Taking Control of My Emotional Memory

stones

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.

-John Denver

I am a collection of memories. My life experience and my emotional memory about those experiences form[ed] my personality. When I recall hanging upside on the monkey bars with my friends or winning my first dance competition the emotions from those memories are happy and fill me with a rush of endorphins. I remember how blessed I was to have a carefree childhood surrounded by a tightknit family and good friendships that continue today. Then there are negative experiences that can transport me back to a feeling of fear or anxiety like a flick of a switch. I remember as a teenager babysitting this little boy who was riding his bike down a hill too fast. The bike flipped over and the five year old boy was thrown onto the pavement head first and he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Immediately an egg-shaped bruise puffed out from his forehead and I panicked, sweeping him into my arms and rushing him back to the house for an ice compress. The little boy was fine but I found myself panicking about what could have happened to him for years after the accident. I would lie in bed remembering his fall and think of what could have happened and cry. It took me years to forgive myself for that incident.

As a side note, that little boy is now out of college and very successful.

The brain stores information and the emotions we attach to this information, whether we like it or not. Most betrayed wives suffer from PTSD because an affair is a highly traumatic event. I trusted my husband more than anyone in this world and he betrayed, lied and deceived me for a year. He chose these actions and while he was involved neglected to see how his relationship with another woman had anything to do with me or our marriage. It takes a very unhealthy brain to treat someone you love like this. But what about my emotional stability now that the affair is over and we are rebuilding our relationship?

Emotional memories trigger in our brains automatically. I see the letter J and I am reminded of his AP because her name begins with J and that’s how she signed all her emails to him. Last week, my husband asked what all the J’s at the end of my emails represent. I hadn’t realized until he asked that his email converted all my smiley faces to J’s. So now I was signing all my emails the same way she had signed hers to him. He never made that connection—but I did. Trigger. When he’s frustrated with a project she used to voluntarily do for him at his work (despite them not working together), I am triggered. My husband and I always refer to his AP as Bat Shit and he texted her actual name the other day in a message about finding out she was asked to resign from her job. I was happy with the news I heard but triggered that he wrote her real name. In calling her Bat Shit I am trying to disassociate her real name with an emotion. But there it is again.

starting-overI read this article earlier this week and I recommend reading it for both betrayed and wayward spouses. The psychologist notes that when your brain is triggered by a negative emotional memory you have 60-120 seconds to stop the onset of the emotional pain. Distract yourself with a positive thought, pinch your ear, move your body—do something to stop the pain from connecting to that word, thought or place. In many ways I’ve already been practicing this theory and it works. I agree whole-heartedly that it only takes a minute to sink into an emotional depression from a trigger. If I allow the stream-of-thought to continue—it will. But I told my husband last night that the thoughts are constant throughout my day. I liken it to a light switch being flicked on in my brain automatically, like a motion sensor, and I am reaching up all day long and flicking the switch back off. It’s tiring. The switch is thrown on less and less these days but it’s still happening and I hate it.

The author of this article also recommends renaming the people, time and events from your trauma with humorous names. That is why we call his AP Bat Shit. It’s both funny and accurate. I am starting to wonder if I should rename his affair. I was thinking of calling it Misery, like the Stephen King book. Maybe I should stop saying “AP” and call her “BS” (Bat Shit). The truth is I am going to meet people with Bat Shit’s real name throughout my life. What am I going to do? Hate them all? I have to admit I didn’t interview a person for a job at my company because she had the same name as BS. I told myself she wasn’t qualified enough anyhow but really, is this how I will live the rest of my life? It doesn’t seem practical. What seems more practical is to alter my emotional memory. A few months ago Green with Envy blogger, Leise posted a video about the same concept. Retell your past so that you can take control of your memories for your own emotional stability and health. It may seem silly but I’ve suffered a traumatic event in my life and I cannot allow my emotions surrounding the Misery control me forever. I need to take control.

So I am trying to move forward. There’s a quote out there on Pinterest that reads something like: “You can’t begin a new story if you keep retelling the old one.” I saw it once and forgot to pin it and now I can’t find it again. Regardless, the point is I want to move on but my brain keeps pulling me back. So I am going to focus on developing a healthy mindset and recreating my emotional memories so they benefit me and no one else.

