affair triggers
Changing patterns can be helpful regardless of what the affair trigger may be.

One of the issues that is common amongst victims of marital affairs is dealing with the various affair triggers that prompt the reoccurrence of intense feelings and emotions. 

Yesterday’s post dealt with Linda’s reaction to the D-day anniversary of my emotional affair, and I had a brief exchange with Jeff Murrah LPC, regarding the importance of changing the patterns when these affair triggers occur. 

In this instance a D-day anniversary was the trigger – which is common – but I venture to guess that changing patterns is a necessity regardless of what the affair trigger may be.

Jeff stated that “Such reactions are common on anniversaries of traumatic events, birthdays, holidays and family gatherings. Knowing the pattern and actively working to ‘rewire’ those meanings associated with those dates is key in transforming them.”

In case you didn’t see this information in the comment section, I wanted to share with you Jeff’s ideas on how to change patterns within your relationship to help you get past those nasty affair triggers.  Changing the patterns requires making new and stronger patterns associated with them.

Some ways to do this include:

1. Make sure that you spend some one on one time with your spouse on those days.

2. Pray, you need all the spiritual resources you can muster in changing these patterns. If you can, pray together on changing the meanings associated with those days or those affair triggers.

3. Use those anniversary reactions as a call for the two of you to hold each other accountable to each other.

See also  Healing After Infidelity: Why Won't They Stop?

4. Identify what you can be thankful for. With every crisis there are changes. There are losses and there are gains. Focus on the gains and what you can be thankful for. Give thanks that the marriage is still together, that your love is still intact, that you can talk to each other, that you can find time for each other, that you have your health, that your relationship was saved from certain destruction, that you woke up from selfishness, etc.

The key is to change the meanings. Don’t run away from it, change it!


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Regaining Control:
Dealing With Obsessive Thoughts, Triggers and Memories of the Affair

Arm yourself with a variety of techniques, practical strategies and  knowledge to help you to manage those intrusive thoughts, triggers and memories of your partner’s affair.


    22 replies to "Change Your Patterns When Dealing With Affair Triggers"

    • Jeffrey Murrah


      Thank you for including the post. I appreciate it. I was thinking that the affair triggers are at times worse than an infestation of fleas. It can be songs, movies, places that you visit, foods, sounds, and even smells. Any former activity that your spouse or you associate with the affair can be a possible trigger. I am reminded of a classic study where researchers discovered that heroin addicts relapsed after being discharged from treatment when they were sent back to their homes. The researchers realized that many triggers were in in the home. That was where they got high and went through their addiction. Upon realizing this, the researchers began changing the environment to remove triggers.

      Although it seems far-fetched, when the affair is over, ,it is wise to change the decorations and move the furniture in the home, especially if that is where large amounts of pain were experienced.

      Making changes to the environment can help in reducing the power and influence of triggers located there. Avoid making mistakes like continuing listening to music on your ipod that you obtained from your lover-that is a sure trigger.

    • D

      I would add 5) Let it go. Triggers are like weeds in a garden. If you don’t take action they will take over. Pull it out, throw it away. Plant something beautiful. In truth, every day is new, as is every moment. A place may be a trigger, like a park, a hotel, a workplace, but if we notice, the affair partners are not there anymore. If we look closely we’ll notice that the past has been replaced by the present and what we are dealing with is what is happening right now – and this moment will never come again. I know, all very Zen. But it’s helped me tremendously.

      • Doug

        D., You’re on a roll today! Great stuff. Thanks!

    • LizS

      Mr Murrah-
      Im gonna try it Im gonna change things around…out with the old in with the new…heck my house could use a little updating…LOL

    • Stunned Wife

      the triggers are very hard to move past. DH told the OW he loved her when he ended the emotional affair. I cringe most times I hear him say those words so we try not to say I love you. I will say I love you too and he says I love you 3! Crazy but I don’t have to hear plain I love you which somedays angers me that he changed our marriage… Thanks for the trigger helps as I will try to implement more.

