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

Handling Disappointment After Infidelity

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Ever lost something that's really important to you? I'm not talking about a phone or even a job. I'm talking about something really important, like a child or a marriage. I've lost something like that. What's worse, my most passionate and sincere efforts to keep it from happening totally failed. I didn't cause it, but I did everything in my power (at least from my perspective) to stop it. And all my effort resulted in a big fat disappointment and a whole heap of pain.

How do we deal with significant failure or loss, especially when infidelity has already caused us so much pain? Odds are, if you're reading this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyone who's been betrayed or who has really screwed up their marriage and then discovered how powerless they were to stop the resulting devastation, knows exactly how it feels. Our life and dreams can be radically altered by our decisions and by the decisions of others.

Some of My Own Disappointment

Several years ago, as I sat in my car, wallowing in pain and self-pity, I began to pray. I know that some of you may not necessarily subscribe to God, faith, or any kind of religion, and I want you to know I completely respect that. You won't receive any judgment or condemnation here. Even if you do not have personal faith or religious beliefs, as you search for real answers and relief, perhaps you will find some helpful parallels to the pain you're walking through.

Pain and loss are inevitable but bitter disappointment is optional after infidelity

For me, as I sat crying in my car that day, I began to question God's plan..."God what are you doing? Why don't you do something? Why are you letting this happen? What did I do wrong?"

Much to my chagrin, he answered, "Life's hard. Suffering, pain, and loss are inevitable, but bitter disappointment is optional." That caught me off guard, and I began to ponder the meaning.

Tragedy's Role in Our Lives

In his book, Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens views suffering in a similar way: "In every life, no matter how full or empty one's purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfills. Thus, happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes. And to add to other people's store of it."1

I fully agree, but does that mean I can't be disappointed? I get it, life's hard and I'm most certainly not in control. But how does that understanding keep me from angry, bitter disappointment?

I no longer have the innocence of childhood. I've lived long enough to know that I truly believe I'm an accomplice in the evil which rocks my world. But that knowledge doesn't lessen the pain and disappointment created by the slings and arrows of this world, especially those thrown by betrayal.

What am I to do with the loss and the hurt I feel from the infidelity?

Enticed to Control

In "Coming Home to Your True Self," Albert Haase tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who was dying of ALS. He asked her, "Is it hard to die?"

"Not really," she replied instantly, "the suffering of the past year has forced me to let go of so many things – my privacy, the ability to go to the bathroom alone, the ability to feed myself and change the television channel. It seems like every day I'm challenged to let go of something else. So I've gotten really good at letting go and surrendering to the present moment. I suspect when death comes it's going to be another moment to let go and surrender. So I don't think it will be hard to die. I suspect it will come quite naturally to me."2

I can't control life's circumstances, but I do control my attitude toward life. I determine how I see it.

The level of my "angry, bitter disappointment" is really the measure of my resistance to circumstances which intend to change me and transform me.

It's a matter of how I perceive the situation.

Let's say I continue to be obsessed with having to control, manage, or manipulate life, others, and/or even God, to make things turn out according to my plan. With that attitude, when things don't turn out as I deem best, there will always be disappointment, if not anger and bitterness.

If, on the other hand, I let God (or Good for those of you who do not subscribe to faith) define the situation rather than letting the situation define God/Goodness. Then I am able to recognize there's a loving God who has much better vision than me and is working all things out for good.

If I humbly surrender to his will, then I can find peace. If I think I know how things should be and spend my time trying to control outcomes, then I'll be bitterly disappointed when things don't turn out like I want. In marriage, I'll find myself incredibly frustrated at my inability to get my spouse to conduct herself the way I think she should while recovering from infidelity.

I May Not Know What's Best

We've got to quit falling for the oldest deception in the book: that we know more than God about what's best for our life. The author of Genesis showed this as the root of the problem. In the story of the fall of man from Genesis, chapter 3, the devil raised the question to Adam and Eve of whether or not God was really looking out for their best interest. The devil then tells Adam and Even that they can be in control and decide what is good or bad.

The problem here is that we're not God. We may think we know what's good or bad or how things need to turn out, but do we really? Instead, we need to trust that there is a God, (or power bigger than myself) and it's not you or me! Any amount of control we try to hang onto is not sovereign.

Our challenge is to let go and surrender to the present moment—to accept our current reality rather than railing against all the things we cannot change. Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that you should "suck it up," "give it to God," or "get over it." Not by a long shot. When recovering from infidelity, ignoring the pain will not work. We all have choices to make, and we all have a journey to travel.

While we understand our powerlessness to change (or control) others, we can make healthy choices that put ourselves in the best possible place for healing and recovery.

It's an outright "radical acceptance" that we need in order to loosen our grip on the outcome and trust the process. If you subscribe to faith, it's time to trust God and stop forcing life to work on your terms. Trust that God and/or the process you're utilizing, will work things out according to plan and for your eventual good, even if the events surrounding your life right now seem out of control and senseless.

If you don't subscribe to faith, maybe it's time to realize your own weakness and inability to control all of life. Is it time to realize that control is an illusion and it's time to humble yourself, find expert help, and utilize a process bigger and wiser than your own vision or understanding? There's freedom in that mindset, friends, I promise you that.

If you are drowning in disappointment and can't see how releasing control is essential to gaining freedom, consider becoming a part of our Harboring Hope course for betrayed spouses. Owning your own recovery and letting go of the things you can't control are the first steps to freedom.

  1. Dickens, Charles. Nicholas Nickleby. London: Cassell, 1890.
  2. Haase, Albert. Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions. Downer's Grover, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Harboring Hope registration opens monthly. Subscribe to be notified.

