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

Surviving Infidelity Survey Part 1: What Do You Need to Know?

We’ve seen time and time again how important discovery is to recovering from infidelity. Without full disclosure, the betrayed spouse is constantly replaying the story, trying to make sense of everything. The most common reason for the unfaithful spouse withholding information is because they fear it will be “too much.” That the last detail will be the final straw, or that revealing the whole truth will be too painful. So the unfaithful spouse will deliver “trickle truths,” just trickling out information slowly over time.

Unfaithful spouses, hear me when I say that this is absolute torture for your betrayed spouse. Each time they get new information - even a little piece of information - it takes them right back to square one and it’s as if they are hearing it all over again for the very first time. More than re-living the information, your spouse is re-living all the confusion, trauma, and turmoil associated with recovery after infidelity. If you’ve been on our site for a while or if you are a member of the Recovery Library, you’ve heard me say this many times before. We have even produced a video compiled of myself and mentor couples talking specifically about this subject in other productions called "Reaching Ground Zero".So I wanted to hear what you had to say about discovery.

In response to the question “What did you not know that you needed to know after the infidelity came to light?” the answers fell into one of five categories. I needed to know:

  1. the truth about what had happened.
  2. why it happened and my mate’s motivations.
  3. who was responsible for the betrayal.
  4. what to expect on the journey to recovery and the fact there was hope.
  5. the necessary steps to take in order to move forward in the most productive way possible.

 

Women

27% That I Was Not Responsible For My Husband’s Betrayal

The women said they needed to “know they were not responsible for their husband’s betrayal.” Twenty-seven percent of women reported taking personal responsibility for their mate’s infidelity. They reported difficulty in recovery because they were trying to fix something that ultimately they had little or no control over. This isn’t to say that they were perfect in the marriage, but bad marriages aren’t the root of infidelity. Surviving infidelity, and ultimately thriving in the relationship, means each person has to take responsibility for how they are treating their mate. In fact, there can be two people in a bad marriage and generally only one of them has an affair. Therefore, it’s not the bad marriage causing the infidelity, (even if the unfaithful mate is blaming them for their infidelity). In retrospect, these women felt their time would have been far better spent allowing their mate to take responsibility for their actions. In this category were comments such as, “There was nothing I could do to stop the insanity--no way to reason with my husband--so I would have spent less energy in finding a solution that wasn't mine to find and more energy in asking God for guidance.” and “I felt like I had failed, that it was all my fault, that if I was ‘ENOUGH’ it wouldn't have happened. I was so ashamed even though he was the one that did it, yet, I was too embarrassed to admit to others that he was having an affair.”

21% Not Knowing the Truth About What Happened

Second for the women was “not knowing the truth about what happened”. Twenty-one percent of the women felt their recovery would have been improved if their mate had answered their questions. This is supported by the statistic that couples who can talk about what occurred over a period of time have a greater chance of surviving the affair. In order to restore trust in a relationship, it’s necessary for the unfaithful spouse to first trust their mate with the information about what happened. Here are examples of these comments: “I'm in a different situation than most betrayed spouses. My husband told me little bits & pieces about how he was unfaithful. I wish he would have told me the whole truth all at once so the healing could have begun.” and “The whole story, the whole truth no matter how painful at the time.” And “Surviving infidelity means ultimately being honest and open.”

To learn more about the importance of full disclosure watch our video: "Reaching Ground Zero".

17% Understanding Why It Happened

The third most common comment about what they wished they had known was “why it happened”. Seventeen percent of women respondents said the absence of understanding why it happened as well as their mate’s motivations for recovery made it difficult to determine whether it was safe to continue in the relationship. Their fears were summed up with statements like this: “We can only change ourselves - people change when they want to, but sometimes don't know how. If an individual doesn't answer the question why they are cheating, the behavior will repeat.” And “How he could lie over and over to me and not feel any guilt. Why he would have jeopardized everything for her. Why would he say that he loved me during the affair (5 year affair).”

To learn more about why it happened, read my 3 part series, "Why Did they Cheat?".

16% Expectations on Recovery and That Hope Exists

The fourth most common response by 16% of these women was that they wished they had known at the time of discovery what to expect on the Journey to recovery and the fact there was hope. The intensity of pain and the disorientation created by the infidelity left them out of touch with reality. Simply knowing that what they were going through was normal would’ve been helpful. They also reported that knowing there was hope for recovery would’ve prevented them from saying and doing things that were so destructive. In relation to surviving infidelity, for example, one person wrote, “I wish I had known that recovery was possible and that we would try to work things out down the road. Knowing that would have helped me avoid some of the terrible things I said to him and wrote to him. Also, that the more I wrote to him, the more I pushed him away. I so wanted him to hurt like I did, and I let him have it! I wish I had been softer, less ‘out there’ with my feelings.”

