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

Lessons Learned After Infidelity

Healing from betrayal trauma isn’t just about moving beyond triggers and reminders, it also requires changing how you see the world. Betrayed partners feel like life has been stolen from them and darkness is their only friend. Positive emotions such as joy and hope — even the feeling of being alive — can evaporate in the blink of an eye! Healing from this altered perception of life is hard and requires rewiring your brain. You must fight the negative messages that were imprinted by the betrayal trauma and replace them with truths. One approach to accomplish this goal to record and journal about the truths you discovery on your journey to healing. Focusing on these truths will help reset how you see the world.

Join other betrayed mates on the path to healing with our life-changing Harboring Hope online course and start a better, brighter chapter.

Learn More | Harboring Hope

This week, we hear from a betrayed spouse, Leslie, who 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. Let’s take this article by Leslie as this week’s insight on your journey to recovery.

What I Learned About Healing After My Husband's Infidelity

I've certainly not arrived yet, but I've gained more healing than I ever thought possible. I hope my story and personal survival guide helps you as much as 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, or the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. You must do it no matter what is true or if it is hard unjust, or sad. Self-pity is a dead-end road. If you make the choice to drive down that road, 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 talk us into doing the opposite of what we need to do in order to recover, like prompting us to take trips down memory lane or stalk the AP on social media, 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 will reverse the course of your story. But it won't reverse — for me or for you or for anyone who has ever been wronged. Please accept your current reality. Forgive your reality for being what it is because it isn't going to change. Accept that your partner's 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 hurt a little less tomorrow. Getting over heartbreak is hard, but if you refuse to be misled by your mind and 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, Catholic Priest and writer, often says, "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 as discovering my husband's affair. Here's what I have learned about transformation in this painful process.

    1. 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 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.

    2. I borrowed my second realization 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."
    Here is an excerpt from author, Jennifer Garvey Berger's journal that I found helpful:

    "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 a 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, our feelings and survival processes are similar.

  • Most importantly, you must forgive in order to heal. Pastoral coach and church consultant, F. Remy Diederich, 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, accept 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 possibility 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-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 entryways are offered here if you choose 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 and our power. We're altered by what hurts us, but with love and consciousness, with intention and forgiveness, we can heal and become whole again.

If you're a betrayed spouse, I'd like to ask you to consider the possibility that there is hope and there is healing for you, personally. I know it can seem like healing and wholeness is a million miles away, but that's just not true. Harboring Hope is a safe place where you'll find expert insight on how to deal with triggers, anger, rage, and even compassion for yourself. You can read more and sign up today at 12:00pm CT by clicking the button below:



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WOW, so much truth so fast and just in time!

Are there tools to help heal from being married to a Narcissist?

Today is a real bad day for me. Perhaps investing to heal myself for the next relationship I hope to have. To see the red flags and walk away before becoming invested. I hate him- I think of all the ways to make him hurt the way he hurt me and her to. I have the power to strip them both of their jobs. But that will only hurt me financially. I am sooo angry and I want them to suffer. Such selfish asses. I am stupid to forgive him. Stupid for allowing myself to live with such a monster. To me he is the monster and he destroyed my family and I want them to suffer just as much if not more

Your not alone

Dear TimeToLetGo,
I am so sorry for your deep pain. You are not alone. I too have felt the same way. I was consume with deep anger against my husband and his ap. I wanted them to feel my pain as well. Your not stupid as you stated....you took compassion for him and that makes you beautiful. Keep searching and reading and listing to clips from affair recovery. Samuel’s blogs have been a Tremendous help for me....his and Samantha story gives me sanity. Wayne is brilliant and Rick is insightful. Theirs so many free video clips that will help you to realize you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. I wish you the very best. Keep your head up. Your worth it!♥️

Your feelings are normal

Dear Time to Let Go:
I felt so much hatred for my husband and the AP. I am normally a calm, forgiving person; but this was the absolute worse thing that has ever happened to me. (I'm sure my husband is a narcissist too.) I am still with him. I am taking everything day by day. It's hard when you have lost trust. He says it is over and he loves me. We'll see. Still not sure what is going to happen for us. You have to do what is right for you. I don't know if you are still with him or not, but don't make any quick decisions. Get a good lawyer whether you are going to divorce or not. (You don't have to tell him or anyone else.) This really helped me to know what my options are. I needed a plan. The best way to make your husband and his affair partner suffer is to live the best, happiest life ever. Karma has a way of rearing it's ugly head. It's always better to "take the high road". (I'm sorry to say I didn't always do that. ) If he is a monster, you are better off without him. Websites like this are helpful. Don't ever take the blame for his affair. Blessings to you. I know it's hard, but time does help.

