Rick Reynolds, LCSW

Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Bedside Forgiveness

January 28, 2013 marked the third anniversary of my mother’s death. It also would have been her 80th birthday.

My mother loved her children and her grandchildren well. Her love flowed from a deep well of love for Jesus. She was a woman of prayer and when I was a teenager, young women from my church would come to our house to share a glass of ice tea with her and she would share her love and faith with them.

It would be tempting to wax nostalgic, but I will resist. My mother faced many tough choices and I’m not sure all of the choices she made were wise ones. She was very close to her own family, but she left them to follow my father as he served in the Marine Corps. Abandonment, abuse, and the trauma of two tours in Vietnam had left their mark on my father, and he in turn left marks of anger and betrayal on our family. On more than one occasion, as a child and as an adult, I begged my mother to leave him, but she always refused. My disapproval of that decision represented the only serious breach in our relationship over the years. While her determination kept her going, I couldn’t see through the haze of bitterness.

As I stood by my mother’s bed three years ago, it was late and the hospice center was quiet. My husband had stepped out of the room for a minute and I was alone with her. She was oblivious to my presence, but still I sat beside her bed holding her shriveled hand. As I sat there with her that night, my heart was heavy with more than the impending loss of my mother.

Just three weeks before the injury that put my mom in that hospice bed, my husband had confessed to me his infidelity. Years of our history together seemed forever altered. How do you stay with someone after years of infidelity?

Now, as I faced losing my mother, I was already immersed in the grief of losing the marriage that I thought I had and trying to decide if I dared risk what seemed like everything trying to rebuild it. Surviving infidelity, along with the loss of my mom, was overwhelming.

A few days before that night in the hospice room, I had shared all of the pain from my husband’s infidelity with two of my best friends. I also shared with them my hope-signs that maybe my husband and I were going to be able to work things out, that maybe marriage on the other side of this could be better. My friends quickly dismissed that hope and warned me that it was too risky, that I should give it up and move on as quickly as possible. Their certainty in the midst of my overwhelmingly uncertain struggle left me feeling exhausted and alone. There was so much about my marriage that they did not understand. How could they know what I needed to do when they knew so little about the life my husband and I shared?

Somehow in that hospice room, two griefs collided. What did I not know about my mother and her decisions? How could I be so certain about the path that my mother should have taken? I was overwhelmed with regret. I had not given my mother any space for forgiveness or compassion for my father. I even judged her decisions and pleaded for reason. I had done to my mother what my friends had done to me.

Faced with the threat of loss without some sort of resolution, I leaned over and whispered to her, “I’m sorry and I just want you to know, Mom, it was enough. Whatever pain and disappointment we faced in our home, your love was enough, Mom. You loved us all enough.”

As I declared her love to be enough, my comatose mother opened her eyes and looked right into mine and we saw one another, maybe for the first time. It only lasted a moment, but that moment re-oriented the relationship between my mother and me for all eternity. I saw my mother as a woman who made the choices she did for better or for worse, and she saw me.

Somehow in that strange way that God has, He took all of these points of pain in my life and, in a single moment of cognition – both my mother’s and mine, He reorganized it all and freed me from emotional baggage that I’d carried for years. In an unforeseen instant, He saw my grief, He anticipated my needs and He provided for my care. It was at this point that I realized, He loved me enough.

Forgiveness for infidelity is not usually in an instant, although breakthrough and a new perspective can enter in a very unexpected instant. I’m happy to say this moment paved the way for the developing breakthroughs that would follow. My experience was not only life changing, but began to open the floodgates for new perspective and new insight into what could be possible in my marriage and in my life.

For me, working through the pain of infidelity proved not only possible, but also transformative. It took courage to heal from my husband’s infidelity in the light of my friends disapproval and I now realize it took similar courage for my mom to walk the path she chose in light of my disapproval.

If you wonder how to survive infidelity I suggest finding others who have done so and found a new and meaningful life in the process. I personally found the support I needed through Harboring Hope and EMS Weekend. At the very least talk with others who have not only survived, but thrived, and ask them what helped them along in their journey.