14% Steps Necessary to Move Forward

The final significant category for the women was not knowing at the time of discovery what steps to take in order to move forward in the most productive way possible. Not knowing what to do kept them stuck longer than was necessary. Here were some of the comments: “That not all counselors are the same.” and “How to put one foot in front of the other -in other words I was in shock mode and did not know what to do. I needed a guide but didn't even know how to find one.” And “I really should have sought help sooner.”

Men

24% Truth of What Happened

The number one thing the men wished they had known at the time of discovery was the truth of what happened. Twenty-four percent of men reported this would’ve been most helpful. The second highest total was the category of “Understanding why it happened and their mate’s motivations for recovery.” The number one thing the betrayed women wished they’d known at the time of discovery, “they were not responsible for their husband’s betrayal” was the third most common comment for the men, coming in at 19%. Next, the men said they wished they had known the necessary steps to take in order to move forward in the most productive way possible; followed by the category understanding the path of recovery and that there was hope for healing and moving forward.

Surviving infidelity is a tough road, but one that is definitely possible.  It is a tragedy for people to remain in the pit of despair created by infidelity when rehabilitation is possible. If you are new to recovery, I hope you’ll learn from the experiences of those who’ve gone before and found healing. There’s no doubt that we can learn from their lessons today and get on the path to healing much sooner. Now that you have this list of the top five things our readers wish they had known as a starting point, seek help that addresses these concerns. If you’re not sure how to begin, try our First Steps Bootcamp. It will walk you step by step through the early stages of recovery. If you want more direct help or if you have been in recovery for a while and are just feeling stuck, please don’t stay there. Join an EMS Online class and get on the path to healing. In the coming weeks we'll take a look at how the unfaithful spouses who participated in the survey responded to the question, "What was the least productive action you took after the infidelity came to light?"

Make sure to read Part Two of the Surviving Infidelity series: Surviving Infidelity Survey Part 2: Poor Recovery Decisions of Unfaithful Spouses.

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I personally have struggled

I personally have struggled really bad when he told me tiny bit 9months ago. Then has slowly told me the rest in the last 3 weeks. It has taken the full 3 weeks to find everything out. I feel it is so unfair as I had started to heal then he has taken me back to d day all over again.Now I'm lost and don't no what to do. He knows now that I'm all he wants. It just ain't fair and I wish I knew 9 months ago that there was help out there as I struggled with no where to turn till I found this site on the internet

Set backs

I understand your struggle. When he was caught by his lovers spouse he was forced to tell me. I specifically asked if he had been inappropriate with his boss several times. 18 months later I discovered he had an affair with his boss previously. For about a 2 year period. For me it felt like he just had another affair and set me way back. Now lying and distrust are even a bigger obstacle for me. If he would have come clean in the beginning it would have helped a lot. Also it was like pulling teeth to get information.

Discovery

I just finally put everything together 5 days ago. My husband would not admit to anything unless I came to him with proof. To make our situation worse, he is on an expat assignment, so we are regularly apart. I have not seen him since I found out. Everything is all about him right now. He is angry that I told my family and thinks I should deal with everything internally. I have never felt such hurt and devastation in my life. I don't want a divorce, but I am so lost right now.

I feel the same way. I found

I feel the same way. I found out my wife was having an affair for a year with a co worker. I suspected it for awhile. And questioned it. And was told she was in love with me and would not do anything to jeopardize us! Telling me the whole time how lucky she was to have me. I picked up her phone one day and found a year long sexting conversation between the two of them. Even specifics after each physical encounter. So I kept her phone and asked questions. Was told it was nothing just some texting that got out of hand. So I started telling her what I read. Then over the course of a week. I kept her phone and kept reading. She finally told me after I forced her into it. So after 11 months of pain I still wonder if she's really told me everything. And they still work together. It's killing me.

the lies are almost worse

I found out about my husband's affair about 6 weeks ago. The first story was that there was a slip up once the week before and then once three years ago (with my sister in law) and I started to work my way through it and believed all of his story even though I felt like it was not true. Having your gut tell you one thing and your husband tell you another prevents the process from moving forward. Week by week, I would get a little more information and each time something new was revealed, it was like starting over each time. For the betrayers, I would recommend you tell the whole truth right away and rip that Band-Aid off. I think what bothered me the most was that this "other woman" had more information about my husband than I did and I didn't know how to move forward with him (even though he was begging me to) without knowing the full story. As painful as it was, I need to know the whole truth. My husband thought he was protecting me and he admitted that he thought he was protecting himself by keeping details from me (like how they really felt about each other) but all it did is make me feel like it wasn't possible for me to move on with a liar.

