strength1
Everyone here and in other fora say that reconciliation is a very painful process. I can believe that it will be, but I have trouble identifying what may the issues or situations which cause pain. I want to be ready for them. I'd love to hear from those who have been/are going through a reconciliation on what precisely triggers the pain. 
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jasmine
I’m just going to give some examples that immediately come to mind at random. This is more like brainstorming or a stream of consciousness, not a conclusive list. What may ring true for one person may not apply to everyone, but here goes:

  • truth/lies; being told one thing only to discover it was a lie later on
  • trickle truth: the slow and painful discovery/disclosure of information. Each new piece of information feels like re-living the trauma
  • facing the reality of betrayal trauma - it takes a long time to understand that reality
  • triggers - these can come at you from the most unexpected sources. What was once something you barely registered is now experienced as a threat/reminder
  • feeling repulsed by sex, even after sexual recovery was going well
  • trust
  • fear of history repeating
  • realising there was a part of your husband that you didn’t know existed 
  • not liking this previously hidden part of your husband’s/SO’s personality 
  • a sense of not sharing the same values that you once thought you did - fidelity, honesty, commitment etc
  • discovering sexual behaviours/interests you didn’t known your husband/SO was even interested in
  • unpredictable recovery pattern - making progress then everything falls apart again. This can be because of lying, trickle truth, triggers, etc
  • Husband/SO lacking in empathy or not understanding how the experience has affected you
  • an expectation to “get over it” within weeks or a few months (this is unrealistic, of course)
  • power imbalances 
  • “forgetting” agreements 
  • poor communication skills 
  • lying by omission/non disclosure of significant facts 
  • Feigning memory loss (this is difficult to prove but trust your gut)
  • gaslighting

The biggest problem in my experience was the lack of honesty, repeated lying (including lies of omission) and trickle truth. Lying in its many guises proved to be the biggest destroyer of trust and there came a point when I realised that my husband wasn’t capable of being honest, so I had to let go of that expectation. It’s not that I don’t believe my husband is honest. He probably is most of the time. It’s that I don’t believe he is ever going  to be honest about his sexual behaviours that took place outside of our relationship. I know the “easy” stuff but I don’t believe I know the full story. I appreciate that none of us ever know 100% of our partners extramarital behaviours, and I certainly don’t want to know every detail because that would be too difficult to move past. But I don’t know the who or the where or the when, except for one occasion. I suspect there has been more than one infidelity and I sort of suspect when, but I don’t have any idea more than that. 


We each have to arrive at what’s enough for us to live with. Knowing “enough” is one thing but it’s also what you want and need right now and in the future FOR YOU as far as staying in the relationship is concerned. You need to re establish new ground rules for yourself and communicate these to your partner. You need to (re) negotiate your boundaries and feel that you can state them clearly. Remember, boundaries exist to protect YOU. They are not a list of dos and don’ts that your partner must all follow. So many people seem to believe that boundaries are about issuing rules, but they are not. Boundaries are about what you need in order to feel safe in the relationship. These exist independently. I suggest you look up Vicki Tidwell Palmer and her podcast Beyond B*tchy for more information about boundaries. The other person always has a choice whether to respect your stated boundary (or not). If not, then you have to employ some sort of appropriate consequence. Boundaries are not boundaries if they are not enforced. 

Believe me, rebuilding a relationship IS challenging. 

