Rick Reynolds, LCSW

by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Surviving Infidelity: 6 Things I Wish I'd Known

This week’s article explores the question “What did you not know that you needed to know, after the affair came to light?” from the perspective of the unfaithful person. Most any unfaithful spouse can tell you what they wish they’d known and it would carry some merit. Today however, I’d like to tell you what I wish I had known coupled with observations I have noticed over the past 30 years.

First, I needed to know that it wasn’t about me. I perpetrated the infidelity, but the devastation and loss belonged to my wife. Helping her heal from the wound I created needed to be the focus, not my guilt and shame. It was far too easy to make it about me and my reasons, rather than listening to her pain and taking responsibility. I must admit early on this is one of the toughest things for the unfaithful spouse to accomplish in recovery.

Second, I wish someone had given me a realistic understanding of the timeline of surviving infidelity. I had no idea how long my wife would be haunted and tortured by my infidelity and the things I did. For months she was tormented  by intrusive thoughts that caused her to re-experience the same painful emotions she felt at the discovery of my failure. Forgiveness couldn’t even stop her nightmare. It took months for her to feel safe enough to reconcile with me, but that didn’t stop the ongoing consequences she continued experiencing. I mistakenly believed that we would soon put this behind us and move on, but there was no way for me to protect her from the consequences of what I’d done.. I think if I had understood the timeline of surviving infidelity, I would not have been so impatient and probably not as frustrated at times.

Third, I wish I had known the necessity of telling the truth after the affair. Because I foolishly thought about me and wanted to avoid consequences, I failed to give my mate what she needed. I tried to control the situation by the flow of information, robbing her of her choice. Not only that, but if it didn’t make sense to me, (and after my infidelity and failures why did I think I knew anything?) then I assumed it was wrong. My self-centeredness prohibited my acting in my mate’s best interest and fueled my own self-protection at her expense (as if I hadn’t already cost her enough). I refused to accept that we couldn’t move forward until she could at least understand what happened. Coming clean at the beginning of the process would’ve saved my mate months of suffering and shortened our time of rehabilitation after my betrayal.

Fourth, I wish I’d known what my actions would cost. When I betrayed my wife I was so short sighted that I never considered what it might cost her as well as my family. My only thought was “I’ll never get caught”. I wish I had known what my self-centeredness and carelessness would cost those most important to me. I believe, had I allowed myself to be aware of the cost, it would’ve served as an inhibitor.

Fifth, I wish I’d known there was hope for surviving infidelity. Not knowing there was hope left me skeptical and hesitant to give my marriage a chance. If I had known it was possible, I would’ve more quickly sought help, and I certainly would’ve had a better attitude. It wasn’t until we met others, who had not only succeeded in saving their marriages but were now better off, that I began to realize what could be.

Sixth, I wish I’d known what love was. I craved feelings I labeled as love. Feelings that came from having someone I valued value me in return. It made me feel I was all that. In fact, the more I esteemed the other person, the stronger the effect. But, what I really loved was how they made me feel about myself. The reflection of my image in their eyes made me feel amazing. But love isn’t that feeling, rather it’s the grace my wife extended, not when I deserved it, but rather when I least deserved it.

If you and I were playing ball and broke a window, then went to the owner and he in turn charged us $20 for the damage, it would be justice. If we were playing ball and broke a window, went to the owner and he informed us it was $20, but then said, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll take care of it”, that would be mercy because we didn’t have to pay for what we had done. However, if we were playing ball and broke a window and the owner said the cost was $20, but then said not to worry about it, he’d take care of it and then he said, “Would you guys like some ice cream?” That is grace because I get ice cream for breaking the window. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

My wife gave me ice cream for breaking the window. She continued to love me after I broke her heart. The difference between the two loves is amazing. The first type of love made me feel good about myself, the second left me feeling cared for, not because of who I was, rather in spite of who I was. That love transformed me.

If I’d only known the meaning of love, perhaps I would not have been so self-centered. Rather, just maybe I could’ve cared for others.

I would love to hear the lessons learned from others of you who have been unfaithful. I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment about “What did you not know that you needed to know, after the affair came to light?” Hopefully, the lessons we learned could save others some of the heartbreak we experienced.

