Discover how an email screw-up reveals insights into emotional responses in affair recovery, highlighting the complex journey of healing from betrayal.

Emotional Responses in Affair Recovery

Photo by Wordley Calvo Stock

By Doug

The other day I sent out an email intended for an individual who had purchased some mentoring sessions.  My intent was to get her first session scheduled.  It was early Monday morning, and I was half asleep and mistakenly sent it out to our entire email list.  Yikes!

It wasn’t long before I started getting a flood of responses from folks.  Most said something to the effect of “Sorry you sent this to the wrong person by mistake. I hope you find her.” While others said things like, “My name is not Debbie, and I did not purchase any mentoring sessions. If my credit card has been charged, I’m going to file a dispute” Or “I did not buy anything and maybe I was hacked.”

I thought that the difference in responses was kind of interesting.  On the surface they may have seemed like straightforward communication.  However, I felt that they indeed offer a window into the mindset and highlight the emotional responses in affair recovery.  They also underscore the complexities in this healing journey particularly when considering that most are betrayed spouses. 

So, I presented this situation to a friend of ours, who happens to be a psychologist.  I requested his opinion, noting most responders are undergoing some phase of affair recovery. Here is a summary of his thoughts:

Understanding Emotional Responses in Affair Recovery

  1. The Empathetic and Understanding Group: The majority, who responded with variations of “Sorry, you sent this to the wrong person,” display a level of empathy and understanding that is crucial in any form of communication, especially in sensitive contexts such as affair recovery. Their responses may indicate a capacity for forgiveness and a willingness to overlook mistakes.  Both are traits that are invaluable in the complex journey of healing after betrayal.
  2. The Anxious and Suspicious Group: Those who immediately jumped to conclusions about potential credit card fraud or hacking reveal a heightened state of vigilance and suspicion. This is not uncommon among betrayed spouses. Experiencing betrayal fundamentally alters one’s sense of security.  This leads to an increased tendency to anticipate harm or foul play, even in relatively benign situations.
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The Underlying Mindset and Emotional State

The varied reactions to my email screw-up are more than just expressions of confusion or inconvenience. Our psychologist friend goes on to imply that they are manifestations of deeper emotional states and mindsets:

  • Empathy and Resilience: The understanding group, have more than likely either developed a strong resilience to life’s mishaps or are naturally inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt. Their reaction could also suggest a certain level of healing or coping mechanism that they have developed, possibly as a result of navigating the challenges of betrayal.
  • Heightened Anxiety and Trust Issues: On the other hand, the group that reacted with suspicion and fear of being wronged, might be operating from a place of unresolved anxiety and trust issues. This is a common aftermath of betrayal where the betrayed spouse finds it hard to trust, not just their partner, but also external situations and people.

From Rebuilding Trust to Balancing Empathy and Self-Care

This scenario underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing the varied emotional responses that people may exhibit. Understanding these reactions is not just about managing a mailing list screw-up.  It’s about acknowledging the deeper emotional triggers and providing tailored support.

For those exhibiting heightened vigilance and suspicion, compassionate guidance is essential. This helps rebuild trust and security in relationships and daily interactions.

For the empathetic and understanding, it’s crucial to reinforce these qualities while ensuring they are not overlooking their own needs or bypassing their healing process.

Action Steps for You if You Have Heightened Vigilance and Suspicion

Affair recovery is a journey loaded with complex emotions like heightened vigilance, suspicion, and the challenge of maintaining empathy while protecting your own emotional well-being. Here’s some thoughts on how you can navigate these feelings constructively as you work towards healing and rebuilding trust.

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For Those Struggling with Heightened Vigilance and Suspicion in Affair Recovery

  1. Self-Reflection: It’s natural to feel heightened suspicion or anxiety after discovering an affair. Reflecting on these feelings can help you understand their origins, whether it’s from the betrayal itself or deeper insecurities. Understanding these emotions is a vital first step in the healing process.
  1. Seek Professional Help: Infidelity severely impacts your trust and sense of security. If you find yourself overwhelmed by mistrust or anxiety, reaching out to a psychologist, counselor or mentor specializing in affair recovery is crucial. They can provide tailored strategies to help you manage and work through these complex emotions.
  1. Develop Trust-Building Activities: In the aftermath of an affair, gradually rebuilding trust is key. This might involve open, honest conversations with your partner, participating in couples therapy, or engaging in activities that help rebuild your confidence in your relationship.
  1. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can be incredibly beneficial in managing the anxiety that comes with affair recovery. These techniques can promote calmness and help you regain a sense of trust in your environment and relationships.

