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

Dealing with Reminders

Back in the mid-eighties, I had a business fail. I guess that’s not unusual in the world of business, but it was new to me. In fact when I went down, I did it up right. I lost just about everything as I desperately tried to save the business. I spent our savings, our retirement, as well as borrowed money, all in an attempt to hold out until the market turned. The only problem was, the market never turned so we ran smack dab into financial ruin. It was so bad, that as a family of five, we actually qualified for food stamps. You might be able to go lower than we did, but that’s about as low as I ever want to go. Thankfully, God was faithful and met our needs and took us in a new direction. As usual, he was able to take the worst thing that ever happened to us, and make it the best.

Now you may be wondering why I’m sharing this story, or what this has to do with surviving an affair, but I have discovered that almost every crisis has stinging parallels, how we respond has little to do with the type of crisis, but rather the particular impact of the crisis, whatever it may be, that we have to deal with. I assure you, there are few things that impact life quite like infidelity, but financial ruin has a few parallels. The pain of infidelity is unmatched in its long term effects and reoccurring hurt, pain and trauma.

From my financial crisis I began to notice some interesting responses, hopefully you can relate to them as you are dealing with betrayal. Every time I encountered a reminder of my business, I experienced an emotional firestorm. Each time I drove by a location where I had worked I would emotionally flood. If I ran into someone with whom I had previously had dealing, I became overwhelmed with feelings, (and I’m normally emotionally constipated). There seemed to be reminders everywhere and I continually had to battle my emotions just to barely be able to function in regular life responsibilities.

The trauma experienced by a couple upon the revelation of a betrayal is no small matter and it creates an emotional firestorm that has to be dealt with by both parties in order to recover from an affair. To be sure, the initial stage of recovery is about grieving. For the hurt spouse the pain of the losses is in no uncertain terms, overwhelming. There is a loss of self-confidence, the loss of the life they thought they had, the loss of their dreams, the loss of security, the loss of their belief about who their mate was and the list goes on and on. Loss absolutely has to be grieved, and the stages of grief simply cannot be avoided. There will be anger, bargaining, and depression, but ultimately if the right help is utilized and acquired, there comes a point of finding meaning and acceptance in what has occurred. The act of grieving does not however resolve the issue of reminders. How does one move beyond the trauma and possibly back into relationship after an appropriate amount of time?

Long after affairs have ceased and if the betrayer is an addict and had to pursue and hopefully achieve sobriety from sexual addiction, the battle of the thought life and the impact of trauma is experienced. In many ways, dealing with betrayal is the struggle that will determine how quickly (or if at all) a couple will be able to recover from an affair. Each party has to make a conscious decision at some point along the way to either live in a past hurtful event or to recommit to the marriage and focus on what can be.

That decision is even more difficult than it sounds because it’s not just a matter of a choice, but rather it is a battle that has to be fought by the will, often for a period of months (usually about 18 to 24 months), and it takes a great deal of motivation to be willing to engage in this daily battle of surviving an affair. If however, the betraying spouse is still not safe, as I’ve said before, forgiveness may be found, but not reconciliation. While forgiveness is a must and is a gift we give ourselves, the time may not be right for reconciliation, or even the initial pursuit of such reconciliation.

For each partner there can be multiple daily reminders of the catastrophic events. For the betrayed it can be a name, the arrival of a cell phone or visa bill, ads for a topless club, certain songs, crass TV show remarks, or a betrayal being portrayed in a movie. Even a sighting of couple seemingly having a good time can be enough to send the hurt spouse down memory lane, which can easily lead to a painful remembrance and emotional meltdown. For the unfaithful spouse though, life is also filled with these reminders. Each time their mate says they want to talk, coming home at night wondering what type of mood their mate may be in, computers, recovery groups, counseling, and many other things can all serve as reminders which cause the betrayer to flood mentally and emotionally.

It is at this point that the battle in the theater of the mind begins. The greatest distance known to mankind is the 18 inches between the head and the heart. In fact it takes up to 7 years for truth to move from our head to our heart, but for some strange reason it only takes a lie about 3 seconds to travel the same distance. Maybe that’s because we seem to fall at 32 feet per second (the speed of gravity), but it takes a great deal of energy and resolve to move uphill. At some point as you’re dealing with betrayal, each party has to come to the point where they choose to focus on something other than the betrayal, and to decide that it is not this event, or in some cases, events that will define or control the rest of their life. There has to be a conscious choice to move beyond and truly recover from the affair; to see what is possible in the future. Restoration is never about going back to what ‘was’ as what ‘was’ is now, sadly enough, gone. True restoration is about the possibility of something new, and though seemingly incomprehensible right now, the fact is, a saved marriage is, in fact, possible. I can introduce you to many who will testify that their post-affair marriage is actually better than their marriage was pre-affair. Our invitation to you and your spouse is the glory of a restored marriage which will take effort, struggle, expertise, and tangible grace, but will prove more than worth it should both parties remain committed to the process. And trust me, to recover from an affair is a process. More than likely your situation didn’t develop overnight and will not be fixed overnight, but there is a hope that transcends the very heartache and hopelessness you may be facing now. It’s this reality that drives my staff and I to work as hard as we do to create courses and weekend intensives which provide a framework to your recovery.