      • Doug

        Stunned wife, I had a very hard time with I love you also. Sometimes I think about all the things that I took for granted and enjoyed that I have given up because of the affair. I used to love movies where the person found their soul mate and fell in love, now I can’t watch them it makes me sick to my stomach. I avoid certain restaurants that I know Doug took Tanya to. I won’t call him handsome, have problems telling him I miss him etc, thinking he has heard that before. It really stinks. You know I shouldn’t care because honestly we have experienced so much more than they have in the short time he spent with her and I am sure she wondered if he was saying the same things to me as he was to her. It is true the triggers can make you very angry. Linda

        • NotBroken

          Linda… I haven’t told my H that I love him since I found out. Which was over a year ago. Not sure when the words will come out. I have a hard time with nick names, or saying things like I miss you, etc. I used to love to watch romantic movies and now like you I get sick to my stomach. I also get depressed and wonder if true love even exists. I think EA suck because its takes the romance out of your marriage, something us women enjoy very much. I’m not sure how I am ever going to write an anniversary card or even pick one out anymore. Its very hard and I hope that with time things will change.

          • RT

            I agree with you, EA’s do suck! The hardest part of the healing is getting that magical feeling back. Love used to feel magical and it was amazing knowing that my wife had only chosen me. Now it feels more like a choice. Lots of books will tell you that this is real love, but I liked it better the other way. I find myself a bit sad when I read the cards that say “you’ve always been there for me, no matter what.” Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Just sucks…

            • Joanna

              RT. I know where you and NotBroken are coming from in regard to cards… After my husband and I (temporarily) split up and I was readying our house for sale, I came across a stack of cards he had given me for my birthday, our anniversary, and mother’s day, etc., all along the lines of what a wonderful wife I was, how happy I made him, how I was his best friend, how he loved me more and more each passing year. Yet 1.5 months after he gave me a very nice anniversary card (one that looked like he actually took more than 30 seconds to pick out!), he decided to start an affair with a co-worker. Now when he gives me cards, they unfortunately only make me sad. All the before-affair cards must have been a lie, so why should I believe the sentiment expressed in any future cards I receive from him??

    • Stunned Wife

      @ Linda thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts. I totally understand the movies making you sick, not saying certain phrases. It certainly has changed things I say and want to hear.
      @ Not Broken, I agree the passion is different. I have not stop loving my husband, yes very angry and frustrated and wanted to shake the stuffing out of him:) but over all he is a wonderful man. So I feel for you that you aren’t able to say I love you. If it helps, I made a list of all the things I love about my husband and the things I don’t like that helped me put into perspective the love. I do not trust him the same but the love is still there. God Bless you on your journey to love and happiness in your life and marriage.

    • NotBroken

      @StunnedWife… thanks for commenting, I have tried in the past to create lists of what I like and don’t like. It helped me realize that my H does have some admirable qualities. This morning actually he told me he loved me through text and I responded by saying that I am starting to LIKE him a little more than before. I just couldn’t say I love you. I think I’m waiting for the moment to feel right, and I want to truly mean it when I say it. If I said it now it definitely wouldn’t be from the heart.

      • ppl

        dont wait too long. a year? your staying with this for a year is equivalent of saying i love you. nobody is patient forever. your anger maybe getting in the way. bite your lip and say it. it will become easier to repeat it later

        • NotBroken

          ppl… I don’t know what to do. Things are getting a little better between us. I’m trying my absolute best to be calm and not argumentative. I’m not sure if biting my lip and saying it will help. Why do you think I should say it even if I don’t mean it?

          • ppl

            its not a contract, your not under oath. maybe help let your anger go to say it. kindness begats kindness, got to start somewhere. maybe your afraid to believe it if you say it. try it on if it doesnt fit dont buy it

    • Jane

      My husband had an emotional affair that lasted almost two years.I have been having a difficult time of it. I found out in March. There are so many triggers. The last one was him keeping secrets and I caught him on it. He kept denying it and then told me he doesn’t want me to know everything about his life and what he is doing. I was shocked to say the least. I exploded. Whenever I think things are getting better; I find they are not. We have been together for 28 years. He can’t understand why I can’t forget. I am really trying then things get all messed up again. Maybe my expectations are too high. I don’t know. He called his brother to have money sent to him from an account they have for a marine corp reunion he was going to and never told me. Then went an took money out of our account for the same trip. He thinks I am snooping on him; but what it is ; is that he starts acting differently and I get these strong feelings that something is not right. So I react. I just can’t believe he does what he does. I get so angry.

    • Kristine

      I’ve never asked my husband if he told the op he loved her. i don’t want to know. what i do know is enough and the more i know the more i’ll have to get over.

      most of my triggers have dulled. i’ll have an ache over most of them but it’s a dull ache, it’s not the stabbing feeling that i used to have before in the beginning.

      i still have one HUGE trigger though and I just seriously don’t know how to move past it. this is why i’m going to try the emdr therapy.

      love songs kill me, passionate movie scenes, i can’t stand to watch anything that has adultery involved… it sucks.

