How the Cheater Can Deal with TriggersThis is a guest post by Sara K. on how the cheater can deal with triggers caused by the memories of their affair.

It may surprise the spouse but it is nearly impossible for a day to go by that a Cheater doesn’t for even the briefest of moments, think back to D-Day. For many cheaters, D-Day may be the worst day of their lives.

Surprisingly though, for many it is actually the best day of their lives. D-day may have led to massive changes, introspection, issues finally dealt, no more secrets and hopefully a much better marriage.

As we often delve deeply into the mindset of the betrayed, I thought it would be beneficial to research some of the memory triggers that the Cheater needs to deal with and how he might handle those on a daily basis.

The memory is a fascinating thing. When we see someone from our past, even if it was a fleeting friendship in the fourth grade – just seeing them for the briefest moment can lead to the full rush of feelings that the friendship brought on.

Memory has a strong capacity to hold on to emotion and it is for that reason alone that any and all contact with a past relationship that led to the infidelity or affair must be ended – forever.

While this may seem difficult to a Cheater and quite obvious to the betrayed, there is still an emotional feed that the betrayed fed. Whether it was healthy or not (it wasn’t) it is a necessary step towards earning back trust that must be fulfilled.

See also  After the Affair: I am Angry

So, how is the Cheater to deal when those memories return unsolicited?

Re-assigning the Memory

Psychologists recommend a sort of re-association. When the Cheater thinks of the affair in a way that makes him feel good, quickly re-associate that thought with a memory of the spouse.

For example, Dan often remembered a day where he was feeling on a high with Shana, his affair partner.  They had rushed to a hotel, had awesome sex and then just jumped up and ran out the door. Nothing like that had ever happened with Erica, his wife. He felt guilty, but also a rush of excitement in that moment.

Now, after the affair was out in the open and he had over six months of therapy he realized that he didn’t want the rush with Shana. He really wanted that rush with Erica but had no clue how to ask for spontaneity. Once they discussed this together and had some time healing, Dan and Erica shared more spontaneous sex. 

Now, when triggers remind him of Shana, he immediately feels disgusted with his behavior and remembers the loving feelings he felt with Erica. The trigger no longer had its hold and had been replaced with a happier memory with his wife.

‘Trust’ Triggers

Trust in and of itself can also become a trigger. Whereas before there was privacy, secrecy and hiding – now everything is out in the open for the cheating spouse after an affair.

Reading emails, answering phone calls or texts can bring back a flood of emotions and memories that could be hard to accept or deal with for the Cheater. Now everything gets shared across the board and while it is important to rebuild the trust, it is also a reminder of how badly damaged this relationship became. In healing, the shame is always there as the elephant in the room.

A Song, A Movie & Popcorn

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Many Cheaters had experiential memories that will always pop into the consciousness at inopportune moments. Sitting at a movie with your spouse and suddenly the popcorn brings you back to her. Driving in the car and a song comes on the radio, her. The guilt and shame take over as you associate these emotions with the memory of what you did.

One of the best ways to lose those memories is to communicate. Tell your spouse, not that you are thinking of her (if that would be too painful) but that in that moment you feel sorry for how you hurt her. Sometimes just verbalizing the shame can help move the trigger into a positive and allow the intimacy to grow between Cheater and Betrayed and move into Husband and Wife.

Out of Control

Our memories cannot be controlled. Thoughts and triggers will always come and go without warning. What can be controlled are our reactions. Realigning our negative thoughts of guilt and shame and associating those emotions only with the affair.

Bringing positive memories and new memories to the forefront with the spouse is what will absolutely help reduce triggers and replace old thoughts. The good news is that with being present, taking in the gift that you are still here, still working at things and still committed to openness and honesty than the marriage will go far in reducing the affair triggers altogether.



    15 replies to "How the Cheater Can Deal with Triggers"

    • KelBelly

      This is going to sound really mean but I think as long as my H is having triggers that make him feel bad about everything and it keeps him realizing what he did was wrong then I am ok with that lol.

    • Natalia

      Kelbelly, it’s not mean at all. It’s actually a comforting feeling knowing what he did is a bad trigger for him. It’ll keep your heart safe and hopefully he’ll have learned his lesson.

    • Sara K

      I don’t think that’s mean at all! I think he might even agree!

    • Nancy

      My fear is they don’t trigger bad feelings…but feelings of wanting to be with that person again… There are certain songs he listens to that I’m convinced “they” listened too..
      It could all be paranoia, but it makes me sick. I guess I’m still to early in the recovery process to be objective about it.

      • KelBelly

        Nancy, I think we all live with that fear and have just worked really hard to try to not let it rule our lives. I am doing much better than I was 11 months ago but I still have days where something will trigger a memory and I am right back to wondering all sorts of things but what has really helped is my H’s actions.
        He seems to know now when I am having a bad day and is always willing to do what he needs to do to help me work through it.

    • forcryin'outloud

      I agree KelBel. When I’m in the rare devious mood I will exacerbate a habit the OW had…smoking. My H has always been an obnoxious vocal critic of smokers. So if I see a smoker I will go on and on and on about it to him (not the OW just the act of smoking). During the disclosure period he complained about how disgusted he was once he visited his OW (ex HiSchGF) that she was a BIG smoker.
      It’s childish but it’s my way of reaffirming “you better think before you leap!”