Harboring Hope is our online course for betrayed spouses to heal after infidelity. It often sells out within a few short hours. Don't miss it!

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Really good article.

I have noticed the same things, and it was good to be reminded of them. In my recovery and during early defogging period of my spouse I tried to control things and each time either made them worse, looked like a fool, or stole from God some glory he could have gained. We are not called to do nothing, say nothing. But we are also not God and we can't demand or force anything, even God forbids himself to force anyone to do anything. We don't just have free will, we have free attitude.

Hard to let go after infedility

The article has been an eye opener . I now see why it is so hard to let go . I am trying to control the past that has already happened and GONE
I need therefore to accept that I cannot change the past but need to let God be my guide in the present and leave the outcome to Him.



great article

Wonderfully written. Thank You!

Need some advice

It's been almost 2 years since my pilot husbands one night stand in china. Part of our reconciliation was that he would stop flying internationally & go back to domestic flying. But here lately he keeps hinting how he wants to go back to international flying because it pays more. I will never agree to this again, the whole ordeal nearly killed me. I think deep down the career means more to him than me. He thinks I will change my mind even though I've been very clear that I won't.

My Pilot Husband had an eight

My Pilot Husband had an eight month long affair with a co worker. It doesn't matter wether they are away or home. If they aren't healthy or being safe it doesn't matter where they are working. I have been looking for more pilot wives who have gone through this. There is a running "joke" about how many pilots suffer from AIDS. Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome. It's a growing problem..... and a major issue within the industry. My husbands affair ended nearly one year ago. I would like to say that is our D day but I can't. My husband didn't know how damaging trickle truthing is. He strung it out over nearly eight months, allowed me to take the blame, insisted we keep it quiet and put me in a position to blame what was wrong with me on my past history of depression. So very unkind and unfair. I am sorry for the pain and shock and outright disrespect he has inflicted upon you. Please find peace in the idea that he wasn't in love with her that he didn't connect with her on a daily basis. That a one night stand is usually always a terrible mistake. Not him trying to live a life without you.

What's the difference between God and a pilot? God knows he's not a pilot!

Wow Rick!

Wow Rick! Your blog today is just what God has revealed to me as I spent alot of time with Him in my “War Room” yesterday. But today as I found myself about to think as I have for 2 1/2 yrs., I know God stopped me in my tracks. Finally accepting “what is”, not trying to play God, trying to figure out and understand the “why” and how to fix it, or Paul, quit carrying his cross for him. Trust that God REALLY does have this and it will be for His glory and my good. A hard, long awaited realization. Thank you for sharing your insight and further giving my heart and soul some peace! God is using you in a mighty way. Love you.

Great Morning Read

Thank you very much for sharing this. Reading the Suffering Pain & Loss are inevitable but bitter disappointment is optional, was just what I needed to hear. Realizing that I have been going about this all wrong, Trying to control situations and trying to shield myself from further disappointment has stopped me from living the life I can be living. With a man who has repented for his wrong doings and tries to do right by our family every day since the revealing of his doings. Only god knows what will come next in life. I cannot predict the future, all that I can do is make the best of what I am given and live the life set out for me while having faith in all things good. My favorite line of all; "My challenge is to let go and surrender to the present moment and accept what is rather than railing against things I can't change." Thank you

Picking out the useful bits!

I'm not a religious person and mean no disrespect to those who rely on religion in their lives but as I read through some of this information it is difficult, at times, to cypher through what is directly relevant to my situation and what appears to be a sermon or sorts. No disrespect intended!

Thank you for your message

Thank you for validating our feelings. In this situation is hard to find people who can just validate how we feel and not just offer platitudes. I really appreciate your message. God indeed is the only One who is charge and that frees me to live one day at a time.


The article made some good points. Very sad the part about the girl with ALS. Despite trying not to be, it all seemed too religious to me. Everyone’s entitled to believe in what they want but the points would be better made without our lord’s input.

I see now

Your message today has finally helped me to hear God’s voice: my life is still good and my marriage is no idol. My children and I have been repeatedly betrayed and emotionally abused by my spouse, and I gave my spouse every opportunity with great compassion and mercy to meet God and be transformed. I have only held onto staying married out of fear at this point. . . I don’t have to stay here anymore and live it n continued fear and bitterness. I have definitely had my eyes opened to the evil in this world, but I no longer have to stay here entrapped , parent this grown man and enable sin.

great article

I love the phrase drowning in disappointment. That is perfectly descriptive of where I am.
I need to read this article every day. I am having trouble give up control and trying to fix my husband.

This coming EMS virtual weekend

Thank you Wayne for your talk today. It’s been 7 wks since my DD And my partner and I are attending the virtual weekend. The timing of your talk today was very relevant to me. I appreciate your reflection on God’s plan and God’s timing and the need to accept and get on and better for both of us.
Bless you in the work you are doing

Thank you, Wayne. I am a BH

Thank you, Wayne. I am a BH and the trauma occurred only 3 years into our marriage. My WW was too ashamed to speak with me about it at the time (nearly 5 decades ago) and I struggled with accepting what had happened because I couldn't understand why God would have allowed it to happen. God eventually brought the understanding into my heart in March of this year and then led me to AR as I was working through the grieving for the first time in my life. My wife agreed to work through the Boot Camp and then agreed to attend an EMS weekend which we did in Oct. As we have become more transparent and intimate, our turmoil rose, but this week we have gained new insights and understanding and I am more than hopeful for our future.

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-D, Texas