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

Intrusive Thoughts After the Affair: How to Manage Flooding

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"Rick, don't you want to help your mate move beyond the pain of betrayal after your affair?"

It was certainly important to me, but, initially, my responses to Stephanie's pain only made things worse. Eventually I was able to realize when Stephanie was emotionally flooded, and quickly learned that in those moments I couldn't necessarily make things better, but I could certainly make things worse.

Dealing with intrusive thoughts and painful triggers is critical in surviving infidelity.

The emotional flooding accompanying the trauma of infidelity can be crippling for the betrayed spouse, so it's vital that the unfaithful spouse knows the appropriate responses to help their mate.

In previous newsletters on Post Traumatic Infidelity Syndrome, I've explained the chemical and physiological realities of what happens when triggers and emotional flooding begin.

A few tell-tale signs your mate may be flooding are rage, verbal abuse, physical abuse, fight or flight mentality, marathon questioning sessions, threatening, sudden changes in decisions (such as demanding their mate pack up their stuff and get out even though they've previously been committed to working on the relationship), and other highly charged reactions.

As mentioned in Intrusive Thoughts After the Affair: The #1 Obstacle to Recovery, when emotionally flooded, the individual is in a survival state and not necessarily rational. For individuals impacted by infidelity, part of their new reality inevitably includes flashbacks, triggers and intrusive thoughts. Surviving infidelity is dependent on learning how to cope with this reality.

What not to do:

John walked through the door after work to find his three children watching TV and no sign of his wife. He found Kathy in the bedroom, strewn across the bed and sobbing into her hands. Tentatively he said, "I see you're having a bad day. I'm going to take the kids out to get pizza and I'll bring something back for you." Then he closed the door, grabbed the kids, and headed out for pizza.

While John's response wasn't the worst, there are others that may have been more helpful. Witnessing the pain or anger of someone who is flooding can be overwhelming. There is a continuum of negative responses the unfaithful spouse tends to make, ranging from ignoring their mate's hurt to the other extreme of trying to manipulate and control through the use of anger, defensiveness or blaming.

continuum of responses to emotional flooding by betrayed spouses

While John didn't totally ignore Kathy's pain he certainly avoided dealing with it by grabbing the kids and getting out of the house.

Common responses that make things worse are:

Giving Assurance:
Don't try to soothe or quiet your mate by making empty promises they have no reason to believe.

"It won't happen again..."
"Everything will be OK..."
"Honey, you're living in the past..."
Or, "Nothing happened today, you don't need to be concerned," are all examples of attempting to assure your mate.

When your mate is flooding, in their mind everything is not okay. Telling them that it will be okay only escalates the situation as their mind starts to race and they begin to let you know their reality. Instead, listen to them and work your program. Actions speak far louder than words.

Trying to control or manage their response:
When someone is emotionally flooded they are in survival mode and won't be rational. Trying to reason with them or manage their response will usually result in things getting worse. Listen to what they are saying. If things are unsafe, take a time out rather than trying to control them.

When you move into shame or guilt you make it all about you, and there's a good chance when you make it all about you it will only escalate the flooding. Stay in a position of being concerned for them. The greatest gift you can give them is to take responsibility for your actions, forgive yourself and be concerned with helping them heal. It may seem cliché or even callous, but don't let it become just about you; remember that they are the ones sacrificing everything to work through this pain that they didn't cause, so keep their healing paramount in your mind. Your own time will come, but initially you'll need to work on being safe for them to share their hurt and pain.

Trying to correct how they see things (defensiveness):
The primary trigger for defensiveness is when you're told what you did, why you did it and how you felt about it. There is an automatic desire to correct their thinking. This is always perceived as defensiveness. Remember, when someone is flooded, it's about survival, and defensiveness will always make things worse. Instead of trying to explain, try to understand how they are seeing things.

Pretending like everything is okay when they are clearly upset:
It may seem that ignoring the problem is going to help if your mate is flooded, but the opposite is true. If you can't be safe while they flood, then things will continue to spin out of control. Ask if they're okay and if they need to talk. If they don't want to talk they'll let you know, but to avoid showing concern for them (as John did in our scenario) only creates the impression you don't care or that your own comfort is more important than their healing.

