Despite extramarital affairs being commonplace today, these unfortunate happenings often feel like the dropping of a huge bomb.
Especially when you’re the one who was betrayed.
It’s not uncommon to feel trapped inside the traumatic experience, bubbling up rage and anger every time something reminds you of the incident.
Feeling unable to move into a place of healing, you may assume that you can’t salvage your relationship.
Sadly, because of this negative effect of trauma, many marriages like yours don’t ever recover from an affair.
Yet, rebuilding your marriage is possible. And healing is possible.
It’s important to understand that an affair is not only a heartbreaking but traumatic experience as well. For healing to occur, you must address the trauma the affair has caused you.
Actually, addressing the trauma is the very first step to recovery.
Your Response to the Affair Is Hardwired
As human beings, we’re biologically hardwired to bond with one another by developing deep nurturing attachments. This is how we’ve survived as a species, defending and caring for each other.
When that bond breaks—as in the case of an affair—it’s traumatizing.
The traumatized person experiences a biological reaction that resonates in their physical and emotional being. Often feeling devastated, you may not recognize this reaction in yourself. But it’s trauma nonetheless.
Understand Your Innate Response to Emotional Trauma
When a human being experiences emotional trauma, it activates a part of the autonomic nervous system, or otherwise known as the fight-or-flight response.
The funny thing about your nervous system is that it’s limited. Simply sensing a threat, it can’t tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a betraying partner. Your nervous system accepts them both as a “threat.”
For this reason, you likely had a difficult time expressing your emotions after you learned of your partner’s affair. Or you felt that your feelings were scattered all over the place.
This state of not knowing what you were feeling is undoubtedly the work of trauma. Ultimately, it can cloud your emotional discernment, resulting in you being unable to pinpoint or express your true feelings.
Instead, you may have only felt anger or rage. Wanting to blame and attack your partner, you may have adopted a new and vengeful type of controlling behavior aimed directly at your partner.
For example, it’s not uncommon for the betrayed partner to demand passwords, obsessively check social media for “clues,” or frequently drill their partner for information.
Acknowledge Normal Vs Optimal Responses to Infidelity
Keep in mind that although these reactions to infidelity are not optimal for your health and well-being, they are normal. However, in our society, they are only appropriate for a short while.
To recover from an affair, it’s essential to find healthier ways to cope with the situation long-term.
More often than not, trauma’s effect does not get resolved but deeply buried. Random and everyday events can trigger traumatic reactions.
Remember, the human nervous system can’t distinguish one danger from another. Threats are lumped into one big life-threatening category, triggering an extreme emotional response. That’s because your body attempts to protect itself with a physical response, fighting off a perceived perpetrator. You experience these triggers at any time causing a preoccupation of the problem.
Soon, you may become stuck in a negative and reactive cycle of insecurity, rage, and suspicion, which will take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Not to mention the impact it will have on your loved ones and your productivity.
You may have felt like your response to your partner’s actions weren’t normal or your feelings are over the line. Some partners have even reported feeling like they were “going crazy” while trying to recover from an affair.
Earlier Trauma Can Make Symptoms of Post Infidelity Trauma Disorder Even Worse
Unfortunately, the notion that time heals all wounds isn’t true.
Furthermore, the way you respond to post infidelity trauma disorder may hurt you even deeper if it is somehow similar to another earlier traumatic or troubling experiences. In other words, trauma memories, feelings, and meanings may bubble up from something you experienced from your own earlier events.
Many people don’t want to acknowledge this fact because they feel so hurt and betrayed and just wish to have the perfect relationship. Grieving the loss of a perfectly secure relationship can be devastating.
We are not always aware of past traumatic memories and how they trigger strong emotions. To name a few, your memories may be about your parents preoccupied with their own marital issues and how that experience left you feeling unworthy, alone, or insecure.
Remember that it’s not just about the here and now. When you are dealing with post infidelity trauma disorder, past trauma will easily get triggered—consciously and unconsciously—with strong and negative thoughts and emotions.
This type of reaction to trauma makes it evident that professional help is required.
Change the Message in Your Mind
To recover from an affair, you must move through the initial response to post infidelity trauma disorder.
As mentioned before, a therapist can help you understand how your brain works to cope with post infidelity trauma disorder and teach you ways to reclaim your calm.
The result of trauma treatment is to enable you to retreat back into a calm and relaxed mode, opposed to feeling overly aroused, hyper-vigilant, and on edge.
Trauma Therapy Decreases Negative Reactions of Post Infidelity Stress Disorder
Firstly, it’s important to make a decision whether or not you want to commit to staying in the marriage. And once you make the decision, you need to realize that all the strong, negative emotions are happening automatically as a result of the trauma response.
Also, ask yourself if you’re ready to be on the other side of your anger and rage. Or, do you want to continue to seek revenge on your spouse?
Once you are free of the emotional trauma trigger—becoming present and strategic—you’ll be able to communicate your feelings and needs. And you’ll be able to explore what went wrong in the relationship.
Resolving the trauma will enable you to become present for yourself first.
Ultimately, the decision is always yours.
You have the power to evaluate and assess your relationship now and always, in the future.
Steps to Recover from an Affair
Addressing the trauma caused by an affair is your first step towards recovery. From that calm place, you can then begin to evaluate your marriage and heal from the pain. (You may also want to read my post, “Why NOT to Rush to Couples Counseling After Infidelity.”)
I am here to help you reclaim your calm after an affair and help you find your path to healing.