Elaine has grown accustomed to operating on little or no sleep. She knows it’s bad for her health and makes her much less effective at work (and in everything else she does), but she is at a loss for what to do about it. The reason why Elaine can’t get a good night’s sleep is because, from the moment she lays her head on her pillow, her mind runs wild with worry.
She can’t get away from the thoughts and images in her head of her husband Paul having another emotional affair. It was 2 years ago that Elaine discovered that Paul’s friendship with a woman he went to college with was something more. She will never forget the sick feeling in her stomach after she turned on the laptop and read one of their email exchanges after Paul forgot to log off.
She confronted him immediately and, ever since that day, he’s been trying to prove to her that he’s sorry and he’s changed.
Even with the proof Paul repeatedly shows her, Elaine still can’t shake the anxiety. She can’t believe that he betrayed her and she’s finding it impossible to trust him again.
When you’re unable to sleep, focus or otherwise live your life the way you want to, it might be because you’re nervous and anxious too. Just like Elaine, if your partner had an affair, there’s a part of you – maybe a large part of you – that’s having a hard time trusting again.
You can’t move beyond the emotional pain, fear and constant suspicion. All of this puts a strain on you and on your relationship too. It’s exhausting to be anxious so much of the time!
When you can’t get past questions like, “Is it safe to trust him again?” or “Will it ever be safe to trust her?” and “Will our relationship ever be the way it used to be?” you can’t just ignore how you feel.
The anxiety takes over.
In times like these, your job is to take extra special care of yourself. Mistrust and fear won’t just go away on their own. You’ve got to tend to how you feel so that you can be clear to know whether it truly is smart for you to trust your partner again. We recommend that anyone who is overwhelmed, anxious and unable to trust again after an affair take conscious steps to heal.
Use these 5 strategies when your suspicions and mistrust take over…
You aren’t going to experience relief from anxiety if you keep reacting to it in the same way. The sooner you interrupt the upsetting thought you’re having, the sooner you’ll feel better. An interruption might be to get up out of bed and get a glass of water. It could be to simply take a deep breath and repeat a soothing word like “peace” to yourself for a few minutes.
The interruption isn’t a cure-all for the questions you have, but it allows you to see more clearly and find a next step that’s better for you.
2. Focus on the feeling
Buddhist nun Pema Chodron teaches us to “focus on the feeling” when anxiety arises. Instead of repeating to yourself a thought like, “What if he cheats again?” or “How will I ever know she’s telling me the truth?” re-direct your attention to how you are feeling. Keep it simple and identify whether your are afraid, uncertain, angry or whatever emotions have come up for you.
3. Make completions
Meaningful and symbolic actions are powerful tools to help you move out of the past and return to the present moment. Get creative and think about what would help you make some sort of peace with your partner’s emotional affair and let it go. Some people burn old letters in a fire pit and others create art to represent how they feel. The opportunity here is to make a completion so that you can be in the here and now.
4. Support ease
Each and every day, provide yourself with loving self-care and a foundation of support. Promote your own well-being by tending to your emotional, mental and physical needs instead of brushing them off because you’re “too busy” or “can’t take time for that now.”
Self-care is crucial to healing.
5. Actively rebuild trust
If you don’t already have in place agreements with your partner that are aimed at rebuilding trust, sit down and create some soon. Agreements that work are doable, ones you both agree to (and are not threats or ultimatums) and are tangible. When you can see signs of proof that your partner IS following through on promises and that the two of you are working together for the good of your relationship, it helps immensely.
The next time you feel anxious, you can remind yourself of the strides you both have made and open up to a sense of hope that you’re on the track to re-connection.
Communicating effectively is so important as trust rebuilds after an emotional affair. Find out which words and phrases to include in conversations and which to stop saying in this free video relationship coaches Susie and Otto Collins.