affair recoveryLast week I was corresponding with one of our mentoring clients via email about how she is continuing to struggle with her husband’s affair even though it’s been over a year since she discovered it.  She also made the comment that she feels her affair recovery isn’t progressing and it is actually regressing in many ways.  She continues to feel angry, depressed, negative about herself, and pressured not to feel this way because she’s supposed to be responsible, responsive and moving on.  

In a word..She feels STUCK.  It’s like being lost at sea and it’s a completely normal feeling.

This is always a very tough situation and one that I’m somewhat familiar with.  It really makes you question everything that has happened and what you are doing – or not doing. I imagine that if you are a betrayed spouse you may have felt the same way at some point.

So I thought I’d write a brief post about this and share just a few of the things I’ve learned when I was face-to-face with feeling like my affair recovery was regressing.

Affair recovery not progressing?  Here are some things to think about…

Healing relative to grieving. In my opinion, recovering from infidelity is a process that follows very closely to the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance ).  So, whatever stage of grieving you are in, you are in fact healing, and thus progressing.  It may not look or feel that way but you are.  You can even argue that if you feel that you are not healing, that is part of healing.  Make sense?

You may be progressing much better than you think you are.  After suffering such a trauma, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to be objective about your recovery process and to really tell if things are getting better or worse. 

I felt stuck several months ago and decided to seek the help of a therapist.  He had the benefit of being on the outside looking in and felt that I was actually progressing nicely and that I needed to not be so hard on myself.

Being aware enough to feel that you might be regressing can actually be a good thing.  It’s telling you that you are not – and will not – simply discard your feelings of grief by sweeping them under the rug.  By being aware of these feelings you can better get in touch with them and you can better address them.

Healing does not follow a straight path.  Healing is not a systematic step-by-step process where you follow a pre-defined path and each day gets progressively better. During the healing process you will often take two steps forward and one step back.  But you know what?  You’re still moving forward.  

Much like a person who is recuperating from surgery or illness, the healing can be more painful than the injury itself.  Accept it and know that healing allows for greater strength.

Be kind to yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up about feeling that you should be progressing – or you should be doing this, or you should be doing that.  Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to process those negative feelings that you are having.  If you can find a way to accept those feelings without judgment, you will soon find that much of the pain will start to fade.

Along those same lines, it’s OK to have those feelings of being angry, depressed, negative, etc.  How do you know you’re not supposed to feel these things?   You must make your well-being a top priority while at the same time not feel guilty about it.  Let the healing process progress in the way that it needs to without getting in your own way.  You do that by allowing your feelings to just be while allowing your healing process to progress in the time and way that it needs to.

I hope this post makes sense to you and provides you with some helpful tips.  If you would like to add any of your own thoughts about progressing or regressing with respect to affair recovery, please do so in the comment section below.

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    24 replies to "Affair Recovery – Progressing or Regressing?"

    • ataloss

      What a “Just in Time” article. This is exactly how I have been feeling. Just STUCK! This has been frustrating for me, as I feel that I should be further along than I am. I think part of my stuck-ness has been that H and I have already talked about EA early on and I got my questions answered, but now I want to talk about it again. Not the details, but the why, how did this happen, what has changed. And H is not willing to keep talking. He feels that we are doing great and I just want to keep reminding him of it. Not sure how to get past this, but it does help knowing that this is a normal stage in the process.
      Thanks so much for this site and all of the support it offers.