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Beautiful! Thanks so much

Beautiful! Thanks so much

Exactly what I needed.

I am going through the same kind of conflict. My mother has been gone for 25 years, but 7 years before her untimely death from a heart attack, my father confessed his affair. I was just 16 years old and was very hurt and angry. I thought she was weak for staying with him. Yet I saw her spirituality grow in leaps and bounds. My immature anger and pride kept me from seeing her use the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal her and my dad and their marriage. Now, when I am faced with my husband's infidelity, and the desire to save our marriage and repair the damage, I am understanding more deeply the pain, forgiveness, love, and growth my mother experienced. Thank you for sharing your post. I only wish that I could look into my mother's eyes and tell her that I understand, that her love was enough, and that I wish she were here to help me through my own trial.

betrayal

I'm recovering since Sept 2011. My husband and I are doing good a lot of ways better. I'm still working on my own memories of the affair. Some days are worse then others but some day it will be all behind me. This is the most difficult thing that I ever had to deal with but I believe it takes a strong person to forgive an move on. I love my husband very much he has done everything to make things better for us good luck to all in our recovery

I only now understand my mum's pain

On discovering my husband infidelity, I have been experiencing continuously doubts of his love for me more so as he is not doing enough to assure me of his remorse and cultivation of healthy life style. He bluntly refuses to leave his phones unlocked as well as his lap tops. I also snooped and found that he is into porn and has never affirmed that he will stop. My mum always snorted at my dad when he expressed his concern for her. He was a cheater for the greater part of their marriage. He only stopped when he got prostrate cancer. She was never secure with any female around him as my dad truly pursued anything in skirts no matter how young or old or blood related to my mum. She till her death was obsessed with relating his infidelity to anyone who would listen and we all got impatient with her. They both passed on and I shortly uncovered my husbands lifestyle. I have been unable to forgive myself for not being there for her enough to help her sieve through her pain. I deeply grieve her death, her unhappy and unfulfilled life, and my 20 years of relationship that was not enough and has not yet been considered so for true commitment. I have had to live with not forgiving myself over my mum and trying to forgive my husband everyday as he continues to hurt me everyday as my heart breaks over and over when I consider that he would rather live his own way rather than be faithful. This story shows that I am not the only one who is having to heal from the loss of parents which came on the heels of infidelity/betrayal. I no longer feel that mine is peculiarly bad. thanks, this helps too.

Today is the year mark for

Today is the year mark for me, I,all day have been struggling because I was feeling that I should be over this by now. My husband too has been doing his best to piece our marriage back together. Seeing the "2011" in your post made me feel so much better about not being over the pain. My mom passed a year before I found out about his "friend" I was grieving and his excuse was that I wasn't giving him any attention so he leaned on her while I was grieving over my mom. Thank you so much for making me feel so much less crazy after this horrible day.

To the Year Mark

Don't keep time. One year, two years, or more. It has been 4 years since I found out about my husband. I celebrate the days that I can listen to him say I love you and not cry. I celebrate the evenings I want to be close to him again. I am thankful for the ability to let him hug me. He did know it was a mistake, he is trying. We both are. Recently he traveled again for work. It was the hardest week for me. I handled it by not wanting to talk to him, but I soon found that was the wrong way to handle it. I tried calling one evening and he didn't return my call. All the feelings rushed back as soon as I heard the voice mail. We talked about it and he fell asleep early and didn't hear his phone. Do I trust him, yes. Do I still feel and cry, yes. It will take time... but don't measure your progress with days, measure with experiences. I too lose my mom. It was two years before I found out about my husband. You have been trough so much in such a short time. Don't let yourself feel bad for "not getting over it". Take each day as a celebration. I remember celebrating the first time I could watch my kids do something and not cry because Grandma would not see them. I remember the first time I made it through a holiday dinner with out tears. I remember the first time I made it through a holiday with laughter. Small steps will come. Celebrate those, don't look back, look forward. God Bless you!

What a powerful experience

What a powerful experience you shared. Thank you for taking the time to write this. God bless you.

