emotional affair recoveryWe hope that everyone has had a nice holiday season.  I realize that the holidays can be a difficult time for emotional affair recovery. The affair triggers and the thoughts can be overwhelming.

The holiday season is a difficult time for me because Doug and I were deeply immersed in the affair process at this time three years ago. 

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was the time when Doug finally admitted after months of denial that he was having an emotional affair.  He told me that he didn’t have feelings for me said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay in our marriage.

It was a time when I truly felt it was going to be our last holiday together as a family and was totally at a loss for what I was going to do in order to save our marriage. 

I felt I had lost all control of the situation and I guess because of all the turmoil, I remember every date, every activity and every conversation we had at the time.  I refer to this as my demons because as hard as I try to forget, there are times when it sneaks up on me. 

I had one of those days just the other day that I wanted to share.

A few days ago Doug innocently said he was going to Bass Pro Shop to spend some of his Christmas money.  My heart skipped a beat, knowing that three years ago to the day, he did the same thing. 

Now Doug hates to shop, so for him to make a shopping trip is a big deal, and to plan it for the same day as he did three years ago was just plain creepy. However, if the emotional affair had not occurred I wouldn’t have thought anything about it or even remembered that he made the same trip the year before.  It wouldn’t have been so important.

See also  The Emotional Affair Made Me Feel Worthless - Part 2

Why did it affect me so much?  I tossed and turned that night trying to understand what was the significance of all of these triggers.  It wasn’t so much what he was doing as it was really the pain I was feeling at the time.  I remembered the hopelessness.

At that time I knew that in order to save our marriage, Doug had to cut all contact with Tanya and in some crazy way I felt it was my responsibility to make that happen.  I became Doug’s constant companion, almost holding him hostage in the house to insure that he would remain faithful.

I remember “begging” Doug to go with him on that shopping trip three years ago but he said he wanted to go alone.  I remember pacing the floors for hours wondering what he was doing and if he was talking to her.  I remember all the questions when he arrived home. I remember feeling so out of control and so needy.  I had become a person I didn’t even know.  It was ugly and I never want to be that person again.

The other night I began to think of how I could use these triggers in a positive way instead.  What can I learn from them?  

I have learned that I can’t control anyone but myself and I should have used all my energy on improving myself rather than trying to make Doug stop his emotional affair.

The same idea applies to the rest of my life.  Only I can determine my own happiness and the path I want to take, but I cannot keep Doug faithful and on the right track.  All of those things have to come from within him.

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I guess the triggers are there to remind us of how far we have come or to help us get back on track.  There are times when I revert back to that insecure, weak person and I feel and act the exact same way I did three years ago.  There are also times when I am so proud of how much I have grown and everything I have learned about myself on this journey.

I am definitely not the same person I was three years ago and I know for the most part I have learned to handle  all the other situations in my life in a totally different way. 

I guess the best advice when handling these triggers is to really think about why they are so upsetting to you, what you have learned or can learn about them and then let them go and move on with your day.


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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 "Emotional Affair Recovery – Learning From the Holiday Triggers"

    • Toomuch

      I am still trying to deal with my husband’s affair and can’t seem to get through the pain. Over two years ago I caught my husband in his car with the OP. They were going out to a work dinner but I sensed that things weren’t right as she seemed too comfortable in the car and with him. When I asked him about it that night and asked him to help me connect the dots so it made sense to me he started 10 weeks of “crazy making” time for me.
      I wanted so much to believe him that nothing was going on but my “gut and spidey sense” kept telling me something was up. During the 10 weeks he continued to see the OP, whom he worked with.
      He finally admitted that it was an emotional affair but continued to down play their involvement…coffee, a couple of lunches and a few drinks after work. He told me that he was going to call and leave her a message that it was over and I told him that I was going to call her.
      I did call her and she told me that when she spoke to my husband earlier that day. I insisted that she had not talked to him that he had left her a message. She told me she was sorry and that she would stay away from my husband or I would call her husband.
      I spoke to my husband about what she had said about speaking with him and I said, “one of you is lying”. He insisted that he had left her a message and told her it was over.
      We went for counselling and, I thought we were working on the marriage.
      Fast forward to Feb 2011. My “spidey sense” kicked up again and I knew that they were seeing each other again. I didn’t confront him as I knew he would deny it but his attitude towards me had changed.
      I wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding my pain the longer their relationship continued as I started to having weeping sessions that I couldn’t control. July 1st I told him this wasn’t working for me and he confessed to seeing her again. He had ended it the day before and wanted to tell me as he knew I knew. We started MC again but he was still in his “affair fog” as he had been for the past 3 years. He continued to down play the relationship saying it was nothing. I continued to press for answers as I could not believe that he would risk his marriage for a coffee buddy.

