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

A Discussion on Remorse, Trauma and Extreme Suffering

At Affair Recovery, it’s our mission to restore those in crisis to extraordinary lives of meaning and purpose. One of the ways we’ve been doing that for decades is through our research-based courses and programs, which include EMS Weekend, EMS Online, Hope for Healing and Harboring Hope. Nevertheless, we deeply understand that like how no two people are the same, no two infidelity situations are the same. That’s why, in addition to regularly updating and elevating our courses and programs, we make time to answer your unique questions.

Through the Expert Q&A feature of our Recovery Library, current course participants and active Group Leaders can submit questions about their individual recovery journeys. Upon registering in a course, you get a complimentary Recovery Library membership and instant access to its materials. The length of this free membership varies based on the course: Harboring Hope and Hope for Healing participants get six months, EMS Online participants get 12 months, and EMS Weekend participants get 18 months.

Here’s how you can take advantage of this feature:

  1. Search our Recovery Library for your question before submitting a new one. Note: We’re unable to answer duplicate questions.
  2. Submit up to one question a week, keeping it to 250 words or less. Look for the "Expert Q&A" link in your dashboard. Note: You must be participating in an Affair Recovery course and a member of our Recovery Library to submit a question.
  3. Stay tuned for your question to be answered by either myself or another Affair Recovery expert, such as Wayne Baker, M.A., LPC; Leslie Hardie, LCSW; and John Mark Haney, Ph.D., LPC. Note: New Q&A videos are posted on Thursdays.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “This all sounds good, but I wanna see some answers before I go through the process of submitting!” I’ve got you covered. Below, I’m sharing three of our most dynamic and engaging Q&A videos as well as a powerful video blog from Samuel, one of our most inspirational survivors of infidelity.

Question 1: ‘Why Isn’t She Remorseful After Her Affair?’

Q: Our D-Day was mid-July, and my wife ended her affair after an ultimatum about a week ago. I’ve been doing my best to help my wife navigate the tough waters we are in. My wife is a good woman and has always been a remarkable person in the 11 years we have been together. I’m having trouble understanding her lack of remorse for her actions. She states she feels bad for hurting me, but she has yet to experience remorse for her actions. Is this a common occurrence? I don’t want to base my reactions and decisions merely on a lack of remorse, but it has me concerned she could fall into the same trap if there is no remorse.

A: This is most definitely a common occurrence. It sounds like this whole relationship has just ended. It’s going to take time for her to gain her perspective of what to do. One of the things you can do that would really help you and her gain perspective would be to take our EMS Online course or attend our EMS Weekend, where you’ll be placed with other couples that are going through the same thing.

If she holds resentment and anger toward you, which there’s a really good chance she does, it’s because typically when people are unfaithful, one of the ways they allow themselves not to feel too much shame or guilt is to kind of demonize or hold on to the hurts and resentments to help justify their actions. It’s as if they have to feel they were done to come over here. So there’s no remorse if it feels like in her own head, what she’s telling herself, is that she’d already checked out of the relationship; or, really, because of resentments, you deserve whatever (she’s giving you).

Doing something like one of the EMS courses is going to be really helpful because she’ll be able to see other people who are unfaithful but, even more, she’ll be able to see the impact of betrayal on the other spouses; she can feel it much easier for them than she’s going to be able to feel it for you probably at this point. Both of you will see things in the other couples that’ll (help) create feelings like remorse. But without doing the work to help identify the cost and gaining perspective, kind of untwisting all of the justifications, then it’s difficult for remorse to come. So I encourage you to do the group; I think you’ll find it gets you to a place where you both feel more connected, and you can feel in your heart that you know she cares about you.

Question 2: ‘How Can I Heal From the Affair in the Midst of Ongoing Trauma?’

Q: We are 11 months post-discovery, and I feel stuck in my healing process. My husband has stopped all contact with his limerent affair partner, we participated in EMS Online, and he is now active in Hope for Healing. Despite the benefit we received from these programs, my husband remains ambivalent regarding our marriage. He says he hopes we will be able to stay married, but he cannot commit to it. The ongoing rejection by him, his inability to say with certainty that he wants to remain my husband, continues to traumatize me. You have described well the primal terror that attachment distress can cause. With my husband’s ongoing ambivalence, I remain in a perpetual state of attachment distress. How do I heal in the midst of this ongoing trauma without hardening my heart toward him?

A: If I were you, the only way I could have hope that things would change is by looking at the efforts that he’s making, that there’s a commitment to do whatever’s necessary to get that to come back.

  • I would also want to see a deeper concern for the pain that he’s causing me, given the fact that he’s still struggling so much.
  • I’d want an assurance, again from him, that he’s still working hard to try and address this particular issue.
If you’re not getting these things, and if he’s in the middle of a Hope for Healing course, I’d let him get through the course and see where he’s at at the end of that. If he’s still ambivalent, not at a place where he feels he can commit, then I would make a decision; I would go ahead and tell him that that’s not what you want, that you appreciate the work that he’s done and that you’ll make a decision. Because you have no choice as to whether someone wants to be with you or not.

Now, once you commit or decide to leave — most likely because he’s ambivalent — and he immediately wants you to come back, be very careful. You want to see over time if you kick him out, if you decide you even still want the relationship — and it’s fine not to. You’d want to see him doing the work necessary to get free. At one of our EMS Weekends, I was talking to somebody who had a very similar situation. Their issue went far back; it wasn’t even about, I think, the person they were in the limerent relationship with. This woman didn’t just attend Hope for Healing, which was going to help her, but she was also doing trauma work and counseling. She was determined to do something about it.

