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

Stuck? 3 Methods to Get Moving in Infidelity Recovery

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One truth we've learned at Affair Recovery is that it's not just time that heals wounds; it's how you spend the time. Often, I hear about or see couples that are just plain “stuck.” The good news is, you don't have to be stuck. You can move toward healing and gain — and sustain — momentum in your recovery journey.

You might be saying to yourself, “Easier said than done, Rick.” I hear you. So, I'm not going to just say it's possible to move forward. Instead, I want to share how to actually get unstuck during infidelity recovery. If you’re feeling frustrated, lost or just plain stuck, I recommend using these three tips to maintain traction in your personal recovery.

1. Let Go of Discovery

There comes a point in infidelity recovery where you’re going to understand what happened as well as you’re ever going to. And once you understand the situation, seeking more details can actually be quite disruptive when recovering from infidelity pain. With each new detail, the betrayed spouse might get sucked back into the pain they want to move past. With each new answer, the wayward spouse might reexperience the shame they want to escape. There is such a thing as too much detail.

Cindy Beall, an inspirational infidelity survivor and author, was our 2018 Hope Rising Conference keynote speaker. You can view her powerful speeches by purchasing Hope Rising On Demand here. Additionally, if you're the betrayed spouse, I encourage you to continue your journey to wholeness by registering for our virtual 2021 Hope Rising Conference here. In Beall's book Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken*, she discusses why questions can sometimes hinder healing:

Sometime during the first year after Chris' confession, I finally made a decision. Chris and I were discussing the past, and I don't remember exactly what I asked him but it had something to do with an encounter he had with a woman. He very gently took my hand and said, "Babe, I'll answer any question you ask for the rest of my life, but will my answer make you feel any better?"

I looked into his eyes and knew he was right. The answer wouldn't make me feel better. The only thing it would do is tell me the date and time that he made a fool of me. I know that when I ask questions, it comes from a place of fear in me. My heart starts beating faster, and I literally don't have the physical or mental strength to stop moving forward in my quest for answers. So I stopped asking questions. And maybe you should too.

Beall explains that very specific details, such as which sexual acts were performed and how often they occurred, won’t help you feel better but may make you feel worse. Asking questions to grasp what happened is one thing, she says, but too many details may be triggering or cause you to imagine what happened — both of which are surefire ways to stay stuck during infidelity recovery. Beall continues:

I know how hard it is to let it go and stop asking questions. So, here's what I did to walk myself through that. When my curiosity got the best of me, I first asked myself two questions:

  1. Why do I need to know this?
  2. Will this help me heal?

More times than not, asking the question would only hurt me more, which would not bring healing. Other times, the point of my question was just to find out when I'd been fooled, thus fueling a pride issue I was battling.

2. Have a ‘Good Enough’ Recovery

To some of you, I know this may be a controversial way of approaching affair recovery. We typically think of infidelity recovery in all-or-nothing terms. Our fear of relapse produces an intense need to get it right, and we want our mate to get it right even more. Who would want to take the chance of ever going through this pain again?

But fear and perfectionism cloud our judgment. When we not only want our mate to “get it” but to also “get it” perfectly, we can get stuck in a hopeless loop. There comes a time when you have to decide that they understand it well enough. Remember, they are not you, and they may never be able to fully understand; if they are trying to understand, then you can give yourself the gift of accepting what is as good enough. Hopefully, over time, the two of you will continue to grow in understanding.

Keep in mind: I'm not saying, "Get over it," or, "Just deal with it." In no way do I think betrayed spouses should accept being blamed for their mate's affair or being treated in any sort of unloving way. I'm also not suggesting that you continue to live with someone who is unsafe and refuses to get help. What I am saying is there comes a point where you accept a heartfelt desire to get healthy, even though it may not look exactly like you want it to.

3. Take Personal Responsibility for Your Healing

If you're the hurt spouse, I understand how devastating this is for you. You didn't ask for this. When recovering from infidelity pain, you may experience the temptation to make your mate "fix this mess," which is their mess and their fault, in order to help you feel more secure. That decision, however, puts your infidelity recovery in the hands of another, whose actions have already proven hurtful. Why would you want to be dependent on them for your healing and the future quality of your life?