If you’re in need of direction or an initial roadmap to recovery, I’d like to encourage you to consider starting your healing with our free First Steps Bootcamp Program. It’s free, it’s engaging and it’s a great way to begin a process to recovery which will help you both find new life after the affair.  

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6 things I wish I had known

I wish I had known that going to my spouse about my problems (that eventually led to my affair) could have stopped my affair from happening. Keeping them bottled up inside and not confronting my spouse that my needs weren't being met was all I needed to do to keep our marriage on the right track. It would have forced us to take a look at our marriage and ourselves and work to fix the problem together. Instead we both chose to ignore the problem and go for years without having our needs met. Shutting down communication, throwing our lives into our children, putting ourselves last was the wrong way to go about it. It didn't fix the problems we had, it made it worse. Three words was all I had to say "I am lonely" and all of this could have been avoided.

Same here but alittle diff

I feel the same..my husband had multiple affairs and seeked them on dating sites etc..I felt do dirty and alone..How dare he! if he would of only talked to me!! I NEVER thought there was a problem.. I actually thought he was going thru mid life crisis then thought he had some medical issues and felt compasion for him!! and here he was having affairs... I kick myself for letting him back in ...it was broken..and to boot he told me he did not love me any more any way...how can someone do that to some one after being married for 14 years and 6 or 7 years dating BEFORE that... I just dont understand ..prob never will..Divorce is final.. He hates me now and I still love him..How can that even be.

One thing I wish I knew now

My situation mirrors this exactly only I'm the hurt partner. In one fell swoop I found my spouse had reconnected with a High School sweetheart (thanks Facebook), helped them move across the country to be nearby, find a place to live, find a job, even file their G...D.... taxes. Introduced them to me along the way as "an old friend". Had them over to the house for dinner. Watched our kids. My teeth grind just thinking about it.

I learned what a "lifeboat relationship" is, and they they were just waiting for the right tide to sail. Found out by accident.

We're trying to recover, but how is it possible to go from "til death do us part" to "I don't want you in my life any more" and then BACK?

Your marital problems didn't

Your marital problems didn't cause the adultery. Take some responsibility for what you did instead of laying the blame for your failures at the feet of your marriage.

What I wish I'd of known

First of all I have to tell you that your articles have been an absolute God-send for me! Therapy is not in our budget, so I feel you have indirectly been my therapist and I sincerely thank you! Words cannot express my gratitude!

What I wish I'd of known concerning the affair was the incredible toll it would have on my self-esteem. Realizing that the AP was truly only interested in meeting HIS needs, left me feeling even more empty than before the affair.

What "led" me to seek out another man was a lack of what I felt I wasn't getting emotionally from my husband. Ironically, I seemed to attract - and be attracted to - the very same emotionally, detached man who had the same personality as my husband. After the affair ended, this led me to a dark place that told me there wasn't anyone who truly wanted to "know" me. That I was only a vessel for gratifying sexual needs. The rest of me didn't matter. If I could of realized this early on before I let myself develop feelings, I think I would of tried to communicate more to my husband what I was actually feeling and needed. But when you're in the middle of such a high, it's almost impossible to see the writing on the wall!

I am still a LONG way from healing; but by God's grace and mercy- and continued, invaluable resources such as you offer, I feel there is a glimmer of light beginning to show.
Thank you again!!

Awareness

Thank you for this post. Sadly my former husband still can't or chooses not to accept the horror of what he did to me and to our family. He has no consciousness of God so no conscience. I offered grace but he refused it. He resented my own admission of my failings and my offer to forgive and reconcile. I see the destruction of a man who could have courageously chosen what you did. I pray every day for Gid to bless him with a deep, true awareness of God and of his own sin so he could come to a place to receive grace.

Broken hearted

I could have written these exact words. Even after two years my husband has not taken responsibility but claims to be the victim in all this. The divorce he demanded will be final next week and he's moving in with his AP. I continue to love him but am accepting that he just cannot grasp what unconditional love is.

