Infidelity Recovery Work: 3 Choices We Have While in Crisis

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Crisis: It doesn't knock before it enters, it doesn't ask permission, it doesn't ask, "Hey, is this an OK time for me to turn your world upside down?" Crisis just happens. I hate crises; I despise them. Yet, I have learned that my life has been shaped more by my times in crisis — and, by extension, my infidelity recovery work — than my times in comfortable situations.

Whether you're the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, a crisis reduces you to humanity, it reduces you to a feeling of helplessness, and it reduces you to the fact that this is real life. Before a crisis, we tend to operate on autopilot, on cruise control if you will, where we're just going through life at a speed where everything seems cool and everything seems good.

Some of us are juggling so much in our lives, we look at our relationship as the one good thing we've got going for us: "At least I have this." But now, you're in crisis; you're sitting in the middle of an extremely grounding, heart-wrenching experience.

When the crisis of infidelity ransacked your life, it forced you into a place where:

  • You were no longer sleepwalking.
  • You were no longer on autopilot.
  • You were no longer just going through the motions.

While you're in crisis, all comfort gets shattered and all predictability gets decimated. You're left in a situation where you can go, "My life is spinning out of control — what now?" Today, I want to meet you right where you're at in your recovery work, and I want to give you some practical tools to make it through what's probably the most difficult season of your life.

1. Choose to Really Look at Your Old Life

Whether you're the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, I believe there are three choices that we all make when in crisis. The first one is deciding that we want our old life back. We can be pretty resistant, pretty angry, and have a lot of animosity because we don't want, and certainly don't like, the life we've been handed.

Everything that we once knew has been shattered, and we can find ourselves wanting to go back even though we, at least some of us, have a tendency to romanticize the past. We can still want and yearn and desire that old life back. But if we ground ourselves and look at how that life really was, we might see that it wasn't as wonderful and fulfilling as we believed it to be.

Still, we can get angry and bitter about wanting our old life back, which can produce more anger, more bitterness and even a refusal to do our infidelity recovery work to get healthy.

2. Choose to Face Your Trauma Head-On

The second choice, and I believe a lot of us do this in crisis, is deciding to run from our pain. Some of the ways we run from our infidelity pain include:

  • Overeating.
  • Overdrinking.
  • Immersing ourselves in our jobs.
  • Fixating on our children.

We can do a number of things to avoid doing our recovery work and being present to the pain, the hurt, the turmoil and the trauma of infidelity. We will dive headfirst into whatever we can to stay busy or compartmentalize this pain, to box it up nicely and just put it away. I've talked to so many people over the years, both wayward spouses and betrayed spouses, who came to a moment when they just wanted to talk a little bit about what happened, put it away and just move on.

The problem is that you cannot run from trauma; it comes back in spades, and it comes back to, unfortunately, uproot every area of your life.

You have to be able to deal with your pain and your hurt; you cannot outrun it. You cannot outrun grief, and you cannot outrun trauma — they find a way to catch us, they find a way to affect us, and they find a way to cut our legs out from underneath us.

I know this is a dark time, but here's the thing about darkness: Just because you're walking through darkness, it doesn't mean that there is no purpose, meaning or redemptive nature to this darkness. We hate being in crisis, and we hate being in darkness because darkness doesn't seem to fix anything; however, darkness is where transformation happens.

3. Choose to Work on Yourself

The third choice we make is rather than fixing ourselves, we try to fix people around us and the perceptions they may have of us. We think that if we focus on other people, then we won't have to deal with ourselves and we won't have to do our recovery work. If we make our spouse or mate the "bad one," then we think we won't have to self-reflect.

But, as Rick says, "My mate is never the problem; my mate only reveals the problem within me." Whether you are the wayward spouse or the betrayed spouse, please understand: You are only responsible for your own decisions, and you are never to blame for someone else's actions.

In recovery work, there comes a point where we have to relinquish the desire to control what our mate does and realize, "You know what, this is dark and this is hard, but I'm not going to try to fix them; I'm going to work on myself." It feels good in our pride to fix things, but you cannot fix your spouse or mate, you can only work on yourself — and it's hard enough to work on yourself when you're in crisis.

I know you might be saying, "Sam, I don't think you're underscoring enough how afraid I am of what I'm facing." I get that, and I truly empathize with that. But while darkness creates a fear in us, it also opens us up in a way that we wouldn't have otherwise been open. It opens us up to truly changing, healing and transforming our lives. It opens us up to a better, brighter future.

Staying With the Pain Can Be Transformational

As I say goodbye today, I want to encourage you to do one thing: Stay with the pain. When we are in crisis, we want to run away, we want to escape and we want to hide because the pain is so immense. I want to challenge you, I want to encourage you, I want to appeal to you to stay with the pain. Despite the fact that it might not make sense right now, this is the path to healing from infidelity.

When you try to run away from your pain and put off your recovery work, your crisis can spiral out of control and wind up affecting even more lives than your own. When you stay with the pain, despite how difficult and disorienting it may be, that's when transformation and healing happens. Your life is worth the healing that stems from not giving up, from facing your trauma and this crisis head-on.

I know that it's tempting to put your head in the sand, but you cannot ignore what's happening and you cannot outrun trauma — I've learned this firsthand. What you can do is hold your ground, stay with the pain and do your recovery work. I hope that you will stay with the pain today, and I hope that you will let it shape you, let it form you, into the new person that you want to be. If you stay in this fight, I promise you that one day you'll look back and be so glad that you did.

Registration for EMS Online Opens Soon! Space is limited.

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 just finished EMS Online a few days ago and those 13 weeks ran so fast. It would have been impossible for me to move forward if it weren't for Affair Recovery's help. Your course should be mandatory for couples before they get married, and it is a blessing for those, like myself, who were in desperate need of help. Thank you, God, for putting Affair Recovery on my path."
— EMS Online participant | June 2021.

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Why betrayers do not answer our questions...

Hello Samuel - My wife and I are just shy of three years out from D-day. I am both a betrayer and a betrayed. I was seeing prostitutes - while my wife was seeing her ex boyfriend (we have been married 33 years). Recovery for us - if it is to happen at all - is happening excruciatingly slow. She has yet to decide if she wants to move ahead. Since D-day I have been a voracious reader, watcher and participant in articles, books, blogs, videos and classes but, oddly, I have never really watched your youtube vlogs until yesterday. I have just subscribed and they are excellent... thank you!

I said all that really just to say this.... I think that there may be one more reason that betrayers do not answers questions about their affairs (or are not forthcoming about it). They want to preserve the sacredness or memory of their time with their affair. My wife may decide to move forward with me (or not) but I am somewhat confident that she does not want to give me any details so that she can keep those memories to herself and possibly retreat to them on occasion. This is somewhat speculative on my part, but I thought I would share it with you as I think it is a distinct possibility.

Thank you for you insights and your work... I look forward to watching many more videos!

Kind Regards,

thank you for sharing your feedback and thoughts

i'm so glad you found us and the blog. I hope and pray it helps you my friend and I appreciate your insight and feedback.  thank you for sharing that. 

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