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strength1
Thank you so much!
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Skelling
yes agree with Jasmin its painful. For both. For the WS seeing the pain they caused and doing the painful work to figure out what allowed themselves to go down that route. Answering the same question over and over again, being confronted with shame and guit of their choices, uncovering all the secrets, lies and details of the affair.  And for the BS having to face that trigger every day being reminded every single day that we were seemingly not worth more. That they could lie to our face so effortlessly. Realising that it is a loooooooong process with many many setbacks. Copin with the guilt an shame, when rage is so overwhelmingly strong, that we don't even recognise ourselves. Coping with feeling worthless, disregared, replaced and abandoned and utter hoplessness. Realising that it takes a lot of work on both parts and sometimes it takes a long time until the WS realises what that actually means, coping with frustration and doubt on both sides. An facing judgement from family, friends...
Its not an easy way for sure. Its hard work but it can be so so worth it.
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Keepabuzz
For me, everything caused me pain in reconciliation in the early days, weeks, and months. I was just a big messy ball of pain, hurt, deep sadness, self hatred, worthlessness, and RAGE. As time went on, and my wife never violated my boundaries, and worked hard to repair the unrepairable, it got easier. But ever so slowly.  I systematically removed every single thing in my life that reminded me of her affair or triggered me (except her vehicle, that was recently sold). My wife had to quit her job, sever friendships, live under constant scrutiny and surveillance, and deal with me daily. I assure you dealing with me during that time was the biggest challenge of her life. But the toughest part for me was just being there, being there with the biggest trigger of all, my wife. Every time I looked at her, all I could see was what she had done. Who she really was.  She was a liar, and a cheater. Reconciliation is definitely not easy. There is no way I would have even attempted it, if not for my kids.  I certainly didn’t want to, I wanted nothing more than to divorce my wife and never see her again.  Many on here want nothing more than for their WS to leave their AP, and come home, I wanted the opposite, I wanted her to leave and didn’t care if she was with him or not, I just wanted her gone. I think this made our reconciliation more difficult. I was certainly not giving it my all. I was t giving it anything for the first year. I was just tying to survive. My wife was well aware of this too.  I didn’t say it, but about 6 months in she told me that she knew I was only staying because of the kids and that she was scared that at any moment I would just say “that’s it, I’m done” and walk out and she would never see me again. I told her she was right, but that I was giving her a chance that she woefully didn’t deserve only for my kids, and it was up to her as to what to do with it. 
Male BS, D-day July 2015, trying to stay out of the dark.....
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AnywhereButHere
Trivializing was always a flash-point for me. I would tell my wife I was having a bad day dealing with her emotional affair and her response would be, "Still!?!?!" These days she likes to say, "It is worse in your mind than it actually was." ...but the only things in my mind are the things she told me about it and what I can prove about her AP. The WS is oftentimes desperate to 'move on' and this easily translates into insensitivity.
BH, 5+ Mo EA, DDay 3/8/18
"...regarding all as God after God."
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anthro
I would (and still do actually) sometimes plunge into a deep funk without any obvious trigger. Particular fears or anxieties would just surge up and it would be out of my control and not related to any current action or behaviour by my WS. So there's that, but that's not to do with triggers as such.

As far as triggers go, they have diminished a little. Initially they were everything everywhere. I think there are two broad categories for me. One is the stuff that relates to the emotional loss, the connection my WS formed with someone else. So things like love songs, rom coms, attending weddings, etc are just things I can't go anywhere near without pain and being reminded. The other category is more connected with the gaslighting and the need to reassess memories in light of the new information. I think those are worse (and probably how bad they are depends on how long you were gaslighted for, for me it was a year and a half which covers a lot of ground), but on the other hand your psyche seems to be able to work through them piece by piece. These, for me, have basically been everything everywhere. Every time I load the dishwasher - this one has never passed - I am triggered by the memory of seeing two coffee cups in the dishwasher when I loaded it during the affair. I would always see the two cups, pretty much every day, during the affair, and think, right so he was here again today for a coffee.

(To be clear, I honestly just didn't think she was cheating. In retrospect it is all very obvious but that's how gaslighting works, when it's someone you trust absolutely. So I would have all these annoying thoughts about how she had elevated this "friendship" with a neighbour but never thought it was anything other than a friendship. This is even though there is a huge, really long list of obvious signs in retrospect. The fact that he also pretended to be my friend adds to the confusion. In short anyone looking from the outside could have said, "dude, wake up", but the one thing I always thought about my wife was that she was a person of very strict honesty and loyalty and it never even appeared to be a possibility to me that she would lie at all, much less lie a million times a day for 18 months, risk our children's welfare, etc.) 