      He finally admitted that they had hugged but no kissing as she wouldn’t let her as that was crossing the line. I asked him to send her an email that I would see before being sent ending it. I had to write it because if he had sent his the relationship would have continued, he was leaving the door open. My email, that was sent via his email was more strongly worded, not offensive but blunt and asking her to reply stating that she understood the conditions (they still have business dealings with each other). So no phone calls, face to face meeting…all communication that was required had to be through email only. He was quite upset by her response which I didn’t think was to mean.
      The true has slowly started to emerge. It turns out he had lied about talking to her when he first “ended”. It turned out it didn’t call to end it, he called to warn her that I would be calling her. Then he contacted her again to find out how she was doing. I have asked for transparency but it hasn’t happened. He forwards any emails that she sends him (so he tells me but how do I know).

      He finally admitted that he still misses her and would like to see her which again I suspected. At the beginning of December I tell him we need to separate because he doesn’t get it and I don’t think he will until he loses me. He wants to wait until the New year to do this. OK, so we continue along.
      He tells me one night that he went to a retirement at his old place of work and he saw her. He told me that no eye contact we made. She came in one door and he went out the other. “Spidey sense” kicked in again. At our MC the same thing and I told her that I didn’t believe it that there was something more. He still stuck with his story.
      I was feeling pissed that again a special time for me was going to ruined and yet the OP wasn’t having any impact so I decided to call her. She again said she was sorry and that she had done soul searching during the past 6 months that they hadn’t spoken except for the “quick hello” at the retirement. She admitted that they hugged and that she kissed him on the cheek. I knew that they both lied.

      I confronted my husband about speaking with her at the retirement and got him to admit that they had kissed (not on the cheek). He said that he was afraid to tell me that she approached him because he didn’t want me to be mad at her. I am so tired of his priorities be screwed up. He continues to protect her and have feelings for her. I have told him he is still in the “affair fog”.

      He is moving out today and I am having a hard time breathing.

    • E

      Great post Linda, it is very relevant to where I am right now, thank you!

      Toomuch – stay strong! You are doing the right thing by letting him go. The separation will do one of two things – it will either cause him to “wake up” from the fog, or it will put an end to your suffering so that you can move on. Either way, the pain you are feeling will subside!! In the meantime, try your best to take care of yourself!

    • Holding On

      Linda, thank you so much for your post. I always learn a better way to think about and deal with my present issues. Thank you for sharing your present situations so that I have an idea of what the future holds for me, but also for taking us back to the time when things were really difficult. I guess I realize that each trigger and thought is a time to reflect and try to see what can be learned from this. How can I turn this into a positive or learn more about myself.

      Toomuch – I am so sorry you are dealing with this. How horrible to be fighting this for so long! I wish I could take over breathing for you for the next few days. I wish I could take away some of the pain. Hang in there. Even strangers on the internet are caring for you and your struggles. This is so unfair. I wish you didn’t have to hurt like this. I wish your husband kept proper boundaries and didn’t get caught up and led away. I wish you some peace and in the end, you are going to be alright. I really know this. Whatever happens, you are going to come out of this whole and beautiful and strong. It might take quite a bit of time, but I can see it, together or apart.

    • roller coaster rider

      Triggers…one false move and you’re dead! I think about them quite often, and now I have the challenge of deciding how they are going to affect me. I acknowledge their existence, but they are not going to control me, and I think that’s what you are also saying, Linda.

      Our brains are wired to make connections, and that’s really what a trigger is…a connection to something horrifying. I was deleting some photos from my iPad today, and it made me realize once again why I’m so happy we have begun a new year. Virtually every photo from the past year of my life is a trigger.

      Now it’s on to making some new memories, some healthy connections, a future and a hope…

    • Toomuch

      E and Holding On, thank you for your kind words. This has been really rough for me. I wish he loved me half as much as I love him because if he did I know we wouldn’t be in this situation. I got a nice pat on the shoulder when he left. 16 years has come to this!

      Linda and Doug, sorry, I meant to tell you how much this website has meant to me. I have been reading it from the beginning and have found it really helpful. Please keep up the wonderful work that you both do here. As you can see there are many of us out here that still need you.

