During a movie, the star starts up an affair. Differently, perhaps you can’t make contact with your partner. Or your partner seems preoccupied, leaving you to imagine he’s thinking about her. Suddenly you find yourself racked with hurt and anger. Your initial memories of what you felt discovering the betrayal flood you.
You are experiencing a flashback. After 9/11, people would become afraid just looking at beautiful blue skies. Their brains remember those blue skies right before the planes decimated the World Trade Center. You are having a PTSD experience from the trauma of the infidelity.
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Having not experienced the trauma of an extramarital affair, your partner may fail to appreciate obsessive focus on what happened.. She may describe you as being like an interrogator, repeatedly asking the same questions. She may urge you to get over these feelings so that you can move on.
You need understanding that gets that you cannot control these feelings. They arrive unannounced and leave only when they do. You need your partner to get how intense these feelings are and not try to talk you out of them.
Furthermore you need someone to be a soothing presence. With babies are frightened, we hold them and reassure with words like, “It’s OK, I am here. “ Even though you are an adult you still have this need to be talked down from such intense feelings.
You may want to turn to your partner to comfort you. Yet you keeping thinking this partner betrayed me. Herein lies the challenge of extramarital affair recovery. The person you have reached out for solace in the past has morphed into the cause of many flashbacks and pain.
Part of you may protest, “Don’t be a fool. You can’t trust someone who willingly broke the contract of fidelity. Don’t even think of moving toward this person who was not even thinking of you. If I in any way you accept him back into your life, you will be condoning his actions.”
However another part of you may exclaim, “But I still love this woman who has fallen in love with someone else. She’s the mother of our children and I cannot let this be the cause of our divorce. I could not look my children in the face again.”
You need to know that even after your partner’s betrayal, you can rebuild your marriage. If your partner expresses sincere remorse over a period of time, if he is willing to look deeply at what caused him to forsake the bond of fidelity, if the two of you are willing to put together a story of what caused distance prior to the affair, then the two of you can rebuild a vibrant relationship.
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To be sure these “if’s will pose many challenges. Working through some of the obsessive thoughts and feelings will take as much as two to three years. You will need to learn to call “timeouts” when the hurt and anger turns into a donnybrook. The road to healing may require marriage counseling.
Most couples remember the affair as the worst thing to happen to them. It became the two by four that got their attention. However, because it led to their finding the tools to build a thriving relationship, it became the best thing as well.