Over the course of recovery, you'll have to accept that you don't know what's good and what's bad. In all honesty, it's your own perceptions and choices that got you here in the first place. Why should your spouse believe that now you know what's best? Humility goes a long way in helping your mate to feel you're safe. The best definition of humility is "I can't," and the best definition of wisdom is "I don't know." Letting your mate know you are open to gaining a deeper understanding of their pain and that you don't know all the answers but you're going to do everything you can to find those answers, goes a long way to giving your mate hope.

Directing your mate in how they should talk to you:
This is all about making it more comfortable for you, which I can promise is not at the top of their to-do list when they are flooding. It's okay to ask, but telling them what to do or how to speak to make it easier for you it is inherently all about you, and it will only increases the probability of escalation. Instead, consider how you might alter your responses to make it easier for your mate.

Telling them you know how they feel:
In reality, it's impossible to fully understand how they feel. Most unfaithful spouses have no idea what it feels like to be betrayed, and trying to pretend that you do is usually an attempt to short-circuit empathy and quiet your betrayed spouse. Instead of jumping straight to empty phrases like "I know how you feel," try truly listening to the words they use to describe their pain.

Shaming them:
After the flood has passed, you may be tempted to remind them how they acted while flooding, not out of loving concern, but as a way to shame them and to try to prevent the same behavior in the future. That still makes it about you and your comfort rather than maintaining compassion and genuine concern. Broaching the subject of their flooding and what happened because of your concern for them is one thing, but trying to manage their behavior only prolongs recovery.

Being a positive force in your mate's recovery begins by accepting them where they are at and being genuinely concerned about their emotional state. It's not about trying to get them to understand you. As you pursue recovery, there will come a day when the concerns of the unfaithful will be addressed but not till flooding can be first understood and soothed.

Responses that help are:

Try to call a time out:
Once someone is emotionally flooded it's impossible to be rational. If at all possible, call a time out. If emotional flooding is an issue, come up with a protocol for calling a timeout beforehand. That agreement will at least give you opportunity to stop the potential damage.

Rather than telling your mate what's wrong with what they're saying, which is seen as defensiveness, find what's right and tell them they're right. Your ability to take responsibility for whatever they say that is true will help stop the escalation. Even if it's only 5% true, take responsibility for the five percent and don't try to correct the other 95%. This is a huge exercise in humility, and it will be incredibly helpful for your spouse.

Recognize the sacrifice your mate is making by still being with you. Let them know you appreciate the fact they are still with you and are trying to work through this. Acknowledging that you appreciate their effort and sacrifice is a huge gift. It goes a long way to encourage them to keep up their struggle with the emotional flooding.

Seek to understand:
Listen, listen and then listen some more. Do your best to understand their feelings. One of Stephanie's cues for me when she was flooded was to ask, "How loud do I have to get for you to hear me?"It was at that point that I knew it was time to listen rather trying to get her to understand me. Making the effort to first understand them gets the focus off of you and onto what you can do to help them heal.

Ask if they want to talk about it:
Rather than pretending normal, if it's clear they are struggling, ask them if they'd like to talk. If they're not interested they'll let you know, but the fact that you're open to talking to them lets them know you're concerned for them.

Be a safe vessel for anger:
When someone is flooded, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is to be a safe vessel for anger. (This is not the same as allowing someone to be physically abusive. If that happens you need to remove yourself.) Let them talk and be upset. Try to feel their pain without blaming them for what you've done. Having someone who will accept them at their worst communicates that you are safe and that you love them. Try to be present as they talk and try to stay in a mindset of concern and compassion.

There is hope for managing something as chaotic as emotional flooding. If you're unable to be safe while your mate is flooding it only prolongs the flooding both in the moment and as they attempt to recover over the long haul. If you can be there for them, working to be safe for them, then you can help them heal and move beyond their fight or flight cycles. Remember your mate didn't volunteer for this, but if they are still with you they are at least trying to move through this hell in an attempt to salvage your relationship and family.

