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

Overcoming the Barriers to Recommitment

When discussing the future of the marriage, the concept of recommitting eventually takes center stage. I'm reminded of a folk tale about a chicken and a pig trying to decide what each should bring to a big party they're throwing. The chicken says he'd be happy to bring some eggs for the party, and he suggests the pig bring some bacon.

"That's not quite fair,"
the pig responded,
"For you, it's just a contribution,
but for me it's everything."

Setting the Stage

Before I start, let me make a few disclaimers:

  • First, those of us at Affair Recovery would never encourage someone to commit to a relationship that is unsafe or unhealthy.
  • Second, the steps provided in this article take place far into the recovery process—typically 12-18 months into recovery—after both parties have shown an ongoing dedication to recovery and are following a defined and healthy process. If you are not quite that far into recovery, it's still a good idea to read this article to get a vision for where you are hopefully headed in the future.
  • Third, this particular task of recovery isn't always possible. In order for a marriage to thrive after infidelity, both parties have to put forth effort to achieve the couple’s potential.

Surviving and recovering from infidelity is a long process with many components. Each individual has their personal recovery to manage along with the issues they have to address in order to heal the relationship.

From the beginning, I tell people this process will take anywhere from 18-24 months and for some, it might even take longer.

It's not just 18-24 months of time that will lead to surviving and recovering from infidelity - it's hwo you spend the time.

Spend 3 months following the expert guidance of our Emergency Marital Seminar Online course. Often referred to as EMS Online, this course isn't a one-size-fits-all program for couples. Over decades of experience exclusively in the field of infidelity, our methodology has been honed to better serve couples as they address the betrayal, reconnect as partners and restore their lives.

Learn More | EMS Online

I also tell them that even if they take responsibility for healing, both as individuals and as a couple, there is one last barrier that often comes up toward the end of the process:

Will we choose to stay married?

At Affair Recovery, merely surviving infidelity isn't the goal. Our goal is to help people find a new and extraordinary life of meaning and purpose.

This last question (for married couples) is a critical one.

An Uncertain Future

Infidelity shatters the vows we once made and leaves us adrift with no sure direction. What is the nature of our relationship? Do I choose to love you "till death do us part," or am I going to have nothing to do with you? Are we trying to restore the old marriage or build a new one from the ground up? Can I ever fully give myself to you again? Can I afford to give you the opportunity to hurt me again? To say the least, recommitting is difficult and uncertain, but when the right process is utilized and the right heart-approach is applied, it is well worth the effort.

Failing to take the final step of recommitting themselves to the marriage can leave couples stuck (and miserable) for decades. Couples can remain "emotionally divorced" while still living in a sham of a marriage. They settle for something neither of them wants. Additionally, without a vision for recovery and without a true example, many couples wrongly assume that a sham of a marriage is all they can hope for, so they better accept it.

Moving Beyond Confusion

In Western culture, marriages are not arranged; they are based on decisions made by both parties as they choose to share their lives one with another. Vows are made, expressing love and the intent to be faithful. Once these vows are broken, what is the nature of the relationship based on?

In the beginning stages of recovery, it's difficult to know. Both parties are confused and hurting, and don't know if they can ever trust their mate. The betrayed spouse questions whether or not their mate is willing to do the necessary work to prevent this from happening again. They somehow have to determine whether they matter to their mate and if they could ever feel safe with them again. They will ultimately have to grieve the pain and forgive the offense before they can even see positive traits in their mate.

The wayward spouse worries about whether their mate can ever forgive them. Oftentimes, they fear that this will be held over their head for the remainder of their life and they may never escape the shadow of their selfishness. Love is called into question. Everything that was previously built is called into question. Feelings for their mate frequently disappear and doubts arise as to whether love could ever return. You can understand why it takes time for both parties to feel secure enough in their progress to begin considering recommitment. Some never make it this far as many of you know, but my experience is that if a couple does make through to the end without either of them throwing in the towel, then they have the incredible potential of living (truly living) life together again.

Willingness to Recommit:
A True Story

Years ago, at one of our first EMS Weekends, there was a Texan couple whose husband had multiple affairs with women at work. Somehow, his wife found the grace to at least explore the possibility of saving their marriage, but the thought of his continuing to work with his affair partners was more than she could handle. He was of the same mind and desperate to leave the current job, and he immediately begin searching for a new position. He finally found employment with a company in New York that allowed them to stay in Texas.

After he was hired, the company said he'd begin his employment with a four-week training in New York City. He asked his supervisor if the company would consider flying his wife to NYC in order to spend some time with him while he was away from home for so long. The supervisor said that was, unfortunately, against company policy. He kindly told his supervisor this was really important to him. When the supervisor asked why, the man told the truth. He told him he had cheated on his wife during his previous job and expressed concern about being separated from her for so long, both for her sake and also for his. It was all still so fresh. His supervisor said he'd have to check with the boss and left the room to call the CEO. The poor man's anxiety went through the stratosphere as he waited for his boss's return. What have I done? Are they going to see me as a liability and let me go before I even have a chance to prove myself? How will I tell myself I messed this up?

There was a welcomed sigh of relief the moment he saw his supervisor enter the room with a smile on his face. He said, "Not only has the CEO approved the trip for your wife, but he wants to rent a limousine for the two of you to explore New York City for an entire day!"

