forget daily what he had done and how they both would set me up and lie continally to me.

Remember When

I am in the middle of second discovery and renewed ambivalence on my husband's part right now and managing the ambivalence and maintaining the "status quo" is getting me to that place of having had "enough".

So...I remember when...

...I lost my job suddenly and found myself as the unemployed breadwinner of my family of five over night. I was terrified for the future, but after six months of searching I found a job I'm better suited for and am happier at.

...I was trapped in a codependent relationship with my husband and when the first discovery of the affair occurred I had no idea how to cope and no one to rely on for emotional and spiritual support. Because of where he was at in terms of his relationship with the AP and his continued ambivalence, I was forced to find support elsewhere and that's how I rediscovered God and uncovered a better relationship with Him than I ever could have imagined. God is who I turn to for emotional and spiritual support now.

...I used to freak out and resort to very immature responses to things my husband would tell me that I didn't want to hear after the first discovery. I would resort to passive-aggressive comments or complete melt-downs. Now I try to participate in conversations as an active listener, I stay calm and mature as best I can and the results are much more favourable.

I'll keep using this strategy as I move forward in MY recovery.

Battling fears!

Thanks so much for this video. This was timely, as this past week I had a dream my husband had left me for another woman- surprisingly I awoke unbothered. We’ve been in recovery now for over a year & both he & I have made tremendous progress. As a betrayed wife, I had & still have some fears about the future. I guess the biggest one is fearing wasted time & energy if he relapsed. I’ve now resolved that I can’t control anyone & to take it one day at a time & utilize the tools in this presentation to help me cope. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love the AR team so much & thank God for you all. There’s absolutely no way my marriage would even have had a chance if I hadn’t discovered you. Thank you !


Thanks Wayne for addressing this important issue. I am living in a state of fear. Fear of being lied to, deceived and abandoned again. I forgave time and time again and I was deceived and manipulated for two more (8 year affair) years after DDay. I am struggling with hatred for the APs (2) and that goes against my very nature. But it is my current reality. I am working hard to let go of these fears so we can have a healthier, stronger and more loving marriage than we had before. In addition I need my UH to show up a different man as well. Stronger, more emotionally stable and less easily persuaded then he was when we married. The saying “Fool me once shame on you but fool me twice shame on me” has become a part of where I am today. He said all the “right” things but they were just words. FEAR is a large mountain to climb for me.

You read my mind

Mine and your stories are almost identical. I'm struggling to believe that I will ever feel "safe" from the pain, shock and embarrassment that I have lived. I too was dragged for nearly 2 years after DDay, and don't understand why now? Why should I believe that NOW you are able to give our marriage 100%, when he was clearly incapable for the 2+years with the affair partner, plus another nearly 2 years after discovery. He wants me to believe it is like a light switch that turns on and off, and he just turned it off. Doesn't make sense.

I want to believe it’s possible

I relate so much to both of your comments. My heart goes out to you. D-day was 2 years ago this coming July. I too have struggled with hatred for the AP, honestly the first person I have ever hated in my life. Ridiculous too because I am not someone she ever wasted a thought or concern about the entire duration of her affair with my husband or in the years since while I attempt to pick up the broken pieces of my marriage.
My husband also wants me to accept that he has “turned it off” without doing the work to actually reassure me or safeguard our fragile relationship. The truth is, I am way deeper into trying to actually recover while I don’t think he has accepted the magnitude of his betrayal yet.
I did enjoy this article, and it’s something healthy to focus on. The fear and paranoia and mourning my lost future absolutely take over me.
I too live in fear of never being safe from the pain, and THAT is what I wish for each of you—to be safe again.

Looking back

I can't seem to find the "remember whens" at the moment. The last two years are so colored by lies and deception. My fear isn't so much that my husband will find another affair partner as it is that we just aren't going to be able to move past this. We have been doing staggered disclosure about porn for about 20 years and I am realizing now how much this has changed me. The constant rejections and being the one not chosen and having someoen else always in our relationship. Then two years ago the fear came true and someone else was in our relationship and I really felt like the other woman. He chose her over me so many times and now I realize it was just a continuation of a pattern that I had come to accept. So now 20 years is colored by his betrayl, not just the last two. I know there were good but it's all tainted now and I don't know how to get the color of betrayl off.