I feel your pain. My spouse

I feel your pain. My spouse did the same and continues with the help of his AP she doesn't affect me at all anymore it's them trying to ruin my life with false accusations. I've moved past that as well his lies and accusations re slowing becoming exposed. His family see his ways and doesn't speak to him. He has taken money from me where I am struggling but I have to hold onto "I will be ok" I pray all his sinfulness will be exposed soon.


This was beautifully written! And gives me so much hope!
Thanks so much ❤

So much truth and wisdom here

So much truth and wisdom here. I am the unfaithful in my relationship and this article powerfully impacted me. Taking notes so I, too, can carry these reminders with me. So good.. thank you.

How do you get a full disclosure what are the steps

I’ve been begging for 20 years for a full disclosure and or even a letter of apology in detail. Part of my being stuck. All i geti is brief answers when I have done all the questioning. I do all the crying and grieving and there’s nothing or very little from her. HELP.


I heard in this week's video Wayne say "if you can't hold your head up high then I encourage you to go see a therapist" what if my spouse won't see a therapist or can't be helped by anyone? My husband GREATLY compares himself to the ap and insists the ENTIRE reason WHY I wanted a new relationship was because this guy was young and good looking etc. He won't listen to a word I say about the why as he's convinced himself of all kinds of lies. After 20 months of much all night and all day marathoning (he won't do the 20 minutes/day thing) he's fiber into a depression and we hardly interact at all. He hardly ever touches me, wants nothing to do with me days he doesn't feel love for me anymore and often sleeps in another room. We completed EMSO but it didn't seem to help him at all. What can I do besides continue to work on me and do my best to show him love and look over the offense of all his verbal abuse?

Great article! Unfortunately

Great article! Unfortunately with all that great advice it really depends on the betrayed to want to stay with their spouse. I’m 5.5 months in and there has been no change in my feelings. He’s doing all he can to fix it, therapy, talking, answering questions. I feel the only way to get peace of mind is to separate. He’s the cause of my misery and I can’t imagine it ever being different.
It was an emotional affair and we had a bad marriage. I understand why it happened but I don’t have to accept it.

minute 13:00 in Life lessons learned video

At the 13 minute mark, you mention that you can't fall into comparison, and then you go on to almost make a betrayed spouse feel like it is her fault if she has little to no self-confidence. This is clearly said from a point of view from the person who did the betraying. Let me explain: My first marriage lasted 17 years, which was much too long. I was beaten down emotionally and verbally every day. My 6 children and I were all physically abused. Why did I stay? Many reasons, but the biggest one was that I didn't want my children to be products of divorce. Eventually, I realized that while I held my marriage together for the "sake of the kids", I needed to end it for the sake of the kids because my boys were being taught how to treat women, and my daughters were being taught how to receive abuse.

Eventually, after getting my self esteem back, putting myself through school as a single mom of 6, and becoming an international speaker in my field of study, I remarried. This time, my husband spent 5 years of our marriage forgetting that he was married. He has cheated on me with more women than I can count. He can only list the ones with whom he had sex; however, there are many more with whom he would go to bars and drink. They were all secrets, so they were all cheating--doesn't even matter what the end result was. Yes, I am still married to a very broken man. My self-esteem was in shock again after he was caught, and did I compare? You bet I did. I looked up every one of the women for whom he had a name on Facebook, etc. I have since left all social media when I felt like the entire world was laughing at me. Is my self esteem back where it was before I married to him? I don't think it will ever be there. That is not my fault. It is his. He has knocked me down in a different way than the first. Will I ever be trigger free from either of these situations? I can't image. I know PTSD is used much too often, but it is a realization of what spouses do to one another when they cannot be faithful. I am not as bad as I was, but I will never be the same. And when people say that their marriage is better after an affair...lies. Once a covenant is broke, it will never be back to before it was hurt.

I read someone once that was a story of a little boy who had to paint a fence because he had lied. He first put a nail in the fence for each lie he told. His grandfather took out the nails and made him paint it. The little boy said that he could still see the marks. The grandfather told him those were scars that never heal. You can make things better, but there are still scars. That is why you can't do wrong; you leave scars. Those of us that have been betrayed are left carrying those scars.