    • tryinghard

      My son’s impending divorce has been a huge trigger for me as my DIL started an affair at the same time H started his. They reconciled until this year and now they have a child to consider in this break up. I hear my son tell me her complaints and I am convinced she is having an affair again. If not full blown at the very least an EA. She is re-writing their history. Finding lame excuses for her decision to move out of their home, across state lines and worst of all leaving her 3 year old son. I was telling my H last night the conversation my son and I had with regards to his conversation with her yesterday. I told him she was rewriting their history out of guilt and justification. I explained to him that I had read too many blogs, books and articles on relationship problems to know this is what she’s doing. I asked him if he rewrote our history in order to justify his affair. I asked him if he vilified me because I was the one that stood between him and his happiness with the OW. He answered “probably”. That is his way of saying yes without sounding too awful. ULK sent me back last night. But he also held me and told me how wrong and sorry he was too. So thankfully I washed my “big girl pants” because I had to put them back on and deal with the trigger! I leaned into it and accepted that I had been dealt a shitty hand and the person that did it loves me more than ever and is sorry for it. What more can I ask for? Today is better so I guess I am learning to battle those triggers in a positive way. I’ll get there, I have too.

      • exercisegrace

        Good for you! This is such a huge step of healing. To be able to see a beloved child dealing with the very situation that tore your life apart, and YET……be able to offer support and advice. Too be able discuss it with your husband. To be able to hear an honest, yet difficult truth. To be able to keep on. Progress! Healing!

    • Paula

      Doug, thank you for posting this. I think one of the things that stands out to me from this post, is that this is a lifetime thing. I know I knew that the night I found out about my love’s affair, but I didn’t really understand fully what that “looked” like. I guess I hoped healing would look quite different, and be more complete. I am just shy of four years into this journey, and I still struggle with much, on a hourly basis, that said, there is more calm, and a hell of a lot more understanding of the human condition. I like my solitude now, whereas I felt incredibly lonely in the early and middle parts of this awful trip. I like who I have become, to a degree, although I do battle hard with some residual bitterness at times! I liked who I was before, the naively trusting, giving, giving, giving sweetheart! But, infidelity NEVER goes away, it never leaves my mind, mostly the conscious mind, but also the sub-conscious. I have had SO much professional help, intermittently, over these four incredibly painful years, and acceptance is very hard, the most difficult element for me to have achieved, to “accept” that the person I gave my all to, loved completely, utterly and without any reservations, for more than two decades, didn’t reciprocate in the same way, for those fifteen months (when I didn’t have a clue about any of his “issues” or the affair itself, he was the epitome of the loving, patient partner and father, he always had been) and to try to understand, FOR REAL (I knew it in my head, but struggled to feel it in my heart) that it is not anything I lacked, or did wrong, or the way I looked, or took care of our family, or the long hours I worked. or……… We are still in some kind of limbo, we separated again a few months ago, but remain very, very close, and spend quite a lot of time together, daily. I don’t know if I am lucky, or cursed in this respect, lol! We love each other so very, very much, but have not found a way to properly be together without my pain being such a huge burden. His, too. His pain is tangible, I see it, I feel it. His deep shame, and constant hard work to “be a better man” has been courageous and awe-inspiring, but it has not been enough for me to find any peace. I am trying a slightly different approach these days, with the help of ACT therapy, I now understand that I have been fighting with my own feelings, and living an exhausted life, berating myself for “not being forgiving enough” whereas now I accept the bad stuff, and don’t try to fight it, and push it away, it is who I am now, part of my story, but learning to try to make room for some “good” is the aim now, and I am getting slowly slightly better at that 🙂

      I think everyone on this path to recovery needs to understand that getting stuck is something that will continue to happen, for years, but that it is cyclical, and it does pass. And you are so VERY right in your comparison about healing and grief. After all, grief is the human way of working towards healing. Thanks again, Doug and Linda.

      • SamIam

        “living an exhausted life” ~~ I like that description. I am exhausted by all of this….trying to find our way back, trying to settle into this “new marriage”, trying to hold back the pain, trying to smile when he is funny , when he is nice, when he is attentive and not let him know that nearly every positive emotion feels forced right now. The anger is so near the surface and I need to constantly hold it in check. It is not longer anger at him (unless he does something thoughtless) but anger at the situation. I am exhausted! I think I am still grieving what was once such an easy-going marriage.

