Will I Ever Forget The Person I Had An Affair With? Because The Emotional Toll Of This Is Exhausting

By: Katie Lersch: The majority of people who reach out to me are those who were faithful and who are dealing with a spouse’s infidelity. Occasionally though, someone who was unfaithful will reach out because they are looking for help in their recovery. They often want to make things right, but they are struggling with this.

Sometimes, they are unsure about how to express their remorse. Other times, everything seems to be somewhat OK on the outside, but on the inside, they are falling apart because they find themselves still thinking about the other person in the affair.  And this increases their feelings of guilt and is tearing them apart.

It may be described this way: “I had a three month affair while my husband was away when his mother was pretty much dying. We knew that the end was near, but we didn’t think it would take as long as it did. He wasn’t gone every day during that whole time, but he would come back and forth between two homes because he wanted to offer support to his father. I am very ashamed that I cheated on my husband during the time when he was doing the right thing. Trying to be involved in two households and still work was very difficult for him, but he did it because he is a good person. It sounds selfish to say that I was very needy during this time, but it is the truth. However, I did not feel like I could go to my husband because he was already dealing with so much. So I reached out to one of our neighbors and we ended up having an affair. When my husband found out, we ended up moving near my husband’s father. My husband found this convenient because we could help to emotionally support his dad. And by moving, my husband knew that I wouldn’t see the other man every day. I understand why my husband wanted to move. And I do want to save my marriage. I do understand that my husband is the better man. And I don’t want to put my children through a divorce. Deep down, I do still love my husband. But I can not stop thinking about the other man. He is in my thoughts all of the time. I get angry at myself and I try to push the thoughts away, but it really doesn’t do much good. One of my friends said that in time, I will forget this and it will all be behind me. I can’t imagine that, because these thoughts take up so much of my emotional space. I don’t want them to, but that is my reality. And it tears me up inside. I will think that my husband and I might be making some progress, but then I have these thoughts about the other guy.  This makes me feel more distant from my husband. Emotionally, this is extremely hard. When am I going to forget about the other man because these conflicting feelings and this guilt are tearing me apart?”

I am not sure if I can tell you that you’ll ever completely “forget” the other man. Things that were once important to us are rarely completely “forgotten,” but they certainly lose their power over us in time. For example, when I was a child, I used to have a neighborhood bully who tormented me at school and on the bus. She lived to make my life awful. When I was school-aged, thoughts of this person made up much of my thoughts. But today, I can honestly say that I haven’t thought about her in years.

Why? Because she is just not part of my life anymore. I haven’t thought of her in years because she no longer has any impact on my life today.  Now, if I visit the area where I used to live and I drive by her house, then yes, I remember. And I might have some uncomfortable thoughts that last for a few minutes. But this may happen a couple of times over the course of years.

Do you see what I mean? You will not forget the other person forever. It is unrealistic to think that you will suddenly have amnesia and won’t ever think of them again. But once you heal and recover, and once you allow time to do its work, it will get to the point that it takes some sort of trigger to bring your thoughts back to that memory. And with work and self knowledge, you can get to the point where the trigger is very rare.

Once your marriage heals and you do the self-work necessary to turn your attention elsewhere, then the other man isn’t central to your life anymore and you don’t have a reason to dwell on him. Right now, things are quite fresh and you are just starting the recovery process.

As you go further in your recovery, you should naturally be able to distance yourself from your thoughts and you will be much less likely to act on them. You should naturally place your attention on the other man less and less. Frankly, moving away should help you with this.

I often hear from people who tell me that they can not stop thinking of the other person because they never got “closure.” They tell me that once the affair was discovered, they had to shut the whole thing down at once. This may be true, but I think that the idea of “closure” is sort of a myth.

Anytime something is pivotal in your life and that thing goes away, there is an adjustment period. And that is true regardless of how it ended. You and the other man could have discussed this at length and said your goodbyes and yet you would probably still feel that void.

In my opinion and experience, the best way to move on is to place your focus where it belongs – on your healing and your marriage. I know that you can not control your thoughts. But you can redirect yourself when those thoughts occur. You can bring yourself back to the present without reacting to those thoughts.

As you do this over and over, you should find that you will naturally turn your attention to what is real and what is happening right now because you will not have any reason to turn your attention to the past.

I was not the one who cheated in my marriage, but there was a time when I had a hard time keeping my thoughts from going to the past and to the affair.  I had to train myself to turn my attention elsewhere.  It wasn’t always easy, but it made a huge difference.  Because when you think in the past, you live in the past.  And you can’t properly heal that way. There are more tips on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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