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

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

Continue Your Healing With EMS Online! Registration Opens Soon.

Spots fill up quickly, so you won't want to wait to register for EMSO! To learn when registration opens back up, click the button below.

Subscribe to Registration Notifications!

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. In the land of make believe, 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 never-ending passion. This universal desire reveals our desperate need to be loved and to feel wanted.

The only problem is that this fairy tale style 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. Married people know this.

Movies don't typically portray this type of la-la love when infatuation has disappeared, rebellious teenagers are causing angst, and real life hits like a freight train. In fact, the exact opposite is far more likely to be depicted.

It's far too common for married individuals to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. They wonder if they should stay or if they should go.

Even less likely to appear in the land of happily ever after, is a couple suffering from a spouse's deep addiction to pornography and illicit, one-night stands. It's not warm and fuzzy, and it certainly 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 really 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 truly understand 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 cautiously move 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 unwilling to own what they've done.

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 the betrayed spouse’s best interest to reconcile and allow the destruction to continue. It's tragic when, after injuring others, we fail to comprehend the impact of our actions on them and countless others. 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 inflicted, 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 number 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 offer you a chance to heal and move forward from the devastation of infidelity. Our EMS Online course is a safe place for those walking their own road to recovery 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.

Continue Your Healing With EMS Online! Registration Opens Soon.

Our Emergency Marital Seminar Online, better known as EMSO, isn't a one-size-fits-all program for couples. Over decades of experience exclusively in the field of infidelity, our methodology has been honed to better serve couples as they address the betrayal, reconnect as partners and restore their lives.

"I would like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your ministry and the materials you have provided as part of EMSO and Married for Life. We, all five couples that started EMSO, have just completed the Married for Life 52-week course. We are now deciding what to study next as a group, as we so value the relationship we have together as couples. With God, with your materials and with each other, we have saved our marriages." - B. Minnesota | EMSO participant, March 2021.

Spots fill up quickly, so you won't want to wait to register for EMSO! To learn when registration opens back up, click the button below.

Subscribe to Registration Notifications!



RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:



How long since discovery? Agree, all of this is a huge mountain to bare!!! Once they come clean, the massive burden shifts to our shoulders.



Love again?

I don't know that I can love my husband in the same way before his betrayal. It's been almost a year since our last d day. I am looking at this person in a different light. The fact that he could throw me under the bus and lie so easily makes me not want to stay in this marriage. Why have I put up with this abuse? I thought I loved him, now not so sure.

Is survival possible

My affair was ten years ago and I have denied it up until recently. Now that the truth is out my husband says he will never forgive me and will never "answer to me" again. Since my confession he has found a girlfriend and flirts with multiple other women openly. I want our marriage to survive, but it seems doomed. He is not dealing with his pain he is covering it up with affairs of his own. He refuses counseling and tells me this is the way it is or I can leave. I struggle with staying or leaving just about every day.


I know you only posted this a month ago but my situation is very similar to yours. How is it going now?


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.

food for my soul

I truly appreciate this group and their commitment to help keep marriages alive for both parties. The guides for healing for the victim and the enlightenment for the betrayers are a wonderful stepping stone to healing a broken marriage.

How do I know when to leave?

I have forgiven, I have been drip fed bits of information reluctantly by my husband. I have also experienced an inability for him to be open and honest. I have told him repeatedly if we are to rebuild I need honesty and openness, and loyalty when our couple is challenged by outsiders. He continues to break promises and let me down. I love him dearly but I’ve been through hell, I’ve suffered without support or only fleetingly glimpses of support. It’s so hard to let go when I’ve loved him so much, but he just can’t come through with what I believe is fundamental to our relationship. I feel like I’m cutting off from myself but I also feel like I need to save myself. This hurts so much and is so confusing.

Affair Recovery

As a life long learner, I always seek an alternate view. Your article has a lot of great knowledge but you lost me at Jesus and Christianity. While I respect everyone's religious preference, it has no place when addressing such a large audience. We're all human at the end of the day. It doesn't matter what religion you are. We all seek to recover by seeking neutral based knowledge.