        • ataloss

          Samlam, you have articulated it perfectly! I feel that the anger and pain are so close to the surface ALL the time. And I agree, that I am not usually angry AT my H. I am angry that I am having to go through this at all! I do not deserve this. I am angry that he is “over it.” I am most certainly NOT over it! I am angry that every time we walk into a restaurant, go to the ball park, the store etc. the first thing I do is scan the room/area to see if she is there. It is exhausting!

      • Doug

        Thanks for sharing Paula. I hope that you can find your way out of limbo very soon and can manage to overcome the pain you feel. You deserve it. BTW…The credit for the post should be Linda’s, not mine. (I just forgot to check her name as the author when I put it in the system) 😉

        • Paula

          Doug, you made me laugh, thanks! Good ole Linda! Thank you sweets.

          I appreciate your thoughts. I have avoided (finally!) dwelling on sites such as this for quite some time, this was very helpful for ages, but then had me trapped, like the addiction of an affair, I’m sure, so needed to live without it.

          For what it is worth, much as I have huge empathy for those dealing with incredibly painful EAs, thank goodness they were “just” that, and didn’t progress to/include sexual affairs. I believe the trauma involved with dealing – as a one-man-only-ever girl, despite growing up in a very open world, and being very accepting of people’s choice to have fun and sex – with the imagery and two (one of them ongoing) STIs, has been the most difficult thing for myself.

          Hang in there everyone, you are good people!

          Over and out again 🙂

    • Strengthrequired

      Sometimes I think I am doing ok, then I find myself grieving again. I find myself grieving the way I believed and trusted my h prior to his ea. My h tells me all then right things, yet I hesitate in believing what he says to be true.
      I want to but can’t, my mind becomes so over crowded with all we have been through, all what he had told me while in his fog, that I struggle moving forward.
      I know time heals all wounds but I want ti to hurry up.
      It is exhausting.

    • CBB

      Thank u for reminding us it’s normal and OK to get stuck or fall back sometimes. Just recently I replied to tell how we were reconnecting so well. And then just this WE I got information telling me I was up for 3 events with the OW in the next month. Wat a trigger for anxiety!! It was like being thrown back into hell. The nightmares, it all came back so brutally. Today is a better one.
      We are progressing alright. But the feeling of being stuck with a lifetime of confrontations with this OW sometimes makes me want to quit..
      She is a ‘bunny boiling’ coworker and part of most of our social events. It’s not even my H she’s interested in, it’ in the game and the power over him ( and every other man) and her anger of me standing in the way. Every time I manage to show up confident it’s like she needs to take revenge at my H at work .

    • Healingperson

      Reading these comments is if I am looking into a mirror of what my life has become. One day I am strong and confident, the next I am weeping and hiding my emotions. Why do we feel as though now we need to be perfect, in every way, and all of the time!

      • Strengthrequired

        Healingperson, we feel we need to be the perfect person in every way, because we are wounded, our hearts were broken and we feel as though we need our self esteem raised, and if we feel as though we are doing enough to keep our families together, then we failed again. We already felt worthless after counting on our spouses to never hurt us, as we took our vows seriously. We have been with our spouses since a young age, and have grown up, raised kids, seen each others ups and downs, but still stood by honourably, we thought our spouses felt the same, until we were shown other wise.
        So we see how our spouses treated the ow, how our h thought the ow was so wonderful, could do no wrong. They were stroking our h egos and made us look like disgusting wives that don’t deserve our h.
        So we go into fight mode, protect mode, defend mode, we feel as though we now need to be perfect, it makes us feel better within ourselves, because who did we have to count on while our h weren’t there for us? Ourselves.
        We also had to prove and show to our h, that they lose the best thing that has ever happened to them, if they choose the ow, we needed to show them that it wasn’t them being with us that was a mistake it is being with the ow that was.
        That’s why we need to be perfect, even though all we needed to be was the person our h fell in love with all those years ago.