Discovery

My husband told me he cheated on me while I was out of town caring for my sick brother who was fighting cancer and died while I was with him. I got home on a Wednesday and my husband told me on Thursday that a women approach him for gas money in exchange for sex. He told me he had you come to our home and he had sick with he in our bed. I am having a hard time, because along with this, I had a funeral to attend. Now that the funeral is behind me, I am now focusing on what I should do. I am feeling so much pain. My house and our bedroom is a constant reminder of the betrayed.

Wanting the trust back!!

I found out a year ago and yes the actually affair hurt me but all the lies to keep it cover and all the times I felt like I was going crazy cause I knew deep down something was going on. He finally confessed, then told me some here and there. We went to counciling and it did help me some. Now I find myself angry a lot. I can't trust him even though he says he will never do that to me again. I hate the person that this has turned me into.

YES THE ANGER!! The anger

YES THE ANGER!! The anger and resentment that I feel now... a year after I found out about his affair... it's overwhelming! After I found out about his affair and the details... I was more so hurt.. destroyed. Now a year later it's just plain anger/resentment/hatred. I am trying to work on it however all the triggers keep pulling me in.

Continued lies

I found out 15 months ago that my husband was having an affair with my best friend. It had been going on 2 years. They were tired of hiding and wanted to both leave their families and be together. I never got any details except for it had started 2 years before. 5 months later, they "ended things", and she and her family moved away. My husband started acting like he wanted to work things out, so we slowly started trying to make some progress. I found out 7 months after that that he had STILL had contact with her during that time. He lies about everything. Last week I found out that he had lied about some other things and gone behind my back with some financial decisions that we had agreed to not follow. I feel like I keep getting set back to day 1 all over again. Today, he came over and told me that there's a "rumor" going around that he's been sleeping with a girl in his apartment complex. It just never seems like it's going to end.

Continued Lies

I am right there with you. About six months ago my husband started acting like he did not ever want to be at home, resentfully toward me and began disappearing for hours at a time. He always said he was out with our mutual friends and his phone died. Two months ago he asked me to move out for a separation period because he was going through something and needed some time away from me. I did as he asked. Next day he asked me to come home. Three days later was Valentines Day. He disappeared at 9am and never answered my calls or messages. His friends saw the messages I sent to them but would also not respond. He did not come home till midnight. No his special dinner was ruined. He did not even say happy valentines day or get me anything. One of his friends hinted that I needed to check who he hangs out with, but she was one of them. He told me he had done nothing wrong was sorry about being and jerk, h is head was back straight and loved me. Two days later I find pictures of a girl in his computer. He said that while it was wrong, he was just talking to her and messaging , he had never touched her or anything inappropriate. Three days later Ihe finally admits to have a year long on going affairs with her, loves her and will not stop seeing her. She is a local prostitute. A few days later he apologized again and said it was over and he was devoted to getting our marriage back. Same night immediately after being intimate with me he starts texting her on the phone. Bold faced lied to me about what he was doing but there was a mirror behind him so I saw it all. How do I ever believe him when he can hurt me over and over while lying about it to my face?

Trust

I have been divorced from my wife for about a year now. I am still dealing with the aspects of not knowing what was going on since my second child was a little girl (she is now 12). I have always suspected something was wrong but I could never prove it. It did not help that I was always depressed and changing into another person, but I always loved her and was faithful. I feel like this is just a line you do not cross. I still have difficulties with meeting women, I feel as if I am cheating and that God would not be happy about my decision. She was having online and phone affairs fro years and finally it graduated to a full blown affair. And to make it worse my so called friends new and said nothing. especially one male friend who was in constant communication with her (he was getting his jollies through her stories of infidelity). I have found out proof after the divorce of many things she has done and is still doing. I can not understand how someone who loves God and says they love you could do such a thing. To this day I find it very difficult to believe anything she says about anything. The crazy thing is, is that I still love her. But I know she is not good for me right now. I guess I will leave it to God (try to).

I empathized with all the

I empathized with all the betrayed spouses, recalling the experience I had 3 years ago when my husband had an emotional affair with a coworker. My struggle was to know the truth everything about the affair which my infidel husband couldn't give to me at the time of discovery. I learned that lying comes naturally with affairs and we can only begin to trust when the infidel decided to come clean and be honest about everything. One and a half year after, the time when I thought I was on my way to healing, I discovered vital information about the affair. This brought devastation and I was back to zero again. He could not understand my stand that he should have told me everything initially and could have spared me from this overwhelming pain. Feels like he cheated me twice. Even our counselor did not validate my point and it was only now that he came to realize this mistake when we started studying marriage and family therapy in counseling. We are now in our journey towards recovery and restoration. It is now my desire to help betrayed spouses to heal after an affair. This site made me understand not only myself but my husband as well and I find it so informative and useful.

