I share a little of my experience with Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder.

post infidelity stress disorder

By Sarah P.

In my 20’s, I had experienced something emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually devastating.

In the blink of an eye, I had lost the love of my life, lost my house and found out I had a very dangerous STD.  I had no idea the love of my life, was sharing our bed with a woman I did not know existed. They hid their affair while I was working long hours. 

Since they did not leave any clues while I worked, and since my fiancé and I had a very active physical life, I would not have guessed there was someone else in my bed. 

Like Goldilocks, she was laying in my bed and eating my food, while I was away from my home. 

For 12 hours each day, I was at my corporate job with a small team of people working on engineering and launching 3G cellphone technology in the United States. 

When I came home each night, everything felt normal. I was excited that we would be married and excited about my project at work. The world seemed very bright and happy from my perspective. 

 

I only found out something was really wrong after my fiancé became brutally violent and when the doctor told me I had a sexually transmitted form of cervical cancer. 

Even worse, I found out my fiancé’s violence had been planned. He knew I would leave our home IF he beat me to a pulp. And so he did. 

It turned out the other woman also wanted my home and my fiancé knew violence was one of my deal-breakers. 

See also  An Affair Hits Close to Home

The other woman didn’t just want my fiancé, she also wanted the house, which I had purchased with my savings. She wanted my entire life and she felt entitled to it. She would stop at nothing to “win” and my fiancé was stupid enough to follow the “new shiny thing.”

Stop Secretly Believing the Grass Was Greener…

When I found out the truth, I collapsed. 

I was so devastated; I didn’t have the energy to fight for my rights. I was also being treated for cervical cancer. 

My ex and the other woman never suffered consequences for what they had done.  I did not have the strength to stand up for myself so they lived in the house until it was sold. 

Meanwhile I was living with my parents and commuting two hours a day. The repercussions of this experience were enormous.   

Getting treated for cancer is no small thing.  My mind and body were so overwhelmed that there were times my body would refuse food and water. My body was wasting away. 

I had never experienced panic attacks, so it was frightening when I would wake from sleep, shaking, sweating and vomiting. 

There were times when I wanted to sleep but could not. I wanted to sleep well to get some mental reprieve from the horror I was living. But sleep was an elusive friend. 

I had triggers constantly. 

I could find no mental peace. 

My sadness dragged me to the darkest mental depths.

There were days I could not get out of bed. 

Little did I know I was suffering from Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder. 

Why Triggers Are So Hard and Why They Should Never be Minimized

Why is Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder Different from PTSD?

“So, what exactly is Post Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD)?  It is not an actual diagnosis, however, post-discovery of an affair, the reactions often parallel those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In PTSD, one of the required criteria is that the person is exposed to death, the threat of death, threatened serious injury or actual/threatened sexual trauma through a number of different means.   In an affair, while the threat may not have been to one’s physical life, it certainly was an attack and threat against the emotional wellbeing of the individual leading to a loss of emotional safety and security.  The person that you trusted the most and expected to protect and care for you was the person that hurt you, leaving you in a state of incomprehension and, as a result, likely leading to a number of reactions.

See also  Our Interview with Joyce Smith, MA, MFT (Audio Discussion)

Signs of intrusion can encompass flashbacks, nightmares, and obsessions.  It occurs as a result of images (mental or experienced) associated with the betrayal.  Things that you didn’t give a second thought to before the affair become sources of pain.  You can be watching a TV show, listening to a song, having a seemingly ‘normal conversation’, and even seeing ordinary objects and all of a sudden, a flood of intrusive thoughts, memories, and flashbacks come barging in which can leave you holding your breath, tearing up, “breaking down” and starting to obsess.  You become someone unrecognizable to yourself, which may be part of the reason you feel “crazy.”  Betrayed partners find themselves obsessing over every detail, perhaps developing fixations on details that don’t quite add up, in order to reconstruct the truth.  You likely feel out of control and feeling like you can’t get away from the overwhelming thoughts and feelings.”

(Source: Perspectives Counseling)

If any of this feels true to you, the good news is, there is help. The good news is that life goes on. 

I will be writing more about this, so stay tuned. 

In the meantime, if you feel that you’ve experienced the same type of thing, please share in the comment section below.


Sarah has dedicated her professional life to providing the resources necessary for you to heal from infidelity. She is also very dedicated to mentoring other betrayed spouses, mentoring couples in crisis, leading self-help groups at Emotional Affair Journey, and writing programs for betrayed spouses.

