“All I had to do was see the name of the city where he took her,” Janice said angrily, her lips pursed and eyes glaring at her husband, Gregg.

She glared at her husband to whom she had been married for twenty-five years. Their marriage had been stale for years, and yet they had gone from one phase of marriage to another without any horrific bumps, until recently.

“I would have thought you’d cheat earlier in our marriage Gregg,” she said sadly. “Now! Now you cheat on me?”

He looked blankly at her, sitting cross-legged in the overstuffed chair at The Marriage Recovery.

Janice and Gregg are part of a huge number of people who have experienced infidelity well into their marriage. Perhaps partly because of years of staleness, issues that haven’t effectively been dealt with, mid-life issues boiling to the surface and any number of other issues surfacing. Many couples have legitimate issues that are dealt with in illegitimate ways. Understandable problems not discussed, shared and reconciled, taken their toll now is perhaps the most painful way—an affair and triggers that remind of the affair.

“He thinks I should be over it by now,” Janice said sarcastically. “After all, it’s been three months.”

Gregg rolled his eyes.

“Well,” she continued. “Isn’t that the truth?”

“I guess I’d hoped you might be,” he said. “I can see all the things that trigger you. I know it’s very hard for you.”

“Hard isn’t the word,” Janice said. “Everywhere I look there are triggers. Every song I hear seems to trigger me. I wish it didn’t, but the triggers are everywhere. Can you help me get beyond the triggers?”

Janice had asked the question I’ve been asked a thousand times. It was another version of ‘How long am I going to have to live with this pain? How long before EVERYTHING doesn’t trigger me?'

These are both good questions, and there are, thankfully, answers.

Here are some additional truths that may be helpful to you as well.

First, triggers are part of trauma. Trauma, which is any significant problem we are not equipped to handle, creates a ripple effect in our lives. Because these are not ‘routine problems’ we don’t know how to handle them. They are sucker punches to the gut that leave us woozy, frightened, confused and struggling to catch our breath. It is important to acknowledge the power of trauma and to recognize those ‘triggers’ that remind of us of the horrific event or situation that still troubles us.

Second, give yourself space to cope with those triggers. Everyone must be patient as we process the trauma. We are attempting to ‘eat an elephant’ and this will not happen in one sitting. We wrestle with the nightmares, the flashbacks, the hyper-vigilance in fear of a recurring situation. We struggle to regain our footing and each ‘triggering event’ sets us temporarily back. Be ready for these situations and roller coaster of healing. 

Third, process the triggering event. Allow yourself the freedom and permission to feel the feelings you’re having, the grief you are experiencing and the deep, deep hurt and pain. Recognize your feelings and give them a lot of ‘air time.’ Journal about them, pray through them, being with them. Tell yourself that you are ‘normal’ and that triggering events happen to everyone in one form or another.

Fourth, invite God into your triggered feelings. Scripture assures us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Remind yourself that God will bring you through this, in his time, and there will be benefits to your suffering. Thank God that you can grow and become a stronger person as a result of the trauma you are experiencing. Thank God that your marriage can become stronger as you grow together. This experience does not need to break you!

Fifth, agree with your mate that you WILL overcome this trauma together. If your trauma involves your mate in some way, such as an infidelity, agree together that you WILL heal together, this WILL fade into the background in time, and you WILL become stronger as a result of this.

Finally, get good, trusted support. We need to talk to people who have experienced similar trauma as what we are experiencing. While the point is not necessarily commiserating, we need a shoulder to cry on, a soft, listening ear and words of encouragement. Don’t go through this alone! We need people who will remind us of God’s truth when we can’t see it. Find a few trusted people with whom you can share your pain.

We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: March 18, 2014