If you are the unfaithful spouse, you might find it useful to both you and your spouse, to list out 40 reminders that your mate could have on any given day which could send them down the path to their personal house of torment. Your understanding of their struggle, or at the very least, the pursuit of understanding their struggle and sharing of that insight, might just go a long way in helping your spouse to heal. If you are the hurt spouse and you believe your mate is becoming a safe person and has moved into recovery, then choosing to no longer be a victim of painful reminders would be an excellent step toward health. When possible, be willing to fight the battle by attempting to focus on what is good and pure and noble rather than focusing on the failure. Counterintuitive to what we may feel about life, as we walk out our own recovery, we can find meaning in the suffering we are faced with, allowing that suffering to provide a richness to life and a redefining of life we never knew existed. It’s my hope you too can one day see the opportunity for what was the worst thing that ever happened to you, eventually becoming the best.

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Thank you

Thank you for being the voice of the deepest place of the wounds of betrayal. While I was not the victor in my marriage's surviving, I am living the healing divorced life. One person alone can heal, but it takes both marriage partners to continue in the healing of a marriage. While this is probably a known fact, I didn't believe it for years, and worked alone, through repeated affairs, as the betrayed. This is why I need to thank you for the words of understanding expressed in this "Reply to Comment-Dealing With Reminders". God bless marriages with two surrendered, committed lives, and the ones who must grow and go on alone.

This was very helpful to me.

This was very helpful to me. Thank you for what you do.

Dealing with reminders

My marriage did not survive.  In his words, it was easier to move on with her than it was to try and fix what was broken with us.  As devastating as it was at the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I got into counseling and worked on myself. I can finally say that I know his addictions and indiscretions were not my fault.  I will admit, the reminders can be brutal.  After 23 years of marriage there are plenty!  But you learn to deal with them.  The hardest part are the kids.  They are the best part of your marriage and remind you of the good memories.  I try and embrace that and I can at least smile now.  I have since moved on and met a man of faith, strength and integrity.  I can laugh again and am learning to trust again.  It is a LONG, hard road, but survivable.  AND...WORTH IT.  Blessings to those that found the strength to BOTH fight for your marriage and blessings to those who were strong enough to move on alone if that was your path.  God is good!

How will I ever feel safe in

How will I ever feel safe in this relationship again?

Thank you for this article.

Thank you for this article. I unfortunately am living the betrayed side of a marriage dealing with an affair. I have been dealing with reminders for some time now and thought this to be non-typical. I could be fine for an hour, a day, or week and then something simple would set me on an emotional rollercoaster all over again. With your article I am learning to get past these reminders and move ahead with my spouse as we try towards a new life and future together. Thank you again.

"Get over it!"

My spouse betrayed me, denied it until faced with undeniable evidence, said he was sorry and that it would never happen again, and now considers the matter closed. When I bring up the things that remind me of the betrayal or point out that he's placing himself into the same circumstances, he tells me to get over the past and live in the present. Unfortunately, reminders of what happened ARE part of my present. He wants to go back to the status quo and minimize the conflict - after all, he's said he's sorry and can't understand why I need more. What do I do?

Dealing with it

The constant reminders are awful. Your brain deals with these thoughts and your heart dies a little each time. I know that whatever happens, God is in control and his love is stronger than anything we'll ever experience an He will never betray us.

Thank you this came to me at

Thank you this came to me at a time I desparately needed to read this. I am four months out from D day and we are both trying hard. I suffered a meltdown yesterday, just when I though I was finally coming out from this craziness I feel I have been living in. My husband was upset at first and later apologized and was very loving. I do know this is hard on him as well and I truly wish in my heart I could move to a better place for me.  

Dealing with Reminders......

So we are both in recovery moving along to a better place together. The old marriage has died and we are creating a new one dailey. Good. I trust him, he trusts me. Safe place to be honest with each other without getting all crazy. Better. Kids open about the affairs and are in counseling. More Good. Moving at warp speed and here comes the email from AP that wasn't deleted 7 monthes ago, the business account still has her listed as a contact, my AP's mother sends me a letter, husband notices jewelry is missing, husband finds old check book in garage from seperate account with my AP, I find card from his AP stuck to the bottom of the trash can....etc. Time to talk about our initial reconciliation and clear up any unanswered questions  that we may or may not have clearly defined during the first few months back together. Both flooding. We were honest with each other during disclosure but slightly out of our minds. Somethings were vague in the beginning because there was so much going on with both of our AP's. Scary, don't like thinking about him or her. Back to sanity three days later. Good. We know every detail about what happened. One week later. Kids use his AP's favorite words, they don't know those were her fav's. Bought new CD that has the name of the state my AP lives in on just about every song. That's OK. Husband looks at me and we die laughing. We let go of AP's ownership of anything.