You may need to read that statement again to grasp my true heart's intent. If your happiness is dependent on your mate always saying or doing the right things, then your success is dependent on someone whose performance is already suspect. I am not saying you should leave your marriage, but I am saying your happiness and the quality of your life is in your hands.

Not to minimize the difficulty of your current situation, but some day the feelings you're currently experiencing will pass just like every feeling before has passed. Ultimately:

  • You get to choose the principles you'll live by as you go forward.
  • You get to choose whether you'll be open to learning new ways of being.
  • You get to choose the story you tell yourself about what's happening.

You can either see yourself as a powerless victim who’s forever trapped in circumstances beyond their control, or you can take responsibility for your life and intentionally make choices that bring life to others and to yourself.

Unfortunately, we cannot choose what happens to us — as every hurt spouse in this situation understands; we can, however, choose how we respond. This situation doesn't have to define you. If you're feeling stuck, ask yourself whether you're ready to move forward. If you're not quite ready, that's OK; just know you can move forward if you so choose. When recovering from infidelity pain, you don't have to get it right, you just have to take a step. The goal is progress, not perfection.

If you're the betrayed spouse and feel stuck, I encourage you to invest in your personal restoration by registering for our cathartic Harboring Hope course. If you’re the wayward spouse and want to escape shame and get unstuck, I encourage you to register for our transformative Hope for Healing course. Both of these life-changing online courses are safe spaces to heal and rebuild when recovering from infidelity pain. Remember, you matter and your future is worth fighting for.

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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.

"To be honest, I don't think my wife and I would be together if not for this course. 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." — September 2020 participant.

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I am still stuck. It will be

I am still stuck. It will be two years in September since "D" day. I am still on discovery. My husband continued to lie to me after the affair about little things I would ask. Just today I found out more. I keep digging because I don't believe him after all the lies. I want to be better but can't seem to move on. I still hurt after two years like it was yesterday. I know I need to give it up and just accept what he has told me but when he lies about even little things what else has he lied about.

Stuck

I am 4 months from discovery, I too feel stuck, not so much in the discovery, but feeling like I may never be able to forgive, forget, trust again and move on.....he is trying....maybe it comes in time......but thanks this may help......

The First Step

The problem I have with this first step is that I DID stop looking, only to find out 2 years later that he continued the affair after the initial DDay. He has made some significant changes in recent months, mostly because his AP is suing us for her pain and suffering and I found out things he hadn’t told me in her discovery. I have also found out a lot by just innocently stumbling across it. How can I justify stopping to look for more, when there is always more that rears it’s head up and catches me off guard? It’s like a never ending DDay! We both want to stay together. And I can see actual change in him. But how do I stop hemorrhaging when the past won’t leave ME alone?

Since you have not had full

Since you have not had full disclosure you keep being bounced back to DDay AGAIN which then dominoes into discovery again, and no wonder. I think anyone, including myself who had multiple DDays over the same affair, was held in a holding pattern because the discovery was continuous. We cannot trust someone, which is what is required in a marriage, if they do not prove to be trustable. "The past", because of the continuous discovery is constantly the present. How can anyone stop discovery when the discovery occurs without attempts at trying to discover! What I found was acceptance that I could not heal because the wound was constantly torn off because my WH did not fully disclose leaving me to, like you, innocently discover. I say innocently because I was NOT snooping and looking for more information it just reared its ugly head. Frankly I see it as a form of abuse because as long as you are in a relationship with this person who does not trust you enough with the information of their affair, and who with their mouth claims to want to continue in a relationship with you without full disclosure, you are going to continue to be damaged emotionally each time another new piece of information is revealed. It takes trust to move forward with a wayward spouse. We want to trust, but instead of being set free with full disclosure the wayward spouse has chosen a method of control by retaining discoverable information. Freedom comes when we either accept that if I stay and there is not full disclosure then I am always vulnerable to being hurt, when our spouse finally discloses everything and true repentance occurs, or we decided that it is no longer worth being vulnerable to someone who has a hold on our emotions at such a hurtful level. The last step may be the first step by discontinuing the control due to the slow leak of information. I wish you emotional health on this journey. I am post DDay 10 years, and because of the slow leak behavior I experienced did not start real recovery until I did the third step and stopped having any expectations of my spouse...he was not worth constant emotionally draining and robbing of my life.