Emotional affair with coworker

My husband had an emotional affair with a coworker. We are both successful professionals loaded and envy of our circle. But what I was most proud was my family. My husband's love for me. And my kids. He was an honest well respected guy doting on me. Or at least that's what I thought. Then when he was away on town I found out a month worth of text on the iPad. About 20% work related issues. The rest is personal concerning conversation that should go between two adoring spouses. I was so shocked when I found out. There was no sex involved. But it didn't matter. The happy smiling wife ( that's me) gone into clinical depression. Can't eat or sleep. Constantly thinking about this. I confronted her she said we were just friends. My husband admitted and apologized. Says I'm the only women in his life and this is just a fantasy to relieve his work stress. Stopped texting her altogether. When asked how long he said one year. She has given some gifts. But talked about only one in that 1 month worth of texts. What ever he tells me about the affair is what is that texts and I already know. He is not willing to divulge anything else. When I asked him to show the gift he refused. But I found out and asked he said he didn't want to open up another can of worms. Now 6 weeks later found out it was going On for 2years not one. All these lies and not knowing made me feel like I am going through all this all over again. I feel like there no hope or future. I can never have what I had before. How can you text some one 20-70 texts a day and suddenly cut it off just because I found out? Is it even possible? I think he still has feelings for her. That's why he didn't want to show the gift.She was off work for the last few weeks. Now she is going to come back and that's increasing my depression and anxiety even more. It was therapeutic reading all these responses I can relate to them and I feel for them. Those who are suffering after husbands one night stands or brief sexual encounters you are much better off that 2 yrs of heavy emotional involvement. If I only know the whole truth I can think of ways to heal.

17 yr Emotional affair with coworker

I understand fully. Seems like my husband was living 2 separate lives. After 20 years of being together (15 married), I found out 4 years ago he'd had an affair 2 years prior with someone he'd been in touch with the entire duration of our marriage, unbeknownst to me. I knew of her slightly as a former coworker that had kept in touch in between jobs, etc. but it was always in casual conversation. At the time of discovery I too asked for all details and asked him to stop. He stated they were just friends and there was nothing to end. It was not until I threatened to tell her clients and make it public who and what she is, that he supposedly realized the magnitude and promised to end it. For the next 2 years bits and pieces of information kept surfacing and then the real bomb: he had cheated on his previous wife with her too. All in all it's been 4 years since the discovery and although we moved cross country to alienate from the triggers and habits, I'm still discovering "gifts", music, etc that were a part of their memories which he's not gotten rid of. In addition, he has stated that the 100% loyalty that I require is unrealistic and will be loyal 9 out of 10 times; he also gets dangerously upset when I need reassurance and ask him if I'm the only one, etc. Had I known that I will never really know the truth, that he had fallen in love (even if only in a fantasy), or had I known what the difference is between being guilt ridden and being narcissistic, I wouldn't have wasted 4 years. But at least I now know and I can take the next steps without feeling guilty, without feeling like a failure and with confidence knowing I did everything I could to help our marriage and help him. They both are damaged individuals that are beyond repair. Good luck and I hope your pain is short-lived.

affair

The texts and phone calls are the worst. My husband had a 2 1/2 year affair. My story is yours. Perfect family- perfect spouses, lots of love and intimacy. It's hard to understand the why. I saw my husband's phone bill. 3-5 hours a day of texting and phone calls. It is heart breaking. How do they just stop? Mine did- and then he started again. He used whatsap on his iPhone so I didn't find it on the phone bill. But I caught him when he finally met up with her again. Caught him in the lie because my gut told me something was going on. We are moving forward again, but it is so very hard. I wish us both success- I wish up both to heal and feel whole again. It is the hardest experience of my life. Tough times never last forever---we must keep believing that.

Lies

My second wife confessed that she had an affair 5 months ago. The only reason she confessed was because she was pregnant with his child and decided to raise a family with her much-younger lover. There was no way the child is mine because she all but cut me off of sex for the previous year and a half . She said they'd had sex only a few times and she didn't know which of us she loved more.

After she moved in with him into his mother's basement that morning, i found over a thousand "private" videos, photos and messages saved on our laptop. The truth was that she'd had three to five affairs in the previous 18 months, two of which briefly overlapped, meaning that she'd been having unprotected sex with three men simultaneously. The final affair lasted five months but they'd had sex almost every day, not the "few times" she'd told me. The worst part was that her lover was a casual friend of my son, her stepson. Four weeks after moving out she told me she wanted to come home, that i was the best thing that'd ever happened to her and she didn't know why she'd been unfaithful. She said that after living with her lover for two weeks, she'd realized what a great man i was. In addition to being a physician, I cooked all the meals, did 90% of the housework and was faithful. She thinks that she'd been addicted to the romance and excitement of courtship and new lovers. Folks, I forgave her. When she came home, she was like a skeleton. Now four months after she moved back, almost every day i experience flashbacks of the nude photos, raunchy videos, and loving and raunchy conversations I'd seen on the laptop and I can't seem to stop them.

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