Relationship Connection: How long is too long to struggle after my husband’s affair?

Question

I found out my husband cheated on me three years ago this month and I still find myself dreading the anniversary date of that discovery. Is this normal? We are still married and things are better between us, for the most part (no marriage is perfect), but I still have so much pain from that experience. He’s told me he’s sorry so many times and I don’t worry that he’s doing those things anymore. So, why am I still hurting? Is there anything I can do to get through this month without completely falling apart?

Answer

First of all, you’re not crazy for feeling the residual damage from your husband’s affair, even three years later. I don’t know the full story of what you’ve been through, but know that it’s completely normal to struggle even though the experience is technically over. Instead of just trying to muscle through the next few weeks, I’d like to have you look at the bigger picture of your affair recovery over the past three years.

Healing from the impact of betrayal is not a linear experience that starts out with the pain of discovery and then automatically feels better with time. Instead, it’s a unique journey for each couple based on several factors such as the unfaithful partner’s willingness to tell the truth, previous betrayals, duration of the affair, and other factors.

Also, simply stopping the affair is only the first step in the healing of an affair. It’s common for the unfaithful partner to stop the affair and then refuse to ever talk about it again. If the injured partner brings it up again, it can cause more drama between them if the unfaithful partner doesn’t want to talk about it.

I wonder how many of these steps you’ve been through as a couple to truly heal from the impact of the affair. If you’ve been asked to never bring it up again and haven’t had a chance to work through the injury to your relationship, then it’s going to be difficult for you to move forward and feel safe in this relationship.

If your husband has been fully honest and you have been able to work through the impact of the affair on yourself and your marriage, then are you able to turn to your husband for comfort during this time? Can you ask him for reassurance of his love and commitment, even if he’s told you already? The true test of his reformation is his ability to have long-term compassion for your pain.

Betrayal trauma is similar in many ways to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, complete with flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and fear of anything that reminds you of the original trauma. The betrayal strikes so deeply that it can take years to fully trust again.

Consequently, it’s normal to feel more emotionally raw around the anniversaries of major losses. When we experience a traumatic event, it’s like our body takes a snapshot of all of the sensory data around us. For example, we might remember certain places, smells, times of the year, or situations that remind us of the trauma we’ve experienced.

The most helpful thing you can do is reach out to those closest to you and share what you’re feeling. Going though this alone will only compound the isolation that is tied to the original betrayal trauma. Open up and let your husband know you’re feeling vulnerable and sensitive. If you need to visit with him about it, see if he’s willing to. If it’s something that creates more struggles in your marriage, then I recommend you seek the help of a marriage counselor who specializes in affair recovery so you can work through the unfinished business of your husband’s affair.

Stay connected!

 

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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26 Comments

  • Maudie Fricker November 7, 2013 at 7:50 am

    “things are better between us”…? With you still feeling all that pain? and having it etched in your mind as to knowing the anniversary of finding out? Hmmmm….all is not well in your kitchen. You might need to separate yourself from him for a while and see if you can heal yourself first, without having him around as a daily reminder. Some people never recover from a betrayal, so you have to decide if you want to be a victim of it forever or if you want to put it behind you and move on with your husband…or on by yourself. Answer that question first and then get to work!

    • Wow!! Really!! November 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

      I think your 2 cents wasn’t even worth that!! Obviously you need to go through it to understand it!! I think you should learn compassion!!

      • philiplo November 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

        What in Maudie’s post showed a lack of compassion? I read it as a straightforward presentation of the situation, with suggestions for pragmatic action. Truthfully, I thought it more helpful and to-the-point than Mr. Steurer’s response.

  • Expected November 7, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I hear so many stories about either the man or woman having an extramarital affair that I’ve come to believe it’s expected in marriages of St George couples. Supposedly it has something to do with these kids getting married right out of high school, getting bored with each other and then having a fling or two or three for some added excitement in their otherwise boring lives. Probably more commonplace in this so-called conservative berg than what people will admit.

    • So True November 7, 2013 at 8:58 am

      The guys might think it’s okay for them to have women on the side. Maybe they’re taking after former male leaders of their religion, the guys who had multiple spirit wives. Let’s hope they aren’t pursuing underage girls like those old horndogs.

    • If it isn't up to Par!! November 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

      I am amazing at the attitudes of most people if you don’t like the community that you live in you can leave you know and I don’t think with both your attitudes it would hurt if you did leave!!

      • Expected November 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm

        What’s wrong with you? Can’t accept the truth? You want to continue living in the land of Denial? Is that what the big D stands for, Denial? Oh, but you should hear the gossip in those closed circles! One would think cheating is #1 extra activity followed by gossiping about others cheating as a close second.

