I do tend to overthink things. My mind has always dragged me through endless comparisons, contexts, critiques, analysis, and ruminations trying to find meanings of things. I’ve been okay with that, even finding it served to richen my appreciation and understanding of the world.
But now I need to learn how to disassociate things that trigger me — things that have nothing to do with the affair my wife had that disrupted my life. I’m specifically referring to things I encounter while enjoying film or literature.
For example, this week my wife and I finally watched "Hamilton." Amazingly wonderful production, which we enjoyed thoroughly. But there it was — the affair that pulled back the hammer — and the terrible loss to the Hamiltons that came from it as collateral damage. And I lost it. Not while watching, but afterward I mentioned to my wife that it would have been nice to have had a trigger warning …
I shared this in another group, and a good 1/4 to 1/3 of those responding said that it ruined the musical for them, they now despised A. Hamilton, and a couple even said it made them fans of A. Burr. The trigger hurt me, personally, because it reminded me of how my wife betrayed me. And although I had been unaware Hamilton was the first of our founding fathers to suffer a public sex scandal, I didn’t find myself hating the man. I did find myself wanting to know how his widow went on to spend the rest of her life protecting her wayward husband’s legacy. And I know I will watch it again. It is genius theater!
But I have encountered plot arcs in other works that have carried triggers. Anything from the use of the word "awkward" to describe reunion sex after two people have been apart for a length of time (my wife repeatedly described the sex as "awkward" with her ex-girlfriend after over 16 years apart) — to "why HER?" when a betrayed discovers the affair partner is the ONE PERSON above all others that you are most hurt by when you learn your spouse turned to them for their affair.
Early in this difficult process of recovering from infidelity my wife would imply we should just AVOID triggers, often promising "I’ll never say that again" or something similar. But you can’t avoid some triggers. Trigger words. Situations that your brain pieces together into triggers. Scenarios in books and movies that feel almost like plagarization of your spouses affair, or their excuse making for the affair, or their trickle truthing …
The clever author or playwright wishes to make his creation relevant and personal to the audience via story elements that echo real life challenges. I doubt that they are intent on causing an emotional trigger or PTSD reaction by one of their more sensitive readers or viewers, for that could prove detrimental to the enjoyment of their art. So it appears that I alone am ultimately responsible for how I respond to an unintentional trigger of that sort.
So, how do I get to the point where I can see the humor in an awkward sex scene (that obviously does not involve my WS and her OW)? Or enjoy the storyline with a "why did it have to be her?" in it, without turning it into feeling like my own biography?
Can we ever again see the affairs, the secrecy and lies, the betrayal of vows, the gifts, the hurt and pain and loss of others, real or fictional, and NOT attach it to the story of our own betrayal and infidelity story?
Just a simple question —
that blew up in my ridiculously over-active brain, interrupting my planned evening of reading a few more chapters of a piece of fiction I’m rather enjoying before going to bed.
2 comments posted: Tuesday, June 7th, 2022
Triggering seven years out
First let me say we are doing so much better. My wife has made progress and we are healing.
But the scars — good grief! We are into affair season once again, and I am triggering by the most innocent events! A sweet love song in a favorite television series … a memory … even the weather!
I am just wondering how common triggering is so many years out. I have to say I think one big factor that contributes to it is to have a WS who takes more than 2-3 years to begin to "get it" and show some real remorse. We have watched several television series together in which the unfaithful partner picks up the heavy burden and tackles the "work" much more willingly and enthusiastically — and that usually sends me back into a deep sadness that mine did not. Are there some hurts that just won’t heal?
12 comments posted: Saturday, May 21st, 2022
Did I become intolerant of mistakes?
Is it possible I have developed an intolerance for my wife to make mistakes? It recently occurred to me that I obviously do expect her to not forget simple things like garbage day chores, etc. because I find when she does drop the ball, I trigger that this also happened during the affair: things I had come to depend on, and even expect, after years of her doing them.
Can the hurt go so deep that the BS becomes inflexible? And then how flexible should we be willing to be, in light of the fact that most of us gave our spouses the benefit of the doubt in spite of red flags?
