Will the Reminders (Triggers) Ever Stop?

(Nagging Questions continued)

One of the biggest struggles for Samantha was reminders, particularly during sexual intercourse of any kind. They were unrelenting initially, and seemed to take forever to dissipate. It was not uncommon at all for her to retire to the bathroom to cry and try and get herself together, in hopes of returning to the bedroom. I hated every single minute of it. She hated it even more.

Then there were the triggers from TV shows, or comedians, or movies or… you name it. I had to become an expert in reviewing movies to make sure that there would be no hint of infidelity in them before we saw them. For I believe 9 months or so, we barely saw a movie if it wasn’t a Disney flick. Because my affair was highly emotionally and sexually charged, her reminders were gruesome. To say it was devastating would be a gross underestimation of how it affected her mentally, emotionally and sexually. Our sex life was ripped to shreds, and before the affair it already had its difficulties, so it felt like we were fighting a double barreled gun pointed at us every single day. 

Across the board most experts would tell you that depending on the personality of the betrayed spouse, the reminders will be pretty strong for at least a year, maybe more. For some, they begin to dissipate at about a year to 18 months, yet for others, they will last in upwards of 24 months. It’s vital that the betrayed spouse, either male or female, obtain expert help like the harboring hope course on the site (https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/harboring-hope).  

As Samantha did what she could to diffuse them, we gained momentum, in what seemed excruciatingly slow and tedious at first. To say I had to be patient with them cannot be underscored enough. They came at the very worst times, in the worst ways, and what seemed like a great day would shift in a millisecond. They say it takes 1/200th of a second for a person to flood, and flood Samantha did. Had she not had a couple trusted friends who had been through it before, and had she not had Rick, I’m positive I’d be divorced.

As Samantha was able to get healthy, the reminders would come less and less, and she would need less and less time to regroup. She may only take a walk to get some water, or take a few minutes to think and pray. We’d often times take a few minutes to pray when she had reminders, but we were able to get through them as we remained dedicated to the process of not letting them win, over time. Honestly though, some nights they seemed to win and winning to us meant we didn’t go to bed hating each other.

It’s been 9 years and things are pretty wonderful. They truly are. About a year ago, I had a text come across my phone that sent Samantha reeling. She read it wrong as someone was confessing their own struggles, but it was very similar to mine, and she thought it was my text. Needless to say it was a long couple hours as she had to go back to work. Yet, when she came home, we had about a 15 minute talk, she realized she was in a rush and jumped to an assumption, and we regrouped very quickly. We never needed to speak of it again and we regained momentum within the same hour. 

While it’s not easy, it is possible. It does in fact get easier, when you are able to get the right help and the right coping mechanisms in place. As you both remain dedicated to the process of not giving up, you can and you will win, together. Remember, winning looks different during different stages of recovery. 

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Reading this hits home so

Reading this hits home so much. It's almost like you wrote it from my mind. I can not see how things will be better in the physical them at but reading this gives me hope to trust the Lord. I am living some of the exact Nightmares that Samantha did, but just can't seem to shake it. I'm doing better with the day to day but the intimacy especially physically feels hopeless at times.

Right on!!!

It's good to see that this is a common things that others, who unfortunately are dealing with this, also go through. This also sounds exactly like what we are going through. There are many triggers, they are all around, and my wife's demeanor quickly changes at the drop of a hat. It's been almost 7 months since discovery and there certainly have been some of highs and many lows. The highs have been incredibly great, sincerely some of the best times of our relationship and I beleive that wife would also agree. Unfortunately the lows are also incredibly low. For me, I'm the cheating husband, it's honestly difficult to understand some of these drastic swings but I have read enough to know that it is a common thing. Still it's very challenging to go from an incredible sense of love to a point where she is talking about divorce in a matter of a few days without anything really happening other than something triggers these horrible thoughts and brings us back to day 1. I am doing my best to navigate through the minefield that is full of triggers. Worst than the arguing that is triggered is the incredible pain I see they bring back and cause in my wife. More than anything I want my wife's pain to go away, even if that means going our separate ways. And that is precisely where we are, one moment she is kicking my out of the house and the next we are having some of the most passionate love that we have ever experienced. I wish this could all go away.

7 months....

Raul, thanks for your comment. Right now, it's pretty normal to see what you're seeing. don't let the bad times and the deflating cause you to think you're not gaining ground or growing. it's common to see that type of flooding and triggering for at least a year, maybe more. celebrate the good times my friend. but don't pull back in the bad times or she will sense you are leaving her uncovered so to speak and she'll feel abandoned. lean in.. take the heat and the pain and reaffirm her. one of the biggest things I did that Samantha still celebrates that i did, was when she was flooding i would do my best to take it. embrace it. affirm her. receive it. endure it. it will win her over. when she sees no defensiveness from you and that you're willing to take it, you become more and more safe. believe me when i tell you, 7 months is no time. it wont always be like this. it wont always feel like this. it will get better and the triggers will dissipate more and more, but enduring through this season is what will help make the next season that much better. like dickens said, or maybe it was twain, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." not quitting is what you'll need to keep focusing on. so glad you're moving forward. if i can ever do anything please let me know.

Thank you!