  • Thanks!! November 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I am not saying anything what to do or not to do but Geoff that was a great article!! And what an amazing woman she is. I hope it works and I hope that she can work out all the emotional ups and downs. I guess you have to go through something as hard as this to understand what she or he is going through!! I am not going to judge you both but I am proud of both of you for working through your struggles. WE all have them and just keep trying. I am in total agreement find a great counselor!! Chin up and keep on moving forward!! Prayers are going out to you!!

  • Great Article and Advice!! November 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Thanks Geoff for the great article. Forgiveness is the key to everything. I hope this woman and man can work through their problems. Prayers going out to them.

  • Human November 7, 2013 at 10:25 am

    She has two choices. She can either let it go and trust her husband to be true from this point on, as trust is the foundation of marriage. Or, she can’t, and will never have a good marriage. If she truly loves him, and wants to remain married, she needs to let it go. Obsessing about the past will only bring it to the forefront, and drive a wedge between them.

  • Give me a break! November 7, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Drama Queen. You enjoy the heck out of yourself over this, don’t you? You need to put on your big girl panties and get on with your life. Kick the bum out, or you leave, whichever. And just look at how much more mileage you could get out of your “big break up,” if you dump the jerk. Of course, most guys aren’t gonna go looking for something outside the home, if they are happy at home. But that is a fact you should just ignore, because it might put you in a bad light. Drama Queen indeed.

    • Anon November 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Relationships are a lot more complicated than you are making them out to be, especially when there is a marriage and love factored into the picture. You don’t get to decided what is best for this couple. You are not a part of their marriage.

    • Expected November 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      If the drama queens were such drama queens who are dramatic about even ordinary stuff, maybe the guy wouldn’t get sick of hearing the BS drama all the time and roam where there is no drama. Maybe he’s thinking “You want to talk about your drama all the time? I’ll give you some drama!” Then into another bed or two he jumps.

  • to:"give me a break"^ November 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Stop being so rude don’t open ur mouth and call her a drama queen if youre not in her shoes. Obviously you don’t know what it feels like so stop telling her like youre ms perfect, until you come with this situation, you won’t know the feeling. Remember what karma is.
    Jerk.

  • Ultimately Betrayed January 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    It’s completely obvious most of the people making comments haven’t been in a situation like this. It is, undoubtedly, the most heart wrenching pain I could imagine experiencing. Why add more negativity to it by these comments!?
    People can cheat if they’re in a happy marriage. There may be addictions that have them by the throat; that control them.
    Some people can forgive and forget quickly while others will take years to even figure out whether they should stay or leave.
    Religion, or the lack thereof, may have something to do with ones decision to cheat but that’s no reason to put down people’s religion.
    This woman needs a place to express her feelings and get support. Her husband needs to realize it’s close to D Day and do all he can to comfort her and relieve any anxiety the memory has on her.

  • lovenfear January 23, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Look every marriage goes through many different stages, I have been through this stuff and its not something a person can go through and say its I’m fine.I did not go through this once but try three times, and those are known. Its not easy…I know you guys are thinking “you should have left the first time” come on…every time a person makes a mistake..it does not mean you throw them in the trash and scope a new person to be your partner. I took so many years for me and my husband to build this marriage and no one said it was going to be easy…bliss full love..I say if you love your partner..and if he loves you like he say’s he does he will stop…and it up to you if you want to stay and see if he will change or not…I had to leave for a couple months to another state just to get my mind cleared and to think straight..and their are time when I wish I would have cheated on him just so he knows how it felt like, but I knew that was not going to solve anything. I had a lot of support from friends and families that would not choose sides but actually gave me and my husband great advice while we where miles apart. I changed my focus around, the way I see things was not the same anymore, my priority was not him and the kids, it was my children and me. I told my self that if he does not see what he was missing..it would be his loss in the end not mines. I stoped asking myself why? and realized that no matter what excuse I heard..it was not going to make me feel better. The most important thing I did…the change that helped me. more then anything …was meditation and prayer. Geeez right..it helped me be more focused on what I wanted for me and my children. After the past three years, we are still married..yes there will be..not maybe..but there will be times that you will doubt your spouse..Im not going to lie..but we are stronger..now.. then before.

    • Craig January 23, 2014 at 6:04 am

      Oh please….if your husband valued you and your marriage, he would not have dropped his pants and hopped into bed with another woman. This was not a “mistake”…it was a very deliberate act of cheating. Unfaithfulness. DISRESPECT for you, your children, his marriage, his mistress and himself. When anyone takes a cheater back, you are telling your children and the cheater it’s ok to be unfaithful because you can always “start over.” Pathetic.

  • iwillsurvive April 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    what if you asked your husband to address the problems you were having in your marriage and they said im not going to no f marriage counsling!!! then continue to have an affair/ I mean if they were unhappy about something they should tell you and in a mature honest way decide whether they want to get some help– get through a bump or end it. a decision that should be disscussed between you and him, not someone else. its not that complicated people just make it that way!! not to mention maybe him leaving would end up being the best that could happen to you and your children/ you would be FREE! free of the abuse- lies the beat downs no more harm to you and your children!!! what would you be losing anyway a friend someone whos honest someone with integrity morals? what kind of person wants to harm his or hers family?