I'd like to encourage you today to consider attending our EMS Weekend (Virtual Options Now Available!) for further help in understanding how to help your mate heal. Our weekend addresses the pain in an expert driven way for all three parties: the betrayed spouse, the unfaithful spouse, and the marriage, and can help you gain stable ground for your recovery.

Hope Rising 2022 Live Stream and On Demand is on sale now at early bird pricing! Take a brave step out of the turmoil and do something just for you. Be a part of the one-day Hope Rising conference. An event filled with hope, practical strategies, and resources for betrayed spouses only. Learn more at www.affairrecovery.com/hope-rising

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wow, did this speak to me.

wow, did this speak to me. Why the defensiveness? Why do I have to continually feel that I'm the one that is to be ashamed of my emotions when I'm the one that was betrayed? Why? Even thought the past 18 months have been based on commitment and transparency, am I to negate the past 14 years that were not? How does one negotiate the pain of betrayal and move forward when the reality of what was going on behind my back still haunts me...I pray that God will take my heart, my pain, my soul, and give me peace...

you spoke my truth

YES! I feel like the last 13 of my 15 years of marriage has been a lie. Every-time I see a photo and we are smiling, hugging, kissing or just look happy all I can think is how I was literally living a lie. I think for as long as they cheated should be the length of time I get to heal from it. All we want is peace, I don't want to walk around everyday with this anguish if I could make it vanish I would. I almost wish sometimes that I can go back being the person I was before I found out because at least I had a sense of self, I was one whole piece and now i'm a shattered replica.

Speaking the truth

While I may not be completely on subject a lot applies to me. After being accused of infidelity for about 2 years dday was revealed to me from my wife about 6 years later. Her accusations never stopped and I she said she was trying to make it easier for me to confess. I had already admitted to being with someone prior to our marriage and thats all there ever was. Her infidelity was an affair with a co-worker that lasted over 4 months including our anniversary month. I was clueless then and struggle with trying to remember those days now. The affair was during year 11 of our marriage. Now married 35 years. Dday was a little over 2 years ago. It's like it just happened. Everything that happened between then is a lie. Another child was born. I question paternity. Lot's of girl's nite out where I completely trusted her. Why? I always wonder "did they go here"? My mind always responds to normal married harsh words with "I bet she didn't talk to him like that". I am just now getting this from A R program and it helps. I have forgiven but still need more disclosure. I've only been told the minimum so what does my mind do? It imagines. I've accepted it the best I can and have good days and bad. At the very least use it to make us better but need more than minimal info. I wonder if my reactions are normal but know it is my reaction. Anyone know a way to get more disclosure that worked for you especially hurt spouses.

Agree with 'You spoke my truth'

I can agree. How can I lay next to him in bed and not think he is thinking about one of the many women he was regularly active with over the last 18 months? How can he kiss me and me not think about him kissing all of them? How can I allow him to give me pleasure knowing he gave all those women pleasure (regularly) over the last 18 months? All i can do is picture him with each of them. Enjoying time with each... laughing, sharing stories, etc. I just learned of all of this a few days ago. My mind is racing / flooded (as the term is used by this author).

I feel the same way

I felt so proud of us and so sure of us. Now all I do is look at pictures and wonder. Is this a moment he did this?

He has hurt me so much, shaming me, blaming me, yelling at me during my recovery. Now he wants complete trust and love and empathy and sometimes it’s hard. I don’t get to flood I don’t get to feel. I have to carry. And I don’t know if I want to anymore. He is such a kind person normally so it is short confusing and the longer we go on the longer I don’t have answers and I the more I don’t want to try. He hasn’t found counseling or done accountability software or many of the things we discussed and I am tired of asking.

Why are we ashamed of our

Why are we ashamed of our emotions?! I felt your comment as if I wrote it myself. How long has it been for you since the terrible awful? It has been 15 months since I discovered it. However, just two weeks ago I found out it did not end when he stated it did. So here I am again. Back at square one. Feeling ashamed I found that out. Feeling ashamed to bring it back up again ( I did confront the issue, but felt awful doing it.) Why... million dollar question.


