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

The True Definition of Love and Its Role In Surviving An Affair

Harboring Hope opens today, May 20th at 12:00 PM Central Time USA. Space is limited.
Harboring Hope is our online course for the betrayed to heal after infidelity. It often sells out within a few short hours

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Love is a funny thing.

To the couple in crisis due to infidelity or addiction, it can also be a very confusing thing.

In our culture, love is most frequently portrayed as an overwhelming feeling of attraction and desire for another. In the "Land of Disney" it is a magical force propelling us into "happily ever after". Our souls resonate with this theme, and we long for our chance to experience "true love" and a seemingly never-ending passion which we all long for. This desire reveals our desperate need to be loved and to feel wanted.

The only problem is, the "Disney" theme of love exists only in movies and in the initial stages of a budding relationship. Those fledgling feelings are never sustained over a lifetime of marriage.

You don't typically see Disney films portraying this type of love in couples struggling with rebellious teenagers, when infatuation has disappeared and real life has arrived on-scene like a freight train. In fact, the exact opposite is far more likely to be depicted.

Individuals wrestling with the question of whether to stay or go are standard fare for stories of those who are married, wondering if the grass is greener elsewhere.

Even less likely to appear in the Magic Kingdom is a couple suffering from a spouse's deep addiction to pornography and illicit one-night stands. It's certainly not warm and fuzzy and doesn't attract the masses.

Like many of you, I've come to learn and understand with great clarity that love is truly a choice, and if I make right choices, overwhelming feelings of love and romance will then ensue, even in the aftermath of surviving an affair. It's just a mature truth that we hopefully arrive at before becoming too much of a human wrecking ball. I know from experience, however, that many times we become that wrecking ball and create incredible amounts of destruction before we realize how deceived and dangerous we are.

True definition of love

Our confusion is certainly understandable though. If I had a one-hundred-dollar bill in one hand and a counterfeit in the other and offered them to you, which would you take? I hope it would be the real bill. But, if you were raised believing the counterfeit was real and the real was counterfeit, which would you take? That's the problem with our understanding of marriage, love, and long-term relationships: some of us can be amazingly disoriented, believing the counterfeit is real and the real is counterfeit. I invite you to consider the possibility that many of us don't know what true love is.

True Love Involves Hurt

Buddha said that "life equals suffering," but I'd like to suggest that perhaps there is also another truth which is that "love equals suffering." Stephanie and I believe that one of the greatest acts of love represented in human history is Jesus walking the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering).

If there is to be reconciliation where there has been betrayal, then the one who's been betrayed ultimately pays the cost for the betrayal.

Jesus exemplified this reality. He taught love rather than justice and even chose to pay the price for the crimes committed against him. He actually cared enough about and for others that he was willing to die so they could have a chance for life.

Jesus taught that people change more by contrast than by conflict.

When betrayed he responded with love, not justice or vengeance. His sacrificial love had such a powerful impact on those around him that they became willing to die for the sake of that same cause.

Taking a lesson from faith and Christianity this week, it's vital we understand betrayal appropriately. In order for a husband to be reconciled to his wife who has betrayed him, he has to walk through the life-changing hurt inflicted by her betrayal and ultimately forgive her failure to love. That is, if they are to ever have a meaningful relationship again.

There is no way she can ultimately bear the total awareness of her pain for her own moral failure and its effects upon her spouse. She can be remorseful for what she's done, and she can make efforts to ensure it doesn't repeat, but he is the one courageously carrying the pain.

It is possible for the husband, out of a sense of vengeance or control, to fail to love and attempt to hurt her in return. This is the beginning of a new, separate offense which will only exasperate the entire nightmare. If that occurs, she'll have to walk through the hurt inflicted by his failure to love and ultimately forgive his failure to maintain his vows of love, hence a new cycle of hurt and pain arises.

Surviving an affair then, becomes that much harder for everyone.

A Love That Heals

Love is a willingness to lay your life down for the sake of another.

That love isn't about trying to get the offending party to pay, though it would be understandable to want that.

It's about a willingness to cover a debt, quite frankly, that they could never, in fact, pay back. (That's not to say the injuring party shouldn't do everything within their power to help the injured mate heal. There's just no amount of penance the injuring spouse can pay for their failure to love.)

They can, however, display brokenness, contrition, and humility in their approach to recovery and possibly moving forward.

