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

Rekindling Desire After Infidelity

How did I learn to find a heart for my husband again after completely disconnecting from him in my affair? Very simply stated: To reconnect with my husband I first had to connect with my own heart. I began deceiving myself long before I began deceiving my husband. Instead of seeking my heart’s desire I abandoned myself and became a slave to my passion. At first I deceived myself into believing I was doing what I wanted, but then realized I had no part in the choice. I didn’t get to choose whether or not I wanted to be with my affair partner, I was compelled. It was all I could think of. I couldn’t ever choose not to think about it and when I realized that I began to see that there was no choice; this was something that consumed me. Gone were my concerns for others and self; all that was left was bitterness and blame. Reconnecting began with first being true to God and self.  What was in my heart? How did I feel? What were my life long patterns? Was I really worth loving? I did not think so. I never thought so. If I had truly believed I had value I would have never needed the validation of others.

Thankfully my husband did not turn me out and found Affair Recovery. Despite a lot of anger, my children still loved me. One day, I came across a book that really spoke to me. In Life of the Beloved, Henri J. M. Nouwen writes,

”I vividly remember how I had, at one time, become totally dependent on the affection and friendship of one person. This dependency threw me into a pit of great anguish and brought me to the verge of a very self-destructive depression. But from the moment I was helped to experience my interpersonal addiction as an expression of a need for total surrender to a loving God who would fulfill the deepest desires of my heart, I started to live my dependency in a radically new way. Instead of living it in shame and embarrassment, I was able to live it as an urgent invitation to claim God's unconditional love for myself, a love I can depend on without any fear.” (pg.99-100)

I could see this is what I was looking for and let go of trying to find the answers in men and began seeking something new from a power greater than myself. For the first time I began to find hope. I knew that with this path change was eminent, only I no longer got to determine the outcome. It was a new found freedom.     

After confessing my infidelity to my husband there were months of floundering, longing, trauma and depression. Before disclosure I had felt trapped, but now post disclosure I felt chained and imprisoned with my husband as my guard. I wallowed in self-centered anguish and shame. Why would I ever want to be with him?

That’s when I realized I was asking the wrong question. I had been focused on trying to figure out why I’d want to be with him or which man would make me happiest. I changed and began asking why anyone would want to be with me? It was apparent to me that I had long been seeking the approval of men, not because I thought I was a great deal, but rather because I didn’t. For years I’d been dependent on others and objects to justify my value and worth. If someone I esteemed found me attractive then I’d feel worth. If not then I’d find someone else who would. I finally realized how frightened I was to really get to know myself, rather than just viewing myself through the eyes of those who adored or appreciated me.

Reconnecting required first letting go of my efforts to control the outcome. Before I could even begin the process I first accepted that maybe I didn’t know what could happen or even what needed to happen. My best efforts had brought me to this place and the last thing I wanted was to do more of what I knew didn’t work. I didn’t know if I wanted to be married to my husband and wasn’t sure if I could once again experience desire for him. What I did know is that I was tired of the confusion and the hopelessness.

Next I was told I needed to take the steps to change the things I could and the one thing I knew I could change is where I placed my focus. Instead of trying to do the right thing I began trying to be the right thing. Rather than choosing what I believed would make me happy I first had to pursue the things that would make me whole. I no longer tried harder, now I wanted to learn how to let go and let God. I no longer wanted to be dependent on others for my sense of worth, I wanted to become a source of love for others rather than a black hole who used others to feel good about myself.

To determine if there was any hope for my marriage I realized I had to first disconnect from my affair partner. Since I had no desire to be with my husband I needed something new. Through the first 38 years of my life nothing else had worked so I decided to give God a chance. Rick called this the third choice. For months I’d been trying to decide between my affair partner and my husband. I let go of trying to decide which man would make me the happiest and decided to choose God and give him a chance. As messed up as I felt, I was pretty sure it was going to take something bigger than another human to fill the hole in my soul.

By choosing God I began to realize my worth as His child, created perfectly imperfect. This scared me. I knew I didn't believe it, but in desperation, I listened. I began to realize that my God-concept was completely skewed. Subconsciously I saw God as a punitive dictator, a man with an evaluation sheet that was constantly disappointed by me. I knew he loved me and “hoped for the best,” but I also believed he was constantly despairing over my condition. I saw all misfortune and conflict as punishment.  I gave lip service to “saved by grace” but lived out a perfectionism driven, works philosophy of life. For so much of my life I had strived to demonstrate my worthiness and gain the affirmation of others. I had lived my life in self-centered fear, managing and controlling others and my environment in order to feel acceptable. Coming to a deeper understanding of God and grace allowed me to finally let go of the outcome and begin to trust that maybe, just maybe, God would be able to accomplish something I’d never dreamed possible.

Then, I absolutely had to see my husband through new eyes. Justifying my infidelity had required a focus on my husband’s negative qualities. The more I focused on his faults the larger they became. As my perception of his faults grew so did my resentments and resentments, as I learned, are a real desire killer. To rekindle desire I had to release my resentments and expand my focus. If I ever wanted to find him appealing I had to once again focus on the qualities that once drew me to him.

