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

Lessons Learned

This week we hear from a betrayed spouse who also attended one of our EMS Weekends. While experiencing her own personal transformation, she penned a series of journal entries as she started to gain momentum in her own healing. Make no mistake about it, the devastation of infidelity is awful. Life seems to be stolen from the betrayed spouse and darkness feels like the only friend you may have. However, we’re honored to share with you the fact that life does in fact, get better. Life does return to the dark, cavernous hole in your hearts.

Take ******* insight as this weeks’ survival guide for those in crisis due to the choices of another.

My own series of lessons I’ve learned from my husband’s infidelity.

I’ve certainly not arrived yet…but I’ve gained more healing than I ever thought possible. I hope my own personal story and survival guide helps you like it helped me during some of the darkest hours of my life:

  • As Viktor Frankl beautifully articulates in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, "Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way we respond to it. Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing – your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you”.
  • Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t eat it away, starve it away, sleep it away, cry it away, exercise it away, or punch it away. It’s just there and you must survive it. You must endure it. You must live through it. Counselors and friends can help you along the way, but the genuine healing is entirely up to you.
  • Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You must do it yourself, whether you are rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you must do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.
  • It’s likely you may not be able to make total sense out of the horrible and agonizing things that happen to you. However, with determination and mindfulness, you will begin to make sense of YOU, and that matters more than anything right now.
  • Getting over heartbreak is a fight.. There is no explanation that will feel satisfying enough to make it all make sense. More information will not equal transformation. We cannot trust what our minds are telling us as heartbreak is a master manipulator. It will make our minds do the opposite of what we need to do to recover like prompting us to take trips down memory lane, stalking the AP on social media, etc. which tends to deepen the emotional pain and complicate the recovery process. Like I was, you’re likely looking for the explanation, the loophole, the bright twist in the dark tale that reverses your story’s course. But it won’t reverse – for me or for you or for anyone who has ever been wronged, which is everyone. Please accept your current reality and forgive reality for being what it is. Accept that their actions hurt you deeply. Accept that this experience taught you something you’d rather not know. Accept that sorrow and joy can be experienced at the same time. Accept that it is going to take a long time for you to get that monster out of your chest. Accept that what pains you greatly today will pain you less tomorrow. Getting over heartbreak is hard but if you refuse to be misled by your mind, take the necessary steps to heal, you can significantly reduce your suffering. You will be more engaged with your family, more productive at work, and more aware of the hundreds of gifts surrounding you every day.
  • Richard Rohr says often that ‘Pain that is not transformed is transmitted’. I remember in the darkest of days wanting to be transformed but not sure how that was even possible after experiencing something so traumatic. Here’s what I have learned about transformation–
    • First, you must discover your soul. Now, I don't ask you to believe in God or not believe in God, but I do ask you to believe that there's a piece of you that has no shape, size, color or weight, but that gives you infinite dignity and value. Rich and successful people don't have more of this than less successful people. Infidelity is wrong because it's an obliteration of another soul. And what the soul does is it yearns for righteousness. The heart yearns for connection with another.
    • And that led to my second realization, which I borrowed from Einstein: "The problem you have is not going to be solved at the level of consciousness on which you created it. You have to expand to a different level of consciousness."
    • I’d like to read to you an excerpt from Jennifer Garvey Berger’s journal - “I will not be who I was. I will not return to normal. I will not move on and forget about this time. And if I could do all of those things, wouldn’t it be sort of tragic? Because boy has there been pain and misery on this path, just as there are on the paths of all of us who face changes they did not choose (which is all of us, right?). Wouldn’t it be a shame if this path of pain was a kind of loop track, dumping me off at the beginning of the journey, undisrupted and pretending I had never left home as I waited for the scars to fade? This path is taking me to a new place, and each loss is a sign of a me that I cannot carry into the future world. And I believe – I really believe – that each of us will be better next that we used to be. This is not in believing ‘everything happens for the best’ sort of way, but in a deep belief in the human spirit to take pain and loss and metabolize them into development and compassion and love. Right now, my body is working overtime to be new; it is nearly a full-time job. I will try to be present in the unfolding of it, holding the amazing delights of the moment when the pain stops and the world feels peaceful again, the joy of laughing over a cup of tea with a friend. I am becoming something new and unexpected.’ I can relate to everything Jennifer describes as she is clearly suffering. But she is not suffering from betrayal – she wrote this one week into chemo treatment for breast cancer. While we suffer uniquely, we survive the same way.
  • Most importantly, you must forgive to heal. F. Remy Diederick has an excellent illustration of forgiveness in the book ‘Stuck: How to Overcome Your Anger and Reclaim Your Life’. I wrote this out on an index card and read it numerous times a day for the first year of my healing process. ‘Forgiveness is only for the brave. It is for those people who are willing to confront their pain, accepts themselves as permanently changed, and make difficult choices. Countless individuals are satisfied to go on resenting and hating people who wrong them. They stew in their own inner poisons and even contaminate those around them. Forgivers, on the other hand are not content to be stuck in a quagmire. They reject the possibly that the rest of their lives will be determined by the unjust and injurious act of another person. Instead, people who forgive take risks to reshape their lives into something freed from past pain’.
  • Suffering's great power is that it's an interruption of life. You are In the Waiting – It is the ultimate liminal space, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the time of ultimate rest and waiting: the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I promise you that many fruitful possibilities and entranceways are offered here if you chose to see them. This is not how your story ends. It’s simply where it takes a turn you didn’t expect. We have the capacity to redraw the lines between our powerlessness & our power. We’re altered by what hurts us, but with love & consciousness, with intention & forgiveness, we can heal & become whole again.

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