I feel your pain after my husband affair (emotional affair throught the internet for 1 1/2 year )...and after discover his infidelity he left one day and move to be close to her after 6 months of waiting to know about him he send me an email letting me the was over the divorce final and eminently so that lead to a speed divorce i got divorce in less than 4 months for adultery and abandonment of children.. after 6 months he left her and come back to work our relationship and the beginning was very nice 3 months we were just dating then I had my emotional outburst and he told me to get over by "now" and that was my fault......really?...no signs of remorse, no empathy of my hurts after 26 years and left me and my children for another woman that was married?...really.....I broke up with this unrealistic expectation that he and me will ever recover he still lies to me still blame me for his affair, plus he still look to hook up with other women in dating site.....it hurt but I have to love myself first and maintain my dignity....I believe this program is great when both couples are involve and want the recovery of thier marriage is a work of two people not just one and to show really repentance....good look my dear


Thank you for this article

our MC says I can't discuss my flooding anymore

I'd love your opinion... We are 20 months out from D Day. I still get flooded, especially around being physical together. Our MC said I can say things like "I'm having a bad day" and ask for reassurance but to say something like "I'm sad that you slept with her in our guest room" is off limits. He says that this has all been discussed already, and that at this point it only serves to destroy the relationship. Is there a time when discussion about intrusive thoughts should come to an end and I just learn to "deal with it" or to be vague about why I'm having a bad day?

Reply to mini

I agree with you. I want to know the answer to this question too. I’m 2 days from D day

Reply to mini

I'd like to know as well i'm almost a year from D Day and just about anything brings to mind a memory and consumes me. I feel like who has the right to tell me how long I'm allowed to flood.. did someone tell my husband how long he was allowed to cheat on me before it was deemed as destroying our marriage??

It’s always there...

Yes, to all of the comments. Really struggling with triggers and painful memories. I feel like I’m on a timeline, in terms of how much longer I can bring it up (6 months and still raw pain at times). I feel like every time the hurt gets the best of me, and I attempt to talk about it, I’m rehashing it, and this responsible for slowing or halting the progress. But the pain is always there, ready to surface with every trigger.so

I'm one of those US, and I

I'm one of those US, and I wanted to know what to do in those situations and I stumbled upon this article. We are pretty early from dday, 5 months, but I can only say as long as it takes, and until it doesn't feel like it stings anymore for both parties and the words no longer have the power to grip both of you. There will be a time when both parties can really bury it in the ground, but have it serve as a memorial. I was stupid in the first place to make this kind of trauma for my spouse in the first place, so it would be stupid of me to think I could hurry the process or to think I could solve the problem I had created in the first place or to think that the BS could visit the memorial from time to time and for the US to be empathetic while visiting the memorial.

Hurt timeline


Thanks for the levity, truth and sensitivity in answering this question of how long it's okay to keep feeling overwhelmed by the knowledge of infidelity. I feel sad and distressed for individuals who are being told to stop talking about it by their couples counselors, someone they are supposed to be able to trust. This directive from counselors to stop divulging hurt from such and assault to the psychi seems re-traumatizing. This response coming from an US is powerful, and I wish there were more US who get this. Thanks for setting the record straight and being so insightful about what it takes for the betrayed to heal.

As time has passed I have grown to view this recovering as similar to the grieving process after a death. Few things are as traumatizing as this level of betrayal and disregard, and there isn't really a timeline on it. I believe there will always be pangs of grief and pain no matter how much time has passed. I believe that recovery is moving the betrayal and hurt to the rear view mirror rather than it being across the front windshield where the trauma prevents anything else from being visible.

Thanks for your wise insight that how much time it takes is up to the one suffering.

