Steven Stosny, Ph.D  states that there are three clear points that are evident with people who have suffered  unimaginable emotional pain, such as emotional infidelity.

The first is that human beings have an extraordinary capacity for healing all kinds of emotional wounds. The second truth is that the most important element in overcoming emotional pain is a healing identity.

Stosny further states that “people with healing identities focus on their resilience, strengths, and desire to improve their lives. They do not give in to thoughts of damage, unfairness, bad moods, blame, or victim identity.”  Instead, they keep focused on their desire to heal and improve.

The third point about healing is that it seems to require at least an “implicit understanding of the nature and purpose of painful memories and how they play a crucial role in emotional well being.”  In other words, memories of pain serve to keep us safe in the present.

Those with healing identities keep focused on making their lives better in the present and future.When dealing with Doug’s emotional infidelity, I had to force myself to maintain a healing identity.  It was difficult to do because it’s only natural to have emotions contradictory to this type of identity, especially immediately after discovering the affair.  It was my ability to let go of resentment and to focus on my strengths and desire to improve our marriage that carried me through.

Emotional Healing from Painful Memories

Apparently, “painful memories come equipped with a built-in healing mechanism, as long as our efforts to keep safe do not violate deeper values,” says Stosny. For instance, pain that results from death of a loved one runs a natural healing course, unless we try to protect ourselves from loss by withholding love from others.

The violation of the deeper value of emotional connection and love keeps the memory of loss painful. “But once we allow ourselves to improve ourselves in other areas of life, the memories of the lost loved one become pleasant reminders of enriched life experience.”  In other words, over time painful memories activate our abilities to heal, improve ourselves, and create value in our life.

The trick in all of this is learning how to develop a healing identity if it is not an attribute that you currently possess.  I believe that it can be accomplished, and it my case I did so by focusing primarily on myself and my strengths, and my desire to save my marriage.

When confronted with emotional infidelity, if you interfere with the natural healing process by focusing on damage, unfairness, moodiness, blame, victim identity or painful memories this will often cause depression, obsessions, resentment, anger, addictions, abuse, or violence. That is why it is so crucial to identify with your deepest longing to heal, improve, and create value.

Here’s a video with Dr. Stosny that may be of interest to you:

    7 replies to "Overcoming Emotional Infidelity Requires a Healing Identity"

    • michael

      I have found myself succumbing to the feelings of hurt and depression. I try to focus on healing but don’t see the same from my wife. I’m not sure if she wants to heal or work on what got us to where we were when she decided to stray. Its just hard to feel like working on our relationship when she doesn’t show that she wants to. She wants what happened to go away. Or does she? I don’t know, she still won’t talk about it unless I bring it up. And than she just listens to me and doesn’t have anything to say of her own. She is still hiding herself from me. Maybe because she doesn’t want to hurt me, or maybe because I’m not the one she wants. Just the one who she has kids with. I don’t want to feel this way but I don’t see her as needing me. The same way I’ve felt for a few years. That drove her to feel unwanted. And than ultimately hide her feelings she was having for an old boyfriend. Is her love for me no longer strong enough to be happy. Does she just love me as the father of our kids. …..its a bad day.

      • admin

        Michael, I’ve re-read some of your comments to re-familiarize myself with your situation. I know that some days can be better than others, and when they are good, they tend to very good and vice-versa. It may be hard to believe at this point, but I believe that a relationship that’s been dormant for 18-years with someone that is out of state is bound to run it’s course and die on it’s own. It certainly would help if she would agree to end all contact with the other person. If you haven’t already…read the post of Affair Addiction

    • michael

      I have read it. And agree with it. But I don’t know how long I can wait for her to want us as bad as I do or if I might just give up. To the best of my knowledge she has stopped communication with him but it was by ultimatum. Not by her own choice. She says she has read some of this sites stuff but doesn’t talk about it. I don’t know what else she is hiding. And might not ever know. That’s what scares me. This is now 3 months after I found out.

    • Lisa

      Michael, in reading this part of your comment

      “She wants what happened to go away. Or does she? I don’t know, she still won’t talk about it unless I bring it up. And than she just listens to me and doesn’t have anything to say of her own. She is still hiding herself from me. Maybe because she doesn’t want to hurt me, or maybe because I’m not the one she wants.”

      and keeping in mind my situation and my own emotions and confusion, I am thinking that maybe it’s because of her internal confliction and confusion that she is still unable to respond in the manner you are seeking. Like so many personal reactions to others, it often has less to do with ourselves than with the other person. Meaning her reaction has more to do with what is going on inside of her than because she doesn’t care to help you with how you are feeling.

    • michael

      Lisa. I do know that she has a lot of things in her past that keeps her from confiding in me totally. Things that have scarred her emotionally. Things that we’ve touched on and left alone. We do know that she has a hard time expressing herself to almost everyone. During the affair she did tell me that he knows all about her past and she felt she could talk to him about it. This sits hard on me because she had a two year relationship with him eighteen years ago and thirteen years and two kids with me. She internalizes things and says that she let’s them go. But when they return and become an issue I have tried to show her that brushing them under the rug doesn’t work. So what I was referring to was what it felt like, not necessarily what was happening. I would like to be the one she can confide in and trust when things are an issue. But at her pace. Thanks for your insite.

    • jewel

      In my mind, this post it THE most insightful and helpful of any I have read here. It is important to feel that you have support and empathy from others (thank you to you and all who have contributed to this site). But, if we cannot take the opportunity to look inward and create and nurture the authentic person we all are, then this pain is all for nought. I’m just a few months post-discovery but I have discovered that I am worthy, lovable, beautiful and deserving of happiness – things I didn’t believe before. My gift to me is me. He can discover and acknowledge that, or he can go. Either way, I’m better off than I was 3 months ago.

    • kikky

      LInda,
      I have to agree when you say that OW are jealous people. The day i found out that OW wasn’t perfect was the best day i had had in months. I smiled from ear to ear, i hadn’t done that in along time. She wasn’t perfect HA!!! My husband compared her to me and said that he didn’t need that again. So that was one reason why they ended. But he keeps changing the reasons to “taking time”, to he ended it or depending on the person he tells. She was very jealous of me, because my H told her that he finds me very attractive and there was no way that he was going to be staying in the house with me. She would find a way. Well that didn’t happen.

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