Why Don’t I Feel Anything At All After My Husband’s Affair? How Do I Make Myself Feel?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from wives who are quite surprised at their reaction (or lack thereof) after they have found out that their husband has been cheating or having an affair.  Many had assumed that they would have some sort of a dramatic and negative reaction.  And they are stunned when this doesn’t turn out to be the case.

I heard from a wife who said: “I have watched my sister and many of my friends deal with infidelity.  I have seen many of them fall apart.  I have seen good marriages ruined and I have seen strong, wonderful women struggle.  So I had always assumed that if the same ever happened to me, I would either crumble under the grief or buckle under the pain.  I always told my husband that if he ever cheated on me, then he’d better get out of my way because words could not even describe the rage that I would feel.  Well, now my worst nightmare has come true.  My husband did cheat.  And he cheated with a family friend that I practically grew up with.  He wouldn’t even come home when I found out because I knew that he expected me to be boiling over. And I suppose I was at first. But now I am just numb.  I don’t really feel anything.  My husband will occasionally call and ask me about where I want to go from here.  I have no idea.  I don’t know what to think or feel.  I can’t seem to process this.  I know that I should be furious or grieving but I do not feel anything at all.  Why not?  What’s wrong with me?  And will I ever start to feel? What can I do to help myself?”

There was absolutely nothing wrong with this wife.  A delayed reaction or seemingly no reaction at all after an affair is actually quite common.  I’m certainly no expert, but having been there myself, I do have some theories.  I’ll talk about that below as well as suggest some ways to release your feelings.

I Believe That Numbness Or A Delayed Reaction Is A Defense Mechanism Meant To Maintain Control:  This is going to sound harsh and I apologize about that.  But when your spouse has an affair, it feels as if someone has picked up your life and turned it upside down.  And yet you did nothing wrong.  It was seemingly a normal day and you were minding your own business when all of a sudden your life changed dramatically.  This can make you feel as if your world no longer makes sense and that you have no control over the outcome.

Needless to say, this can lead to a sense of helplessness that no one wants to embrace.  So a common defense mechanism is simply to resist feeling.  Because somewhere deep down, you know that if you allow those feelings to start to leak out, they are going to be painful.  And they are going to be overwhelming.  So it is better to just keep a lid on them so that they won’t boil over.

And this can work for a while.  But sometimes the lack of feeling can almost be suffocating.  Do you know what? Sometimes it feels really good to release these feelings when they have begun to build.  Unfortunately, sometimes you have pushed them down for so long that it can be difficult to bring them forth.  Frankly, it is to your benefit to bring them forth.  You can’t move past them if you don’t acknowledge or release them.  I’ll talk about how to do that now.

Releasing Your Feelings A Little At A Time:  A lot of people become so used to not feeling that they begin to believe that they don’t really care, that they weren’t really invested, or that they have lost their ability to feel anything at all.  None of these things are necessarily true.  What is more probable is that pushing down your feelings has become a habit.  In order to break this habit, you need to start small.  You probably don’t want to go from being completely shut down to bubbling over very quickly as this might be overwhelming.  And the goal or idea isn’t to become overwhelmed by anger or by sadness.  It is just to experience, to feel, and to release whatever comes forth.

There are many different ways to do this.  You can talk to a very trusted friend or family member.  But choose this person carefully.  You want someone who is not only non judgmental, but who also doesn’t have a personal interest in your husband or in your marriage.  Because should you reconcile, you don’t want for this person to always remind you of these early and painful conversations.

Another option is to write out your feelings.  Many people tell me that they have tried journaling and they have failed.  Perhaps you have tried traditional journaling and you have stared at a blank page.  If this is the case, you can try a couple of other techniques.  The first is using prompts.  You might start with sentences meant to prompt you. Examples are things like: “if I could change one thing about the course of my life right now, it would be…”  Or “the thing that disappoints me the most is…”  Another example is: “if I could choose my life six months from now I would want it to look like…”

Another thing that you can try is clustering.  You can start out with just a word. Then you write down what thought the first word leads you to. And you keep going from there.  Here’s an example.  You could start out with the word  “loyal.”  Then you might think of the word faithful which may lead you to the word partners and you could go on and on from there.  I know that this might seem silly but if you go on for long enough, you will generally find that you keep coming back to the same words or themes no matter which word you started with.  This is a way to release your inner thoughts without having to identify them immediately.

One final suggestion is picture free association.  You simply look through a magazine and cut out photos that speak to you for whatever reason.  You might find no rhyme or reason to the photos you are cutting out but that is OK, continue on anyway.  Then tape the picture to your journal and start writing whatever pops into your head without judgement. All of these methods may seem silly to you but they often work well at unleashing what is deep inside you but has been reluctant to come out.

As you probably suspect, I used all of these methods in my own life after my husband’s affair.  This helped me release those feelings in a constructive way so that I could move forward.  If if helps, you can read that story on my blog http://surviving-the-affair.com

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