    • KelBelly

      Youy know in the Lion King Movie where the Hyena’s are talking about Mufasa and the one sais to the other, Oh, say his name again and the other Hyena does and the one pretends to get chills of fear? Well I do that to my H but with the OW name lol!! Or I lovenly refer to her as the oompa loompa! I guess adding humor to it all sometimes is better than being angry or sad all the time 🙂

      • exercisegrace

        I *know* that he has triggers. I *know* that I need to at the least, support him in dealing with them. Because I also *know* that part of OUR healing is HIS healing. We can’t rebuild a strong, affair-proof marriage if he walks around feeling the level of guilt, shame and self-loathing that he feels right now. I know that when I am doing better, he does better. But then I feel that maybe he thinks I’m “over it”, and it sets up a vicious cycle. I need him to acknowledge what he did, even say something simple like “you are doing great, thanks for hanging in there with me”. WITHOUT me having a meltdown, a depressed day or outright ASKING him to say something of that nature to me. He just isn’t really there yet. He does so many things right. I need to let go of that a little.

        And KelBelly, I have a list a MILE long of mean names I call the parasite, LOL. I pretty much refuse to say her name. Petty? Perhaps. One person on here pointed out a while back that saying the OW’s name made her feel powerful. That it made her feel better to say it. I hope to get to that point! Where it doesn’t matter to me. Where I can talk about her without feeling that rush of anger.

    • Rebecca

      I have felt all of these things but i always come back to it was his choice to lie lie lie and to cheat. I was busy raising our kids and being supportive of him little did i realize he has alot of friends with benefits. He wanted to escape all the responsibility of a spouse and dad he allowed another women into our space and she took full advantage of his weakness. I get sick and think why us !

    • Kittypone


      You are so kind with the pet name for the OW…..I call her the “harlot” which is a biblical term for “whore” or “slut”…..I think even with that one I am being more than kind to her….I REALLY want to tell her to her face what I think of her and her actions…..

    • Why is she crazy

      Y’all are cracking me up. Yes I worry about triggers with him myself because they always seemed to secretly communicate with each other through song. My H feels terrible about his actions and we are working through it still a year later. I also have a few choice names for her. But honestly the issue isn’t his triggers as much as the wenches inability to get the idea that the relationship is over. He hasn’t spoken or communicated to her in over a year. He changed his phone number. He has no social media. He even blocked her on Spotify. And this woman (who is friends with our friends) still says she loves him and isn’t going anywhere because they have a special connection and he is going to be with her soon. Our issue is we are trying to grow and move forward and this woman won’t let us. Every chance she gets she reminds us both she is here. I feel like she’s waiting for me to die at any moment so she can swoop in for her prize. It’s getting out of hand! I only know this because she is obvious about it. She doesn’t hide it at all. IN FACT, she got blocked on my H’s Spotify because he casually made a playlist at work for driving and she ASSUMED he was communicating to her and whatever doubts she had about him got thrown out and started her quest for my husband again. Over a dang driving playlist. She’s left thing in his truck. She’s left things on our curb. It’s ridiculous. We expect a bunny boiling in a pot any day now 😂

    • LisaE

      Agreed there has to be triggers for the CS. I don’t know if they are good, bad, or a combination. I CAUGHT my husband, so it wasn’t something he wanted to give up–a year and a half plus into his escapade with a woman 23 years his junior. Caught him July 10, 2021 and he is STILL trickling information to me. Lies corrected (I think), New information, even admitting that when he told me in July he would do whatever it takes to restore his marriage, that he was “all in” and that he loved me–a lie! That was just revealed 10 days ago.
      So, do I really care he has triggers and hurts…NO! He can deal with what he caused just like I am doing. My belief is, until he is honest and tells the truth, he will continue to have “triggers.” It’s God’s way of telling him to get real and decide whether the marriage HE joined is worth it.

      • Lisa

        Hi Lisa E,
        So sorry your going through this. I really hope your H comes to his senses. The triggers are so so hard and I really hope the cheating husbands feel pain just like us. I’m sorry that sounds harsh but that’s just how I feel. I’m 5 months from D-day. My husband had emotional affairs with strangers on kik and hangouts. My heart broken 💔. He stopped 2 years ago. I just happened to find these messages, my husband bit stupid for not deleting messages lol. Karma has come to bit him right in the ass lol. He is so sorry which I do believe, doing everything and more to put things right but I’m not sure if the damage has been done. I’m having so many triggers which is tearing me up. What I’m starting to realise as I heal his actions and selfishness is not my fault and I know my worth and so should you. Hope everything has worked out for you.

    • Al

      I’m a little over 3 years after D-day, and have roughly 4-5 other d-days since…3 of the big ones after we were engaged and married. My wife has finally decided to cut off contact with her ex (long deep history and connection, emotional affair), but I know she probably has tons of triggers given their long history and deep friendship in addition to the romantic stuff. I think she’s anticipating while we work with our therapist she won’t talk to him, but at some point I’ll have healed enough that I’ll allow it. I don’t think that’s ever possible though, I gave them MANY chances to just “be friends” over the past few years every time I saw a questionable text, photo, etc. but it’s just ruined for me.

    • Nicole

      Triggers are your reminders not to ever do that again. Like when you touch a hot stove after you are told it is hot.
      You don’t win a prize when you entertain another woman’s man… You get a man who doesn’t respect you, his partner, or even his own reputation. He’s using you. You don’t need to be validated by unavailable men when the world is full of available respectable men. Know your worth. “If you marry a man who cheats on his wife, you’ll be married to a man who cheats on his wife.” — Ann Landers “She’s not crazy, she’s not bipolar, you’re just experiencing the consequence of selling her a dream and delivering her a nightmare, bro.” – Jereme Ford

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