by Peggy Vaughan
The recurring images of your partner with someone else are tough, especially since they come back for quite awhile - but they can/do eventually go away. How well I remember the way I'd be lying in my husband's arms, then suddenly have this sinking feeling just sweep over me as I'd imagine him with other women in his arms.
I found that anything/everything could trigger those images. His very first affair was with a woman whose name was the same as our daughter's middle name - so there was no escaping that. And as silly as it sounds, I even found myself affected by the fact that our family dog reminded me of one of the women - because they both had red hair!
The images and memories don't just magically disappear, but they do eventually diminish and then gradually fade away - if you work at helping that happen. While we can't keep them from coming, we can refuse to "dwell" on them; we can immediately try to move away from those images.
Also, of course, the way we're being treated by our spouse during our "recovery" can make a big difference. If we're able to balance these painful images with new, more positive experiences, it helps enormously.
Finally, just a reminder that I'm not talking theoretically here. I've "been there" and struggled with the images as well, but they DID go away and I have no residual pain from them. So I thought it might be helpful to share my own early struggles.
Here's an excerpt from our book, Beyond Affairs:
"The memories continued to haunt me. I'd be doing just fine, and then something would happen to remind me of the past - and it would feel like it was happening all over again. The least little thing might trigger these memories. It could be a reference to a particular person or place or subject, or a color or a song - or a hundred other things. Invariably, it would bring back in full living color every detail of the painful feelings and events of the past.
"This yo-yo up and down in my ability to cope with his affairs continued to keep me off balance for two or three years. There were times when things would be great and I'd think I was over the hump and had adjusted. Then...Bam! I'd get knocked all the way back down into a depression.
"I frequently wished I could have amnesia. That seemed to be the only way I could forget the past. Also, I wished for time to pass. I'd always heard that time heals, but I never heard just how much time it takes. I didn't know whether I could last long enough.
"We spent many, many hours talking about our feelings and trying to get a handle on the whole experience. Little by little it got easier to handle the emotional aspects too...Finally, one day the pain just slipped away when I didn't even notice."
(end of excerpt from Beyond Affairs)