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

Social Shame Survey

social shame

Social shame is based on our perceived value according to the people groups we belong to.

Have you experienced this social shame in your own life? Have you felt as though you were overcome with social shame due to the choices your spouse has made? Maybe you felt like my wife Stephanie early on in our recovery. She felt social shame not because of something she had done but, because she was now part of a shameful marriage instead of a respectable one. Social shame isn’t based on personal failure; it is ascribed to us by the people groups we belong to.

As I have alluded to previously, there is an unexplored dimension of the recovery process from infidelity. This dynamic of honor and shame significantly impacts our responses to betrayal and the healing timeline, and if long term recovery is going to take place, we must discuss it deeper. Surviving infidelity just isn’t enough. We must find healing and we must find restoration for ourselves and our spouse.

Mobile users follow this link: Shame Survey

We are passionate about helping people find healing from the pain of infidelity, thank you for helping us help others.

For more on social shame check out the following:

Social Shame: A 4 Part Series

  1. Social Shame: Understanding the Paralysis of it
  2. Social Shame: Have you Been Dishonored?
  3. Social Shame: Surviving Infidelity Isn't Enough
  4. Social Shame: Four Ways to Stay in it



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social shame

I (who was betrayed) felt the most shame because he didn't want me telling a lot of people what had happened. Being the protector that I am, I protected him from social embarrassment, shame, etc. But no one was protecting me. There is shame in staying, shame in a failed marriage, shame in the idea that "I may have caused this", shame that I wasn't enough for my husband, etc. I feel the betrayed takes on most of the negative emotions....or maybe just in my case.

social shame

Absolutely not just in your case! I, too, feel like I was protecting him - and no one was protecting me. You said it well.


I felt and did the same thing as you. I did it because I didn't want people to know we had a failed marriage, didn't want him to lose his job which would have made me and the kids have to move, etc.

I was betrayed and yet I felt Shame and he didn't

I am so riddled with depression over his actions. Even though he claims it was just a "friendship" of texting and phone calling. We have two houses in two different states. I moved to take care of his mom and he flies back and forth to work. Our friends started to ignore me and I didn't know why. I found out by accident. He thinks because all he did was have a secret friendship with only talking over phone it is okay. But why can he talk to her about me and not talk to me about me. Or talk to me about her.

Social Shame

I am a little more than a year out from discovering my husband's affair. I had a lot of guilt and felt personally responsible for the affair because our marriage had been sexless for some time. I've told no one about the affair because we've chosen to work it out, and I didn't want our family and friends to think he's a 'bad guy.' We've just started counseling because I can't get over my anxiety and lack of trust. I realize now that I need a LOT of support. I've identified several close friends who I intend to talk to, but I haven't found the right time to disclose.


I, too, felt this way. Initially there was the horror, the unbelievability, the anger...and then the day, it was like feeling a helmet of shame going onto my own head. I was so aware of it and what it was doing to me. My pastor, whom my husband had been counseling with for about a year first, before my D Day, and was convinced by him to disclose the 8 yr. affair to me, at our first session, with my husband there, said it would be wise not to tell anyone else while we do the counseling. He had his reasons, which some made sense. But it was the beginning of my mouth duct taped and while it was somewhat wise, it caused so much resentment in me because it exacerbated my loneliness and need to vent; be surrounded by praying friends, too. Now I live a life of pretending there’s no elephant in the room that only I can see. I can’t be genuine, helpful or empathatetic. Yes my husband has repented and now is protected, forgiven and blessed continually. I’m still looking for justice. We’re trying to put our marriage back together and I think we will succeed, however, I’m still looking out for the woodshed walloped to right this wrong. It’s amazing to me what the Betrayer gets...fantasy, fun, self sovereignty, relief from boring household duties and responsibilities toward family, home, taxes, diapers,boredom, etc. but the Betrayed gets nothing but pain, having to repair everything, no vacations like him and her, loneliness plus having to forgive, learn, mature, grow up and move forward. I want that EASY button.

Social shame

I was very surprised that I, the betrayed spouse would actually be judged for staying in the marriage and trying to make it work. I lost two good friends because their expectations were that I should leave the marriage and not tolerate such behavior. There have been others that judge from a distance and have pulled away from us mostly because it makes them uncomfortable. I think that our society does not deal with infidelity because it's the "secret sin" that no one wants to address. There are twelve step groups for so many issues but infidelity is something that is poorly addressed and should be recognized as an epidemic. All parties involved are experience shame to some extent. Our media and culture glorifies the "affair partner" as someone that rescues the betrayer from a lousy, sexless marriage. The reality is that many married couples are not "unhappy" or in a sexless marriage but poor boundaries and opportunity opens the door to be unfaithful. My husband and I took vacations, celebrated birthdays, bought a house all while he was with the other woman. Did we have spats and disagreements...sure. That's part of any relationship. Did we live on auto pilot at times...yes. Did he want the marriage to end...no. When the affair was discovered he was devastated at how much he hurt me and never wanted our marriage to end. It has been 3 years up highs and lows and tremendous work and self discovery. It has been an adventure like no other and the true friends that support you and your marriage are a gift. Shame is given power when there is darkness but when a light is allowed to shine on the issue and you can engage in open and non judgmental dialogue then healing can begin.

social shame

I, too, felt abandoned by some friends. A co-worker and I went through it at the same time. She chose to leave her husband where as I chose to stand. When she found out that I took.my husband back, she rarely spoke to.me at work and I could feel tension. I also rarely mention my husband art work as it feels uncomfortable. They all rode the midlife crisis affair train with the both of us and I don't believe.any of them approve and are on wait and see mode. They treat me well but...

social shame

I'm adding to.my earlier comment. I did not protect him from anyone. Our grown kids know, his work knows (supervisors and all) , etc. I did not tell his siblings until I had moved out. We don't see them often and when I thought my marriage was really over I informed them. I acknowledged my issues with counseling, talked with my friends at work at lunch, but I will admit I probably said too much to my kids but my daughter came when I called crying and held me. My son is in the Army so he listened to me when I called in tears. He's the one who moved me out when he was home on leave due to his father's anger (he had become verbally abusive) and telling me that the whole thing was killing me inside. Neither were too happy when we got back together but see that their Dad is remorseful and working on things . And they know I would not put myself through that mess again.