    • changedforever

      TooMuch…enough is enough and you have put up with more than enough. My H’s affair fog was a thick cloud…almost 8 mths ‘thick.’ I gave him every opportunity to come clean on all the lies…the only ‘truth’ I ever ‘got’ from him was his OW’s apartment #. And that was only after I demanded SOME truth I could verify as there had been SO many lies…Maybe your seperation will prevent you from suffering from any more of his lies. I truly hope this is true for you as I stayed…because of my children, because MY leaving would’ve helped me (& possibly saved me from all that he made me suffer thru: his continued lies and his protecting his affair partner,) but my leaving would’ve caused all progress I had made with my son’s drug use/depression (the family trauma we had suffered a month before my H’s affair.) I had to stay…so I suffered tremendously. I had no choice. Still, to this day, I wish I could’ve left him. I know I ‘saved’ him and he was able to move past that horrible period in our lives….I just wonder if & how I ever will. Stick by this blog as it continues to be so helpful to me…almost 15 mths after my 1st DDay. As for the MC…consider going yourself…I do this as often as I need to…No matter what happens & what recovery road you find yourself on, MC is how I took care of me (in addition to going back to attending mass each Sunday, praying a lot & daily strength training.) Hope this helps.

    • jianni

      Just wondered if anyone out there has read an article in the November 2011 issue of MORE magazine called “A Date with the Man that Got Away,” by Joanne Kaufman. It is so disgusting – about a 20-something year old (Joanne, the author) who is single and has a 2-year affair with a married man. They break up (and so does his marriage). She (Joanne) eventually marries someone else, supposedly happy now, but then gets a text from the man of her youthful fling wondering if they can meet in New York for lunch. They do meet (both current spouses know about the meeting but are not with them). I just found the flippancy of this article abhorrent and wrote a letter to the editor saying so. I’d be interested to know what others think.

    • ifeelsodumb

      Toomuch…so sorry for all you are going through! This is a terrible thing to go through…is the OW still married…and does her H know that they never broke it off? Sometimes that helps, the OW doesn’t mind ruining YOUR marriage, but when it comes to their own…that’s a different story! I’d let him know ASAP if he doesn’t!

    • Jessica

      @jianni,I googled the article and read it. You are 100% correct. I wonder if her husband and his wife have also read the article?

    • csb

      Linda, Thanks to all of the wonderful advice here, I’m finally staring to work on me and let my CS figure his mess out on his own. The interesting thing is…..I can see him getting very nervous as he realizes I’m removing myself by saying “you’ll have to figure it out for yourself, I can’t do that for you”, and things like that. I’ve also told him I need to rely on myself now (married 30 years, very young) – which is so different because I always relied on him.

      I look forward to the day I can say, like you, I am proud of how far I have come!

    • aaroncj


      I must admit that my worst fear is that my wife has these same feelings for the OM (a former lover, though from a time when both were single). In countless emails and messages I read it seemed very important to her that she still “matters” to him. She was deferential to his marriage, but expressed envy of his wife. She told him she loved me but said that I didn’t “get” certain aspects of her; that he reached the parts of her heart that were “his.”

      When I ask her about her feelings for the OM she says it was all about what she wasn’t getting from me; that she doesn’t think of him as more than a special friend.

    • D

      Great post, Linda. I dealt with these triggers too for a long time. I finally had a breakthrough when I accepted that, as you say, I can’t stop her from either continuing this affair any more than I could stop her from having another one 5, 10 or 20 years from now. She is the one who makes that choice. The important thing is that I feel – regardless of what she chooses – that I’m worth being married to, that I matter to myself. When I view it that way I am empowered and the triggers are meaningless (or at least greatly reduced).

      Too Much, hang in there. The greatest wounds can pass if we trust in ourselves.

      Jianni, gross, disgusting article. She’s a child.

    • Bewildered

      My husband and I were in the grocery store shopping for New Year’s eve and we ran into the OW. The shade of magenta of my husbands face gave it away. Its only natural to be somewhat jealous of the OW but after seeing her I am now seriously wondering what is wrong with my husband – its a clear cut case of dumbing down! I wanted to puke right then and there but I managed to pull myself out of it by seeing it as the end of one chapter and a year from hell. Not quite sure how to move on from having my husband risk so much for so long for someone so below normal standards. Would love to know how to address this at our next marriage counseling session – its a clear case of no jealously anymore just that something is really wrong with my husband and his thinking.

    • Elizabeth

      I had a hard time with the triggers,i felt i was chasing my own tail,i must add that i do not have a tail.A previous article on the site has made something else trigger in me and i have kept it for my Mantra,it was the 7 stages of grief as it hit the nail on the head in so many aspects and it helped me through Christmas.

    • Swivet

      Right now everything is a trigger, a song, a person that looks like the OM, television show, etc… I am trying to figure out how to get a handle on these triggers and use them productively but I fail every time. I am going to bury myself in something like a hobby or something.
      csb – I like the fact that you have shown your CS that you are more independent now. I will have to show my wife the same thing, I am on a mission now!!! Yes!!! I feel positive now thank you!!!