The dishwasher is just a random example, to show how mundane triggers can be. The thing with the gaslighting is that virtually every single memory needs reassessment. If there was a Christmas during the gaslighting period then you are going to be triggered by Christmas. For me, given it went well over a year, that means every occasion. Our in-laws do a similar thing every year for various kids' birthdays, so every one of those takes me back to being gaslighted. You basically are suddenly hit with a full year or two year's worth of deeply traumatic memories, all at once. Every moment of every day of every week of every month becomes a traumatic memory, a 10 out of 10 threat level that anyone would respond to with full force, with maximum adrenalin, total focus, etc, if only they were aware of the threat. 

The nature of these triggers - what distinguishes them for me from just being reminders - is that they take you right back to the time that you are remembering. They are a PTSD symptom, in effect. There is a huge element of helplessness; you are taken back in memory to a time when you (and your family) were under an extreme threat. You are really right there, feeling the threat in its entirety. It feels (on a physiological level) like it is happening in the present, so your whole system goes into a fight or flight mode (mostly fight for me...) and wants to respond to the threat. But of course the threat is in the past, the situation is not actually there to be grappled with, so you are both ready for fight/flight, and at the same time completely helpless to do anything. You cannot defend yourself or your children or your family, your safety, the safety of your loved ones, at all. You are totally powerless. 

These kinds of triggers have diminished for me over time, but there are still quite a lot of them. 

Another thing, not so much a trigger, is things like nightmares. The content of my dreams changed completely post d-day and I would frequently have terrible nightmares related to the betrayal, the humiliation, the contempt in which I was held, the danger to my world, etc. I'd be difficult to be with the day after a night of those. I was not yet 45yo on d-day, but my hair is now completely grey (or white really); I should add that the period of the affair was incredibly stressful because of the "problems in our marriage" that I thought were just between us but were still very hard on me (I actually thought our friend, her affair partner, might be someone she was confiding in, and that given he had a 20-year marriage and small kids, he might be talking her through working on our marriage. omg). I have had extended periods with such tightness in my chest, my gut, so much bodily tension, lack of sleep, just all kinds of physiological responses to the stress and sense of imminent harm, that I am 100 percent certain I have lost years from my lifespan. Unless something else gets me first, I am pretty sure I'll die of a cardiovascular cause and it will be much earlier than it would have because of the damage this has done to my system. The upside is that life is so flat and joyless now that I will care a lot less about that day coming than I would have before. 

As with PTSD, you also become hypervigilant. Small things can seem more threatening than they really are. You can appear to be overreacting. On the other hand you could just be more switched on; in the year after d-day I was first on the scene to break up two real fights in public places. In one of them I was waiting for a coffee and observed something that looked slighly off outside. Then I saw one of the people throw a punch at the other and literally before the victim hit the ground, I had run out there and was right in the face of the guy who threw the punch. I have no recollection of the run, just of seeing the punch thrown and then being in the guy's face. I didn't think about it at all so there was no element of fear at all. It was when I told my counsellor this story that she pointed out that I probably have PTSD, hence becoming hypervigilant. To that I would add a tendency to just do whatever needs to be done without really thinking about the risk to myself, which comes (I think) partly from feeling much more strongly about "rightness", partly from almost hoping to have an excuse to beat someone senseless, and partly from not really caring about risk to myself any more since I have so much less to lose. 

Sorry, I have rambled a little but I hope this all relates sort of broadly to the total impact, not just triggers but some of the other things that are a bit like triggers in terms of changes in personality/behaviour.

One more thing... during the post d-day "crisis" period, there's a big part of you that tends to be focused on just restoring the pre-affair reality. It's sort of a form of denial, maybe not part of conscious thinking but at least a strong thread in how you are operating. I often think of this (true, I am told) story of this car driving down the road, and the driver has his arm out of the window as people used to do. The car went past a pole and the driver's arm was literally ripped right off. The car continued straight along the road for another few hundred metres before suddenly swerving from side to side and crashing. The point I get from this story is that we humans sometimes take some time to recognise the full scale of a sudden drastic change. Our initial response is to maintain the previous version of what seems safe and okay. We are driving down the road and our arm gets ripped off, and we take a little time to fully grasp this. For a moment our system says, "something has happened, not sure what, must drive straight." So we don't crash straight away, we crash a few hundred metres down the road. 