    • Dar

      Triggers are the worst for me. And how funny that I totally said we needed to redo our living room because i spent so much time in there alone crying while his EA was going on…with only my suspicions. We ordered new carpeting an are painting, etc. So it’s a great idea. His affair took place over thanksgiving through all the holidays so i’m very scared of the nexr holiday season. I can remember every text and excuse…it’s hard having such a photographic memory. I’ll be crazier then than i am now!

    • Kristine

      Sometimes the triggers feel like an assault. I’ve had the one huge trigger I still have come up a lot lately and it’s not a common trigge that would come up often due to its nature. I’m not one to take on a victim-mentality but I’ve been feeling like the universe is against me. Ridiculous I know but it feels that way.

    • DJ

      Triggers will be the death of me! I have come to the place where I can enjoy things like spending time with my kids, having lunch with friends, doing something new at work… but I never know when I will come face to face with a trigger, and BOOM, I’m experiencing the pain all over again and it feels like my world is falling apart. I’m getting better at maintaining some control over my reaction, but it’s miserable.

      I also redecorated my living room and that helped a lot. I discovered their emails while sitting on my love seat in the living room, and then I spent many many hours crying in that room. I definitely needed the change in there.

    • Hurt

      The triggers have gotten less and less, but I am about to deal with the absolute worst one. I drive by the hotel that they snuck out of work to go to together every day, and THAT took a long time to get over, but I wasn’t going to take a longer way to work – then they would’ve won. But now my husband and I are going out of town and we will be staying in hotel (not the same chain) and I am freaking out. It will be the first time he’s been in a hotel since he was in one with her. I go back and forth that we should make love so that he isn’t thinking about being in a hotel with her, but then I think that we definitely shouldn’t make love because then he will be comparing me to her, or that I won’t be able to stop the visions of him and her together in the hotel. If I could bag the whole trip and never stay in a hotel again I would, but I can’t!!! UGH!! I have been a basket case all day because we leave tonight after work on our trip… He is being understanding about it and supportive of how I feel, which is GREAT, but it still hurts soooooo bad! I just worry he is going to reminisce about being with the OW…. he says that that day at the hotel (it was their first) was AWFUL for him because it made what they were doing real (they’d always been together in her car in the back of a bar before the one time at the hotel), but it just hurts so bad. The other times were always after work outtings at the bar, so I guess it made me feel better that it was at least a bit drunken, but the hotel was pre-planned, and he even lied to work saying he had a drs. appt so he could leave early. The hotel was deliberate – not that it is any less sleazy or cheap than the back of her car, but still… it was completely premeditated. I don’t know if I am strong enough to deal with the hotel thing with him…. I am scared….

    • chiffchaff

      Having a very bad time for triggers right now and it’s very unfortunate coming right at a time when I’m feeling happy with the progress being made in our marriage.
      Today’s trigger was my H taking phone photos of some garden flowers before he set off to work. It took me back to finding images of our pets and our garden that he’d sent to the OW during the affair. Even if it’s innocently taking photos of something nice, my brain started telling me that he was at it again and wanted to send something he thought was pretty to some other woman. I’m having difficulty getting it out of my mind. But it has broke a huge tsunami of sadness over me when I was feeling so elated this week. The trigger was also exacerbated by situation, I was walking up to the road to the pool, a road, post Ddays, I used to storm up with our dog when I just needed to get out of the house and cry with loneliness on a long walk.

      I really think that from my persepctive the worst thing about the PA/EA was the deception that occured each and every day that my H continued it. Taking little snippets of our daily life and twisting it into something bad (“I don’t get to listen to long music tracks in our house”) or taking photos of the nice things in our daily life and sending them to her for her to share in. It’s the not knowing it was going on, like you were a massive fool. That anyone else would’ve noticed but you didn’t.

      Not a good day. But I am more aware that to have ups you have to have downs. I have remembered my coping mechanism, which is to do something, anything, different, instead of festering on it.

      • Recovering

        I am thinking of you today!! Affair triggers come in the seemingly most simple, most unimportant things… I feel for you and just remember that you have worked so hard, and that YOU WERE AND ARE NOT A FOOL! He lied to you, and you were loving and trusted him – why wouldn’t you? He promised to foresake all others on the day you married him. You loved him. You still love him. YOU ARE NOT A FOOL!! Look to your future! YOU have cultivated those flowers together!!! I hope your day gets MUCH better!!

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