The holiday season officially kicked off with Thanksgiving (though it seems to get closer to Halloween each year) and it truly can be a wonderful time of year. We love it.
Special times with friends, loved ones and family members can create memories and traditions that last throughout our lives.
But if you’re world has been turned upside down because of infidelity, the holidays can be the worst time of the year.
In fact, the holiday season seems to be the time of the year when being unfaithful occurs more often. It can be a vulnerable time for many couples especially if their relationship hasn’t exactly been the greatest or if life has been difficult, challenging, and unsatisfying.
Let’s face it, while many folks are joyfully celebrating and decking the halls, many, many others are facing the holidays with dread, while feeling depressed and lonely.
A 2008 study from Bowdoin College on holiday depression says that 56% of men and 42% of women will cheat on their partners during the holiday season. And private investigators who make their living snooping on cheating spouses say their personal-surveillance business jumps between 15 and 20 percent this time of year.
Combine these aspects with an increase in alcohol consumption and the good ole’ office Christmas party and you have a recipe for an affair. People tend to lose a lot of control when under the influence when it comes to their sexual behavior and their relationship boundaries. Happy freaking Holidays, right!?
The Holiday Season and Affair Triggers
But for most of our readers (we think), you have already been betrayed, so the problem isn’t necessarily that you suspect your spouse might cheat during the holidays, the problem is that the holidays bring back excruciatingly painful memories and triggers of a time when your spouse was in his or her affair.
The holidays remind you of the hurt you felt because you knew what your spouse was doing last Christmas and that your spouse was on the phone with his or her affair partner on Christmas Eve while he or she should’ve been with you and your family – in body and in mind.
Christmas was really difficult a few years ago because I realized that Doug wasn’t really with us. His mind was somewhere else. His heart was somewhere else. So back then I had a really difficult time because it was just so hard to realize that I had lost a Christmas with him because of the affair.
At the time it was stupid things that would trigger me. For instance, a few Thanksgivings ago it was a ping pong game against Doug that was the culprit. I wound up spending all night crying because of a dumb ping-pong game that reminded me of something related to the affair that happened a couple of years earlier.
To combat the triggers I would ask myself, “Is this really worth getting upset over? Is it going to affect my happiness?”
For example, escaping for a weekend getaway would often be a trigger for me, so before we went away I would think to myself…“Am I going to ruin our weekend because something is bothering me? I want to have a wonderful weekend with Doug, but if I continue thinking about these triggers, I’m not going to be happy; we’re not going to be happy together. So what am I getting from this?”
I would use this type of self-talk a lot to try and figure out why I was thinking it, what I was insecure about and then let Doug know that I was insecure at the moment. Then we’d talk about it.
I’m not going to lie, it took time and discipline to be able to do this. Initially, like so many others, I would react emotionally right off the bat. But over time the triggers really decreased, I increased my knowledge on the subject and I made a conscious choice…
Was I going to choose to be happy or was I going to keep the affair constantly in our life?
Help from the CS is Key
A lot of times the triggers that the BS experience seem pretty insignificant on the surface – like a ping pong game. But if you’re recovering from an affair, your partner needs to be aware that something may seem really stupid to them, but it’s very important to you.
Your partner needs to acknowledge your pain, reassure you and help you through it, rather than saying that the triggers are “silly” or “this is stupid after two years.” The CS really must be there for you.
And I can’t stress enough that eventually Doug was able to help me immensely. The way he dealt with my triggers really helped me to decrease them and to put them more into perspective.
He would affirm that I wasn’t crazy and that it was OK to have them and that my feelings were real. His realizing that I was hurt and then listen to, comfort and reassure me was the most import thing to me at the time.
It wasn’t that much earlier that he would get angry because he didn’t really want me to bring it up and for me that was really difficult. It just told me that he didn’t care about my feelings.
But things changed and his ability to comfort me and listen to me allowed the triggers to go away much more quickly and with less intensity. I just was able to handle them better.
The Holidays can be Especially Difficult…
The holidays pose a special problem when it comes to triggers because we often bring a ton of family related baggage into the season since families are such a big part of the holidays. With that being said, there can be lots of triggers that result, and the affair just makes them a lot more complicated.
The triggers can either be based on fantasy or they can be based on real things. In some cases, it can be something as concrete as a ping-pong table. The trigger could be a certain Christmas carol. The trigger could be a certain smell. It could be a particular Thanksgiving food. It could be a particular present.
There’s also those fantasy triggers. It may not be anything that anyone is saying; it’s just something that you imagine in your head. The reaction, once it kicks in, is still very real though and has to be dealt with.
Dealing with the Triggers
With each of these instances, the first step to dealing with them is to be able to identify the trigger. Stepping into the holidays without knowing your triggers is like stepping into a minefield.
Many times, people will feel like they’re going crazy because they have all these emotional upheavals and they think…“Why did this suddenly hit me? Why are these thoughts suddenly bothering me? Why did my mood suddenly change?” It’s most likely because some triggers are being activated.
Once you identify the triggers, then you can take steps to change things.
Once you know what it is that sets you off, whether it be a particular type of day, a certain song, somebody’s perfume or whatever, you can start to consciously change your reaction to it.
One such technique is grounding. Grounding is a particular way of coping that is designed to “ground” you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and reduce the likelihood that you slip into a flashback or obsessive thought.
The trigger is causing you to respond to either something that happened before, or something you’re afraid is going to happen in the future – not what’s occurring in the moment while you’re right there. So, what you want to do is get in touch with what is happening in that moment. In other words, you want to bring your brain back into the present.
Another change may consist of changing the timing. If you’re at the office and you’re walking by somebody, and all of a sudden, you have a smell that sets off a trigger, you may have to give yourself permission not to react right then and there but give yourself time to get to the bathroom or get to another place and then have your reaction and start dealing with it.
The holidays should be a special time of joy and happiness, but if you’re constantly being slammed with affair triggers, the holidays can be hell.
There are a bunch of different strategies that you can learn to help you deal with the triggers, obsessive thoughts and memories. We’ve only touched on one or two in this post. However, we’ve created a module in our Survive and Thrive program called, Regaining Control: Dealing with Obsessive Thoughts, Triggers and Memories of the Affair that will help you immensely.
Regaining Control will offer you practical strategies that were successful for me and many of the people that I have communicated with who have experienced the same intrusive thoughts and triggers that you have.
At the end of the module you will be armed with a variety of techniques along with the knowledge to help you to manage those terrible thoughts, triggers and memories of your partner’s affair.
Since the holidays are supposed to be special and we want them to be for you, if you feel this module may benefit you, then go here now and grab the module.
We hope you all have a happy, blessed and trigger-free holiday season!