  • Cristina July 24, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    There never is a good reason for betrayal, and if the cheater wants to really stay in the relationship and work it out, there is a lot of learning and behaviors to change from the cheater’s side. In my opinion there isn’t anyone out there with the guts to say it like it is..the cheater has to bend over backwards and convince the hurt partner beyond a shadow of doubt that he/she has of the desire and conviction to make the marriage work. Cheater must do everything possible and earn the partner’s love, respect, trust, and admiration back… Because everything dies when betrayal occurs. Verbally communicate his/her understanding of the partner’s pain, acknowledge partners good qualities on a frequent basis, acknowledge his/her stupidity and everything negative there is to acknowledge for cheating. If the hurt partner can recognize that the cheater is truly sorry and repents completely, it is a good starting point, eventhough this needs to be demonstrated and expressed freely as frequent as possible. Willingness to talk about things honestly, openly and without holding back on anything, will allow the hurt partner to feel that the cheater has CHANGED and LEARNED all the Wrong that he/she has done. Until the hurt partner doesn’t feel safe and confident that the cheater is remorseful for the bad behavior and is willing and happy to do anything to keep marriage together, and also accept the negative natural consequences for the sin, the hurt partner will not be able to move forward. The hurt partner has to forgive, obviously, but the cheater has the responsibility and the duty to do AT LEAST that much. If you chose to sin, you chose to suffer!! Unfortunately, the hurt partner will always suffer more than the cheater, no matter how much the cheater tries to undo the evil that is done.

  • keepcalm October 1, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    This is a very good article. Betrayal shakes your self esteem to the core. You can know intellectually that it is not your fault, but in the back of your mind you think, “if the person that knows me best can value me so little, what am I worth”? Sometimes a person is stuck in a marriage, unwilling to make the financial sacrifice to leave, or they have left the work force to care for children or elderly parents. I do believe that once trust is broken, it will never be whole again. If after three years you are still in so much pain, I think you need to go to individual counseling and work on yourself. Your husband’s affair shows he is selfish and had poor coping skills. It says nothing about you.

  • Still n pain November 14, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    So easy for some to condem and criticize. Am guessing most of those get over it people only have an opinion not an experience. When your heart is broken as well as your children and there is always pain and sadness then u can comment . Until then don’t be mean

  • IWIllsurvive November 19, 2014 at 7:07 am

    how about this i know the ow and her friend offered her home to them to hook up on their lunch break. then being we all kinda of hung out we went to her friends house to hangout and since i had never been there before guess who gave me the tour of the house her friend and my husband! the whole house and he acted like he had never seen it before! THIS IS ONLY A MINOR THING HE DID TO ME!!

  • Wendy October 13, 2017 at 1:34 am

    It’s been 25 years since my husband’s infidelity and the Lord has been faithful. He directed me to this professional private investigator captain spy(captainspyhacker2 AT gmail DOT com) who helped me spy on his phone just has his name implies, I was enable to spy on his phone remotely and I was so mad at him when I caught him. He was appalled when he knew I already found out his unfaithfulness to our marriage. The next morning he came to me and kneel down to apologize for his wrong doing and promise such will never repeat itself. Needless to say, the pain was unbearable, but the Lord carried me and spoke gently to me. The first whisper to me from the Holy Spirit was a question, “do you love him (referring to my husband)? Initially I could only answer with a heavy sigh until He asked a third time and I responded, “yes.” From that time forward the Lord promised that he would do a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19). The Lord relocated us to a new state and we struggled through the pain together with the Lord as the three-fold cord that brought healing and newness of life to our relationship. I had to position myself to hear and to obey God’s voice and to ignore my flesh that cried out for revenge.Since . It was difficult to shut out the worldly counsel and the other voices. I look back and marvel at His amazing grace and m

  • Michael November 28, 2017 at 3:25 am

    If you doubts partner, I will advice you to Contact a Private Investigator to help you find out what your partner is up to. I have once found myself in this situation so I contact cyber hack on his gmail … he helped me get her phone records such as deleted text messages and social media logins (Whatsapp,facebook,snapchat,instagram etc). He also helped me monitor her computer usage. He sometimes use hidden audio and video devices. A private investigator will get the truth quick. … I’m positive he won’t disappoint you.
    Ed. ellipses.

  • Stephanie Humphrey June 21, 2018 at 5:58 am

    Help me say a very Big Thank you to ( dr_mack@ yahoo. com ) for helping me cast a love Spell that return back my husband to me and save my marriage, if you need his help search is name on net and contact him he is a great love spell caster ,

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