In short, Sarah has dedicated her professional life to creating healing resources, to being an anchor to other betrayed spouses, and to being a light which metaphorically guides betrayed spouses out of the darkness.

See also  Affair Recovery and My First Experience With a Therapist

You do not need to be in pain any longer. Reach out to Sarah to inquire about mentoring sessions and learn more about how Sarah can change your life and transform your marriage.

    6 replies to "All About Post Infidelity Stress Disorder"

    • Connie

      I suffer from triggers and anxiety often, most times daily. It’s hard to function on those days. I ended up quitting my job and retiring early because I could function well at work with all the triggers. My spouses affair happened years ago but we never dealt with it, just kept sweeping it under the rug and just existing co dependently for years. After the death of my father and my brother within 4 days of each other, and coming to terms with the loss the floodgates of pain and memories came pouring out. I cried constantly for days on end. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I was so anxious, I vomited even when trying to hold down water. When I approached my spouse with the fact that we needed to “deal and heal” from the mess he created, he told me to “get over it” to “move on” with my life and “stop living in the past” and “forget about it” because both he and his AP have! So I’ve been trying to deal with it on my own. I’ve sought counseling and have read many books, and on line podcasts, but the pain is still there, the triggers still happen, the bad hurtful memories still consume me. Obsessive thoughts ruin my days. I want us to heal together, but I want us to move out of our home (because he brought his AP into our home, into our bedroom, into our bed, into our marriage), and I don’t think we’ll recover and heal in a healthy manner if we stay there, but he is dragging his feet because he says we are too old to move now and start over someplace else. I’m not sure what to do anymore, Should I just move on without him or give him another 2nd chance to follow through on his promises he made about working to save our marriage. It seems so much harder now with each passing day.

    • Nearly Normal

      Connie, I know your pain. Almost all the things you say happened between my wayward spouse and me. I will leave helpful advice for wiser heads than mine. Just know that many of us have felt the same kind of pain. You can get thru this. Hang in there and believe it can get better.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi Connie and Nearly Normal,

      I am so sorry to hear what you have been through can relate to what you have said.

      Connie, it’s a good idea to follow through on selling your home and even think about getting a new bed.
      Minimizing the triggers that you CAN control is essential.

      With Post Infidelity Stress Disorder, symptoms often persist until a person receives full closure.

      If you can go to your spouse and explain that you need closure to move on, and then describe WHAT you need to find closure, sometimes wayward spouses will help.

      As Nearly Normal says, it does get better.

      Blessings,
      Sarah 🙏

    • Lynsey

      I read this post last week and thought to myself that it’s been a long time since a PTSD attack. Well today, here it is. This is the backstory: My H & I have friends who are politically opposite from us but we agree to disagree or so I thought. The neighbor forwarded some articles to us that my H didn’t agree with. My H responded with a very cruel, nasty email and signed my name to it along with his without my knowledge. Here’s where the PTSD enters: any time my H was having an affair he did mean, cruel and very odd things (like shooting out our across the street neighbors nighttime floodlights out as well as being nasty to me) D-day was 10 years ago but now I’m afraid that he may well enter into the affair with his whore again. Yes, same whore as that what transpired off & on over the years of our marriage. No proof of that yet, but this meanness (the email to neighbors) brought back all those old scared feelings. I haven’t brought it up with H because it will just be more gaslighting and “I’m too sensitive” Note that after d-day, I never really got the answers or apology that I needed. Anyway, just needed to vent my feelings here.

      • Nearly Normal

        Lynsey,

        isn’t that the way! DDay was over 20 years ago for me, and my CPTSD attacks are almost entirely under control. But now and then one pops up. The feelings feel fresh and new like no time passed. I also never really go the answers or apology that i needed either from my WW.

        Anyway, nice to vent. Hope you have close friends you can vent with. This is nice, but supportive friends are even better.

    • Life Simplified

      This is a long one. Maybe just read if you’re bored. I have a lot of trauma from feeling rejected by every man and from both my x husband and my current husband who both had multiple affairs. I am “The ‘poster child’ for who NOT to be faithful to”. Big picture of me. Right there on the poster.

      Tomorrow is my 20 year anniversary with my current, unfaithful husband.

      I found out that our marriage was a lie the day before I gave birth to our daughter. We had been married for a little over 2 years when she was born. I had two daughters of my own, ages 12 and 5 already, and was dreading the difficulty of being a single mom again, with a newborn.