follow up questions

The question today was perfect for me as that is exactly where I am-- stuck in this vicious loop and never moving forward to healing. I can sort of get behind your first point about stop asking questions, though it will be hard. But am having a hard time with the 2nd 2 points.

In point 2, is accepting a heartfelt desire to get healthy really enough? I am amazing person who only deserves the best. He also committed an unspeakable betrayal. Why would a heartfelt desire to get healthy be enough? Don't I deserve more than that? Why should I settle? He actually needs to be better, a hell of alot better, before we can even start to move forward.

In point 3, taking responsbility for my life and my happiness is something I have always done, which is how I created the amazing life that I had. But in this situation, if I work to bring happiness to myself that will by definition exclude him from my life and then I will ultimately end up without him. Because I can't control him and I can't make him make me happy. So that means I will find happiness elsewhere without him. We are trying to work together to move forward together. I just don't feel like he is doing ENOUGH. He has a very deep deep hole to fill. If he can't fill that hole, then we will never be happy together.

I would really love anyone's perspective on this because these are the exact questions I am struggling with, but unfortunately, I don't feel the answers are working for me. Thanks.

What are the answers

I usually don't respond to anyone but your words are similar to my thoughts, I am going on 8 months since d day. He has abandoned our marriage and of course blamed me for his affair. No matter how well my words have been seasoned with salt he still hasn't given me the adult conversation we need to have. So I am trying to to rebuild my strength and happyness without him because I know this is only temporary for my sake. We were once best friends, never did I see this coming, for him to leave your wife and children for selfish desires. It's sick!! So I am just as confused because I know that love endures all things so I'm just trying to be patient with him to take some responsibility. I have seen him 2x in nearly 8 months My husband has a deep whole to fill as well but he is filling it with wasteful things. We are in charge of are own happiness, if my husband was willing to get help I would be there right by his side. It takes time to heal and wounds heal best with loving care. Every marriage will have tribulation there is no real answer only if both parties are willing to work hard and forgiveness is key, you have to know for sure if it's worth it to both of you if not it will all be in vain.

We are nearly two years

We are nearly two years postcard DDay. Although I don’t ask as many questions I still feel the need to. The months after D day were awash with further lies as he tried to cover his tracks and hide the truth.
I ask questions now because I want to make sure he has got it, that there are no more lies, that he shouldn’t have to lie about who he was and what he did. If I am worth anything to him then I am worth the truth.
I generally think that if it hurts to hear the answer to my question and it hurts him to say it then it must be the truth.
That is all I have to go on now because all trust is gone but I hope that the more truth I hear then the more I will eventually trust so I still feel the need to question.

Over 40 years my husband had

Over 40 years my husband had numerous relationships with other women. They were not all full fledged affairs, but they involved flirting, kissing, talking and sometimes more. The last time it was an affair. Since then it is so hard to trust him. Over the years when I asked him about suspicions he always lied to my face. To be honest that hurts worse sometimes than the cheating. He has never wanted a divorce and always promised never again just like an abuser. I finally just gave him to the Lord and asked Him to deal with My husband. I don’t even ask anymore.

I agree

Dawn, I too struggle with trusting my partner to be truthful. But I have decided to trust what I see, and not snoop for evidence. Unless there is something blatant that comes up, I let things go and let God handle it. My mind will race with so many scenarios when I don't have all the information and none of them are good. I cannot ask about anything I am suspicious about because she will just lie and cover it up. So I made a decision not to let the doubt in, and just believe what I see. She does love me, and I know that there are issues and I am trying to help her as much as I can. And at this point our relationship is growing and I am ok. If there comes a time when God shows me something that changes my mind, I will have to made a tough decision. But for now, I simply trust that He will take care of things and I have never felt better. It truly is freedom not to worry about so many things.

