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

Trauma and Infidelity

We need your feedback!

What is the biggest predictor of how couples will respond to the trauma of betrayal? What makes recovery more difficult for some than others? What makes some more resilient than others? Answers to questions such as these are crucial for those trying to find the most productive path for their healing.

In an effort to learn more about the impact of trauma on those experiencing infidelity, Affair Recovery is conducting a survey using the Adverse Childhood Experiences scale (ACE) to determine the ongoing impact of previous trauma on individuals recovering from infidelity. If our survey shows a connection between previous childhood trauma and the trauma associated with infidelity then it may help explain one reason why recovery is more challenging for some and provide new direction for those who struggle to heal. The results of the survey will first be presented at the Hope Rising Conference, in Austin Texas on October 12, 2019.

Please take our survey below:

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What is the ACE?

The ACE was developed in the 1990s and was a collaborative effort between the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser, with Robert Anda, MD, and Vincent Felitti, MD, as co–principal investigators.1 Over 17,000 people participated in the ACE study. As researchers followed participants over time they discovered that a person’s cumulative number of adverse childhood experiences has a strong, graded relationship to numerous health, social, and behavioral problems throughout the participant's lifespan. The number of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) was strongly associated with high-risk health behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, multiple sexual partners, and severe obesity into adulthood, and correlated with health problems including depression, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and shortened lifespan.2 The ACE revealed that the toxic stress associated with trauma gets under our skin and impacts us over a lifetime. Instead of seeing trauma as stand-alone experiences, the ACE taught us that the impact of adverse experiences is cumulative and for our health’s sake, something to be addressed.

Here are just a few examples: compared with a score of zero those who had 4 adverse childhood experiences were seven times more likely to become an alcoholic and two times more likely to develop cancer. Compared to a score of zero those with six or more adverse childhood experiences were 5 times more likely to have a suicide attempt and two times more likely to die from any of the ten leading causes of death.

DON’T PANIC! If you are someone who had a difficult childhood this doesn’t mean you’re going to have problems. Some individuals demonstrate “resilience,” or the ability to overcome serious hardship while others do not. For a child, one of the most important factors in developing resilience is having at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. That is one of the reasons Affair Recovery believes community is critical in recovery. I believe the stability provided by healed individuals helps in developing resilience even in adulthood.

If you’re interested in learning more about the ACE or determining your score, click here. For additional information on this topic, Bessel van der Koke’s book The Body Keeps the Score does a great job explaining the impact of trauma as well as current treatment modalities.

PLEASE HELP us in our efforts to support those in recovery by taking the survey above. Your response is invaluable.

  1. Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma (Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition), 144
  2. Vincent J Felitti, Robert F Anda, Dale Nordenberg, David F Williamson, Alison M Spitz, Valerie Edwards, Mary P Koss, James S Marks, “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine Vol. 14, Issue 4 (May 1998): 245-58



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Affair recovery

We could have never survived our marriage without attending this EMS weekend in Dec 2012, the people we met in our group were vital to community and recovery, we are still in touch. It took us longer than 24 months for recovery, more like 5 years. My husband had anger, PTSD definitely and we stuck through it and have a better marriage now than ever. Rick helped Bob with his anger and everything about the intensive weekend was so important in our healing. We can talk now and know the tools to use to discuss my 4 year affair, which I regret everyday.
Thanks for helping so many people!!

Thank you and please remember

Thank you for your program. Out of all the programs and counselors this one helped the most. Your recent interviews with MJ on trauma for the betrayed spouse are spot on! YES please remember us! There are some of us ( just took your survey) that had a stable upbringing so no ACE involved for myself ( but my husband who was the betrayer has ACE per diagnosis) that have been terribly traumatized by the betrayal and in my case ongoing issues with his addiction has caused complex PTSD for me. To this day I am working on my own healing and is harder living with an addict. Keep up the good work and thank you for being open to adding new things you learn that can help us.

grieving loss of husband

Dear Rick,
I've been following and studying your website for a couple of years now. It has been the most "spot on" for betrayal trauma, infidelity, and all of the details that go with it, than anything I've come across. It has helped me keep my head above water and move forward through the mire of infidelity. There is a new twist to my situation. My husband was never willing to do recovery work, which made it really difficult for me. I could get him to read an article here and there, with a lot of resistance and usually anger from him. I had just sort of given up on hoping that he would do recovery work and then a couple of months ago he passed away unexpectedly. I was still struggling from the ptsd symptoms of betrayal trauma, starting to heal in certain aspects, and now I'm dealing with the greif of losing him. It seems all of the pain from before has reared its ugly head and I'm dealing with that on top of the trauma and pain of losing my husband of 43 years. I'm trying to work through this new addition to my pain, but I'm not doing very well so much of the time. Do you have any suggestions or time line on healing from this double trauma. Do I need different help or a different approach to my healing now?

What type of affair was it?

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I would highly recommend giving this a try.
-D, Texas