4 Reasons Why Couples Counseling is Not a Good Idea if the Affair Has Not Ended

For Those Who Are Empathetic and Understanding While Recovering from an Affair

  1. Maintaining Personal Boundaries: While empathy is a valuable trait, especially in the healing process, it’s important to not lose sight of your own emotional needs. Setting and maintaining personal boundaries is crucial for your emotional health.
  1. Engagement in Self-Care: Regular self-care is essential in maintaining a balanced outlook. Engage in activities that nourish your soul and bring you joy, separate from the dynamics of your relationship.
  1. Continued Empathy Practice: It’s possible to be empathetic towards your partner’s struggles without taking on their burdens. Channel your empathy in healthy ways, such as through support groups, where you can share and receive support in a structured environment.
  1. Seeking Reciprocal Relationships: Ensure that your empathetic nature is both valued and reciprocated, particularly in your relationship with your partner. This balance is key to preventing feelings of being taken for granted and to building a relationship where both partners feel heard and valued.
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Final Thoughts

This email incident, while a simple mistake, serves as a powerful reminder of the complex emotional responses in affair recovery that individuals, especially those dealing with betrayal and trust issues, navigate daily.

As mentors, Linda and I try hard to address not only the surface-level concerns, but delve deeper into these emotional responses, offering support and guidance tailored to each individual’s unique journey towards healing and recovery.  If you’d like to learn more about mentoring, you can do so by clicking the following link: Individual Mentoring.

    5 replies to "What an Email Screw-up Says About the Emotional Responses in Affair Recovery"

    • Sarah P

      This is a really insightful post, Doug. 🙏

    • Nicole

      Thank you for this article. It’s a constant battle within my heart and soul to not jump to conclusions, not be suspicious, and know that I have no control over what my husband does with other women.
      Affairs are like hothouse flowers.
      Beautiful things can grow in that climate-controlled environment. But once you take your delicate flower out into the real world, it dies.
      Because It was never meant to withstand the climate of a real relationship. It was meant to be kept in secret for you to enjoy behind closed doors.
      Ask yourself how you’d react if your fling asked if you could go out somewhere and “be seen together.” If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s over,” it was never meant to be real.
      Affairs look better where the sunlight can’t touch them. -Barrie Davenport (livebold&bloom)

    • Alex

      Here’s my story. My wife and I have been together 18 years, married for 14, two young kids. Our marriage has been great, for the most part. Up until COVID, anyway. My wife has issues with anxiety (something she probably should have seen someone for years ago). These issues have gotten worse over time, but I’ve been able to manage them, or at least I thought I could. Her job can be stressful, but with COVID her anxiety went through the roof. Not so much about COVID itself, but with new demands put on her at work. She was also having a bit of a mid-life crisis. She’s always been very naturally attractive, but she’s also very unhealthily body-conscious and has noticed getting older (mid/late 40s). I’d also gotten a little out of shape and gained a little weight, which she disliked (not blaming myself, just providing background). Both of us started sleeping terribly. We started sleeping in separate rooms to help – I snore sometimes and she is often up with anxiety. The last 18 months or so I could see her growing distant. It was kind of a perfect storm of issues she was spiraling into. She was miserable, hated her job, bored, couldn’t sleep, thought she was losing her looks, wasn’t attracted to me, and starting to drink too much. I knew all of this, but didn’t know what to do. Then she and her girlfriends went on a weekend away, roughly 8 months ago, where it started (I’ll get to that). I definitely noticed a change in her behavior when the affair started, more than it already had, but didn’t know what it was at the time. She became even more distant and started using resentful, derisive comments towards me, something she had never done before. She started drinking more and was on her phone/social media much more. She became very protective of her phone, which was one of the first tip offs to me something was going on. I don’t know if I would have put it this way at the time, but in hindsight I can tell she was looking for escapes. Shortly before I found out, I planned a weekend camping with our kids along with my brothers and their kids. My wife does not like camping, so she was going to stay home. With the house to herself for the weekend, she invited her AP over for sex. He never really gave her an answer (he lives about 3 hours away, thank goodness). A little later, when the weekend was approaching, she urged him again to come over. He never really gave her an answer, which probably depressed her. That weekend she went out with a friend and got super drunk. She and her AP sexted the next day after watching a football game and drinking most of the afternoon. I called from camping and she seemed…off. That’s when I got really suspicious and started going through her stuff. I didn’t know about the guy or the plans for that weekend at that point, but was worried something else had happened (I was worried she might have hooked up with someone while she was out drunk with her friend). The next weekend I was able to access her Messenger IMs and finally saw everything. I was fortunate, if you can call it that, I discovered things when I did. My wife’s EA went on for around 5 months. It never technically involved sex, but got close. Like I was saying, it started on a weekend away with some girlfriends. She got really drunk and met up with a guy (a little older, also married with two kids) at a bar. She got his number and arranged to meet him and his pals later that evening, after her friends went to bed. Only he showed up (surprise), they met outside and fooled around more, but she stopped it short of sex (hands down pants, but clothes stayed on – reading their later IMs confirmed they did not have sex). A few days after she got home she initiated contact online, mostly through FB Messenger (it was conducted almost entirely through IM). Like I’ve read on here so much, very predictably things escalated quickly to an EA: using pet names, morning and evening greetings, talking sports and about drinking (something they bonded over), topless photos, sexting. After the camping weekend and discovering the IMs I confronted her that evening after the kids were in bed. As you all know, it’s been hell. The betrayal, uncertainty, trust destroyed, self-confidence destroyed, anxiety, insomnia, hurt, sadness, fear for the future…