      He had moved with a military assignment and had gone ahead of me by a couple of months while I stayed behind to wrap up renting out the house I had recently had built that we had lived in for a year together. My girls were in school so we were waiting until Christmas break to move and switch schools. I was leaving my family and my home behind but was no stranger to moving with the military as I was born a military BRAT.

      He had placed ads online prior to moving to the new location to meet other women when he got there. I do not know to this day if, and how many women he met. He had also been having an affair that started 9 months after our wedding. The affair started on the TDY assignment and continued on for a year and five months, long distance, when she finally met someone else and broke it off with him.

      So all of this came raining down on my head the day before labor and delivery. I was shattered. Labor and delivery was not fun. He was beyond excited about his daughter being born. But I was completely devastated processing all of this in my head through every contraction and every push. I had confronted him the night before when I found out, so although we did not tell the hospital staff what we were dealing with, I gave our daughter my maiden name because I had decided to leave him and did not want the trouble of proving custody of my child when she started daucare or school with a different last name than me. Although then I realized the military just shipped all of my worldly belongings to the new location, my house had been rented out where we came from so I would have to live with my parents if I went back, and I had just co signed on another house purchase with him at the new location. So things were very complicated.

      Our daughter was born with jaundice and was sent home with a wallabie blanket with extra necessary visits to her pediatrician. I couldnt move her just then. There was also no way I could afford to ship my belongings back to where I came from, and I did not have a home to move back into, or a job or income with a newborn and two other young children. So I stayed with him and I hated him for at least a year after the birth of our daughter.

      He was a good dad to her and and excellent help for me as well. I got a job and started when she was six weeks old. We went on with life and I guess I just ignored as much as I could. It was rocky but we had some good days. I definitely did not trust him. We went to couseling where the counselor made up excuses for him. It was not helpful.

      I do not know if he ever stopped cheating or placing ads online. I feel like he might have just got better at hiding it. Eight years later he had another confirmed affair with his cousin’s best friend. I had stayed home to take care of the house and dogs when he went to his grandfather’s 90th birthday party seven hours away. We could not afford to board the dogs so that both of us could go, but I felt like he should see his grandfather.

      He was head over heels in love with this new girl after spending three days with her in front of his family and our 8 year old daughter. He planned to spend the rest of his life with her. The years that I had spent with him meant nothing to him. Photos of my husband in a hot tub with the girl 12 years younger than him practically on his lap and our daughter in the hot tub sitting in front of them were on his computer. She sent him numerous photos and even used his cousin to call him on our daughter’s birthday and talk to him while I was walking right next to him at the zoo. (before I knew about the affair…but I thought he was talking to his cousin the whole time). He told me that while he was visiting for his grandfather’s birthday, they had all rented a large lake house. He waited at night until our daughter and others went to bed to go meet up with her (and screw her), but he only admitted to putting his arm around her while watching t.v. on the couch. Sorry, but you dont send hundreds of google messages to someone daily with the content that I read if all you did was put your arm around the girl.

      They started the messages at 4 a.m. every day and continued throughout the workday, and then literally did it behind my back after he got home from work while I was working from home on night shift. He gave her the same nickname that he used with me. He set up his computer at the dining room table so he could see if I got up from my desk in time to close his laptop. I thought his behavior was odd. Every time I moved, he closed the computer.

      I found out about the affair about 10 days after he returned from his trip. I just opened his computer after a night of his odd behavior while I had been working. He had gone to bed. I managed to copy thousands of messages between him and his new girlfriend onto a word document while crying and really in a rage. But I knew I needed evidence due to past experiences. Then when I finished copying, I lost my ever loving mind, woke him up, confronted him, threw him out, put his belongings on the front porch, emailed their entire chat history to his cousin who was the girl’s best friend, and then I was called a liar and a nut case when he denied it all, and his cousin refused to open the email with the evidence and instead joined him in calling me a nut case and a liar. His father sent me a message about how this girl was more believable than me, and had more right to be in the family than I did because she was the cousin’s best friend and was like a sister to the cousin. Never mind I had been married to him for 11 years. And the girl was denying everything right along with my husband when I had the proof in writing of their messages. He was even getting ready to buy a plane ticket to go visit her in the next couple of months, and they were coordinating time off together.

      I also had the pleasure of a police officer calling me after I threw him out to threaten me with destruction of property and illegal eviction because I put his belongings on the front porch (under cover from elements and protected). We were renting at the time and I had paid the rent payment solely myself via my separate account along with 80% of the bills. He never contributed to housing expenses. Apparently the only legal thing you can do when you discover something as traumatic as this, is leave your own house and let the cheater have everything. Otherwise the police come after YOU.