I recently had melanoma on my face. I have a scar that runs from my mouth, up and across under my eye, in front and in back of my ear. I will take that scar every day than the emotional ones I carry. You know why? There are no triggers with that physical scar. I carry emotional scars with me every day. Now, I know I am wonderfully made in God's image, and fluctuating self esteem level does not prevent me from doing God's work, but letting myself be completely vulnerable with my husband--that's a hard pass because I still, after 5 years of recovery, feel the need to protect myself. Please don't ever make it come across like you are blaming the victim.

This is the first time these videos have felt like this, but it did. I share no responsibility for his actions. That is completely on him.

Firstly, I hear such pain in

Firstly, I hear such pain in your words and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you're having to go through all this. It's not fair or just, it just is. My husband's infidelities decimated me as a woman. I did fall into the comparison trap and for years I wondered what I needed to do to be good enough. What if I were prettier, thinner, blonde, more adventurous, engaged in more interesting conversation, a better cook, wore nicer clothes, wore makeup, etc. I compared myself on every level - easy to do with social media. I highlighted my hair, reignited a long dormant eating disorder, bought an entirely new wardrobe, upped my already regular workouts to two a day and I revisited the affair partners' social profiles over and over and over again, trying to pinpoint what it was that made them better than me, more desirable than me. And I drove myself crazy.

I think that's what Wayne is really getting at. There is no amount of comparison that will erase the pain or lesson the impact. But by continuing to obsessively compare myself to the affair partners, I was hindering my own ability to experience healing. It's like if I were driving in a car with my spouse and he causes a car accident. He walks away with a few scratches, but I've got a broken leg. He may be responsible for the initial damage, but only I can go to physical therapy and do the work necessary to ensure I regain full use of my leg. And if I choose not to go to PT and do the exercises, I can't blame my spouse for my perpetual limp. At some point, I had to take ownership of my own feelings and perspective and then realize they were within my power to change.

Yes, the initial damage to my self esteem, self confidence, and self worth was my husband's fault. But the ongoing damage was mine because of how I responded. There is nothing, not one thing, that I could've done, said, or been that would've kept my husband from having affairs. Because the brokenness was always in him, not me. I have realized my own value (through much toil and many tears) and I refuse to go back to allowing someone else's actions define my worth.

I don't know if you have taken any of the courses offered by Affair Recovery, but I took the Harboring Hope course five years ago and it changed my life. Not one time during the course did I feel they were trying to in any way blame me for my spouse's actions. You are an incredibly strong woman to put yourself through school, raise six kiddos, choose to trust again and remain standing after the suffering you've endured. Scars may remain as a visual reminder (I've got plenty), but they don't have to be painful.

Sending hugs your way. You are enough.

You’re not to blame!

To begin I hate what you’ve gone through and I want to apologize if something in Wayne’s message caused you to feel blamed. What you’ve gone through is horrible and I can’t imagine the pain you’re experiencing.

Also I agree that you are in no way responsible for either of your husband’s actions The last thing I would want is for you to feel I am somehow blaming you for what occurred. I hate that the men in your life have put you through this.

There two things I’d like to respond to:

You asked, “Will I ever be trigger free from either of these situations?”
I know it's possible because I know of many who have been able to heal to the point where they no longer have triggers. Those I know who’ve healed from traumatic memories were fortunate to find therapist who possessed the necessary tools to help them, heal. One of the most vexing realities of traumatic memories is the fact that they can hold an emotional charge for a life time, but with community, and the right treatment traumatic memories can be healed.

You also said: “And when people say that their marriage is better after an affair...lies. Once a covenant is broke, it will never be back to before it was hurt.” I agree, after a covenant is broken there has to be something new.

I also believe most people think it’s impossible for a marriage to be better after an affair. I actually interviewed a couple yesterday who said when they first heard that statement, after coming to Affair Recovery, they felt there was no way that could happen, but now four years later that’s exactly what they had experienced.

However, it’s not true in all situations. Sadly it takes two and tragically one spouse is often left to do the work alone because their mate is either unwilling to do the work or they abandon their commitment to the marriage making recovery for the remaining spouse far more difficult.

Rebuilding something from the ashes of a relationship destroyed by infidelity requires a community capable of helping carry the load and healed individuals who can help provide hope and direction. If Stephanie and I had not encountered a couple whose marriage was better after the affair than before I’m not sure we would have believed it possible. Their support and coaching were critical parts of our recovery. If you were to ask Stephanie to compare our current marriage against our marriage prior to the affair she would tell you that she wasn't that fond of her first husband, but she's really likes her second husband.

I can tell you’re really hurting, but please don’t give up hope. Our hearts desire is to help you not only recover from this but to equip you to find a new life of meaning and purpose.

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-D, Texas