On this day-long date in NYC, the husband took his wife to ground zero, the site of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. There, he got down on his knees, drew a new ring out of his pocket, told his wife that his failure in their marriage had the same effect as the terrorists who flew planes into the twin towers. He told her that he certainly understood if she didn't feel it was possible for her to do this again, but that he wanted nothing more than to build a new life together – again. She said, "Yes." At that moment, the couple moved from barely surviving infidelity to a new and powerful recommitment.

If your recovery has allowed you to find a new respect and appreciation for your mate, but you still feel stuck, you might be struggling because the relationship has never been redefined.

It's my experience that certain questions must be answered:

What are we and who are we?
Are we happy with just surviving infidelity, or do we want something greater?
Action Task: Begin to consider—what are we doing and are we ready to recommit in our journey together? Are both of us willing to put in everything we’ve got? Do any barriers remain?

Overcoming the Barriers

Here are some tips on overcoming the barriers to recommitment:

Again, I want to say this is not for those of you in the beginning stages of recovery. This is for those couples who've been walking the path for at least 12 to 18 months and are ready to take the next step.

  1. Seek Community: Talk with other couples who are three to four years down the line in their recovery from infidelity. Find out from them, specifically, what's worked and what hasn't worked. How did they work through the issues of recommitment? What's been helpful for them?
  2. Consider Whether You're Willing to Be "All In": What do you need in order to get to that point? What are your barriers to doing those things? How would you do differently if you wanted to come to that point?
  3. Explore Symbolism: Consider getting new rings to symbolize the new relationship. Set up a ritual that puts a mark in the sand, a stake in time. You might even want to consider a ceremony to renew your vows.
  4. Safety and Forgiveness: Demonstrate recommitment through actions for a safe relationship. Allow the betrayed spouse to be the one who invites the mate back in for recommitment. Pray for guidance on recommitment.

One final note: If your mate says no or they are not ready, don't lose heart. Open up the discussion and see if they are at least willing to discuss what needs to happen as the two of you move forward. There might be barriers you can overcome. Last but not least, if you are struggling to find community (no matter what stage of recovery you are in) Affair Recovery would love to help.

Registration Opens Today at Noon CT for our Emergency Marital Seminar Online course. Often referred to as EMS Online, this course isn't a one-size-fits-all program for couples. Over decades of experience exclusively in the field of infidelity, our methodology has been honed to better serve couples as they address the betrayal, reconnect as partners and restore their lives.

"I signed up for the EMS Online 13 week course and started in December last year. I have been with my partner for 15 years although we had been as good as separated for the past 2-3 years. I was the unfaithful spouse for 10 years during the relationship and had come to view my partner with a negative lens as well as not feeling like I could plan with her in mind. We finally decided to try the online course after watching many YouTube videos from the team, as 15 years, 3 kids and an entire farm project were in the balance. I wish I had known about the course before any relationship, as it completely reset my wiring, someone was finally teaching me how to have a relationship. I learned about thoughts and feelings and how to tackle them, I learned how to feel empathy, forgiveness, truth in love and more. It was a spiritual journey and I now have the best relationship I have ever had and certainly the best moment in the 15 years of being together. I would recommend AR to anyone in crisis...absolutely, and really to just anyone in a relationship.... It's amazing, the structure of the 13 weeks takes you on an emotional rollercoaster and at times I felt like quitting, but thanks to my commitment contract and the knowledge that things were getting clearer, I continued and now have moved onto married life with our group as it's just such powerful work. We were in a terrible place before starting this course and now we are in a wonderful relationship together." - A., France. 3/17/23

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Recommitment Video

Thanks for the video as it was great to hear the 4 phases of the recovery and what can be barriers to moving ahead. I realize we are at the middle point and need to do more work to further our progress and this video gives great guidance. Forgiveness, safety and the new design of our marriage is what we must address. I appreciate the tip to have a symbolic token to redine and celebrate what we will do for the new and different relationship we want. Thanks

Sometimes the Barriers are Barricades

Well, I have to believe that an amazing testimony of "something" is being developed. My 37th wedding anniversary is approaching. It was actually 10 years ago (on my anniversary celebration weekend) that I found out the very first trickle of truth that my husband had been unfaithful. The nightmare and the undoing of all that I had believed about my marriage, his faith, our family crumbled for the next 6 years. Four years ago we landed in the office of a sex addiction therapist, where we finally began some significant traction. Before that I had been leading the Recovery efforts, including an EMS online course that he willingly participated in, but he was still unfortunately pursuing his AP. I have been carried, strengthened and comforted by my unwavering faith in Jesus. I would not be sane without faith!! I am grateful for all that I have learned. I am grateful that I will be able to help and comfort other Betrayed Spouses. I will never be grateful for the affair. I have stayed married and committed to my husband, even though I do not trust him. I have fully forgiven him and I love him, but we are not restored. I know that might sound weird or unhealthy, but IT IS my journey. Living with a recovering Sex Addict is risky. I know that I am safe in my walk with the Lord. I have deep love and even empathy for my husband. This video was meaningful to me. I hope to rebuild what has been devastated. I hope for a new Covenant.

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