It was the beginning of a long road (and I am still traveling). The benefit of having been so completely broken was that I had no doubt that for me, I realized God was the only answer. This may strike a negative chord in some of you, but for me, my  way had never really worked. Now that God had placed an awareness of this in me, there really was no other option for me if I wanted true life. Nothing else but this road of recovery would ever make life worth living again. “My way” had lost all of its allure, although the tendencies were still there. I had had My Way and I was through with it. I now made the decision to face my warped God concept, my raging co-dependency, my emotional blocks, my controlling nature, my complete depravity, and my powerlessness. God has shown me my past and provided the strength to address it. I have seen the generational cycle of sin in this fallen, unfulfilling world. I have seen how my dysfunction began. I have forgiven. I have begun to heal.
    
God brought to me one thing after another to show me His true character and His love for me. As I came to believe more and more that God loves me as I am my trust in him grew. I now trust that God orchestrates my life in such a way that it gives me the best opportunity to choose communion with him. I have come to believe that part of that orchestration was allowing me to marry my husband. In trusting God, I began to ask him to open my heart to embrace that gift, the gift of my marriage and the gift of my husband.

All of the above radically perpetuated a softening toward my husband. It began the breaking of the life-long isolation of my heart, not just something that happened during the infidelity.  Compassion grew for myself as I felt God's love and care. Compassion for my husband grew in the process as well. I stopped blaming him for my problems and pain, and I stopped feeling responsible for all of his problems and pain. We each brought so much to the table when this relationship began.

Ultimately what will or does this heart connection with my husband look like? We are still learning. It doesn't look like our first 20 years together and it doesn't look like it did with the AP. It doesn't look like the movies, or romance novels, or even some Christian fiction. It is something much, much deeper. It is the Christ in us loving each other. It is communion. It was born out of weakness. It moved from a softening, to compassion, to love. As I bask in God's unfailing love for me, I find myself open to my husband's heart. Between us we are brother and sister in Christ, blessed parents of our children, and we are husband and wife specifically chosen to manifest Christ's love for the church, and I see him as a man who chooses to take me as I am. And there is so much more to come!

Rick often says, “Everything spiritual is paradoxical.” While that grinds the gears of my logical and analytical mind, I believe it with all my heart. I had to work on me in order to love my husband. Once I began to accept my complete inadequacy and unworthiness apart from Christ, I felt loved just as I was and embraced my preciousness as a child of God. My Heavenly Father constantly answers my cry for intimate belonging, and as He shares with me the heart He has for me, He becomes my heart for my husband and all those around me.

I know this is a lot to absorb and process, especially if you’re not given to pursuing God or faith at all. With great respect, compassion and understanding, the last thing we want to hear about when we’ve failed is an angry God. But I’ve realized, God isn’t angry at me, or you. He’s consumed with caring for you and I hope the truth in this article touches you and encourages you. Whether you subscribe to faith at all is up to you, but I do know without a shadow of a doubt, that your marriage can be healed and redeemed. I found incredible solace and almost tangible hope in Affair Recovery, so if you’re looking for a place to begin, start here.

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Comments

Touching base to your response

After having read your testimony, I am convinced more than ever that God is not limited to any form of communication and often enlists our sisters and brothers who've we've never met personally but nevertheless find a connection. It feels as though I stumbled upon a trusted friend, and now I believe not by accident. I've been involved in an intimate affair that began in friendship and grew (or should I say developed since "growth" something good). I have been married to my husband for 31+ years and blessed with two terrific sons. No one knows of this relationship to my friend who've I've become intimate with emotionally as well as physically. Your article said all the things I've admitted to myself including the pain and struggle and emotional roller coaster. Both my husband and I have been raised Catholic and the smells and bells, novenas and sacraments, saints and angels hold true to me. Hence my deep-filled hypocrisy. I have enlisted divine intervention through prayer and hope that I muster up and find the inner and outer strength to overcome this sin of adultery. Strange as it sounds but too often we talk of these torn emotions with each other and he "gets it" and feels the same about his own 35-year marriage (he is also a lifetime Catholic which adds to our attraction since we discuss faith and Catholicism in depth) and then we both admit life would be almost unbearable without each other. I have even gone so far as to ask God to turn this affair into something good and pleasing in His eyes. You have confirmed what I have believed deep down that the only way to heal is giving it all up to God. I can't tell you how much I have prayed for my marriage to be restored and that I see my husband through God's eyes and be reminded why I fell in love with him. I, too, am constantly annoyed and picking on him. I have no one to turn to EXCEPT God and need the grace, fortitude and strength to end this and restore my marriage. I've never felt more alone in my life. I am also aware how foolish and dangerous it is knowing I've placed my marriage and reputation and job and entire life in potential jeopardy. That should be adequate to put a halt to this, I know. My heart and brain are disconnected and I am struggling daily with fear and guilt. this is strong stuff and never would I have ever thought it possible in my wildest dreams that I would find myself involved in such a state. I am grateful that God led me to this site, specifically to your article. The uphill journey begins and I know now I must enlist God more than I have. If this leads me to Affair Recovery, so be it. This double life is devastating and I know will only potentially destroy. God help and bless you and me both, and accept my heartfelt gratitude to you.

Hey... I'm reading on my

Hey... I'm reading on my husband's account. Your story sounds very much like mine. I'm here because I'm trying to find what you've found - contentment in God's nearness. Desire for my husband. Fulfillment in what's right. Please pray for me.

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