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

Failing to Recommit

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Our Emergency Marital Seminar Online, better known as EMSO, 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 would like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your ministry and the materials you have provided as part of EMSO and Married for Life. We, all five couples that started EMSO, have just completed the Married for Life 52-week course. We are now deciding what to study next as a group, as we so value the relationship we have together as couples. With God, with your materials and with each other, we have saved our marriages." - B. Minnesota | EMSO participant, March 2021.

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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 process. If you are not quite that far into recovery, it's still a good idea to read this and get a vision for where you are 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 life's potential.

Recovering from and surviving 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 their relationship.

From the beginning, I tell people this process will take anywhere from eighteen to twenty-four months and for some, it might even take longer.

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

Will they choose to be 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 is a critical step toward that end.

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? Can I ever fully give myself to you again and afford you the opportunity to hurt me all over 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.

Conversely, failing to take the final step of recommitting can leave couples stuck for decades. Couples can remain in a position of being 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.

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?

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 unfaithful 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 that they may never escape the shadow of their selfishness. Love 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.

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 informed him of a four-week training in New York. He immediately asked his supervisor if he could fly his wife up to New York to spend some time with him while he was away. He was informed that was against company policy. He repeated his request and told his supervisor this was really important to him. When the supervisor asked why, the man told the truth about cheating on his wife during his previous job and expressed his concern about being separated from her for so long since he was afraid it would make her anxious and potentially make him vulnerable. His supervisor said he'd have to check it out with the boss and left the room to call the company CEO. The poor man's anxiety went through the stratosphere as he waited for his boss's return. "What have I done?" he asked himself. "Are they going to see me as a liability and let me go?"

There was a welcomed relief the moment he saw the smile on his boss's face as he walked back down the hall and said, "Not only has the CEO approved the trip for your wife, but he's offered to rent a limo for an entire day for the two of you to explore New York City."

On their trip to the city, he took his wife to ground zero. There he got down on his knees, held out a new ring, told the story of his failure and explained how his actions had the same effects as the terrorist who flew the 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, but he told her there was nothing he wanted more than for her to join him in building a new life for the two of them. She said yes. At that moment, surviving infidelity was transformed into 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. Certain questions have to 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 you willing to put in everything you've got?

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 be different if you were 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. Last but not least, if you are struggling to find community (no matter what stage of recovery you are in) we'd love to help.

Continue Your Healing With EMS Online! Registration Opens Soon.

Our Emergency Marital Seminar Online, better known as EMSO, 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 would like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your ministry and the materials you have provided as part of EMSO and Married for Life. We, all five couples that started EMSO, have just completed the Married for Life 52-week course. We are now deciding what to study next as a group, as we so value the relationship we have together as couples. With God, with your materials and with each other, we have saved our marriages." - B. Minnesota | EMSO participant, March 2021.

Spots fill up quickly, so you won't want to wait to register for EMSO! To learn when registration opens back up, click the button below.

Subscribe to Registration Notifications!

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I would highly recommend giving this a try.
 
-D, Texas