Social shame survey

I only told 2 trusted people (no relatives), and the EMS group. I was protecting my husband from what others would think of him. I was also protecting our family from the pain of knowing. No one in our families has gone through this, nor are there any divorces. So, therefore, I do not experience social shame from anyone, but im pretty sure i would experience it moderately. I am grateful to have support from some of the women from EMS.

social shame

I was not able to keep the grief and social shame private from close friends...but as I have lived in the same community for 25 years, now it feels
like i have two groups of friends...a few who really know me, who understand the trauma suffered in our marriage, and then all the rest...people
who know us and love us, but have no idea, just as I had no idea, that for fiteen years my husband was involved with a younger woman at work.
So this horrible lie is over, but it has divided me in so many ways...including dividing our long friendships into those who share this burden and
those who do not. And I am ashamed to say that the ones who do not know are the divorced ones, the women and men who chose to divorce.

Following up


I hope you will share the results of this valuable survey with us in the future.

social shame

I only told one other trusted person as well, other than our counsellor. Why didn't I 'out' him?
• I saw his remorse and didn't want to destroy him. I genuinely care for this person.
• But I think I was/am also protecting myself and my children. My children lost their father 20+ years ago and I don't want them to experience another loss - of this man who has been their father-figure for almost as many years.
• When I made the decision to marry this man 5 years ago, there were many who questioned my choice - my pride didn't want them to be proven right.
So, I keep silent. The burden is heavy.

You said it right -- the

You said it right -- the burden is heavy. No one else knows of the affair except our immediate families (adults only). Our kids do not know. Our kids still think he is the awesomest dad ever. The unfaithful don't understand, or if they do they don't want to acknowledge, that when the betrayed keeps their dirty secret, it adds a whole other dimension of burden to the betrayed.

Social shame

One of the hardest things to deal with! It has been 1.5 yrs since finding out i was betrayed. I have no desire to be in the same social circle for this reason. I also find it very hard to vent about everyday issues with people(family or friends), because i feel like they think i am the one that chose to stay! I feel as though i can see it on their faces that he will do it again!


There is more than enough PERSONAL shame to deal with. We have told very few (maybe 5, including our counselor) people, what we are dealing with. We just want our life back, the way it was (which we know will never happen, but we'd like to get as close as possible), so we have kept the knowledge as close to ourselves as possible, in the hope that people will not treat us/judge us differently. As humans I think we judge people and act accordingly. I know as someone who was married if I heard about infidelity in another couple I was weary of 'getting to close' for fear it might rub off or taint me/us somehow (ridiculous, I know, but it's the truth. Who wants their mate hanging around with someone they know 'condones' infidelity? Even if that is not the case in reality.) I look forward to the results of this survey, but I think it should be more in depth and attempt (if that's even possible) to distinguish PERSONAL SHAME from SOCIAL SHAME.

I think it would be

I think it would be interesting to explore the relationship between time and shame. Initially, I was proud of my desire to stay married and work things out, although very few people knew what was going on. As time goes by with little progress and little observable effort on my husband's part, I am quite ashamed/embarrassed to admit that my marriage is worse now than it was at the time of initial discovery. My shame is related more to our lack of progress and my faith/stupidity than to my husband's initial actions. I imagine if our marriage was recovering that my answer might be different. Also, I believe feeling shame due to choosing to remain married is completely different from the shame one feels when betrayed by a spouse.

From a Male BS

Shame is ever-present for a male BS. I'm a proud successful man... except for one area. My wife betrayed me after 25 years and two children with an old high school boyfriend rediscovered on facebook. I've protected her significantly, very few people know besides our counselor, a couple family members and her friends who enabled her. I often regret not exposing more, including our adult sons. They have had to witness some of the symptoms and consequences without knowing the cause. Not exposing allowed lingering deceit, continuing fog. I feel tremendous shame staying with her after the abuse and betrayal suffered, even though I think it is still the right thing to do. Clear remorse, repentance, empathy for what she put me through would make the shame more tolerable. Sometimes it appears she has no shame...on the surface. I am uncomfortable in a social setting with her friends that I believe are aware. It has been difficult to find out who all really knows as she has not been forthcoming with most information associated with the affair.

Social Shame

"She felt social shame not because of something she had done but, because she was now part of a shameful marriage instead of a respectable one."

This is exactly how I felt and still feel. Other than our counsellors, family dr and best friends, no one knows. I did not "out" him as I have children to protect and did not want them to bear their father's shame.


I have not yet told anyone except my doctor who has been wonderful. I do not believe there is anything to be gained by outing my husband even if we do not make it. He is a human being and I will treat him with respect. I may not be able to stay--- but I refuse to be hateful or mean spirited. My husband has failed me miserably but he had failed himself even more. I pray he has the emotional maturity to realize that. I hope and pray that I can survive this without failing myself.

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