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

What It Takes To Survive an Affair: 3 Must Have Components

survive an affair recovery componentsThirty two years ago, before discovery, death seemed to be the only option. If there’s any one thing that reveals how messed up my thinking had become, it would be that thought. I could only see one alternative: I had to die, my wife Stephanie needed to die, or my affair partner needed to die. It seemed there was no way to recover from an affair. I wasn’t homicidal or suicidal, but I honestly could not see another solution, short one of us dying. Somehow, like many caught in the crosshairs of infidelity and disclosure, I had so restricted my options that there were no other alternatives.

Twenty seven years later and after having worked with over 3,000 couples dealing with infidelity, I realize my insanity wasn't unique. Infidelity in marriage is unfortunately more common than we like to admit. We humans have a natural bent toward constricted thinking. It’s either this, or it’s that. I’ve heard statements such as: “I either get divorced or live a miserable life” or “I either look at porn or have an affair.” If you think about it, there are other alternatives after an affair, but for some reason we can’t see them.

Finding a New Perspective

Einstein said, “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness by which it was created”. If we ever hope to escape the quagmire created by even our best of thinking, we need to discover new ways of seeing. However, the isolation created by our shame inhibits opportunities to find the help we need. Once again, "either/or thinking" keeps us trapped. “We have to find a therapist that can meet us on Thursday at 9:00 pm, or we can’t do anything”.

Gaining a new and healthy perspective requires the right external input and openness to hear the experiences of others who are also in crisis and a willingness to share your own. 

It requires faith in the advice being given by experts who have personally experienced the very same trauma. Until you can see that it has worked for others, why try? How could I possibly survive an affair?

It requires courage. Abandoning our old way of thinking and seeing, for something new, especially when you’re in the middle of life’s biggest crises, isn’t easy one bit.

The Right Community Changes Everything

My experience has shown that a group or a “team approach” to recovering from an affair not only expedites the process, but it also helps solidify long term change. I understand this approach to many, may seem intimidating and completely uncomfortable. “What? Share my story with other couples? Are you crazy; how humiliating!” “You want me to be in a room with other people, and actually tell them about my infidelity? ….No Way.” I can barely talk about it with my spouse or professional. How do you expect me to share it with total strangers, let alone delve deeper into my wife or husband’s affair?” A spouse calmly said to me one day “You’re kidding, right? Seriously?”

The most powerful tool my wife and I had in our recovery process was our community of friends who had already recovered or were in the process of recovering from an affair. Having others who were “like us”, both validated our experience and gave us hope.

Overcoming infidelity in marriage requires a supportive community. Without the encouragement and empathy provided by others who have already walked this journey, how could you sustain the journey?

It requires accountability. When you grow weary of the road to change, who is going to care enough to check and see how you’re doing? It requires safe people to talk to. Who wants to share their deepest fear and shame if they don’t feel they’ll be accepted or protected? It requires others who truly understand. Why would you share if you feel the other parties can’t understand?

Recovery Requires a Proper Timeline

If you don’t know where you should be in the course of events and recovery, how do you know if you’re off pace, or right where you should be? How do you know if what you’re both feeling is to be expected? A plan for recovery is necessary. Recovery from infidelity is not something you can easily fumble your way through.

Even with a good plan and timeline in place, a new perspective, and a community of support recovery is hard, but please don’t limit your alternatives. In AA they say, “It takes what it takes”, and until you’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired”, you’re not ready to change. On the other hand, bottom is that place where you say enough, and you give up your “all or nothing thinking" and become willing to try something new. I’ve said it many times,the goal has to be progress not perfection.

You don’t have to go into it alone. In fact, if you are at any level curious to see how this approach can expedite both your healing and recovery, please feel free to reach out. Our upcoming July EMS Weekend is already sold out. We are currently building a waiting list for our August EMS Weekend which will also fill up fast. I’d like to encourage you to consider the possibility that perhaps this is the community and the lifeline you both have been so desperately looking for. If you’d like to have a conversation with someone who has been through this before and can help guide you through the recovery process, call 1-512-879-6326 or email us at info@hope-now.com and we’ll be glad to help. In the meantime, give our free 7 day recovery bootcamp a try, even if you do it by yourself. There is ground to be gained and life to be found when you give the right protocol a chance to help change your own perspective. You can’t do it alone and you don’t have to.

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