They can also take charge of their own recovery and mental health, which speaks volumes of empathy to the betrayed spouse. Without such action, a wayward spouse will be hard-pressed to make a case that they are truly sorry for their choices and impact upon their lives.

Please don't think I'm saying that love recklessly reconciles with someone who is unsafe, hard-hearted, or who refuses to own what they've done.

Remember, love, true love, always acts in the best interest of another.

A Love That Has Boundaries

If the one committing the offense is hardhearted, unwilling to accept responsibility, and chooses not to commit and honor the relationship, then it wouldn't be in their best interest to reconcile and allow them to continue acting in a destructive manner. It's tragic when, after injuring others, we fail to comprehend the impact of our actions on those around us. Unless we understand and care about the costs our actions inflict on others, we'll never perceive the gift we receive from those who choose to love us rather than leave us.

Understanding the cost of our actions is also crucial in learning how to recover from an affair. When I injure my wife through carelessness or selfishness, the person bearing the pain for my actions is my wife. Her choice to love and forgive comes at great personal expense to her. She chooses to give me the gift of love rather than the rejection. I witness her love each time she chooses to put up with the pain my actions inflict, in order to be with me.

There is no greater example of this truth than in couples where there is reconciliation following a betrayal. No one will ever convince me that there are no modern day miracles.

Every time I see a couple come back together, I witness a shadow of God's greatest miracle: the miracle of reconciliation.

Not all marriages survive infidelity. That's just a fact.

Not all unfaithful spouses are willing to own their failure and not all betrayed spouses are able to overcome the devastation they experience due to their mate's choices. Yet, I can personally testify to the fact that the amount of couples who find healing and restoration is absolutely staggering, despite the fact that you don't always hear about them.

Today, I'd like to invite you, the betrayed spouses, a chance to heal from the devastation of your spouse's infidelity. Our Harboring Hope course—specifically for betrayed spouses—is a safe place for those who have had to walk their own road to forgiveness despite unthinkable pain, hurt, and betrayal. I hope you'll give the course and its expert-driven curriculum, a chance to provide you with new hope, new life, and new courage.

Harboring Hope opens today, May 20th at 12:00 PM Central Time USA. Space is limited.
Harboring Hope is our online course for the betrayed to heal after infidelity. It often sells out within a few short hours

Register Now!

Hope for Healing registration opens next week on May 27th. Subscribe to be notified.
Hope for Healing is our online course for the unfaithful to heal after infidelity. It often sells out within a few short hours. Don't miss it!

Subscribe Now!



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Yes, as the betrayed spouse, I’m bearing much pain. Sometimes I think, “How can I ever survive this betrayal of my love and trust?”
What I am observing though is my unfaithful spouse in greater pain. I liken his pain to angrily backing out of the driveway and running over your child. That realization that your actions destroyed the thing you loved most and there’s no rewind button, no way to undo the tragedy.
He is a man of deep emotion, the one in the family who cries at sad movies. He was the best daddy when our kids were little and a helpful, considerate husband who adored me. He is now a broken man, loathing himself and his past actions, and wondering how he could have risked everything for something so meaningless and of little value. He says the past 4 years were a dark and lonely time, and he felt far from God, with a gaping hole in his life that he tried to fill with the attention he got from women. He didn’t love them. It wasn’t fulfilling. It left him with thoughts that dying would be preferable because he felt there was no way out of the hole he had dug for himself.
So I gather this weeping man in my arms and I tell him that he’s like Peter, who denied Christ 3 times, and wept for the pain of betraying the one he loved the most. What did Jesus do? He greeted him warmly and asked three times, “Peter, do you love me?” He offered Peter grace and 3 chances to say, “Yes Lord! You know that I love you!”
Jesus knew Peter loved him and he forgave the betrayal. I’m not Christ, admittedly it’s hard for me to offer forgiveness because of my husband’s sin, and really, only Christ can exonerate him. I CAN ask the Lord to help me to love sacrificially, to comfort and encourage my husband as we both try to heal. I know, we sometimes get the message that it’s supposed to be all about the betrayed spouse, but I have compassion for the pain my husband suffers from his poor choices.
I think our worst pain comes not from what others do to us, but from what we inflict on ourselves. That pain is preventable and we allow it, we allow ourselves to destroy the only real love that exists in our life. I see that kind of pain daily in comments and on the forum.