So, hopefully, you’ll see whether your husband is really committed to getting better by not just doing the minimum or a few things, but you’ll see him being really committed to trying to address this for him. Without that, after that course, if you see nothing else like that, it may be time to call it and move on. Because your pursuing him isn’t going to help ambivalence, and I don’t want you to be retraumatized or continue to be traumatized by him.

Question 3: ‘Am I Dealing with Accusatory Suffering?’

Q: My husband and I are one year into recovery. I am the betrayed spouse. We did EMS Weekend. I did Harboring Hope. I read "Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness" by Frederic Luskin*, have done EMDR (therapy) for PTSD, and we are in counseling with an infidelity specialist. Our counselor says my husband is the model of a recovering unfaithful, and he is doing everything he possibly can to facilitate my healing. I think I am falling into bouts of what you called accusatory suffering. Sometimes, I do not want to be loved, even though I know my husband loves me. Often, I feel I am to blame for our floundering recovery. I don’t always feel this way and, even when I do, I logically know I shouldn’t be feeling this way because what I am feeling does not match up with what I know to be true. Do you have any suggestions?

A: You mentioned that you’re one year into recovery; I want to point out that is a place where things get much more difficult. We talk about this at EMS Weekend: Don’t put too high of expectations on yourself when you’re at the one-year anniversary. I’d be a lot more interested to know how you’re doing at the 15- or 16-month place, but know it’s normal to struggle right now and to feel like you’re having trouble getting over it.

Accusatory suffering is that state where you’re afraid to let go and heal, simply because you don’t want what was a major betrayal to look like a minor papercut. You mentioned doing EMDR for your PTSD, it may be that more trauma work is going to be necessary for you. Just the fact that you can identify that you’re having trouble letting go, I think is a really important factor. I would also suggest that you read F. Remy Diederich’s book* called “Stuck: How to Overcome Your Anger and Reclaim Your Life." He may also help you look at this from a different perspective.

But to me, it just sounds like the pain is so intense that you want to let it go but you keep getting reactivated. So, try reading “Stuck” and try doing a little more EMDR to see if that’ll help facilitate deactivating this thing, so that the part of you that’s having trouble letting go can begin to feel safe enough to maybe move forward.

‘The 4 Possible Outcomes of Great Suffering’

I believe that with great suffering comes an even greater potential for a changed future. You may not see it that way now, but severe crises can lead to radical transformations. Whether that transformation is good or bad will entirely depend on you. So let me ask you this: Do you want to remain bitter and angry, or do you want to process these feelings and begin a better life? Becoming unhinged, seeking numbness, feeling bitter, and getting angry: Samuel pinpoints these as the four outcomes of great suffering. In this video, he explains why some of us get stuck in these outcomes and that there's a way to move forward — and it all starts with you.


If you’re enrolled in one of our courses and have a query of your own, I encourage you to visit our Recovery Library and submit your question. Additionally, this helpful resource has more than 1,500 Q&A videos as well as numerous articles, mentor stories and much more. While you do have to be enrolled in a course to ask a question, enrollment isn't necessary to become a Recovery Library member. And right now, we’re offering a discount when you sign up for a six- or 12-month recurring membership. I hope you’ll give this invaluable resource a try.

*As an Amazon Associate, Affair Recovery earns from qualifying purchases.

Register NOW for the Life-Changing Experience of EMS Weekend for Couples

This isn’t another light-and-fluffy program that only scratches the surface of your pain. EMS Virtual Weekend is a safe space for you and your partner to begin moving toward acceptance, transformation and healing after infidelity. Skeptical about the effectiveness of an all-virtual experience? Don’t be! Our EMS Virtual Weekend is backed by numerous participant testimonials, including this one:

“The force behind so much of the good events in our lives was damaged by her betrayal; she wept and grieved for it. On the other hand, EMS Weekend was able to build her — and me — back up and escape the shame. After EMS Weekend, I feel I have processed much more and in healthier ways than in the previous 15 months of me doing recovery work on my own. I was stuck in trauma loops for 15 months. EMS Weekend helped me take my first steps outside that loop. This is the first time I understand that the worst thing that’s ever happened to me could potentially be the catalyst behind the best things to come for me in my life.” — December 2020 Virtual EMS Weekend participant.

During EMS Weekend, we won’t shame the unfaithful mate or blame the betrayed mate. What we will do is pair you with a small group of other couples, knowledgeable Group Leaders and comprehensive healing resources. Plus, we’re now offering a $1,000 discount for virtual months during the COVID-19 pandemic. So what are you waiting for? Join Rick for EMS Weekend to begin building toward a better, brighter life.

Register Now!

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Comments

Trigger

I tell my husband who has been unfaithful about a trigger and I know it is. I tell him a several days before because it was his texting her and lying to me for decades that got us here. I even told him that morning before work which I really should not have gone there either. I thought he might send me a flower or plant or even say let's have lunch. But nothing. How will he understand the pain if he really doesn't care. Those there just words something that takes no thought and very little effort. Especially after the decades of abuse both physical and mental and emotional.

Why does the unfaithful get that. They get over the lying so easily.

Trying to get my spouse to talk

I have read your articles listened to countless podcast-worked through the 7 day boot amp and tried to get my husband to participate. However it has been very minimal. I have tried to forgive and to tell him my feelings but he shuts down. I found out about the affai, we have been married for 35 years. I am not sure he would have stopped if I had not discovered the text. He is very defensive and not very open to discussion. At my wits end, I would leave if I didn’t have my children and grandchildren to explain this all to. How do I convince him to come clean-or attend a couples weekend?