Sometimes all it takes is a familiar fragrance in the air to arouse your nose, or a random song playing on the radio, to trigger a memory.
You smile as you hear “Anniversary” by Tony! Toni! Tone! (Yep that is still a jam) and feel refreshed—unless…
it happens to be the perfume worn by your spouse’s side piece, or the song that was playing when you found out about the affair.
Those memories can hit you like a ton of bricks! Having been there and done that, trust, I get it! Suddenly, you are reliving the very thing you have tried so hard to forget, a part of your life that you thought you had left behind.
Forgetting bad experiences seems almost impossible when there are reminders all around you, right? However, I’m here to assure you that you can take what seems impossible and make the impossible possible in YOUR life!
Now, I’m not saying it is easy; anything worth having is far from easy, yes? Trying to mend a torn relationship after being betrayed by your spouse would be so much easier if you could get rid of every object and sensation that links you to that experience. How in the world do you move past the hurt when there are so many triggers that force you to remember?
Triggers are so strongly linked with an emotional memory that they can literally transport you back and make you experience that awful moment all over again. It could be a part in a movie that shows a couple having relationship problems. It could be your child asking an innocent question, or a social gathering where you meet a woman who happens to have the mistress’s first name.
Triggers are relentless and can quickly rob you of any happiness that you have built up since the infidelity. Is there any way to stop them from having such a powerful effect in your life? Absolutely!
Triggers are learned associations
It helps to understand that triggers are learned responses. For example, I have noticed learned responses when I feed our cats. Long before I call Tiara & Max (love the fur babies) to come eat, they race into the kitchen for food because they heard a cabinet door slam.
They have associated the sound of the cabinet door with food in their bowls. Triggers are like that for us. They are learned reflexes associated with an experience.
Some triggers are pleasant: A breathtaking sunset over the ocean, hearing our daughter laugh, the scent and sound of crackling fire in the fireplace. We get a surge of happy emotions that we hope will never stop. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to bet you can live with these triggers. I know I can and do now…see there is life and love after adultery!
Believe it or not, these pleasant triggers work exactly the way unpleasant triggers do. The difference is in the kinds of memories and emotions that they arouse in us.
Since triggers are so tightly bound to our emotions and memories, it makes sense that if we want to avoid a particular response to a trigger, we will have to break that bond. Triggers are a type of habit—actually a very strong one that is based on gut-level responses.
These are the hardest kinds of habits to break because they are so entrenched in our physical bodies. Addictions fall into this category of habits. Because of chemical changes that addictions produce, it takes much more effort to overcome them.
The negative triggers that make you relive your emotional pain are equally addictive because they involve you on multiple levels—your mind, emotions, body and even deep in your spirit.
People who are unaware of this are often catapulted into a dark place where they come to believe that life is cruel and unfair, and they torment themselves by rehearsing what their spouse and his or her partner did to them.
Please NOTE there is no healing here. You feel no love here. The connection between the trigger and the mental and emotional agony keeps getting reinforced every time the spouse revisits the dark place. After a while, the person becomes a prisoner, controlled by his or her own negative emotions. Time to do things differently…so, do this one thing…
Replace the negative memories…
One way to break the hold that these triggers have on you is to start replacing the triggered negative memories with positive, uplifting ones. This is similar to visualization and takes a conscious effort on your part, but it will work. Select one of your triggers, such as a particular scent or sound.
Change the memory that goes with it to something that makes you happy. Then when you are struck with that trigger later, you will have a different memory to focus on—one that will not damage you further.
For example, if the trigger is the fragrance worn by your spouse’s mistresses, start associating it with a different memory—one that made you smile, such as the day your kids gave you a bouquet of flowers with a similar smell.
Imagine that the trigger fragrance comes from these flowers and demonstrates how much your children love you. This replaces a negative emotion with a positive one. Later on, when you feel yourself being pulled into the old memory, focus (all of this is very strategic and will require your ongoing consciousness and focus) on the alternate memory instead.
You will remember how loved you felt by your children. Over time, the original memory will lose its hold on you. You will be free!
This method works with recurring nightmares as well. Our brains tend to get stuck in a loop when our emotions will not allow a reasonable solution. By planning out a better ending for the dream while you are awake, your mind will give you the choice at some point during the nightmare to choose the happy ending.
Your dream will end the way you planned it. Most people discover that once they dream the alternate ending, the nightmare does not come back. This is because their brain is satisfied that the emotional dilemma has been resolved.
See the correlation here, as the affair is the nightmare and the process, soon to be full reconciliation, is your dream come true. Having been here I fully understand the importance of the above and I’m believing for your reunion!
Be determined not to let your memories dictate your emotions. Take time out to center yourself. Meditate and/or pray each day about the type of person you want to be, the new goals you and your spouse have for the future (that’s right you all are coming out of this), and how determined you are to be in control of your life—not letting yourself be a victim, because you are not rather a victor!
Draw on God’s strength and allow Him to transform you a little each day. Remember a marriage really does take three to charter these rough waters.
By systematically replacing your triggered bad memories with alternate ones, you will break the bond between the trigger and the memory. This will release you, as well as your spouse from the torture you two have been going through and give your relationship with your spouse true…Love After Adultery!
BMWK, How did you revive your marriage after an affair?