Total confusion turning to severe emotional crashing & flooding

Its been 3 weeks since D-day, I caught my wife texting with our good friend and she told me it was someone else. I chose to be calm and understanding and we spoke about the whole situation for a few hours. My loving wife told me everything: connection as friends for over 5 years, emotional connection for the past 2, 4 months ago things ramped up, 2 months ago they had sex in his truck, they have fallen in love. We have a good marriage, we are strong parents and our kids know we love them, we are a good team all around...except that I lost my own emotional connection and connection to her. I own that I have been distant, dismissive, and trying to give space where I thought space was required, but my actions have resulted in her feeling unwanted and undesired. The first couple days were unbelievable, the following week was learning what I was feeling, then the strangest thing happened: I started feeling connection to everything and everyone...it sounds ridiculous saying it, but started weeping while out of the house if I heard people that sounded like they were having a tough day. I really started listening to what my wife was saying and genuinely felt bad for her having to go thru what she is going thru. I haven't mentioned yet, she is still trying to decide if she wants to stay with me to give me a chance to be a good husband and keep our family together, or choose him once he gets his feet under him (me finding out forced him to tell his wife, they were close to divorce and now their house is listed, kids are aware of divorce, etc.). They are in love, no matter how bad this sounds I cannot ignore love, and if she chooses my will she always be resentful of what she might have had? I learned a new word: Limerance, but after 8 years of being friends I think she knows him well. I am now getting flooded with feelings of being alone, and ashamed, and unwanted...I am not sure what to do next, I do want to fight for my wife and family however I am not sure how to be the guy she wants while grieving. Any suggestions?

Flooding deadline

We are 12 months from D day or 3 weeks if you count that he has just really started telling me the “whole” story. It was basically just a sexting issue before. Now I know that he also had a physical relationship with her. Despite his refusal to believe me for most of this last year, I needed to talk about these images and triggers. I believe that you need to rehash them as long as it still holds power over you. The more you talk about it, the less power it has. Finding Affair Recovery on YouTube was the best thing that has happened in the last year! Samuel and Rick talk about these issues in a way that is very relatable to my husband.

Drip fed information, flooding like it was the first Dday

This really spoke to me as I just experienced my 4th dday with my husband. I have been saying i need the whole truth since the beginning and still i was drip fed information. Dday 1 is when I found out there was someone else and all else was a lie that day, Dday2 came one week later when I found out who the ap was, Dday 3 was 3 months later when I found out that the affair was sexual and all those details, an Dday 4 came the other day at 9 months when he told me he also went to massage parlors. I am just an wreck right now. I feel as if I live on quick sand and I cannot beleive anything. We have rebuilt so much but it all comes crashing down each time and it crashes on me. Going through the day is pure torture right now. He tries and I do believe he is doing his best, but his best has kept me in a totally unsafe state. We are enrolled in the winter EMS online and it cannot start soon enough for me. Praying every moment of the day for God to give me strength and grace to weather this season of my life that I never thought would happen.

How are you now?

Juansie, I wonder how you are now? Praying God has healed the trauma, both of you, and your marriage. So much love!

It would be wonderful to know

It would be wonderful to know the answer to this. Our MC just said last night that I have to begin to trust and be vulnerable with him.

Husband actually got up and walked out of the room when I brought up how he was having phone conversations last week with a High School Sweetheart and had screenshots of her on his phone. If you’re “doing the right thing” WHY even do something like that to cause doubt? To throw it in my face knowing that I check?

I think I would get a new MC

It has been 3.5 Years since my D Day and I am still not over it and I still get flooded from time to time, you cannot help the feelings that come up. I have told my wife over and over I am not trying to make her feel bad, it is not about who is right or wrong. It is simply (for me anyway) about just conveying my thoughts and feelings and then usually once I do that I feel better. As time has continued to roll on it has gotten better with fewer incidents of flooding and there really are not many times where I am questioning her, however I do know that there are things she hasn't been honest about, and mostly I wish she would just be honest, I can deal with it, but the bottom line your MC is out of his mind and I don't think that is healthy for you to hold it in. I am now always made to feel like I am crazy for looking into anything, as if I am some kind of weirdo trying to track her every move. Which I do not and never have I just try to fill in the missing pieces, because for a lot of the affair she claims she doesn't remember which seems hard to accept to say the least, oh and to top it all off the entire time she was having an affair she was accusing me of being a cheater and telling me I was a terrible husband and I would never be a good husband and father and that my son didn't care about me. She was riding me and riding me about cheating and I haven't ever and guess what she is doing having an affair and cheating. Am I crazy I don't know.