    • forcryin'outloud

      This post is on the money. It’s been 2yrs. 10 mos. on this journey I would never wish on anyone. I’ve vacillated six ways to Sunday and back again. But at the end of March I was fed up. Therapy, books, conversations, arguments, websites, etc. and I was still stuck. I decided beginning in April I wasn’t going to let this freakin’ nightmare ruminate in my head everyday. If I had a moment I would journal it, txt it to myself, make a note whatever and then move on. I wasn’t going to bring it up with my H because he is stuck in shame and guilt and I can’t help him. He WANTS to carry that cross…he (metaphorically) self flagellates by not forgiving himself. Or sometimes I wonder if that’s how he keeps himself in check. – getting off topic-
      So, since April 1 I have been practicing this form of “cerebral therapy” with my thoughts and not letting them control me. I can say it has helped tremendously. I have rapidly moved into acceptance mode, literally it felt like overnight.
      I am coming to terms with being “one of those” couples, living with something I thought would send me packing, our marriage is forever changed, 100% trust will never return, and realized there are no absolutes in relationships.
      As my centenarian grandmother says, “It takes a heap of living to make a life” and “the longer I live the more questions I have for God.”

      • Tryinghard

        FCOL
        We must be on the same path. Me too. I made up my mind that I am sick of being consumed with affair thoughts. I haven’t even used my GPS for a month now. I wasn’t using it everyday but now not at all. I decided to give up. He’s responsible for himself. He wants to lie and act like a fool that is his problem. He is treating me so good and working his ass off for me and our business. Now this not to say I don’t have my moment but exponentially better. I do still love this blog and all of you here. So I check in frequently. I can’t quit you ea blog 🙂

        • forcryin'outloud

          Th, I too find a great deal of solace and kinship here. It gives me the oxygen to breathe in this new space I have been placed.
          Hugs to you and here’s to our journey forward…all of us.

    • Gizfield

      I can’t quit you, but I can sure put you down for a while, lol.

    • csb

      Such a great post. I’m going on a little over 1 1/2 yrs since D-Day. Everything I’ve read says give it two years to recover from the EA, so I continually beat myself up that I’m not closer to being there than I am. You’re right, heap that “guilt at not being better” on top of the feeling of inadequacy, betrayal, etc. and you really end up a mess.

      I’ve definitely gotten better, but don’t want to spend the rest of my life like this. I want to be happy, feel loved & cherished, and not live each day worrying it will happen again (or is still going on).

      • SamIam

        Keep in mind that some books say 2 years and some say 5 years…I, personally was hoping for the 2 yr time frame but I am at 29 months! I have more good days than bad, I no longer cry every day, or have panic attacks…..but I still have triggers. The plus side…I get over the triggers faster. 🙂

    • Strengthrequired

      Csb, exactly how I feel. It’s tiring. It’s degrading knowing your h has cheated on you, you feel worthless.
      I sit here trying not to wonder if it is still going on, sometimes it gets so annoying, that I think it’s better to just walk away. Then I look at the things he is doing, the changes in his behaviour, his appearance ( before he had to look his best, now he as put on weight, doesn’t shave as often, and his hair isn’t taken care of as much). So I guess I take these as him not seeing her, well not trying to impress anyone anyway. So I’m holding onto that.

    • Strengthrequired

      Ohhh my happy days, well almost happy days anyway.
      Cousin it is movingout of the apartment my h leased for her and her family. Yay, one part of the headache almost over and done with. She moves out at the end of the month, I look forward to that day, one step closer. That was one thing I could not stand my h doing for her, i will be relieved when it is finally done. A huge sigh of relief when it is, maybe even a party.

      • Tryinghard

        SR
        Yay is right. I’m happy for you. Hopefully she’s moving far away.