    • JS

      @jianni – I just googled and read the article, too, and that nailed my biggest fear – the fear that my H’s OW will be in his mind for YEARS to come, even if they have no contact. My H’s OW works for the same company and I’ve wondered for so long how much time they spent during their 10 month EA talking on their work phones – I’m sure it was hours and hours and hours, and I’m sure his secretary was well-aware of what went on because she sees his calls (even though he claims she never knew). Of course, I also wonder if they are still in contact. My H claims there was no physical affair, but the intensity of their closeness and the amount of contact they had that is visible to me via text/email traffic makes me not believe that, no matter what he says. I carry the fear that although we are still together, he thinks about her constantly. I know there’s nothing I can do about it, and I don’t dwell on it often, but I hate that fear.

    • JS

      Swivet – I agree that a hobby or some type of distraction can be helpful. I started cooking new meals that interested me, and I got my young daughters involved in helping . They love it, we are developing new memories together, and we’re having some awesome new dinners! It’s also helped me reclaim something for myself that I enjoy, and in the beginning, it kept me from thinking constantly about the EA when I was home. I wish you lots of luck!

    • jianni

      JS, Jessica, aaroncj–
      I’m glad you were able to find the magazine article. It sure struck a chord with me. Like all of you, I have many triggers, although they are getting less as time goes by (12 mos now). But I do really wonder if he “pines” for the OW. I know there were some “far out” attempts to get a message underhandedly to her which did not work. She has moved across country, thankfully, so seeing her is not such an issue. And I don’t think there has been email/phone contact unless it is through his work, which I don’t think has happened. She is of an Asian culture and about 20 years younger. So now every Asian woman we see together who is with a Caucasian male is a trigger for me. She also had pretended to want to be my friend (l0l) and just cozied up to him with emails to his radio station job. At first he said she was just a friend and had emailed him about how wonderful he sounded on the air, but it didn’t take me too long to realize it was more than that. He says now he only thinks about her occasionally and even then mostly with shame that he could have done something like this. It was mostly an EA, but with some PA elements – just not full blown. I hate the thoughts that she might be “stuck” in his mind, as she is surely stuck in mine. I find it hard to even get real interested in some other hobby like others above have done, as my heart just isn’t always in it. It is still like 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Will the memories ever end for both of us?

    • dazedandconfused

      Linda, this is exactly what I was trying to see in my post to the previous thread, but you said it a lot more eloquently! I still worry about whether my H pines for the OW, but I try to stop it when I can because I realize that I am just torturing myself. The stronger I feel inside, the less I go there, which is good. This type of fear is not productive. He is free to think and feel anything he wants to, he just can’t ACT on any feelings or I will move on from my 30-year marriage.

    • dazedandconfused

      I meant to say “say,” not “see.”

    • sharkgirl

      Too Much: I don’t know how much my separation had to do with saving my marriage but I know that space did help him see reality but most important it saved me, even though at first I thought it would kill me. I knew enough was enough I knew it was the fog but I couldn’t carry on living like that knowing she was still in the picture and she wanted him wasn’t going back off and he just couldn’t stop the contact, he was well and truly addicted. In that time I was able to become the stronger person I am, this website also helped me see things for what they really were so I still clung to some hope but was also ready to move on if that’s what was required. Now we are back together, though he hasn’t fully moved back in yet, I know this is really what I want and this time it’s also what he wants so we have a fighting chance but I also know if it doesn’t work out I’ll be ok. He stills has some issues to deal with but there is only so much I can do, I’m focusing on the positives of now and accepting he just needs time thanks to comments on here. Everyone is giving you such good advice and sometimes its hard to believe it but it’s all true, and this now has to be about you.

      I starting to understand the impact my triggers have on me and why, I’m not strong enough yet to stop the emotions fully taking hold and the pain of it all is still too raw so some things get the better off me driving me crazy, yet despite that I’m still in control cause it’s craziness that I know, if that makes sense. On reflection I’m too learning to see the positives he doesn’t fully understand my reactions but he accepts them this last one came out people now know we are trying again yet before it’s been a secret. I know this next year is going to bring so many triggers, the this time last year sort, I’m ready for them but I’m going to do my damnedest to create new memories for them days and reclaim them as my own again.

    • patricia

      My husband and I are five months out from finding out he had a emotional affair with a coworker who was 21 years younger than he was she was 33 he was 64 at the time. It’s been nothing but devastating to me!!! We
      Are trying to work on our marriage as we have been mRried 33 years and dated 10 years before that. My life has been go to bed thinking about it waking up with it and going through the whole day with it on my mind.. I’m so terribly sick to my stomach over it. Of course my husband says it’s been over since I found the text messages on his phone, he ended it right away and that I need to move passed it! I just have a terrible time with trusting him.

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