Affair Recovery

As a life long learner, I always seek an alternate view. Your article has a lot of great knowledge but you lost me at Jesus and Christianity. While I respect everyone's religious preference, it has no place when addressing such a large audience. We're all human at the end of the day. It doesn't matter what religion you are. We all seek to recover by seeking neutral based knowledge.


Forgiveness is more for personal healing. As far as the offending party (husband) who preferred prostitutes, I have lost all respect for him. I view myself now as a “caregiver “ because he is mentally I’ll and unstable much of this is precipitated from his underlying narcissism. He is smart and dangerous. He has physically hurt me before but now the psychiatrist has him on medication that makes him more like a zombie but at least I am not afraid of him now. He used me horribly to “win” against his ex while treating my kids like garbage. If I knew about his pornography addiction before we were married there may have been a different decision… he is very bright and good at lying, manipulation. I actually am afraid to leave him because he would rip me to shreds in a court situation (he is “always” right and innocent) and he may hurt me again. I have to leave things to God to protect me.

Love is Suffering

Every week I look forward to these inspiring videos and articles. This week's message really solidified conversations we have been having lately regarding my definition or concept of love.

You absolutely captured the entire feeling in the statement, "Love is suffering ". It takes a great deal of work, understanding, and patience. Every triggered episode is not the end. In fact, it can be an opportunity.

I've had many failures. However there is no comparison to the successes we're both participating and experiencing.

We still have a long journey ahead of us but, I can attest I know we will get through to the other side. A stronger couple. A stronger marriage. Renewed faith and acceptance of God. A love built on hope.

I am blessed and grateful to everyone, who has helped us through this journey.

Betrayed and Unfaithful

So I betrayed my husband one time (i knkw it doesnt matter it still happened) about 2 years ago. I was in a dark place with myself and felt I had Noone who would understand me and was having trouble with getting myself out and befriended someone younger than me. I felt horrible after what I did and ended all contact with the AP within a week of it happeneing and him finding out. Over the past 2 years I have been trying to show him I am truly sorry for my actions and showing him I'm here and want us to be us again. We'll we had our ups and downs and many things triggered him and I always reassured him I'm not going anywhere and that I loved him and even though I know it was only words I told him I would never do it again as I didn't want to hurt him like that again or myself. Then I became the betrayed as he had a 3 month relationship with someone else. He went on multiple dates and hangout with her and cheated once. It broke my heart and made me feel unworthy and not good enough and what I was doing wasn't good enough. I know that I probably what he was feeling but I feel now it has put us back at square one in working on repairing our relationship and finding that spark and repairing us.

Real Love is real

Thank you so much for this. I’m encouraged by it. I love my wife and am committed to forgiving her. The pain is heavy but I have known for years I would not leave her if she was unfaithful. This has definitely put me to the test. But I am going to stick with her and help her find the help and healing she needs.

Thank you

The article this week is spot on, my wife confessed the affair Jul 2021. she eventually disclosed the sexual affair lasted 6.5 years, she has owned it though to be fair there were circumstances that helped the affair to occur, me not being here due to a job and the POS was her personal trainer, he's also a certified life coach etc... he played her and they had way too much together time due to the personal training (yes, he was and still is married and I'm sure my wife wasn't the first). This has / is the most difficult journey I have ever gone through and I have been through many traumatic situations in life since I was 3 years old. Regardless, healing through love I believe is the only way to truly heal and thank you for the words of encouragement. PS, if you sensed a note of my anger toward the POS, yes you sensed correctly and I don't anticipate that going away anytime soon, he's the antithesis of what a real men is! Lastly "We love God because he first loved us".


What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer

Free Surviving Infidelity Bootcamp

Our experts designed this step-by-step guide to help you survive infidelity. Be intentional with your healing with this free 7-day bootcamp.
I would highly recommend giving this a try.
-D, Texas