Surviving the world after infidelity is exhausting and vexing. Sometimes, it may even seem impossible. Finding out that your spouse—the person you have trusted with your life—has been unfaithful feels like a sadistic joke. But then, you are woken in the middle of the night by the ding of a text message on your partner’s phone, or you find yourself constantly worrying if a late night at work means they are betraying you again. Those emotional triggers caused by infidelity, also known as infidelity triggers, can make recovery much, much worse.
That is why it is important to know what infidelity triggers are and how you can not only survive but heal despite them. Let’s get started.
What Are Infidelity Or Emotional Triggers?
Infidelity hurts. It is a betrayal of someone’s love and trust in another. Sometimes, that betrayal is so jarring, so earth-shattering, that the sky comes crashing down on all that you know and understand about your world. You start to experience day-to-day life as a series of events—or triggers—reminding you of your partner’s betrayal. Painful memories and thoughts swarm you like flies. Your body reacts, thinking you are in danger. It will take a few seconds or minutes for your brain to realize that the situation is not so dire, but you still are shaking and upset.
To put this simply: Infidelity creates an emotional trauma for those betrayed. That trauma can mirror symptoms of PTSD.
However, both the betrayed and the betrayer can experience infidelity triggers. Shame, guilt, anger, regret, paranoia…all these negative thoughts and emotions may be triggered when recovering from infidelity.
The Different Infidelity Triggers
There are many facets of life that can act as infidelity triggers and cause a flush of emotions. Knowing those triggers, as well as the ones unique to your situation, can help you accept and prepare for when the triggers strike. Here are some triggers:
Too often, the home—which is supposed to be safe and comforting—becomes a battleground caught in the fallout of the affair. To those who were betrayed, the home becomes enemy territory, where every photograph and memory feels like a lie. Furthermore, if your spouse tells you that they had intimate moments in your home with their love, this could make the home all the more triggering.
People Who Were Aware Of The Affair
Unfortunately, affairs rarely involve three people—you, your spouse, and the other person. Usually, there are others aware of what is happening, such as family, friends, and coworkers of the betrayer. Sometimes, those people accept the affair or try to minimize the damage.
If those people lied to you or are responsible for steering your spouse in the wrong direction, it is normal to be triggered by them and their actions. You could choose to remove these people from your life permanently or temporarily, but that is something you and your spouse (and possibly a therapist) should discuss.
If there was a rift between you and your spouse before the affair was uncovered, there may be a gaping chasm separating you now. Try as you might, closing that distance and opening up about the affair is a challenge. Yet, that distance can trigger the betrayal, because it feels too close to the behaviors of their spouse during the affair. Remaining emotionally closed off will not do any good.
Suspicious Actions And Behaviors
Hiding the phone, shutting down the computer, discussing friends without giving names, or just being secretive after an affair is going to be a huge trigger. Any actions or behaviors, even flirting, can be an emotional trigger.
4 Tips For Surviving Infidelity Triggers
Rather than thinking of triggers as a setback, think of them as an opportunity. Yes, they hurt, but if you get to the root of the problem, you can begin to work through them together. Here are some tips to help you survive (and overcome) infidelity triggers:
Seek Out Some Support
Infidelity therapy is more than just therapy; it is a way to restore trust in one another. Plus, your therapist can help you both communicate safely and express the pain or emotions you feel without hurting one another further. By working together and with a therapist, you get both perspectives, find closure, and start to regain some trust. For those with triggers, you can learn coping skills to put them to rest. Therefore, seek out support when recovering from infidelity.
For The Betrayer, Step Into Your Spouse’s Pain
If you had the affair, it may be hard at first to understand why your spouse is so upset. You may even blame them a little. However, if you are committed to staying together, then you need to understand that their anger and shock, and exasperation are masking their pain and fear. Right now, your spouse is feeling abandoned. Will yourself to see the situation as they do, and acknowledge your role in their pain.
For The Betrayed, Talk About It
In order to process the triggers, as well as the thoughts and emotions behind those triggers, you will need to talk—extensively. Even when you don’t feel like talking, open up. Tell your spouse how their betrayal made you feel. It will help immensely to sit with a therapist, but you also need your spouse by your side. Do not push them away, especially if they want to overcome the affair and move forward with you.
Check In With Yourself And Each Other
Put yourself through a screening process every single day of your recovery. How are you feeling? Are you being kind to yourself? How are you handling stress at the moment? By asking yourself these questions, you can start to develop strategies that work for you. Writing in a journal will help, as will sitting down with your spouse and discussing the bad dreams or the trigger at the grocery store, for example. Knowing potential triggers in one another, as well as how they affect you, will make the road forward more navigable.
Get Stronger Together With Couples Academy
Understanding the emotional triggers after infidelity is important when learning how to navigate a successful recovery. Triggers can make processing the pain of infidelity difficult, but if you learn to see them as an opportunity, you will not feel as stagnant. Alongside understanding infidelity triggers, attending online couples therapy or in-person marriage counseling with Couples Academy can help. Our mission is to help couples relate to one another in a healthier way, so you can work together after an affair and come stronger and more in love than before. Get in touch with Couples Academy today to learn more about our programs.