6 Things I Wish I'd Known

Your article could not be more on point. If my husband had extended this courtesy to me, we would be in a completely different place right now. His lack of transparency and respect for the journey that I am now faced to overcome has been beyond harsh. He "wanted to move on" and not deal with the aftermath of a situation that he created. While I understand that there were medical "reasons" for his behavior, this does not erase the pure pain of the affair and the fact that he should have and still should take on the responsibility of assiting me with healing. My wish is that anyone who has betrayed their spouse reads this article. It will save much heartache and certainly help with the healing process.

grace

Well said Rick! I will add another layer of grace. Titus 2:11-12 discusses the power of grace to change. So not only did we get a relationship with God and heaven versus hell (justice) we are completely forgiven but then get the power to change!

So loved the article!

Awesome article!

Rick, once again another amazing article that just puts things in to the right perspective!

As far as me, you hit the nail on the head! The biggest thing I would have to say is be honest about the details. Don't keep things because you think that telling that stuff isn't important. Being completely open and honest with your mate from the very beginning will be much more appreciated by the betrayed than the lies. Aside from the actual affair, it is the lies I told that keeps haunting my husband. He wonders whether what I say now is truth or a lie. And I don't blame him!

Secondly, don't consider divorce as an option to overcoming infidelity. I did that! I believed that that was the only way. I figured that I didn't deserve my husband and that forgiveness was not a possibility. So I considerec divorce. In my mind, it was the only way to keep him from hurting but that inadvertently hurt him more. Luckily, he fought for us when I didn't deserve it!

And lastly, don't give up! Stubbornness finally pays off when it comes to recovering from infidelity! If you want to make it work it will!

Blessings! Here's to healing!

Thank you. I leaned grace & I

Thank you. I leaned grace & I hope my husband reads your information.

Had I known then what I know now...

Many post affair people say to themselves if I had known then what I know now I would've never done it. They also wish they could turn back the clock. Unfortunately, that is not something that post affair people can do. All we can do is deal with our spouse in a loving, caring, godly way which is very difficult at times when we just want our spouse to move past it quickly. I know there were many times that I wasn't graceful with my husband when he would share with me his anger, jealousy, fear, discouragement, rejection or anything that reminded him of my past infidelity. Thank God it's been over two years since the affair happened. I'm in a precarious situation because the AP, as far as I know, still lives across the next major intersection; basically across the street. I can't verify that for sure but I think he may be living there. It used to vex both of us as we thought about the affair every time we made a turn at that intersection. Now it still is in the back of our minds every time we pass the AP's apartment, but we just don't talk about it as much. My husband used to bring it up every day, then it turned to every other day, then he would bring it up once a week, and then once a month. Now he brings it up every so often to let me know that he's still recovering from the pain. Just like a broken leg, it heals but it never functions the same way that it did before the accident. I take full responsibility for the affair, whereas at the beginning of the affair I blamed my husband because he can be generally critical, nitpicky, faultfinding, and spoke to me like a little girl or a little sister if I accidentally did something wrong. When I brought this up to my husband at the discovery of the affair; that it was his fault because he can be retentive at times with me, he would question me, asking why I just didn't bring it up to his attention instead of having an affair. I look back and I realize that it was a justification or excuse for the affair, in my mind. I think most things in life that are done at the heat of the moment that results in long-term pain and suffering emotionally, financially, physically, maritally, etc. could be prevented and avoided if we had forethought and a long-term vision instead of focusing on self gratification for the moment.

mercy & grace

I really appreciate this article. The window story is priceless! God Bless you and your ministry!

6 Things I learned

rather when I least deserved it.
If you and I were playing ball and broke a window, then went to the owner and he in turn charged us $20 for the damage, it would be justice. If we were playing ball and broke a window, went to the owner and he informed us it was $20, but then said, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll take care of it”, that would be mercy because we didn’t have to pay for what we had done. However, if we were playing ball and broke a window and the owner said the cost was $20, but then said not to worry about it, he’d take care of it and then he said, “Would you guys like some ice cream?” That is grace because I get ice cream for breaking the window. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Rick, that was a great illustration...I intend to share your article with my "unfaithful" men in hopes they can see the difference between, justice, mercy and grace.

