Updated: May 30
I have apologized. I haven’t had any contact with my affair partner(s). I always call when I’m running late. Why can’t my husband/wife move on?!? Why can’t we just put it behind us? What does he/she expect of me? What more can I do?
Well, simply put, your spouse has been traumatized. If your spouse has decided to try to work things out with you, he/she would love nothing more than to move forward. However, he/she may be experiencing PTSD symptoms that make it difficult.
He/she is psychologically assaulted when they see anything that reminds them of the betrayal: an affair portrayed in a movie, driving by a place where you spent time with your affair partner, a hang-up phone call, the scent of the cologne/perfume that lingered on you, the shift of your eyes when an attractive person walks by...
Literally, anything that reminds them of the betrayal can bring on these intense psychological and physiological reactions:
· Dissociative reactions (e.g., flashbacks) in which the individual feels are acts as if the
traumatic event(s) were recurring
· Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that
symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event(s)
· Marked physiological reactions to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an
aspect of the traumatic event(s)
· Marked alterations in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event(s)
· Irritable behavior and angry outbursts (with [seemingly] little or no provocation)
PTSD symptoms, as defined by the DMS-5, are common in the betrayed spouse. See my previous post, Infidelity and PTSD I, for a full list of symptoms, and Infidelity and PTSD II for additional information.
Now, hopefully, you have an idea about why your spouse can't move on easily and why it is so hard to put it behind y’all.
What does he/she expect of you? Ask him/her in a non-defensive manner and without making excuses for your behavior. For example, “I know I have sinned against you. I know I have destroyed your trust. What do you need from me to heal?” is a good place to start.
What more can you do? Provided you have severed all contact with your affair partner, live with authenticity and transparency, and cooperate with accountability measures – keep doing what you are doing - do it for as long as it takes.
The journey to healing and recovery from infidelity is not for the faint of heart. However, as mentioned in my post, It Didn’t Mean Anything! marriages can and do survive infidelity. In fact, when couples put in the work for authentic healing and reconnection, they report being happier and more fulfilled in their marriages than before the infidelity.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association Publishing.