Recovery on the otherside

The last two tales of recovery have been of the husbands infidelity, while I get that there is enough to go around, I see very few recovery stories of wives who have been unfaithful and have put it back together with their spouses. This seems to be an issue in the counseling area. So while I get the clarity of life and commitment in the face of life altering experiences, and the forgiveness and breakthroughs that can come from that, I don't find that on the other side of the fence. The underlying script that I've found in discussing this with a number of men that have been in the trenches only to discover that their wives have betrayed them and in a number of cases have left them with the kids and have gone out to pursue life, because they are not happy. While I find these stories and experience full of emotion, they are leaving a large part of this group out. Unfortunately, the research also seems to be proving this point out, that a husbands infedlity to his wife seems to be easier to over come than when the wife is unfaithful. This can be as simple as core needs and values differences in security verus respect. I get these cathartic moments and have experienced them over time, I have felt God's peace in the stranges of times and places, and his grace. But the movement doesn't seem to go the other way.

Dear Anonymous, I am the

Dear Anonymous, I am the betraying wife and my husband and I are working through it. The road is not easy, but it has been 10 months since I told him about my AP. I hope in the future to tell you we have succeeded. We attended a marriage intensive retreat for four days that made a huge impact in our future together.

few recoveries when the wife is the betrayer

I agree with the fact that there are few recovery stories when the woman is the betrayer. Here is my story and analogy of how a man's betrayal affects the marriage versus a woman's betrayal. My husband was the betrayer 14 years before I betrayed him. He denied my accusations of his betrayal and left me in the wake of thinking I was crazy and questioning my own intuition. After he discovered my affair, he had no sympathy or understanding. In fact, he finally admitted his affair several weeks after his discovery just to hurt me all over again (he admitted this fact months later). I compare trying to heal from each betrayal as breaking each of my arms. When I "knew" of his affair it felt like the left arm or our marital body was pulverized, but only I acknowledged it. He ignored and denied there was a fracture (in our relationship) so that horribly mess-up left arm got no attention but slowly began to mend itself. It (the arm part of our relationship) repaired but was contorted and poorly functioning. When my affair was discovered it was as if the marital right arm was crushed. The difference this time was that he gave all his attention to the wrongness of my affair and how it traumatized him and the marriage. That "right arm" got all the attention and focus. This arm healed much more quickly and correctly because of all the attention it received. We are still married 6 years after his discovery, and we are in a better place than we were, but our relationship is still more fragile than either of us prefer. Today, our marriage's right arm healed correctly while the left arm is still neglected but functioning. I ask Affair Recovery to address this issue of women's betrayal effects on the relationship and the success in recovery.

I'm with you man

I'm with you man, I dont see a lot of success stories from when the women have affairs either. In my case my wife went from "I love you so much, you're all I ever dreamed of" to having an affair the next weekend and now she swears she was never happy, she left me with our two kids, blaimed me for every bad thing that has ever happened to her and made me feel like dirt. Still the love of Christ has allowed me to forgive her. She has no intention of saving our marriage, i agree it seems like when women do it, they can justify it and are too far gone to forgive themselves. I'm so happy for all of you that have saved your marriages and I do believe it will be worth it in the end for you, but I would be encouraged to hear from a women who has strayed and returned to work it out.

Women vs men

In addition to counselling bias, I wonder if women have learned to be more forgiving than men because of societal issues? For instance, a wife who needs to stay with her husband because he's the primary income in the family may feel like she has no choice but to forgive him and stay. That breadwinner of a husband would not feel that he needs to stay with his wife if the affair was hers. Maybe men have a hard time with their wife's infidelity because they believe their wives are their "property" and belong to them. Maybe the husband who discovers his wife's affair more readily becomes angry and harms her - physically, sexually and emotionally - which makes her own path toward forgiving herself and repairing the marriage more challenging, even if their goal is to remain a couple. I don't know - these are just my observations and ideas for consideration. I do not believe that infidelity is ever right, for either spouse.

thank you

this post really brought me to tears as my own mother & I have a very difficult relationship, in part because of the way my father's infidelity changed her & our very different ways of handling the infidelity of our spouses. I have certainly judged her in the decisions she's made & ironically, it is your article rather than my own experience of infidelity that has opened my eyes to that. Thank you again.

thanks for sharing

Your letter made me cry with real tears as I come to grips with my husband's own confession of infidelity that lasted for many years. It brought my pain on the surface, hopefully helping me to heal in the process. I may not know you personally but thanks for sharing!