While we are still in the chaos of "wtf is even happening??" post d-day we are in a fairly simplistic state, trying to keep things together, keep things from falling apart further, preserving what we've got without taking stock of it. Once the affair is over, the immediate danger has past, and things are on a slightly more stable footing, THAT is when the reality really kicks in. That's when the driver realises his arm has been ripped off, that's when the car starts swerving, that's when the crash happens. For me there is a big element of "be careful what you wish for" in the post d-day period. It can feel like if you can just get your spouse back then you will have gotten over the hard part and start the positive work of reconciliation. In fact though, the hard part starts when your spouse comes back. The affair and d-day are not as hard as reconciliation is, because during reconciliation your whole self begins to reengage with your situation. During the affair and the immediate post d-day period, most of your system is shut down because you are just running on your danger responses, in crisis mode. Your analysis may be detailed but at the same time it is superficial; your full set of emotional responses and your full process of dealing with memories kicks in only later, when the dust has settled. 
Formerly known as Anthropoidape... male bs, long affair, d-day Feb 2017.
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triplehooks
Oh my God, Anthro. 😭

You said everything man.
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Keepabuzz
anthro wrote:
I would (and still do actually) sometimes plunge into a deep funk without any obvious trigger. Particular fears or anxieties would just surge up and it would be out of my control and not related to any current action or behaviour by my WS. So there's that, but that's not to do with triggers as such.

As far as triggers go, they have diminished a little. Initially they were everything everywhere. I think there are two broad categories for me. One is the stuff that relates to the emotional loss, the connection my WS formed with someone else. So things like love songs, rom coms, attending weddings, etc are just things I can't go anywhere near without pain and being reminded. The other category is more connected with the gaslighting and the need to reassess memories in light of the new information. I think those are worse (and probably how bad they are depends on how long you were gaslighted for, for me it was a year and a half which covers a lot of ground), but on the other hand your psyche seems to be able to work through them piece by piece. These, for me, have basically been everything everywhere. Every time I load the dishwasher - this one has never passed - I am triggered by the memory of seeing two coffee cups in the dishwasher when I loaded it during the affair. I would always see the two cups, pretty much every day, during the affair, and think, right so he was here again today for a coffee.

(To be clear, I honestly just didn't think she was cheating. In retrospect it is all very obvious but that's how gaslighting works, when it's someone you trust absolutely. So I would have all these annoying thoughts about how she had elevated this "friendship" with a neighbour but never thought it was anything other than a friendship. This is even though there is a huge, really long list of obvious signs in retrospect. The fact that he also pretended to be my friend adds to the confusion. In short anyone looking from the outside could have said, "dude, wake up", but the one thing I always thought about my wife was that she was a person of very strict honesty and loyalty and it never even appeared to be a possibility to me that she would lie at all, much less lie a million times a day for 18 months, risk our children's welfare, etc.) 

The dishwasher is just a random example, to show how mundane triggers can be. The thing with the gaslighting is that virtually every single memory needs reassessment. If there was a Christmas during the gaslighting period then you are going to be triggered by Christmas. For me, given it went well over a year, that means every occasion. Our in-laws do a similar thing every year for various kids' birthdays, so every one of those takes me back to being gaslighted. You basically are suddenly hit with a full year or two year's worth of deeply traumatic memories, all at once. Every moment of every day of every week of every month becomes a traumatic memory, a 10 out of 10 threat level that anyone would respond to with full force, with maximum adrenalin, total focus, etc, if only they were aware of the threat. 