      First, the sad, negative things that bother me, above and beyond the obvious. My wife was the initiator the majority of the time. She had ample opportunities to stop, think things through, and make the right choices before things got out of hand. She didn’t. I don’t think she took me, the kids, or the future into consideration at all. She said she felt like an addict when she contacted him. I asked if her AP had come down for that weekend, would she really have had sex with him. She said she didn’t know and hadn’t though it through, but when I pressed her she said yes, she probably would have. This is dumb and speaks more to my currently low self-confidence, but her AP is enormous, like 6’6” (talking about his physical size, not the size of his junk) and in pretty good shape. A month or so after D Day I had a week-long work trip. I had been dreading it, worried she would contact her AP while I was gone. But leading up to the trip we were re-connecting, working through things, had started marriage counseling, and were communicating again. I was feeling much better about it, and while I was there we were communicating and talking very positively. Well, as you can probably guess, she contacted him the entire time I was gone. Caved (or leaped?) at the first opportunity. IM’d about wanting to have sex and sent him some skimpy pictures too (that she’d also sent me). I know in the big scheme of affairs and compared to some of the other stories I’ve read on here this may seem mild, but this was crushing to me. Almost worse than D Day. This was the first time I seriously considered divorce.

      Now, the positive things. They never bashed their spouses. At one point in their IMs her AP said he married too young and he and his wife had grown apart. My wife responded that I was nice, but she wasn’t attracted to me anymore. But that was it, and smacks of obvious affair fog BS. My wife contacted him on that work trip at about the time she’d have been in peak withdrawal, and the messages she sent were so over the top it was embarrassing. When confronted she was extremely apologetic and seemed genuinely remorseful and embarrassed. She had still been a little protective about her privacy up until that point, but after that she’s been open with her phone and all accounts. While still guarded at first, she’s talking about the affair more and more and we’ve been able to joke about it. She initially defended her AP, but now she’s starting to see him for what he is – that he wasn’t that attractive, smart, or funny; that he took advantage of her (don’t get me wrong, she definitely still has lingering attachment to him – trying not to be too naïve). We’ve been in marriage counselling and it’s been helpful and productive. We’re communicating better and better. Got a ways to go and plenty to work on, but I guess things are heading in the right direction. Of course, not going to lie, I’m super paranoid one day I’m going to discover it’s all a sham, she’s secretly continued the EA, and is bored to tears with me, or some such (there’s no evidence for any of that – but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it). But trying to keep those thoughts at bay.

      • Alex

        I should have edited this down some. It’s way too long.

    • Nicole

      The only thing that is keeping me in my marriage right now is listening to the weekly podcast The Empowered Wife. Respect is key and that can be done with grace and dignity.
      I hope we all hang in there and love and respect each other and marriages.
      A recent Harvard study found that having a divorced friend can increase your own risk of a breakup by 75 percent. Even more, simply having a divorced acquaintance bumps up your risk by 33 percent. In short, divorce can be contagious. How many friends do you know from work or friends that you went to school with? Our parents were right, who we hang out with can influence us. Protect and respect your marriage, protect and respect your family.

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