God bless,
Jerry

Broken window

Great article. Just a comment from the hurt spouse side. It would also be prudent to put up a window protector so the window doesn't get broken again. Fine line between grace and door mat. If the window is repeatedly broken it would be crazy to not protect it in some way. This perhaps also touches on the concept of repeated infidelities. Once a window is broken it has to be replaced.....not just fixed. As Einstein said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Unless you want to continue to get your window broken, something has to change.

agree

Wow that really is true... good point!!

Kim said it best. Some

Kim said it best. Some unfaithful people don't change and are therefore not safe to reconcile with.

Broken things can never be

Broken things can never be the same again no matter how much or what kind of glue you use to try and repair it. Here's what put some things into perspective for my spouse. It's not about a window, but still about breaking ---sort of similar:

Grab a plate and throw it on the ground.

-- Okay, done.

Did it break?

--Yes.

Now say sorry to it.

-- Sorry.

Did it go back to the way it was before?

---No.

Do you understand?

You are right. You can't fix the window (or plate). You have to replace it and put in protectors to keep it from being shattered again. I have a cement wall around the window to my heart right now. I hope with time, transparency, lots of work by the both of us, and God's help, I can tear down that wall and let him in again. Hard to do after 20 years of lies and infidelity.

Nailed It

Kim you did nail it. Grace is a beautiful thing, but the person offering it gives up a piece of themselves. Protection should be put in place to not need it again. Protect the window, put guards on it. Heck, how about stop playing baseball there anymore. Take it somewhere else, where it's supposed to be. Leave the yard if you must. Too many unfaithful just don't get it.

I'm sitting here with my unfaithful wife and two grown boys on an Easter weekend getaway. Even though it's been a year since the last DDay and 3 since the peak of the affair, I get sick in my stomach when I look at them and think about how our marriage has been soiled and their legacy damaged. I pause to take a deep breath and let it pass. The boys may never know the whole truth, what I've endured to keep it together. I wish some day they know how hard I worked to save that window, repair it, to keep their family house intact.

Wish I'd known...

I cannot for the life of me understand how I could have felt that my actions would not cause such grief, I let the physical distance I kept from my infidelity, the lack of physical liaisons quantify or in my mind belittle my affair. We justified the action by fooling ourselves into thinking what we were doing was not "an affair", it was two people "friends" texting about how their lives were "so miserable" (imagine the gall of that belief), how our spouses could not provide the love that we deserved, how misunderstood but so much alike we were. Flirting, building a relationship, supporting each other, and supposedly "loving" each other...
Sixth, I wish I’d known what love was. I craved feelings I labeled as love. Feelings that came from having someone I valued value me in return. It made me feel I was all that. In fact, the more I esteemed the other person, the stronger the effect. But, what I really loved was how they made me feel about myself. The reflection of my image in their eyes made me feel amazing. But love isn’t that feeling, rather it’s the grace my wife extended, not when I deserved it, but rather when I least deserved it.
I wish I'd known how much damage my words to my wife could do, how much pain I caused her as I tried to defend myself, how much she was , and still is hurting because of the lies I told to myself. I even went so far as to proclaim that she should have an affair of her own so that she could feel how wonderful it was to have someone so freshly in love, how great it was to have someone "love you"...
I now know how ridiculous and egotistical that declaration was, how foolish...Just like his number 6, I loved the attention, attention I surely did not deserve.
I cannot take back those words, and the damage I did when I spit them out in righteous indignation will take years to heal...Frustration and impatience are not feelings I deserve, Compassion for a wonderful woman full of grace should be my only sentiment if I truly think we can save our relationship. In hindsight, no matter how you tell another person that is not your spouse that you "love them", whether it be in a physical embrace or over the airwaves...the damage is the same, and yes, the knowledge and scope of the damage I caused would have been the inhibitor I shouldn't have needed in the first place.
Had I put a tenth of the effort I put towards impressing my "cyber fling" back into my own marriage, this never would have happened. That I know for sure.

infidelity

i had been married 42 years when I finally told my wife that I had cheated on her our first 9 years and lusted for an additional 33 years and managed to keep it all a secret. Then my confession stretched out over a one year period. Every time I told her something new, it would take her back to square one. Pain went deeper each time. I didn't get any council or advice, just blurted it all out. If I had it all to do over, first of all I wouldn't cheat, and secondly, get council!. I literally destroyed her. I am trying to restore us now. Knowing all the damage I've caused , I wouldn't cheat!