Physical pain

I found out on March 9 after seeing some online messages. I still feel the physical pain of the shock and I vomit whenever I get flooded. Which is daily. How does one get the cheating spouse to open up about the details? I need to know because I keep imagining the worst and cannot continue this way. I have lost 10 kg.

Crazy Perhaps?

I did the typical thing of suspicion for 2 years while the emotional affair was building. She was supposedly one of my closest friends.
Whilst I was unexpectedly away, their relationship went to a sexual level within 2 weeks of my leaving - the clues were there with how our communication became non-existent. 2 months later I repeatedly asked if he was having an affair. He denied it and she was still acting like I was special to her. 2 months later I discovered it was true. I lost my husband and a supposedly close friend on the same day.
3 years down the line, I am still offering forgiveness and a complete willingness for him to come home.
4 months ago he ended it with her in preparation to come home and quit his job to move to a different country to be with me.
Boxing Day I found him on the phone with her! Now he’s ‘confused’ and doesn’t know whether he wants to come back to me or go back to her. He’s still having contact with her (I don’t know on what level), but I have pulled back to give him space to think.
So I continue to be the one doing the work, reading the articles, seeing counselors etc. He’s says sorry ‘for what he has done’, I don’t have the repentance you guys talk about. I don’t have the commitment you have. We will begin formal marriage counseling next week. What am I going to say?!?!
BS - please try to be thankful for what the US if offering to you.
US - please be educated to the deepest possible level. This website has been invaluable to me and can be for you too.
Find out what your Love Language is and what your Apology Langage is. Please take advantage of ALL assistance / resources you have access to (we don’t have access to very much where we live - it’s been a struggle to find an MC even).
Be strong in the Lord. Without Him I would not be here today.

Crazy Perhaps? reply

I see that this was two years ago, so this may be too little too late.

I recognize myself in some of what you shared. In my situation my partner continues to cheat, continues to lie about it even when caught red handed, and has only a passing uncommitted "I apologize for" when he's brow beat into it. Every time I back up from the situation, I can readily see that I am half the problem in that I expect so little of him and don't draw my own boundaries regarding my bottom line on what I am unwilling to tolerate. Even when I draw boundaries, I tend to not hold them well giving my partner the impression (and even permission) that I am willing to tolerate whatever he dishes out.

I firmly believe my partner is knowingly playing me so that he has the best of both worlds. Cheat and see as many other women as he chooses and then have me to come home to when he's done getting his fill of other women. He is very convincing when trying to convey my importance to him, and that I matter blauh, blauh, blauh, but as soon as he wants another woman I literally don't exist.

I guess what I'm saying is that whether it looks like it or not, your US is playing you and this other woman too. We can chalk this behavior up to our partners being "confused," but no matter the explanation (or excuse) your partner is choosing to knowingly harm you. It's painful and difficult to draw boundaries with someone we believe might love us, but in the end we have to love ourselves enough to know what we deserve and what we don't deserve and serve as our own best advocates verses waiting for our partner to finally do the right thing by honoring us.

I hope that your situation has worked out for you and that whatever the outcome you now feel fully loved with no caveats.

What can the betrayed do to help themselves in this scenario

This article is great for the unfaithful but what can the betrayed do to help themselves cope when flooded with memories of moments which didn't make sense at the time.

Flooding in silence

This article came at the exact time I needed it. It's been 5 years and my husband is still triggered left and right. Except now he's not raging, yelling or belittling me. Instead he is silent, leaves the bedroom at night, gives me a cold shoulder and essentially does not communicate at all. I followed him out of the bedroom last night, pleading him to talk to me, to tell me what he experienced. But he refused and it just led to us arguing, me getting upset because he won't communicate and instead shuts down. My question is how do I deal with his silent flooding? He won't share or communicate with me so I have nothing to listen to, I can't "be" there for him because he ass me to leave him alone. I don't know how to be supportive of this.

