Monday, January 5, 2015

Guest Post: The Truth About Triggers or "Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go on Vacation..."

by Steam

I got triggered a week or so ago for the first time in a long time.
I was in bed, exhausted from the holidays and my H told me the price of something we have been repairing and replacing on this house it seems every year.
I got angry and then immediately attributed my anger (who me snippy? moi?) to exhaustion.
But I was flipping out.
My voice didn't sound like my own. I sounded as if I was going through an exorcism. Or needed one.
I had no idea what was going on with me. I felt insane. And over the price of something?
It took me a few minutes to realize that this outburst was tethered to D-Day.

Triggers are insidious. They don't all point to the affair, they are not always a woman, or a glance in the wrong direction by your husband.

Sometimes you need to search for the connection. Which is what I did.

Instead of eating the anger, which is what I would have done a year ago, pre-betrayal. Instead of becoming silent and distant, knowing I would spend the day seething and marinating in my own pain and anger, which would seep out of every pore despite my insisting that everything was "just fine." Instead...I told him exactly what was going through my mind.
And as I told him that I did not want to spend "one more offing dime" on this project for the house, the anger turned to tears. When I started crying, well, that's when I knew I wasn't pissed about anything happening today. It sure wasn't the price – we could afford it.
It was a trigger. It was the residual pain surfacing.

I once read that anger is pain in disguise. Uncover the anger and show the pain the light of day. paid cannot thrive in the light, it seeks darkness and secrecy.
I walked a lot at night with my pain. Literally.

So what was this?
Well...last year those exact same repairs were underway right as my D-Day happened.
As I sat for two hours uncovering all the lies and all the women, shaking silently, glued to the computer, there were four perfect strangers working outside not 15 feet from me, seeing right into my window.
They were the ones who saw me first as I searched in silence...and then physically charged my husband when he walked through the door.
Although they spoke a different language, I am pretty sure that bitch, fucker, bastard, whore and "don't you fucking touch me!" translate easily into any language, especially when accompanied by flailing arms, a husband's pleading and a laptop held high over my head as I threatened to introduce it to the floor any second now.
I wailed, cussed, cried, threw things, rightly accused, screamed, crumpled, got up, screamed some more.
The other morning, with my husband's mention of the repairs, it all came flooding back.
It had arisen...and I had to keep it on the surface to deal with it when I really wanted to do was drown it.

So I kept it afloat.
Painful? In that moment, yes.
But the pain passed quickly as I observed the process, like it was happening to someone else.
This is where a lot of pain actually is – in the past but we have not dealt with it enough, even when we're certain we have.

Maybe have some tea ready and nice warm bath for its return because it might visit for a while.
Luckily, the visits will become shorter.
The kick in the gut becomes more like a pinch.

Just pay attention.
Don't ignore the pain. It feels like it's going to take over but really it just wants your attention.
Give it some...and then send it on its way.


  1. Such a timely post. And dead on as usual. I myself had a weird trigger this weekend & posted abt it somewhere else (perhaps the stuck section).

    But ur so right. Instead of keeping it in & letting it seethe, when my husband asked why I was crying & didn't accept my im not crying & I'm fine, & we discussed how I felt, I actually felt much better.

    Also by discussing it it gives him info, so he's more prepared next time.

    Thank u steam.


  2. I hear you. Lately I have been thinking do I want to live with this pain ongoing. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life thinking, dwelling, preventing, being this and that so this or that won't happen again. Why should I live the rest of my life reliving this nightmare? He was with the OW every week for 2-3 days a week for 2.5 years. I think of it too often I'm a 11 months out. Do I really want to live my life with a man who is capable of lying, devaluing, coward etc.... I'm beginning to think NOT. If I was by myself I could get on with my life and close this chapter, open a new one. Everytime he kisses me I think of her, I see her head bobbing between his legs too frequently, I can see him getting in bed with her and beginning to kiss her like he does me. I think if I didn't have to look at him yes I would think about the situation but not like I do now. It was the one deal breaker that I asked him to never do. We had a deal and that was the one rule in a marriage for me that was an end game. He knew it from the start of Day 1. My dad had an affair on my mom, my first husband was an abuser, now so is my second. I'm beginning to yearn for the day I can wake up and think about me and not the Kindergarden teacher. I really can't stand any more pain or conflict. I have lost 60 pounds, had a tummy tuck and arm lift. I'm looking pretty awesome. Felt good to do something totally selfish for me. I can support myself, his income would drop by 60 percent. I just want to be free and feel some peace. I really don't think I can take the pain, triggers, flashbacks anymore. i don't know what makes you different from me? I'm encouraged by this blog - I can get over it, they did and said it was worth it so I can too. But I'm beginning to believe the pain too much for me. I'm a pretty strong person a true survivor. My husband is beginning to make me sick. I don't want to end up sick from all that is forever going on in my mind. Inside my mind is like a train never stopping. I still verbally abuse him bi- weekly about the affair it just builds up. I and he and we have been in therapy for over a year and we have a good therapist. Am I crazy? He says so easily it is in the past but it isn't for me. I have tried everything the therapist says.