Samuel, thank you for your advice and much needed encouragement. My focus is really entirely on my wife and her search for peace and happiness, no matter what consequence that may have on our marriages. The last few days, again, has brought highs and lows. After mentioning "divorce" for the first time in a long time last week, we turned the corner on last Friday and had an incredible 3 days with much love and affection. Affection that was initiated by my her. Then, as quick as those feelings came in, the last two days she's back to drilling into me calling me all kinds of names and making sure I know what kind of person I am. She says the only reason she is trying this is because of the negative financial changes it would cause and the fact that she doesn't want to deal with a failed marriage and the way others may look at her. Shes made it clear that it's not because of me, she wants me to die and she makes sure that I know that. As you suggested, I do not engage or get defensive and simply "take it". After all, I realize that based on what I have done much of what she says has a lot of truth.
The one part that I struggle with is putting rules around what is acceptable and not. She is very abusive in her language, she occasionally initiates these arguments in front of our daughter and she does get physical at times. Nothing major, but she tries to slap me or hit me. I struggle to avoid getting to this place when we argue. I'm trying my best to take what I have coming but wonder if it's not better to walk away. My struggle with that idea is that she thinks that's what I really want to do, which couldn't be further from the truth. I want to avoid causing more damage though.
Again, thanks for your advice, I really do appreciate it.


raul, thanks for commenting. that's dangerous my friend. when it gets physical, you can't win. you need to immediately exit the situation so you're not put in a situation where she could lie and have you arrested. i see it happen frequently unfortunately. there is no way to send you some documents here, but reach out to the main site tomorrow, through the main email or phone number and there is something called the 'time out protocol' that the staff can get you. it will be a good read for you both. it talks about rules of engagement and it talks about how to take a time out and even maybe a 24 rule to help calm things down. this kind of unpredictable flooding is normal and usually happens for up to a year, depending on your wife's personality. lean in. take it. but if it gets physical, you'll need to stop immediately. if you feel like you need to call the police as it's an unsafe environment, you'll need to do that as well. she may need that as well to see that THAT cannot happen and is unacceptable for the situation, especially in front of children. while she will question any and all of your motives right now, it's normal. you'll need to blaze a new trail of being faithful and honest and open. i'd also suggest she take harboring hope so she can learn to deal with the anger and hostility of it all and learn how to process through the pain of it all. i hope that helps.

diffusing the flooding and thoughts

You stated that 'Samantha did what she could to diffuse the thoughts'. I am just 2 months in to my spouse confessing to an almost 3 year affair; I had no clue - looking back, there were clues but our marriage was a mess from the start. I know this confession is answer to prayer; not how i would have designed the answer, but the dark is now light. The first year was the worst, the following 2 years as I understand was more emails, talking with a couple that came to our church to speak on marriage, relapses, more emailing, a few visits to a counselor... and it was someone I knew, someone I'd reached out to during her struggles (yes, the affair was on at that time). It is really just over as we confronted her together about 3 weeks ago. We have been to a week long marriage intensive. We had our first appointment with 2 CSAT certified counselors and paid for 20 visits upfront. We are doing all that is counseled. But how do I process the mess of it all? It was everywhere ... no place left sacred; no act left undone. How do I process? How do you diffuse when there are thoughts and when there is flooding?

flooding etc

DawnC, thanks for commenting. for starters, here is a link on reminders and triggers from the site: https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/reminders additionally, two months is really no time at all. you've just had a bomb dropped on you, and you would do well to give yourself grace to NOT be ok right now. for the first year or so, it's normal to have these episodes of flooding and unpredictability emotionally. a couple months isn't time enough at all to just move on and get over it. for starters, you'll need to grieve. as you grieve, it will help you be able to move towards forgiveness. without grieving there won't be much forgiveness. without forgiveness there won't be much restoration and reconciliation at all. they just go hand in hand. Samantha saw Rick personally and went to an ems weekend. i respect the help you are getting, but unless the counselor has been through infidelity and been dealing with it for quite some time, 10 to 15 years minimum, they usually are not effective enough to help develop momentum. the processing part takes time and takes the right filter to process through it. in all of this, there is meaning. there is purpose. this seems like the way it was for us. samantha's life was changed, as was mine, but one sure wishes it was packaged differently ya know? we hated the package, but it was what we needed for life change. this whole event changed our theology (for the better obviously) our marriage, the way we see our kids, teh way we see each other, you name it. it completely and totally transformed our lives. the filter comes from the right help. at the risk of seeming very unilateral, i'd highly encourage you to attend an ems weekend to help with processing the entire nightmare. samantha had to grieve which meant she would usually cry almost every day for a while, then she and I would have discussions a few times a week, and she would do her best to journal so that when she saw rick, or when we had our talks, she had her thoughts on paper. I hope all this helps. this article will help your husband deal with your flooding: https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/intrusive-thoughts-after-the-affair-manage-flooding?utm_source=Article+of+the+Week&utm_campaign=85c90980b8-aotw_10_31_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ba782628b7-85c90980b8-312884061 hope i've helped. if you'd like to talk more, feel free to reply to the comment and I'll check back soon.


Thanks for your post, Samuel, & to the others for sharing experiences. My wife had an affair 37 years ago & I still experience many triggers that set me back for an evening, a morning, a day, or several days. Most of the triggers are from movies & TV series, where adultery seems to pop out at so many turns of the plot. I myself have taken to vetting video options in advance in order to avoid my getting triggered. A factor in my continuing sensitivity is that my wife denied the full extent of the affair for many years, & then, when I stumbled on the truth, got hysterical in an effort to avoid dealing with it. This led to dissociation on my part. It was only less than a year ago that I insisted that we go into the truth fully. I'm resensitized to all the issues, hence the power of the triggers. My PhD counselor notes that only a small part of our brain is aware of the passage of time, so it's not surprising that triggers make us feel like the trauma was yesterday, even though it might have been 6 months ago, or 5 years ago – or 37 years ago!

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