Reassure him

As a betrayed spouse, I can say I think it helps to know the unfaithful “gets it”. So follow him. If he doesn’t want to talk then reach for his hand and give it a firm squeeze & look at him like you care, rub his back, rub his head, hug him- some type of sign to show reassurance & even if you’ve done it a million times b4, say you’re sorry/ apologize. We betrayed can never hear that enough. If he refuses or pushes you away, ask if there’s anything you can get for him- a glass of water, a cup of tea, coffee, wine. We just want the unfaithful spouse to really “be there” for us; even if it seems like we’re pushing you away. And do something nice for him to show you’re thinking of him- get a slice of his favorite cake/dessert; put a love note with a chocolate bar in his work bag for him to find as a surprise; offer to lotion his feet; it doesn’t have to be big. We just want to know the unfaithful are making us a priority. So much damage has been done; it’s going to take a very long time to repair it.

How much pushing?

When my husband floods he closes me off entirely. No touching, no talking, no being in the same room (I still tell him I love him and I'm sorry. He knows im here if he wants to talk too.) In the past, I used to make him food if he hadnt eaten or get him a beer but now all he says is "I didn't ask you for that" and refuses it. Sometimes I feel like the only thing I can do is keep my distance until he comes around again.

Narcissistic behaviour of betrayed spouse

What is the response to a narcissistic betrayed spouse’s behaviour, or, are you suggesting one should adopt the same understanding and reasoning as for one without those behaviours?

Dealing with one’s own intrusive thoughts.

Lack of trust feelings are generated by intrusive thoughts. The betrayed spouse must have to deal with those thoughts on their own to control the resultant feelings. They must live in the present without linking the past to the future and generating ego.
Your comments please. Thanks


This article was great but my question is if both parties are working on the relationship why does the betrayed have to be shamed so bad? The other night my spouse and I had a disagreement about spending, within minutes it turned i to how I cheated and Im a bad person. I get I messed up but it seems like everytime there is a disagreement weather im right or wrong its all my fault. I try using my new ways of talking and she thinks im just being a smartass.

All roads

I often say, "All roads of conflict lead back to the affair." Early in recovery every disagreement led back to the affair. Why? Because although it was not the same issue, it felt the same as the affair, conveying to the hurt partner, "You don't care about me." It eventually dissipates like a fog as you feel safer.

Still acts the victim

It REALLY amazes how my unfaithful wife acts like SHE is the victim! Also, SHE likes to judge others behavior! Incredible to witness how she cares MORE for herself then for me. How am I suppose to move forward when its ALWAYS about how she feels and does NOTHING to learn about what I am going through. I am resilent and WILLL get through this 1 way or another. She needs me MORE than I need her...much much MUCH MUCH PAIN...good luck to ALL...

Sometimes it takes a lot for

Sometimes it takes a lot for us unfaithful to realize this. I used to get really hurt and clingy when my husband and flooded but I soon realized why he was doing it and I'm much more understanding of what he needs when he does.

US Acts the victim

I completely relate to the the betrayer acting like the victim. It's remarkable and infuriating that my US always manages to bring the conversation back around to how he feels he's the victim or how I'm supposed to "understand" him when he has put absolutely NO effort into understanding me, or the pain he's caused etc. To top it off I still keep catching him cheating, and then he bald face lies about it even when I have irrefutable evidence. And then even this turns into how he's being victimized by my accusations.

For me I feel the only option is to pull out of this relationship. I don't believe he has the capacity for empathy, and he NEVER tells the truth unless or until I brow beat him into it. And by then, even when he admits what he's been up to and that he's been re-traumatizing me with new infidelity and new lies, he makes light of it. It's exhausting and I still never get what I need from him...but he's the victim. It's unbelievable.

I don't believe that ALL people who cheat have narcissistic tendencies, but in my situation I believe this is true. If I am right, I am spinning my wheels for nothing because I will never come first, be honored, or be loved by a narcissist. That would be impossible. I don't believe he has the capacity for empathy or to nurture me while I try to heel.

Does it ever end?