      So I decided to leave. Before I did he arranged marriage counseling with someone who taught us effective ways to have a conversation with each other. We went to several sessions before I left since I was waiting on the girls to finish out their school year. I moved six hours away from him. I moved to where I did not know anybody. He decided to end his affair with the girl (he told her on the phone in front of me….why would he do that if the affair never happened like they claimed?) and she went back to her x boyfriend within a few weeks after my husband ended it with her.. She married her boyfriend, then checked herself into a mental institution within about a year, divorced him, (had my husband stayed with her and thrown us all away. It likely would have been him she was divorcing), ditched all of her friends, and hooked up with another guy and had a baby.

      My husband took a job a little closer to me and moved. He was four hours from me and worked 4 x 10 hour shifts, and spent the weekends with us to see our daughter and try to work out things with me. Again, I hated him for a long time. He only ever admitted to “talking to” the girl his was having the affair with when we were in marriage couseling, or to anyone else he talked to. No accountability. No ownership. No acknowledgement to anyone that I was in fact NOT crazy. He still kept his self image clean.

      About four years after the affair ended, the cousin had a falling out with her BFF/ the girl my husband had the affair with and decided it was finally time to open the email I had sent her with the affair proof. I guess she was looking for the truth about her bff at that point. She contacted me to “humbly apologize” for calling me a liar and a nut case, and treating me the way that she had after she read the proof. It did nothing for me. I have no use for her in my life. I forgave her but have never spoken with her since. And neither has my husband. Probably out of embarrassment for his lie and for throwing me under the bus to save himself. If he is even capable of embarrassment. None of his other family members have ever spoken to me since the affair, nor I to them. There have been no other apologies.

      After a year of working 4 hours from me and visiting on weekends, my husband had the opportunity to get a military assignment 2 hours from where I was living. He asked me if I would move there, move back in with him, and work things out with him further. I did. But I still have emotional scars, triggers, a sense of not belonging, instability, not being wanted, and constantly questioning everything. I have no self worth because I have been thrown away so many times.

      Our daughter is a senior in high school now, and I am starting to consider whether I have any future with him or not. My oldest daughter is married with two children that he is a Grandpa to. My middle child is not yet married, but considers my husband to be her dad, and so does my oldest. My goal was to raise our child in a two parent household and give her stability and love. She is a fantastic child. She is an honor role student, responsible, has college plans in place, she works part time, she plans to live at home through college which is what I want for her to do too, so that she does not have to work as much while she gets her degree. We do not discuss anything in front of her and I have managed to put on a good show for those who do not know the truth. I do not regret sacrificing my own well being for our daughter.

      But at this point, I can easily sell off extra assets and pay off other debt so that our only expense is the mortgage, and recurring housing and insurance expenses. Etc. which I pay for anyway. I think this scares him because he knows I would be able to easily leave then. He knows I struggle really badly still with what has happened. He says he really loves me and needs me. He says he was just stupid all of the years he was having affairs.

      I think because of constant rejection by my first husband and my current husband, I feel a sense of rejection by everybody in general. Especially in the small towns we have moved to where they really do not want outsiders coming into their lives. I literally have no friends since we have moved so much and I have telecommuted to my job the whole time. He has never had friends or hobbies (even before meeting me) and prefers it that way (unless you count his affairs as a hobby…in which case I guess he did for quite some time). He just lets me plan everything and arrange everything (I also pay for it all), and he goes along with it.

      I do not know what is in store for me in the future. I have no evidence of him cheating, or even a reason to believe he has cheated in the past nine years. But then again, I have intentionally put myself in a position that I cannot allow myself to care. I have made it clear to him that he will leave immediately if he cheats again or feels like he has met someone he wants to be with.

      The thing is, he cannot afford our lifestyle or anything near it without me. So I fear he stays with me for financial reasons instead of the right reasons. For now, he does not want to sell off extra assets to get things paid off. He wants me to keep my boat which I love (and he really does not). He knows if I sell four or five assets that are owned free and clear of loans, I can pay off other things and be debt free. I think it scares him how utterly independent I can be if I need to be. And ultimately, I feel the need to simplify my life right now. I do not want to owe any unnecessary debt. I can get by without a boat and camper. I do not need an extra vehicle. I can sell my horses and then I dont need a tractor or implements. All of these material things I love seem so unnecessary in my life right now.

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