    1. Lynn,
      Please don't ever think this site's only mandate is to convince you that you can stay with your husband. It's absolutely not. It's about helping women get to a point where they can make the best choice for them -- knowing that it's a CHOICE. You get to decide what the rest or your life looks like. Some women want their husbands in their lives, albeit without the cheating. Others, and it's equally valid, come to the conclusion that they are better off without them. But it's YOUR choice. Not our culture's, which insists that "once a cheater...". Not your husband's. Not anyone's but yours.
      It's hard enough to rebuild a marriage after betrayal with both partners equally invested in making it work. It's damn near impossible if one of the partner's hearts just isn't in it.
      I think too often we believe that the "right" decision feels good. Sometimes the "right" decision still feels like hell but that doesn't make it any less right.

    2. Elle and others:

      I want to pick up on Lynn Pain's question about what makes those who stay different. How are you able to look past the total disrespect that it takes to be involved with serial cheating that lasts years and years? How do you look past the person exposing you to disease? How do you look past all the lies that were told to you?

      I know from your writings that it took you a while and that you were mostly motivated for your children initially. But in the end, what is it that you say to your logical mind to help you move past the fact that this person cheated, lied and put you at risk for so long. I'm really struggling with this.

    3. Almost 27 yrs later that's a question I still ask myself. Was it the right thing to do, to leave or stay but mostly in terms of what did I model for our children. What is the legacy we pass on to the next generation? My therapist said that most likely my husband would've cheated on anyone. His huge ego just needed to be admired. That it was something learned in his family. His mother had almost a suffocating love for her children. But the biggest reason I stayed was for our young children. Didn't think any other guy would put in the effort that my husband did in parenting and the other idea was most likely I would pick someone else with the same flaws, the carbon copy that so many women do the second time around. we can't back that which has been lost, there are no do overs only the chance to make some good memories while we still have time.

    4. It's like you are in my head !!!!! I've been reading this site for about 8 months . It SAVED MY LIFE! Found out about my husband 14 months ago ... Never thought I would stay if this ever happened to me. (Just like everyone else) But here I am 14 months later..... And feeling just like you.... just flat most of the time...and sad I guess ... Does it ever REALLY get better?

    5. To the two Anonymouses (it really is easier if you pick some sort of pseudonym),
      Yes, it absolutely does get better but it takes a lot of work, whether you stay or go. Either way, you need to heal yourself from the trauma of betrayal -- the fear of abandonment, the fear that you can't trust yourself (or anyone else), the fear that this might happen again... No matter who you're with, there's never a guarantee that you won't be cheated on again and that's a terrifying proposition. becomes less terrifying once you do the hard work of healing yourself from this. There are a zillion blog posts on this site that guide you through doing this – from triggers to obsessing to the plain of lethal flatness (or the "dead zone") to whatever it is you're struggling with.
      The biggest hurdle for many of us is letting go of our desire that this never happened. So many of us get hung up on not being able to erase the fact that we were cheated on. And some of us can't get past the fact that the person we loved and trusted did this to us. He can't un-do what he did and we can't un-do that it was done. All any of us can EVER do is determine where we want to be RIGHT NOW. Not tomorrow. Not next year. RIGHT NOW. And then act accordingly. All suffering comes from thinking about the past or the future, said wise old Buddha.

  3. Dear Lynn Pain,

    In one of my books (I have read so many that I can't remember which one), the authors gave an example of a wife who discovered she just couldn't reconcile with her cheating husband, but not exactly because what he did was a deal breaker. The analogy used was she now saw him completely differently, even after months of therapy & trying to rebuild. He was now like a piece of fish to her that had fallen onto the floor & could not be cleaned to be used for cooking.

    Maybe ur husband is like that piece of fish.

    Sad but at least if u come to that realization u know that u did it after almost a year of trying to make it work and not in the heat of the moment with ur emotions on a roller coaster.