I am hopeful that my husband and I can heal. I believe we are finally on the path to a life-sustaining and fulfilling life of love.

Bighorn mountains, thank you for sharing!

I read your comment in tears the whole way through. I am the unfaithful female and I am still very broken from my own mistakes. It’s been a year since D-Day. I’m no longer in shambles every single day like I was for so many months. I do have probably 1-2 days out of the week where I still feel broken. How could I have done this? How did I turn into such a monster? How could I treat someone who loves me so much the way I did? I still struggle from time to time to be honest. I am a women who feels emotions very deeply, in the beginning, I too wanted to die because I was hurting to much from my own mistakes. I though that this was going destroy me. I don’t know how my spouse can even love me as much as he does, but I am so thankful for his grace and love. I don’t know if there will always be a part of me that feels broken or if that will heal too.

Thank you..

Thank you for boldly sharing your story. I am walking your same journey and see too the remorse and pain in my husbands life about his choice. We are almost a year into discovery, 2 years from the affair. I just wanted to thank you for your boldness to share your willingness to love and heal. It is a major encouragement to me because I too believe we are on the road to healing and that God will work a deeper love in us through this- even on the days it hurts at the deepest level possible.

I cant do life without my wife!!!

I am new to posting on here, so apologies if I ramble on or this is on the wrong subject etc. My wife and I separated just over 2 months ago now, I was a terrible husband, I had multiple affairs and constantly took the love she had for me for granted. I was never happy with what I had, and what I had was a devoted wife who would have done anything for me, forgave me for all my wrongdoings over the 10 years we were married, gave me 3 beautiful children and so many experiences and memories. We had an amazing life yet I kept searching for something more. Since we have separated following her discovery of me meeting another woman..... again, we have hardly spoken, initially very angry conversations and then nothing, everything has moved so fast since that day, I moved out initially to a family members and now to a place of my own, she has filed for divorce, the arrangements for the children are still up in the air with me only getting minimal time with them, yet I cant stop thinking about her. I want nothing more than to hold her and beg for forgiveness and fight for her, but I cant talk to her let alone explain how I feel. Multiple times a day I want to send her a message asking to meet up to just talk, but I don't have the courage, because a: she clearly doesn't want to talk to me and has asked for all communication to be through the solicitor (I can hardly declare my feeling through the solicitors!!!) b: I fear rejection and I can only see it going that way, I have pushed her too far this time. I don't know what to do, there is not a minute that goes by that she isn't on my mind and I know at the moment I feel isolated and alone (due to the current lockdown situation) but I think one of the biggest things I took for granted I actually how I felt about her, I was a master of pushing feelings aside good or bad, and now I'm alone and I don't have anywhere to hide, my heart is heavy with guilt and sadness, but also the strongest of love for her, the old saying you don't know what you have lost till its gone is certainly ringing true. I know this is all the consequences to my actions and I don't deserve her in my life but I suppose what I'm asking is... do I try and make contact? There is obviously a lot more to the story then this little snippet and I know the hurt I have caused, but I don't know how to move forward.

As a betrayed, I think you

As a betrayed, I think you should respect her boundaries. You are right that you don't deserve her, so work on becoming a man who does deserve her. Work on yourself - go to counseling. Find out why you acted out and work on those issues and in overcoming them. Get right with God and put it in His hands. But don't just fake getting right with God. If you're meant to be together, He will orchestrate that but allow her to have her space as biblically you opened the door for divorce. Two of my mentors through affair recovery ended up divorcing and one remarried the same guy four years later and the other is still working towards reconciliation with the unfaithful. You clearly rejected her multiple times so expect the same back from her. However, God is a merciful God so don't lose total hope but also surrender your desire to Him and perhaps she will come around. Perhaps not. Unfortunately, she did not choose this mess.


So his affair was done from online dating site he made a profile talked to other women but says he only had sexually contact with one however he will not disclose details of one time thing is this weird I’m trying here been 26 year relationship so walking is not first choice however I’m having hard time here my world revolved around him completely thank god tor this site and resources it has helped I felt so alone until this you people honestly saved my life


My unfaithful husband is working hard at doing all the right things to be loving and working to repair our marriage. He’s done H4H I’ve done HH. We both see private therapist. We’ve tried. It’s been 18 months since DDay. I just can’t get past it all. The betrayal was long lived and deep. I think we are a couple that will not be a success story. It’s all just too much for me. Sad sad sad.


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