    • Strengthrequired

      TH, I would love it if she moved os to her family, lol. Yet I highly doubt that will happen.
      I’m hoping and praying my h doesn’t help her move or if she sends him her new details that he doesn’t keep them. He has promised me, he won’t keep anything if she does and is not helping her move, he hasn’t helped her find a place, it’s all her doing.
      What I’m hoping is that she has finally realized that my h doesn’t want her and is finally accepting it. Fx…… Hopefully she has found someone new, to try and suck the life out of, only hope that person isn’t attached already, would feel terrible for what the next woman will go through. Having been there done that, and still recovering. Arghhhhh. In all honesty, I do hope she finds someone that isn’t attached and steers clear of my h.
      I’m hoping her friends have finally convinced her that she needs to move on and find someone new or go back to her h, because my h isnt worth waiting for. If she had any good friends they would tell her how wrong it was, and really tell her how it is. Here’s hoping fx.

    • Primadonr

      I am so glad this topic was brought up. Some days I feel like I’m going crazy. It’s been 19 months and I can still feel the pain. Not like it happened yesterday, but still only a trigger away. My husband had a two month EA at work, thousands of texts, hundreds of calls. They worked 10 hrs a day together in a tiny office seperated only by about 2 ft. No one in the office, but them. I thank God there were cameras watching at all times, so nothing more in the office other than verbal occurred. None the less it has been one horrific roller coaster ride. We had been married 25yrs at the time the EA occurred. I only found out through having to check our phone bill via the companys web-site…. I was shocked. I literally had no clue. My husband never acted any differently towards me during the time he was involved. The shock to me, is this gentle, who I thought respectable, caring man, was not the man I knew anymore. The first few weeks after disclosure, my H acted as though he was standing beside me and doing whatever he could on his part to save our marriage. In reality, his alliance was with the OW. No longer in an EA, but protecting her, her job, etc…. It took MANY months to hear the full EA story, and have to say, still not sure I know it all. I think my progressing and regressing, stems from the fact my H didn’t commit to his part in doing the work needed to help us, right away. I can say, for at least 15 months he has been doing whatever it takes to help us heal. He is totally transparent, he is caring and communicates as best as he could. He understands the damage done and regrets everything that he did. But because as I said, he hadn’t done that right away, my trust level is low. My self esteem still suffering. Each day is a battle with myself wondering if I should continue in this marriage. I can forgive the cheating, I cannot forgive when he was caught, and his marriage ending flashed before his eyes, that he didn’t get scared and do whatever it took , immediately to save his marriage. I was so hurt, sick, mentally distraught, that I couldn’t function on any level. I lost 20lbs in 2 weeks (which I couldn’t afford to lose), I was in such a depressed state. I saw my Dr. who said I was suffering from PTSS. Yet, my husband whom I loved and trusted for 33yrs, couldn’t, wouldn’t see what was happening. So again, because I can’t shake those beginning weeks, I suffer back and forth in my recovery.

      • tryinghard

        Prim
        It’s called fear. I’m at the same point in time you are. The anger is mostly gone the sadness comes and goes. I’m a better person now. I’m still alive and well. Fear was eating me up and I’ve had to take on the I Don’t Care attitude. That is how I am surviving. We hurt because we care so much so I am giving it up. We hurt for them because they were used and they also used the other person for their own selfish reasons. He didn’t care enough to give me the respect I deserved and now if he chooses to make bad choices, I Don’t Care. It’s HIS responsibility. He knows the boundaries. I will find out if he breaks them. Maybe not right away but I will know this time. I too look at my H and wonder if I really know him, if I have ever really known him. That is still an enigma for me. My life is weird now. That’s all I can say about it. Not bad, not good (well good compared to many and certainly better than the OW).

        I too still have triggers and I’ve accepted them as my friend. They tell me “be careful, don’t trust, don’t allow anyone to hurt you, don’t EVER be stupid again!”. I can’t change a damn thing from the past, I can only live for today and make my decisions day by day, and that’s ok. Good Luck to you.

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