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

Dealing with Reminders

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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 went down big. I lost just about everything as I desperately tried to save the business. I spent our savings, our retirement, even 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.

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, with the particular impact of the crisis that we have to deal with and process. The pain of infidelity is unmatched in its long-term effects and reoccurring hurt, pain, and trauma. I assure you, there are few things that impact life quite like infidelity, but the impact of financial ruin has a few similarities.

Emotional Flooding

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 dealt, I became overwhelmed with palpable feelings of dread, insecurity, and paralyzing anxiety (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 life's regular responsibilities.

Itemizing the Losses

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 eventually recover. To be sure, the initial stage of recovery is about grieving. For the hurt spouse, the pain of the many losses is, in no uncertain terms, overwhelming. Oddly enough, identifying the losses can be a tool to actually work through them and diffuse their impact upon both the betrayed spouse as well as the unfaithful spouse.

Take, for example, the list of practical losses below that a betrayed spouse feels:

  • The 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.
  • The loss of the future which seemed so certain.
  • The loss of innocence.
  • The loss of reputation.
  • And. . . the list goes on and on and on.

It's crucial for losses to be identified and grieved. These stages of both loss and grief, simply stated, cannot be avoided. There will be anger, bargaining, and depression but, ultimately, if the right help is utilized and acquired, there comes a point where we find meaning and acceptance in what has occurred.

The act of grieving does not, however, resolve the issue of reminders.

But How Do You Do It?

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 has pursued and hopefully achieved sobriety from sexual addiction, the battle of the thought life and the impact of raw trauma sets in. 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. At some point, each party has to make a conscious decision to either live in a past hurtful event or 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 must be fought by the will, often for a period of months or possibly years. It takes a great deal of motivation to be willing to engage in this daily battle of survival, recovery, and transformation after an affair. However, as I've said before, if the wayward spouse is still not safe, forgiveness may be found but not reconciliation. While forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, the time may not be right for reconciliation or even the initial pursuit of such reconciliation.

Tangible Occurrences

Dealing with Reminders

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 T.V. show or movie. Even seeing a couple who seem to be having a good time can be enough to send the hurt spouse down memory lane, which can easily lead to a painful and emotional remembrance. 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 that might 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 eighteen inches between the head and the heart. In fact, it takes up to seven years for truth to move from our head to our heart, but for some strange reason it only takes a lie about three seconds to travel the same distance. 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 decide that it is not this event(s), that will define or control the rest of their life. There has to be a conscious choice to move beyond the carnage and truly recover from the affair; to see what is possible in the future.

Leaving the Old, Pursuing the New

What "was" is now, sadly, gone. True restoration is about the possibility of something new; though seemingly incomprehensible right now, the fact is that a saved marriage is absolutely possible. I can introduce you to many couples 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 to work toward the glory of a restored marriage which will take effort, struggle, expertise, and tangible grace. However, it will prove more than worth it should both parties remain committed to the process; and trust me, recovery is a process. More than likely, your situation didn't develop overnight, and it will not be fixed overnight. However, there is a hope that transcends the very heartache and hopelessness you may be feeling now.

If you are the unfaithful spouse, you might find it useful to both you and your spouse to list 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, sharing with them your effort to understand their struggle, 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 that 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.

I encourage you to consider our EMS Weekend. After completion of the weekend, you'll walk away with not only a protocol for reminders but a strategic plan on how to minimize any further collateral damage. New life is available for you in even the toughest of situations.

Cover more ground faster with the life-changing experience of EMS Weekend for couples.

This isn't another light-and-fluffy program that only scratches the surface of your pain. The EMS Weekend Experience is a safe space for you and your partner to start putting the pieces of your life back together, transform your trauma and begin healing from infidelity. Skeptical about the effectiveness of this experience? Don't be! Backed by a slew of previous participant testimonials, EMS Weekend delivers results month after month for countless couples.

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This article neglects the

This article neglects the third option of healing and having a wonderful life without the betrayer. Sometimes the damage is too great, even with a repentant spouse.

We’re two years out and

We’re two years out and really doing well, but I DO have those sleepless nights where what I call “the junk” plays over and over in my head. Without the distractions of the day, my brain digs those reminders out of the dark recesses.
I tried to talk to my husband about this but it didn’t go so well. I told him that during those times I start wondering if I’d be better off alone, without him. After all, he’s the biggest reminder of what happened. I tried to explain that I love him and I don’t want to leave, but the fear part of me wants to run away and hide. Love is risky. Loving AGAIN after infidelity even riskier. So yes, the fear does overtake me at times and I question if I’d simply be happier in a little apartment somewhere, living a relatively quiet pain-free life.
He doesn’t get it when I express this. All he hears is that I want to leave and it makes him disheartened because we’ve both worked so hard. I tried to explain that I don’t want to leave, I’m not leaving, it just seems attractive at times because it feels like the less hurtful, painful choice.
My logical side argues that I’d never escape the pain of what he did to us, it will always be present, until the day I die. Moving out and living alone won’t make it magically disappear. What he chose to do is now something I’m forced to live with forever. That’s the part I hate. I can’t go through a single day without this thing disturbing my peace, destroying my joy. I DO have happy moments and times of forgetfulness, but then it pops into my head to rob and steal from my good times.
I long for a day when this fades to insignificance, I just can’t imagine that day very well. I’m weary if it all. I just want it to go away.

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