AP's don't get to own anything- resturants, movie theatre's, books, town's, words, and they don't own us! Especialy mentaly, no free rent for them. Bye Bye and good luck to ya. We will go and do anything we want too anytime we chose to. I have walked into the resurant that my husband took his AP to  and the confusion on the hostess's face is just that HER confusion not mine. "Who is this woman? We have only seen you with your wife?" is the look. I am the wife she was not, get over it and I'll take the ceaser salad with chicken please and thank you. We will vacation in the state that my AP lives in if we want to.

I think your article is very descriptive of the truth and what we choose to do with our dailey walk together and seperately. It does take work to move forward and leave that crap were it belongs. In the grave yard! No good comes from digging it up and dragging it into today.

D-day was March 2011 for me and June 2011 for him. We reconciled in November of 2011. So it does take time and we had days that we thought "Ain't no way we are going to make it." We made calls on those days for help and had the "Talks" together no matter how awful it was. We did it. Pain and work that is worth it.

We are starting another marriage study this weekend and this morning my husband prayed "Help us to be honest with each other and just tell the other person what we think they want to hear." You can't buy that! God puts what we need in front of us and we do the work. Done.

Jana

commenting on my own comment....hahah

First of all I don't have spell check well I think I do and just don't know how to use it.

Second he prayed "and NOT Just tell each other what we think they want to hear"

OOOPPPPSIE

Jana

Thank you for the words, "the

Thank you for the words, "the other person does not get to own anything.". I am struggling with that and your words helped me so much.

This was about the best thing

This was about the best thing I could hear right now about reminders. It's my choice if I want reminders to rule my next set of holidays, my day to day life, or change my history. Thank you.

dealing with reminders

another wonderful article. It is very timely. We are 2 1/2 years out and we are stronger than ever before the affair.  My husband and I did the works to heal our marriage from the painful wounds of infidelity,   But i still have reminders of the affairs, i don't feel the pain but really want to just have a day without any thoughts or reminders and your article has helped me what to do with reminders-  to focus on the  pure, noble and good things what is happening now, what my husband and I have right now. Very true and very helpful. I am learning a lot from this website. The writers, their stories just made me cry everytime I read their blogs their stories are so encouraging and inspiring. They have been a blessing to me. My husband is remorseful and helped me restored my trust. I want to thank you again and again for all your work in giving hopes and insights to us betrayed.

God Bless,

M...

I wish I could say God is

I wish I could say God is doing the same thing in m "was-band" that he's done in me - forgiveness and eyes to see the good, honorable, right, pure lovely, praiseworthy things in him. For two years after his affair I poured validation and affirmation into him, all of which he took as manipulation. he's getting counseling now with yet another woman - and that hurts me deeply, as he rejected all of our counsel - but I do pray the Holy Spirit will be al the Bible says he is in this man who so needs a transformation. What John Bevere writes is true - offense is the bait of Satan and murders your heart.

Michelle M Ruiz

I just added this feed to my bookmarks. I have to say, I very much enjoy reading your blogs. Thanks!

Trying to move forward

I'm just over 4 months in after learning of my husbands long term affair with his ex gf.  for years he has swor that nothing was going on.  I feel like such a fool, I should have known.  His affair has lasted almost as long as our marriage.  He says it was mostly an emotional affair but because of the details of the past, reminders are everywhere.  All these year's I've considered my husband the most honorable and trustworthy person I've ever met.  How lucky was I to have one of the few great guys left....  We made decisions together and never really had an arguement.  Learning of his affair has destroyed my belief in love, marriage, people.  I ask him why he chose to continue hurting me after I found the text a few years ago and he said he put an end to her "annoying and bothersome text messages" He keeps saying "I don't know and she was just someone to talk to"  He never even gave our marriage a chance and I feel like there is nothing left in our marriage to hold on to.  Counceling hasn't helped much because the counselor tells me I need to just let it go and start moving forward but I don't work that way.  I need to know why.  I can't focus because everything in my life up to this point has been a lie.  Knowing now his views on our marraige, I have no idea how to be his wife anymore.  I thought I knew him so well but I don't know him at all.  He was my best friend, the person i went to when I was sad or upset and I feel like I can't do that anymore.  When I try, I get angry.  We've tried talking about things but he wan't to leave what he did in the past and if it is even mentioned he gets mad and starts yelling at me.  I'm so lost and confused.  I can't imagine staying married.  I can't imagine being without him.  I can't imagine having to make the decision to break up our family!  It's not fair to our daughter and it isn't fair to me that he didn't consider her or me when making the decisions he made.  If he needed someone to talk to why couldn't he just come to me!    Our marriage never had a chance and it wasn't because she pursued him... I can see from the phone records that he needed her in his life but why??? I've done everything for him.  I've waited on him hand and foot.  I can't even clean my house without being reminded of him saying he thought I felt like I had to do it and he was just waiting on me to get sick of him and leave but he loved me!  WTF!!! If he loved me and thought there was something wrong why didn't he come to me.  He asked her about our problems!  I feel so hopeless and alone!  My life makes no sense anymore and I'm drowning in this! 

Wow thank you so much for

Wow thank you so much for your reply! It makes so much sense and you are so right!! I really appreciate your reply I needed to hear that! :)

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