The nature of these triggers - what distinguishes them for me from just being reminders - is that they take you right back to the time that you are remembering. They are a PTSD symptom, in effect. There is a huge element of helplessness; you are taken back in memory to a time when you (and your family) were under an extreme threat. You are really right there, feeling the threat in its entirety. It feels (on a physiological level) like it is happening in the present, so your whole system goes into a fight or flight mode (mostly fight for me...) and wants to respond to the threat. But of course the threat is in the past, the situation is not actually there to be grappled with, so you are both ready for fight/flight, and at the same time completely helpless to do anything. You cannot defend yourself or your children or your family, your safety, the safety of your loved ones, at all. You are totally powerless. 

These kinds of triggers have diminished for me over time, but there are still quite a lot of them. 

Another thing, not so much a trigger, is things like nightmares. The content of my dreams changed completely post d-day and I would frequently have terrible nightmares related to the betrayal, the humiliation, the contempt in which I was held, the danger to my world, etc. I'd be difficult to be with the day after a night of those. I was not yet 45yo on d-day, but my hair is now completely grey (or white really); I should add that the period of the affair was incredibly stressful because of the "problems in our marriage" that I thought were just between us but were still very hard on me (I actually thought our friend, her affair partner, might be someone she was confiding in, and that given he had a 20-year marriage and small kids, he might be talking her through working on our marriage. omg). I have had extended periods with such tightness in my chest, my gut, so much bodily tension, lack of sleep, just all kinds of physiological responses to the stress and sense of imminent harm, that I am 100 percent certain I have lost years from my lifespan. Unless something else gets me first, I am pretty sure I'll die of a cardiovascular cause and it will be much earlier than it would have because of the damage this has done to my system. The upside is that life is so flat and joyless now that I will care a lot less about that day coming than I would have before. 

As with PTSD, you also become hypervigilant. Small things can seem more threatening than they really are. You can appear to be overreacting. On the other hand you could just be more switched on; in the year after d-day I was first on the scene to break up two real fights in public places. In one of them I was waiting for a coffee and observed something that looked slighly off outside. Then I saw one of the people throw a punch at the other and literally before the victim hit the ground, I had run out there and was right in the face of the guy who threw the punch. I have no recollection of the run, just of seeing the punch thrown and then being in the guy's face. I didn't think about it at all so there was no element of fear at all. It was when I told my counsellor this story that she pointed out that I probably have PTSD, hence becoming hypervigilant. To that I would add a tendency to just do whatever needs to be done without really thinking about the risk to myself, which comes (I think) partly from feeling much more strongly about "rightness", partly from almost hoping to have an excuse to beat someone senseless, and partly from not really caring about risk to myself any more since I have so much less to lose. 

Sorry, I have rambled a little but I hope this all relates sort of broadly to the total impact, not just triggers but some of the other things that are a bit like triggers in terms of changes in personality/behaviour.

One more thing... during the post d-day "crisis" period, there's a big part of you that tends to be focused on just restoring the pre-affair reality. It's sort of a form of denial, maybe not part of conscious thinking but at least a strong thread in how you are operating. I often think of this (true, I am told) story of this car driving down the road, and the driver has his arm out of the window as people used to do. The car went past a pole and the driver's arm was literally ripped right off. The car continued straight along the road for another few hundred metres before suddenly swerving from side to side and crashing. The point I get from this story is that we humans sometimes take some time to recognise the full scale of a sudden drastic change. Our initial response is to maintain the previous version of what seems safe and okay. We are driving down the road and our arm gets ripped off, and we take a little time to fully grasp this. For a moment our system says, "something has happened, not sure what, must drive straight." So we don't crash straight away, we crash a few hundred metres down the road. 