You are giving me hope

Thank you for the beautiful story and for the people that commented. It really helps me not feel so alone. My husband had an emotional affair (he swears it wasn't physical) with his coworker 7 months ago and I thought it was over, but just last week I discovered he started talking to her and seeing her again. He said he was just drunk and it was just a mistake, but he doesn't seem to feel any remorse for what he's done. He's admitted he has romantic feelings for her which kills me because he doesn't feel the same way about me. He once was a godly man and that was one of the things I loved about him, but now he says he doesn't know if he believes in God anymore. I don't want to leave this marriage, but I hate being the only one trying. I am praying for my miracle in this marriage and will be praying for you all as well. Thanks for sharing your stories.

I am so sorry that you are

I am so sorry that you are going through this. Today marks 3 weeks from me finding out that my husband was having an affair (mostly friendship, some physical). It was a complete God thing that he accidently called my cell when he was talking to her. I KNOW because God brought it to light and that He is in this! I have to believe that it's over. I have to believe it will never happen again. The very next day after I figured it out the very first verse that was given to me was Psalms 71:19-21. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens, you who have done great things. O God who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities WILL revive the depth of the earth. You WILL bring me up again. You WILL increase my greatness and comfort again. I'm clinging to this with all I have. I'm trying not to be mad a God for letting it happen. It's not easy. But I definitely feel better today than I did three weeks ago. God is good. I'm heartbroken that you found out they are talking again. I can't imagine that today. It would kill me.

Typical

If your husband would agree to the weekend or even the phone program he would learn that those feelings are typical in affairs. He is experiencing the typical deceptions that drive an affair. Of you could get him to recall his feelings for you when he was in love with you... Prayers for your wisdom in this - and the release of the deceptions in him...

to giving me hope

This story is an eye opener and from the replies-gained much attention and rightly so. My husband's affair (s) have created so much pain and have changed my thought and emotional processes forever. We chose to rebuild our marriage and make it work. Work-that is what it takes and I believe it does take both spouses. But it takes time and much effort to keep the faith and for both to eventually get on the same page (or nearly). I am praying for you and for you to stay strong and tough and hopefully to get through and see progress. It has been tough and hard for us-I still have issues with trust and quite frankly probably will for a very long time- If you truly want and feel your marriage is salvageable then keep working!! That is what we have done and it isn't easy-but is does get better-with prayer and faith and tons of "toughness"-you will survive and actually have happy, fulfilling days ahead. Thanks also to Hope Now for and the stories and guidance through this site.

Thank You

Hello, Thank you for sharing your story; its beautiful. I read your story with a very heavy heart. My wife has had three affairs and left in 2012, on fathers day. The kids are with their mom. Honestly, infidelity is like the darkest, blackest storm. And our marriages are like sail boats... I feel like my wife jumped into a life raft, sailed off to another ship and I was left to try and survive through the storm. Sails are gone, charts are gone...some days are pure survival. And through it all, I don't know what I did wrong. Certainly nothing to deserve all this. And now, I'm forced to somehow start over. Forgive, yes...but thats only part of the process. Thanks for sharing. God bless. Mike

I'm really sorry

I don't have much more to say...other than I read your post and just hung my head. Listen, it may never get back to great.....but it does get better. I hope you can eventually see her leaving as a blessing and lifting of the burden you were bearing. This is really hard to believe, but you did not cause her to have an affair or leave Both of you contributed to the situation it created, but only she made the decision to cheat and eventually leave. I hope you can eventually let most of this pain go and step into a whole new world. It will be your chance to start over in a good way. You will always have those wonderful kids. You must be the best father you can be. But realize it is a good time to do some things for yourself and breath freely for the first time....I'm guessing in a long time. Good luck and I know many people here are with you in spirit.

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