  4. Lynn, no one can ever say you didn't try. This is a HUGE deal, to be lied to, betrayed, etc, and the fact that even SOME can get over it is pretty amazing. My H affair was so short lived and shallow. It does not take away the sting of D day, the worst day of my life, but it don't know how I would have gotten through this had it been an affair that lasted for years. I often mention the book "after the affair". And even in that book, not every chapter has a "stay together and have a happy ending forever and ever amen". There are options to live apart and date him, and date others, and I don't know a soul who would condemn you for that. I don't know studies on betrayed spouses, but I know most people involved with alcoholics tend to get involved with them again (steam raises hand). There must be a way to avoid another toxic man in your future. Maybe someone will treat you better, honor his vows, worship YOUR beautiful new body and not some hamburger on the corner. You know yourself best and it seems you have done everything right. Like Elle says...the right decision is rarely the easiest . You stayed, which was hard as hell,I know and that's a lot more than many women could do. I didn't think I could, I know friends who could not. I understand us all in one way or another. You have given a great shot. That says a lot about you. My best wishes for you , whatever you choose to do.

  5. Pilots wife...I don't know how young I was, but I know I was under 16, because I remember being in the back seat of my best friends mothers car,and not driving, when some news broke about the husband of a MISS AMERICA cheating on her. She was, in my eyes, and the eyes of the entire nation, "perfect" How could anyone cheat on HER? That is when I, without a doubt knew that it was not about the wife and really was all about the husband, and I carried that story with me, somewhere in my brain, never knowing I would need it. But D day.. About 40 years later, I needed it.

    So your therapist is right your husband would most likely have cheated on ANYONE, and that is why we MUST stop blaming ourselves.

    Anonymous, I am sure others can answer about serial cheaters and how you get over that. It was hard enough for me with just two incidents. The short version is knew i was with a good man who made a couple of horrible, regrettable mistakes. He Shattered my heart, but he also stuck around to help me mend it. The first few months, although i wanted, we both wanted to get through this together, it was still hell. If he had not treated this like the huge issue that it was, I would not be with him today. Had he tried to justify it in anyway I would have kicked him out. The biggest thing for me, he knew he fucked up, betrayed me, complete destroying me for a while..... but I was the women that he loved. and he has spent the last year proving it. He's a good man, and he still fucks up, but not to the extent that he did in 2013.

  6. Thank you all I appreciate your honesty and that is a rare quality. I was triggered last night and brow beat more information from him. He has still been holding back. He told me how great the sex was, how much she appreciated him, he wanted to have an affair, he was open for one. No our marriage stank but the stuff he told me was too much for me to bear. I'm leaving him for the rest of the week and weekend staying with some friends. He really minimized the affair details more than what I thought. He mini imbibed it to our therapist. I'll keep you posted. He is tryingo make up for it in all ways more than ever but now my heart just isn't in it anymore. I wish it was but with this new information it is just too much. Thank you all I'll keep you posted. Your the only friends I have.

    1. Lynn,
      Our heart is breaking along with yours. It's important that you honour yourself by doing what feels right. We're with you every step of the way, wherever those steps take you.

    2. Lynn and others:

      The things that I think make this the worst for any woman who is enduring the pain of infidelity is that a) we didn't ask for or deserve this and b) there is no easy way out. To stay or go? That is entirely your decision to make, since you know yourself best, but the important thing to know is that there is nothing about either choice which will be easy.

      I have actually made both the choice to stay, and then to leave. When the facts of my husbands affair came out 16 months ago, I was devastated, but thought that I could feel enough love and compassion for this man whom I thought was my friend, that I could work on our marriage with him, and regain that which was almost lost. But after a year of work on my part, it became apparent that he HADN'T given up this other woman and wasn't willing to put her out of his life. I realized- belatedly- that he wasn't really being a friend, nor was he the man that I could love any more. THAT was when I finally told him that I was going to learn to live without him and that he wasn't allowed to just come into the house any longer. I told him that the marriage was over because he wasn't able to really put an effort into being my husband.

      In the 4 months since that conversation, I have been feeling the regret which comes from losing that central person in one's life, that person to whom you trusted all of your personhood. Like Elle said, I feel extremely sorry that this ever happened, and it is still hard to turn off the movies in my head. But I am worth 10 of the OW, and if he can't see this, then it is best for me to turn towards people who will love me and value me. Ever so slowly, I find that I am able to emotionally distance myself from this man who has become a stranger. It gets marginally easier.

      The hangup that I have is that I feel so lonely. Everyone else seems to have their spouses and their families. Even my husband has his OW living with him now! I have my children whom I love, but who really aren't capable of giving me the emotional support that I need. The isolation is debilitating at times.