I’m about one month from DDay and I know it really hasn’t been long, but I just want to know if it ever gets better. I don’t want to waste my time trying to fix my relationship if it never going to get better. I’m not going to sacrifice my own mental health to be with him if my pain will never heal. If anyone could help I would appreciate it.

Same question

I'm only a week out from finding out my husband had a month long affair that ended when I found messages in his phone. Is there a time frame to look forward to? I know it's going to take different amount of time for different people but I am desperately looking for something to hold onto for hope that everyday it may get a little better. The pain is too much to handle to think it will never go away completely. Reading this and seeing I'm not alone on this pain has been so helpful since no one knows what I am going thru except my 1 closest friend. I feel absolutely alone. My husband is doing what he can to help but so far nothing's helped. I hope whoever is reading this finds comfort just in the fact there are so many who have dealt with or still dealing with this same pain. ❤️ But if anyone can give any clue 6 mths, 5 years, 10 years will this pain ever subside ???


I found out in December my husband was having an affair for 4 months. We were at the shore and I had to go home. He was staying claiming friends were coming down and he'd get a ride home with them. He was acting strange so I went through his phone and found text messages that his friends was actually the woman he's been seeing. I stormed out, drove 2 hours home hysterical. We talked a couple days later and he said he wanted this marriage to work. He claimed I was the love of his life. I said I would work on the marriage. Little did I know he was still seeing her and continued for another 6 weeks. It is now 5 months later We go to counseling every week. In the beginning I felt as though I hit rock bottom and there was no way out. I had to go on medication just to be ale to function through the day. 5 months later I am starting to fell stronger, still on medication, and deal with the demons he has caused almost on a daily basis. The pain will get better but for me the thoughts are still fresh in my mind. Get a good support system. I found out some parts of my husbands affair while I was at work. (Things he didn't share with me) and had a mental breakdown. I thank God for my work family who have been very supportive of me and have been their to help me through this mess. As for my relationship, we are still trying to work on it, so hopefully we can make it through this.
Good luck to you!!!

Reply to comment

Hi, I know this was years ago but I am 3 weeks since finding out myself.. I am broken. How are you now? Did you get through it? Did the pain ever go! I don’t know whether to stay and work or if I should ask him to leave. I have little kids to think about too.

Thank you

My husband betrayed me multiple times over past 9 years. We are still in the middle of the hurricane. For years I have been trying to tell him how he makes me feel when I am emotionally flooded, but it was never perceived or heard until I found this video today. This video is 💯 % on what is happening and I am going through. I sent this to my husband and told him, if you ever want to help me or do something for me then watch this video. He did and he finally understood what he was doing to me and why we can’t get passed it. I hope that we can both apply the things we learn here to safe our marriage. Thank you again for this video and help.

What Now?

This article describes me to a 'T'. My wife was unfaithful - it will be 10 years in the Fall. I have not and never would be physically abusive or anything like that. But I still have emotional flooding - at least in part because all she does is everything in the, "DO NOT DO" category and nothing in the, "MAKE SURE YOU DO" category. Each episode makes things worse - and makes it that much harder for me to even bring it up anymore. But all that does is internalize things - I find myself raising my voice.

The only thing she has been willing to do is read some things (like this) that she allows me to send her. But for all that I have sent her, she hasn't made one change in her behavior. There is not one thing that indicates she ever read it let alone was affected by it or encouraged her to do or change something. I want this flooding to come to an end, but it is clear I just will not be able to do this on my own. My wife is becoming nothing but someone sharing a house with me, and it doesn't need to be that way.

I would love to know what else I can do.

When everything is failing

At some point, you have to understand she has no interest in helping you to get over her infidelity. I went through the same thing as you are going thought, and, in the end, I realized that leaving her was my only option. The day I left, I felt a wave of relief come over me. I no longer needed to see if she was trying to help me, and I no longer needed to continually check up on her. Now....I am free.

Intrusive thoughts have started

I'm 7 mths out of Dday and in the past month only recently started talking about working things out. I recently got triggered during a make out session with him. I didn't say anything but how do I push thru those thoughts during this process?

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-D, Texas