I can’t move past the fear of him leaving me for her. Even when he tells me he loves me and can’t imagine his life with out me in it, he will then change and say “this is working “ or “ he resents me for not being attentive “.
i lost my son and it is was pure hell for me. So yes, i did pull away. I don’t know if he thinks i will do it again or just doesn’t love me anymore.


Will I ever live without these fears and triggers? EVERYTHING in the above comments resonates. I get very badly triggered if I even hear that name, say on tv or elsewhere! When I look for happy memories, I instantly feel that it was an illusion. Like viewing a pretty picture, then turning it over and seeing the blank back. I want to give 100% of my love, but knowing what I know and fearing what else I don't know, makes it impossible. He assures me all is good, he's so changed, etc. I say when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. And I don't know how to do this and believe that at the same time. Thank you for sharing and letting me know I'm not alone.


What online course do you recommend four the spouse of a serial cheater. He says he’s done but that is very hard to swallow. His last affair Lasted 3 1/2 years and ended when I threatened him with going to the city he works in (which is 266 miles away) and finding all his women with my daughter. He has been seeing a Christian counselor for about a year now. My concern is 3 1/2 years ago we both went together to a Christian counselor and the whole time he was lying to the therapist and was sleeping with the other woman the whole time. It’s very hard to believe someone who continues to repeat their mistakes for this period of time.

Hey Debbie, I would recommend

Hey Debbie, I would recommend checking out our Harboring Hope course. If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to support@hope-now.com

Generalized Fear

When I was reading this text I wondered whether it is possible that fear generalizes or moves to other situations in ones life. I am the betrayed partner and 15 months past d-day and we are doing much better. I think the fear of him hurting me again is not so strong anymore (however still there somehow probably) but what I realize is that I fear certain situations in my work life now, especially with people judging me and I am always afraid of failing or not being good enough. I wonder whether this is maybe a personal thing of mine probably enhanced by the infidelity or if it is normal for betrayed people…

Fear is overwhelming

I am the betrayer and regretfully so. I would not wish this pain on anyone. This is painful for not only myself but especially by husband. Watching him crumble in way I have never seen and express emotions I never knew he could (he’s not one to really show his emotions, not until now). My heart is completely broken watching the pain he suffers. It isn’t a pain to feel or watch that I would ever wish on my worst enemy. It is so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just as I believe we are starting to sort through the waters, another huge trigger will drop out of the clear blue sky and sends right back into a spiral and my heart breaks for him further. I want nothing more than to take away his pain and furthermore, rewrite the poor decisions of my past. I am so shameless and filled with guilt and severe remorse over my affair Season. I’m sure I can assume what a few of his fears are such as worrying he will be foolish to forgive me, afraid people will judge him and think he’s weak. Also, afraid of ever feeling this way or being in this situation again. I can only imagine how fearful he is living in this “dark” time currently, as I fearful myself in this darkness. I am so terrified that he will one day decided he can’t take the pain anymore and decide to part ways from me. Thinking of that outcomes shatters my entire heart. He truly is my best friend and my hero is so many ways. I love this man with all my heart and I am so entirely regretful of my mistakes. We are nearing 2 years in and the future is still so foggy for us. I pray to the lord for guidance and hope. I pray that someday soon this storm will pass and we can rejoice as a recovered married couple that use our experience to inspire others to stray from these poor choices as they are simply not worth the risk no matter the “reason” you feel you have for your wrongdoings. If you’re anything like me, you will only wake up one day to a nightmare you can’t erase and years worth of work left to do to mend a broken heart that you care so deeply for. You will see that you have not only broken their heart as you have also broken your own while watching the pain you have caused by your selfishness. I write this with blood shot eyes and tears streaming down my face as I am so heartbroken over seeing my husband suffer from the damage I created for him and my family.

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