In this post, we will explore the ongoing impacts of infidelity, specifically triggers and flashbacks. Triggers are reminders of past trauma, which for betrayed wives, encompass memories of their husbands cheating. We will discuss common triggers, how they can cause flashbacks, and ways to manage and reduce their impact.
Experiencing a trigger can bring back memories of past trauma associated with infidelity, leading to feelings of sadness, anxiety, or panic. It is crucial to identify our individual triggers, as this can help us learn to manage them in less distressing ways. Although we may never be completely free of triggers, being mindful can help reduce their impact and duration.
COMMON TRIGGERS AFTER INFIDELITY
Common triggers after infidelity can be:-
- Specific dates, like anniversaries, holidays, or Friday nights,
- Physical locations, like places your husband went while he was cheating,
- Certain smells, like the affair partner’s perfume in your husband’s car,
- Words or phrases, like names your husband called you when you were upset over him cheating,
- Facial expressions, like when your husband lies or becomes consumed with shame,
- Objects or clothing, like his gym clothes or bag while he was trying to improve his looks for his affair partner,
- Visual cues, like women reminding you of the affair partner or seeing an affair on TV.
triggers Can Cause Flashbacks
Triggers can sometimes cause flashbacks, which are intense memories that make us feel like we are reliving a traumatic event. Instead of recognizing that the event is over, we feel like it is happening again in the present moment. This can cause our body to react as if it is happening right now, and we may respond with fight, fawn, freeze, or flight mode.
understanding the role of habits
Our habits can influence our triggers because our brains have a bias toward following familiar patterns. We tend to do the same things in the same way, which saves our brains from needing to make decisions. Therefore, unfortunately, we get triggered without permission and sometimes without knowing we are triggered, but our body and brain do.
For example, whenever I drive my car to the supermarket, my brain unconsciously starts scanning the road for my husband’s affair partner (AP), and I jump in fright each time I see a grey car. While I don’t consciously scan for her car now, just after D-day, I did. Consequently, my brain has habitually taken on checking for her car. It has associated trauma with my husband and his AP cheating, therefore, seeing her car triggers me. I wish I could turn this off, but my brain insists on looking out for me. Instead, I am left managing the trigger in the healthiest way possible.
Sometimes, our triggers cause emotional reactions before we realize we are stressed or upset. As a result, we discover we are upset and don’t know how we arrived at feeling this way. More than likely, our brains are doing their job of keeping us safe, yet now we need to soothe ourselves from complicated feelings. However, we still need to manage triggers even if they arise unexpectedly and without conscious awareness.
coping with triggers and Flashbacks
How do we live with triggers after infidelity? Avoiding or predicting all triggers is impossible, as they often come out of nowhere. I hate the feeling of being triggered or having a flashback! It's stressful and at the time invasive. Below is how I process triggers and return to living in peace.
Most importantly, I always look to my self-care first. Self-care teaches us to process our emotions in healthy ways. Even when I don't feel like it, I know self-care is usually what I need. The fact is that meeting my needs supports me and is always my responsibility. Therefore I have worked hard to habitualize my self-care healing hacks.
How I support myself through the onslaught of pain or difficult emotions of triggers or flashbacks:-
- Telling myself what is happening. I talk to myself when I am feeling triggered or in a flashback and tell myself that this is a normal human response. Triggering and flashbacks are what happen to people who have experienced trauma. (Infidelity it traumatic!)
- Reminding myself that I am safe at this present moment. I remind myself that the triggering event (the cheating) happened in the past and is not happening now.
- Naming what I am feeling and giving myself self-compassion—then confirming that it is OK and normal to feel this way. I also remind myself that what happened was not my fault, and I am not to blame for my husband’s cheating. His infidelity is his issue, not mine.
- Feeling my emotions over the trigger and watching them move through me like a wave rolling into the shore. Watching my emotions supports me to realize that I am not my emotions, they are a chemical reaction happening in my body.
- Slowing my breath, usually I do square breathing or silent breathing, until I feel my body relax. Breathing slowly and gently tells my body I am safe—breath-holding signals to my body that I am in a stressed state. On the other hand, large breaths tell my body to prepare for fight or flight. So I breathe low, slow, and in and out of my nose. (Read more about breathing and listen to a relaxing breathing exercise here.)
- Scanning my body for any tension. When I check for tight muscles or a clenched jaw, then I can purposefully release it and relax. (Try this bodyscan to relax tension.) Tension tells my body something is wrong and keeps my brain on high alert watching for something to get triggered over.
- Asking myself if I need anything and giving myself what I need. Self-care is all about meeting our needs so that we can feel good about ourselves and heal.
- Speaking an affirmation over myself to support my healing and stop negative self-talk. Once I have experienced my feeling, I need to change the subject in my mind so that I don’t keep feeling and re-feeling that emotion. Once is enough! Then I move on by starting an affirming conversation in my head.
- Moving my body by taking a walk or dancing; singing a song; mindfully spending time in nature; patting my dog or cuddling my purring cat; or seeking the comfort of a safe person; and if possible, asking to be held. These all support me not to re-feed my trigger. I work hard not to re-feed my triggers.
- Loving myself through my triggers by giving myself a self-care moment is my superpower in walking out of triggers or flashbacks whole. I am patient with myself and know I will heal as my body and mind return to safety if I process my triggers or flashbacks in healthy ways. It ultimately hurts me more to ignore, stuff, or pretend I am not triggered when I am triggered. By compassionately loving myself through my triggers empowers me to heal and grow beyond them.
For more about mastering triggers, please read "Processing Triggers: A Guide to Healing After Infidelity"
The Power of Self-Care in Reducing Triggers and Flashbacks
Recovery after infidelity is a gradual and progressive process. Often it feels like two steps forward and one back, but we look for progress not perfection. The truth is that our triggers and flashbacks decrease in intensity, duration, and frequency as we persist with consistent self-care. Engaging in empathy, self-care and learning ways to relax and support yourself, helps you to face your triggers and flashbacks with much less distress.
If you need support in coping with your triggers or flashbacks, please reach out. Additionally, having a caring person on your side makes healing so much easier. The truth is that we, as betrayed wives, need empathy and support to heal because infidelity is so much more painful than we ever realized. I have made it my life mission to support fellow betrayed wives because I know how painful infidelity really is.
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