Affair healing Blog
Someone recently asked this question:
"We, the betrayed spouses, experience triggers that make us feel the pain again and again. I wonder about the ones who had the affair. Do they get triggers that make them miss the times with the affair partner?"
People who have been involved in an affair in which emotional connection was experienced will certainly experience "triggers" after the affair is over. This will be especially true if the affair was discovered and disrupted before it ended on its own.
But let's draw a distinction between memories and triggers. There can be many memories of an affair or the affair partner without having any significant emotion attached to them. It's been more than 20 years since my affair, but certain memories about it still pop into my head (especially considering my line of work). But those memories do not carry a sense of longing... missing the other person.
So there needs to be a clear distinction made between what is being triggered: a factual memory, or a longing? The betrayed spouse may be legitimately frustrated that memories have to be part of this new reality, but they cannot be eliminated. (There is really nothing you can do to erase memories unless you've figured out how to construct a time machine.) Memories themselves need not be problematic, but the emotions attached to them should be the subject of honest discussion.
If a spouse is constantly being "triggered" with feelings of longing and missing the affair partner, then there is more individual work that needs to be done before they can adequately participate in marriage repair and renewal. In true healing, the unfaithful spouse assumes control of their response to these triggers and their power diminishes.
I remember working with one couple after his affair. During an early session, the wife asked her husband, "Do you still think about her? Do you ever miss her?" He looked at me wide-eyed and I knew he was uncertain about how to answer that questions. I simply said, "Tell her the truth."
He paused, then said, "To be honest, during this past week I took my phone out twice to call her. I even punched in the first few numbers before cancelling the call. Yes, there is still a part of me that reaches back toward that, but I didn't make the call. I love you. I want us."
There is an old saying that goes like this: You can't stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair. We cannot stop a thought, or an emotional trigger, that shows up. We can, however, control what we do with it once it does. We can choose to welcome it, think about it, and nurture it into a deeper longing. Or we can recognize it and send it flying away while we turn our attention to things that matter more.
Unfaithful spouses should not be surprised that emotional ties still linger, but they should be single-minded in the direction they desire to go. The farther away they move from the affair relationship, the weaker those connections will become.