Stuck

It's been 4yrs since I learnt about hubby's 2 affairs. I haven't got hardly any questions answered and some I have have been lies. I haven't been able to talk about affairs. I just get shut out. I've been doing well in my recovery but this past week I've fallen of the track and have been feeling so flat so hurt all over again. I'm on anti depressants and ran out of pills for 3 days that's when I began to spiral downwards. What hurts most is I have just really understood how reliant I am on this medication. I've gone from such a happy go lucky care free person to this new person reliant on meds to keep me in some ways happy. I've been given a life sentence for a crime I did not commit and that's so unfair

If my partner can’t be a good

If my partner can’t be a good running back for me, and I have to go it alone to repair the damage that person did to me, why on earth would I want to salvage a relationship with them?

Moving forward???

This article makes sense to me. As the offending spouse, I know I did the wrong thing multiple times over an 8 year period and I have to live with that. While my wife and I are working at our marriage, some days it just feels like I'm the one doing the work and working on my issues and my wife is doing nothing. I get that my wife is hurt. It's been almost 4 years since D-Day and our intimacy levels are lower now than they were 5 years ago. Living in a sexless marriage is hard. I know it's all my fault and some would say that I deserve what I get. I love my wife. I just wish my wife could find the courage to move forward and reengage with me physically. I know that sex isn't the be all and end all of a marriage. I just miss my wife.

Trying to be patient

This video hits home for me, a betrayed spouse, with something that helps me feel free and peaceful. And that is letting go of whatever..... letting go of discovery, letting go of control, letting go of longing for my husband to perfectly follow guidelines for recovery and even learning to be gentle with myself when I am not the person I want to be. My goal is to avoid bitterness, live joyful using my energy for things that are lovely and good and true.

I do not want to be stuck and as crazy as it sounds, am grateful for what I am learning about myself and how I am turning to God. None of these lessons have been easy and don’t want to sound like it is! I struggle and fight with times of bitterness and blame and negativity. And I am just sad sometimes.

I am seeking to learn and grow in all this but it is very traumatic and painful and our marriage may not make it. Our marriage is in a”stuck” place but I don't have to be stuck.

It is a hard thing to try to be patient and to stand by while my spouse struggles with his own recovery just like I do. There have been new discoveries during the past 4 years despite EMS weekend and individual and couples counseling. Recently after yet another discovery, I decided to let go of our marriage and filed for divorce. Because he fought so hard and has now followed through on increased recovery actions, I decided on a legal separation agreement. I believe he does love me and wants our marriage. I also know he has his own demons to fight. And I am trying to be patient while he struggles, trying to let go and focus on growing myself.

Thank you for this video and all that everyone at AR is doing to help us recover.

Methods to get moving

I see Cindy’s husband asking her if the answer would make her feel better as gaslighting and manipulation - of course it wouldn’t make her feel better, nothing to do with a cheating spouse’s affair makes a betrayed spouse feel better. He was playing her and it worked.
What I chose about principles is more what I live by, than what I let go of. I couldn’t live with someone who had very few principles that he lived by. Principles that guide how you live are all you really have when all is said and done.
Regarding new ways of living, like it or not due to my spouse’s lack of principles (integrity specifically) I was and still am living in new ways I didn’t adopt as part of my plan for my life.
As for the “story” I tell myself - the truth will set you free. I had to do my part in setting me free and my life is better for it. I have always believed honesty is the best policy. My spouse, though he claimed he believed as I always have, never practiced it - though he pretended he did for many years? He was like Cindy’s husband and manipulated, lied for years and still claimed to love me and want a life with me of course it was the life he wanted. I also believe that actions speak louder than words - his actions never backed up his words once truth entered the situation.
I also believe it’s more important that you figure out what principles and lessons learned you keep in your life as you go forward.

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