What You Wish...

Thank You, Rick for allowing both sides to gather here in a mature fashion about such a devastating topic. ADULTERY.

I think that the LAST THING is more desert. It's time for some serious HOUSEKEEPING. Forgiveness I will grant eventually with the Savior's help, but The Ice Cream of Restoration IS GOING TO TAKE blood, sweat, and tears of HONESTY, TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY BEFORE either of us have a chance for dessert.
People ARE NOT REWARDED for a BAD BEHAVIOR.
My DH knows that, and is finally willing to give love to SOMEONE who is worth it instead looking for "love" in many faces and places.
It's amazing how we as people don't see what's before us. I'm glad to hear that Everyone here sees this now. May your stories as FORMER UNFAITHFUL bless us.
Especially those whom have yet to see brokenness in their own spouses for the uncalled for Hurt of a Lifetime.

I wish I Knew

All of the things in this article resonate with me in a powerful way. That literally could have been written by me (except I can't write like that). But the two things that resonate the loudest that I wish I knew was the cost, and the meaning of love. I wish I had known the steep price my wife was going to pay for my choices. Even if that wouldn't have motivated me to stay faithful, it would have been so helpful in the healing to make it about her and not me. Second, I really didn't know the meaning of love. Now that my wife has demonstrated the grace needed for recovery and has blessed me with this amazing, joyful marriage, I know the meaning of love. Love is a choice, not a feeling. I love choosing my wife every day and I'm humbled beyond words that she chooses me after what I did. God is good and He wants joyful marriages for all of us.

6 things I wish I knew

AMAZING. I have read alot but this by far was the most profound.

What I wish I'd known...

that my kids would have nothing to do with me for being unfaithful to their father
and that in turn, they would slight him because he chose to forgive me and work on our marriage.
Clinging to the promise that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called
according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Not an excuse for an affair, but things weren't right for many years.
I'm hoping with the programs and Christian counseling that we come out stronger and have a greater
marriage and that our children will benefit from it.

Things I wish I'd known

Great article!! I wish I'd known how devastated my husband would be due to my infidelity. Love the "broken window" analogy. I have known God's love & grace because of my husband's commitment to helping me heal. I wish that I had focused more on his healing at the beginning of our recovery. I hurt for him. I think, finally, that I am heading in the right direction. May the peace of God be with all of us day-by-day.

6 Things I wish I'd known

How do I get past losing my wife. She was drunk for years and we struggled with her being a functional drunk for so long. The last few years her alcohol took over and our girls and I tried to cope. Her affairs I thought were going to destroy me and I fought to bury them in my mind. The lies and false promises were killing me and I just couldn't get her to go to one of your retreats. My children hate her and I feel lost. I put on a happy face and raise my girls but I cry everytime I'm alone. I've lost my ability to trust and love. Is this what my life is to become till I die? What happens when my girls are grown? How can she destroy our family and smile and be happy like its no big deal?

What I needed to know

Well that's a loaded question... First because if I had known what I needed to know, I probably wouldn't have done what I did BUT I never would've been low enough in my life to truly repent and cry out for mercy from The Lord. The Lord has taken my broken road and used it to restore my marriage and recreate a new husband for me! I'm not saying whatsoever that what I did was right by no means. It was a selfish, foolish act on my part and has caused a lot of pain for my spouse and myself included. And to think now that my Lord has used it all to show me what true love is?! Praying for my husband, my kids and all my enemies. It's amazing to really see love develop for my husband simply by praying for him. And so IF I had known the future pain I created on myself and spouse, I probably would've not taken action BUT then my husband and I would've never allowed our Savior to reshape our hearts and ultimately grant us a 2nd chance at this marriage thing.

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