I’m at six years out, and just now realizing that all the encouragement to raise the bar on our expectations of our spouse and our marriage — or at least insist it remain where it was before the affair — may have led me to become inflexible. I make mistakes. I should expect my wife to as well.
Maybe it is because she isn’t always very prompt to acknowledge and say she is sorry when she has missed something. I don’t know anymore. I just know I am tired, and I’d love some peace.
14 comments posted: Tuesday, September 28th, 2021
“I wish you just enough” ... pain???
Seven years ago my wife and I decided we’d write our own vows for our wedding ceremony. At the time it seemed the traditional vows seemed unnecessary, as we had already experienced 15 years of ups and downs, sickness and health, etc and etc. Our ceremony only included my daughter, son-in-law and our two grandchildren, the officiant, and a beautiful patch of old-growth forest just outside Mt. Rainier National Park. Even as we exchanged what we had written I recall loving the feeling that the moss and ferns and the ancient trees overhead were absorbing our words —sanctifying them. It was magical.
I wrote my vows focusing on my wife’s hands, which I fell in love with from the moment she handed me a pool cue and asked if I wanted to play a game. I’d watched those hand lovingly pet dogs and cats, open doors for strangers, repair plumbing, and care for me when emergency surgery required I live with an ileostomy for a year.
She began her vows with “I can’t promise you everything, but I can promise that I will do everything humanly possible to keep you safe and guard your heart.” I was in tears at this point, because isn’t that everything any of us has wanted from our spouse, from our marriage relationship? I felt so cherished, so safe ...
“I can’t promise you everything, but I can promise every day to wish you enough ...” which she finished off with the poem “Enough” which goes like this:
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more..
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting…
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye.” And she added “And lastly, I wish you enough love to fill your heart now and forever. They say it takes a minute to find that special person. Actually it took 39 years. And now that I have it will take a lifetime to love all that you are.”
A year and four months later those words came back with a vengeance, ringing in my ears with evil laughter, feeling like prophecy gone wrong. It felt almost as if I had been set up for the feelings of being unappreciated, taken for granted, someone worthy of only enough of everything to have cover for a six month betrayal that she knew would devastate me should I find out. “Enough pain?” I was as already a chronic pain patient when we got married. “Enough loss?” Are you kidding? I’d lost my health, my hobbies, my ability to enjoy life without the accompaniment of physical pain, as well as the emotional loss and mourning that chronic illness inflicts. “Just enough?” Really ... when you risked everything to spend your energy, time, and lots of money, on an ex who was not worthy of even a passing thought?”
I am not a greedy person. I am happiest in the little things. But it felt like my wife had either been careless in her choice of vows, or felt I didn’t appreciate what I had. On d-day those vows rang in my head as being cruelly deflective. Her “just enough” felt more like “let me slack off when things get difficult.” What the heck —it will just make me stronger, more appreciative? Right???
I know she gave those vows a lot of thought. We both worked with our wonderful officiant while writing them. Maybe others have used the poem “Just Enough” successfully in their vows. But I thought them strange on our wedding day (except for the opening lines) and today I hate them. They represent the endless pain and loss that followed d-day. They are a reminder she did not give them a second though when — just ten months after speaking them to me under that ancient canopy of mossy tress, in the company of my most beloved — she began an enthusiastic revival of an old and toxic relationship with her ex-girlfriend.
Today we are doing better. There is some healing. She is cognizant that she failed to keep her promises. But I’m torn between the ceremony we waited years to have, until our state recognized it legally — and tossing these painful vows for new ones. But I can’t ever erase these words from my memory, can I? They, and the affair that so closely followed, are indelibly etched in my mind and in my heart.
Is there anyone else who has dealt with this? How do I erase this added pain, inflicted by words that were supposed to make me feel loved and safe and secure? I hate the vows she said that day because apparently they were not as important to her as she said they were. I don’t know how to escape this pain.
6 comments posted: Tuesday, July 6th, 2021