While we are still in the chaos of "wtf is even happening??" post d-day we are in a fairly simplistic state, trying to keep things together, keep things from falling apart further, preserving what we've got without taking stock of it. Once the affair is over, the immediate danger has past, and things are on a slightly more stable footing, THAT is when the reality really kicks in. That's when the driver realises his arm has been ripped off, that's when the car starts swerving, that's when the crash happens. For me there is a big element of "be careful what you wish for" in the post d-day period. It can feel like if you can just get your spouse back then you will have gotten over the hard part and start the positive work of reconciliation. In fact though, the hard part starts when your spouse comes back. The affair and d-day are not as hard as reconciliation is, because during reconciliation your whole self begins to reengage with your situation. During the affair and the immediate post d-day period, most of your system is shut down because you are just running on your danger responses, in crisis mode. Your analysis may be detailed but at the same time it is superficial; your full set of emotional responses and your full process of dealing with memories kicks in only later, when the dust has settled. 



Hands down, best post I have ever read!!!  
Male BS, D-day July 2015, trying to stay out of the dark.....
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hurting
Anthro does it again! That was spot on.
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strength1
Thank you Anthro. We have not yet started the process of reconciliation, and I feel like s**t.  I hate to think how much worse it’s going to get.   Forewarned is forearmed, they say.  So bring it on.
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seventy7
Anthro - simply incredible post. Much of what you shared is my reality. I wake up everyday and have to find a purpose to get myself out of bed. That purpose right now is my 14 year old son. He is my world...I do often worry how my life will change when he goes off to college or moves out. 
Male BS
D-Day 11/1/2017
It gets easier as time goes, but the pain never goes away
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AnywhereButHere
From Anthro: "The upside is that life is so flat and joyless now that I will care a lot less about that day coming than I would have before."

I know this. When a marriage counselor began our session by asking if I was entertaining thoughts of suicide, my response was, "No. I don't want to 'off myself'. But 'living', per se, has kind of lost its allure."
BH, 5+ Mo EA, DDay 3/8/18
"...regarding all as God after God."
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Cam28
I agree with many  of the other posts.  I have not however experienced much anger.  My battle seems to be an overwhelming feeling of sadness.  I suppose this comes from knowing that life will never be the same.  That being said, much of how difficult your recovery will be is dependent upon your specific situation.  How loving your WS is during this time will have a huge impact.  Your attitude will as well.  There is much proof out there that many marriages can be better post-infidelity.  I would highly suggest that you tap into the online resources available out there.  There is some really good stuff.  Go on You Tube and search affair recovery.  There are many great websites in addition to this one as well.  Marriage Helpers, Beyond Affairs Network, Affair Recovery, etc.  Also, read as many books as you can.  I would begin with Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting Guide by Michele Weiner-Davis.  Torn Asunder is a great resource not only for you but for your family as well.  Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust by Shirley Glass.  After the Affair by Janis Spring.  There are many more but this is a good start.  Be careful though.  There is also garbage out there.  There are also many podcast out there.  I found that some days I needed affair recovery topics but as time went on I also tapped in to self help.  You must work on your personal healing as well.  Focus on the Family his great.  Marriage Today if you are going to reconcile is really good for working towards a better marriage than you had before.  His Needs, Her Needs is a great book for improving relationships as well.  Hope this helps.  My WS wouldn't go to counseling.  I honestly can say that these resources saved me. 
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ThrivenotSurvive
Also be aware that books that really helped one person - may not work for you.  I read almost every book listed above - some I really liked, others I actively did not.  If some resource or way an author looks at something doesn't resonate with you, move on to something that does.  I found that the book Living and Loving After Betrayal  by Steven Stosny helped me far more than some of those above because it started with how to help ME lower my own emotional reactivity and begin rebuilding my inner value. 

I found that in the beginning I was spending far too much time in my husband and the APs head trying to figure out what they had been/were thinking and why - and too little in my own helping myself grow strong and regain my equilibrium.  While it is natural - and all those reasons need to be explored - I found that attending to my wounds before those of the marriage was really, really helpful.  

He also recently released a book called Soaring Above that isn't about betrayal specifically that I think should be required reading for interacting with other humans.  I am only half way through and I've already asked my husband and daughter to listen to it with me on Audible.  It is that good - at least in my opinion.
BS - Female
Married 27 years, one adult child
DD May 2016

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” - V Frankl
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