      Good luck to all of you ladies who are wondering how to proceed after finding out about the affair. I feel very close to all of you, as we each deal with our pain. May 2015 be a better year for us all.

      Jen from Ohio

    3. Lynn, my H's affair, similar to yours lasted between 2.5 - 3 years, and was not just "a mistake" it was an act of pure selfishness in the belief that I would never find out and that no one would get hurt! once he finally came to his senses and tried to end it the OW was not about to give it all up that easily, and basically blackmailed him into staying friends and used his guilt as a weapon to keep him around for nearly another 10 YEARS!! in all that time you see the red flags but believe what he is telling you because you love and trust him. this makes it so much harder to even look at him once the truth has been revealed ( by the OW in an "accidental" email to me) 18 months ago... the world keeps turning but your life stops! it is hard to look at this man and actually believe it is the same person you have grown with, raised kids with whatever... how can they be so shallow, such good liars and at the same time so weak? hhmm. I still have days like you that I wonder if it is worth the pain, although my therapist says if we split I will still go through the same emotions with or without him, but at least I wouldn't have to look at his guilt ridden lying face everyday to remind of all the pain he caused.... I still stay as it seems to be getting better, but I still have my doubts about what he has told me regarding it all, although with it being so long ago, memory has failed somewhat (apparently) I have asked him to tell me the whole story of them, maybe it will fill in some blanks, maybe it will be the nail in our coffin, who knows, but when so much does not make sense you need to face things head on... I feel your pain and your ambivalence towards him and the marriage, stay strong sista

  7. Lynn,

    I am not saying don't leave him. But one article I read said no sex is like affair sex, because it's forbidden. Unlike in a real relationship, there's no responsibility in the background. These two people are existing only for the moment, to ignite each other's passion & solely to fulfill each other's sexual needs. Once the affair takes in the characteristics of a real relationship ( such as if they get married or u guys break up so they can legitimately be together), that usually changes.

    I was also very upset when I read that. But that in and of itself is not a reason to leave. I think u should take some time away. But I also think u should do some reading. Most of the things I read on line written by cheaters do talk about the sex being wonderful exhilarating making them feel alive. That shouldn't make u feel more insecure about urself. Someone on this blog once wrote sex is pretty much sex. Ur moves are ur moves. It's not so much that SHE was so great sexually but that the sex was forbidden & therefore exciting. It would have been that way with ANY affair partner.

    Good luck to u. We r all supporting u, no matter what u decide.


  8. Ok girlfriends at 2am Thursday nigjt I said get out of the house and move down to the barn, I need to think without looking at the asshole that makes me angry. I need some GD peace. He left the next morning it was around 11 degrees. I was hoping his dick would freeze off at the barn. I was by myself, it was peaceful and I could think. I thought about me. I have to admit it was pretty nice. He sent me one text if I need help changing my dressings. I said no. He asked me did I want him to drive me to the doctor on Monday to get the stitches out? I said no. The conclusion I came to was I loved him. That's it. I really didn't think I did anymore since I was absent passion and lust. We talked and I set boundaries. Bold big boundaries but they were what I could live with. He agreed. I scared the shit out of him. He thought it was the end. He also had time to think and he could have not come home. He had a choice too. What he thought about when he was by himself was not surprising to hear but nice to hear. So he comes home. He is very tentative and so am I. We talked more about the affair passion and can't keep my hands off you lust. We never had that. It hurts. Then he said I love you. I said "you said that before for 35 years so what! And by the way just what in hell does that really mean? Then he said let me put it this way "all she had was my dick, nothing else. It wasn't her. It could have been anyone that found me attractive at the time. That's it. ". So anonymous from Jan 7th. You were right. So if all she had was a dick and didn't know it I'm glad because she was a stupid Kindergarden teacher. Just having a dick, that ain't that much. so I'm back with the gang of girls who are the strongest smartest women I know. Love you all

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Your husband's rather descriptive analysis of his affair pretty much sums it up. And getting to a place where you really KNOW that to be true is where the healing begins. It's where you're able to begin rebuilding the relationship. It's hard. You'll have peaks and valleys. But if you hold on to that truth -- that you've got a history together based on knowing and loving each other's dark and light -- you'll get there.

  9. Lynn, in my own experience I have found when you truly shove the door in a mans face, kick his ass out and mean it, THAT is the moment he grows up. Often, sadly for them by the time we get to that point, WE are truly done. He has got to know how fortunate he is. If he doesn't, feel free to remind him. :)



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