My life is my story and it belongs to me. Some days may be stones but I will take those stones and paint them to match my story. In my story I am the heroine and I will be victorious.

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27 thoughts on “Taking Control of My Emotional Memory

  1. I can relate to everything you say here. I keep telling myself not to go over the negative history of our relationship but it is difficult. My husband wasn’t particularly fantastic to me before the affair but I stupidly put up with it for the sake of the kids. He didn’t validate me or things that bothered me. He was dependant also on alcohol, and his family didn’t validate me either. Now after the affair, after all the lies I find it is hard to move away from those feelings of not being made important in your husband’s life. We are still together 3 years on but I no longer wish to celebrate anniversaries, I don’t want any romantic trips away. I want the kids with us which is hard as they are getting older. I guess I am still in limbo. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do anymore.

    • It’s hard to let go of the past, good or bad. We are conditioned to respond based on the emotions we attach to our relationships. I know that sometimes I become very stubborn about something that insignificant because an unrelated incident triggered a memory from my past. It could relate to my husband or my best friend or anything. I read that if it takes us more than 15 minutes to make a decision then we are no longer focused on the matter at hand. The article also says that you can only pull one file in your mind at a time. I’ve been realizing this is very true. We can’t focus on two separate thoughts–so I am trying to remember to change my bad thoughts when they begin to play in my mind.
      Take care of yourself. As your children get older we have to refocus our lives again. It’s so easy (at least for me) to give up my own dreams for my children. But I am moving away from that now and trying to grab hold of my life. I hope you can too.

  2. I like that. You are the definite survivor and it is so awesome to see you come so far. It is just amazing how we process pain in the same way, but yet, deal with it differently.
    Thank you. I enjoy your blogs so much. They have helped me immensely deal with my personal issues after being the victim of a dual betrayal. Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! came on a day where the triggers were overwhelming me! I have to say that the advice of renaming with humor!! l had to laugh and have done that and i can at lease smile when I can say SKANK BAG instead of her name! thank you for your sharing!

    • I’m glad it helped. Sometimes the triggers take over when I least expect them. Luckily, when they pass I can see things much more clearly. I just wish I could have that clarity when I am in the pit of it all.
      My husband had a girlfriend prior to me that he lived with for a few years before they broke up. We always call her Cruella instead of her actual name. After a few years I no longer had any ill attachments to her actual name. My children have had friends with his ex’s name and it doesn’t bother me anymore–and I 100% believe that calling her Cruella is the reason. So I am sticking to this theory. 🙂

  4. May I ask, was he with you on your wedding anniversary? Has your wedding anniversary passed since you discovered the affair? How did you handle that? My husband cheated on me and was with her on our anniversary. I have since taken him back and I am a wreck. I am dreading our anniversary. IMO our anniversary doesn’t exist anymore. I will not celebrate it any longer.

    • My husband was with me on my anniversary during the affair. But I did find that he emailed her on that day. Through my reading what I could I found that she knew when our anniversary was but didn’t act like she knew. She sent him an email the morning of our anniversary telling my husband how lonely she was and unloved. She went on and on about all the things she wanted to do with him (be in a cabin in the snow drinking wine with friends). She sent it to get in his brain on our anniversary. I had a lot of anger about that but she was deliberate and manipulative in her actions.
      I did write a post on my anniversary… I decided on that day that I needed to move past that anger. There’s are so many days of the year that can trigger me and they do. But I have to learn to look forward. The only date my husband took his AP on was over a holiday weekend and that weekend triggered me horribly this year. It actually hurt more before the weekend than during it. I knew they hadn’t slept together on that wekend but I knew it was the only date they went on–the only time he spent money on her and it is the only time I know for a fact that I was trying to find him and he didn’t answer his phone for hours. It was hard. I felt like I needed to take control of that weekend this year–make it one that was our own memory and erase the pain.
      Sometimes days get to me and I don’t know why. Like this week might be the week they first slept together two years ago. He doesn’t remember and I don’t really want to know because I don’t want another day to muddle with me every year. But sure enough on Monday I felt insecure and vulnerable. I needed him to check in constantly. I hate that… but then I also have to remember that the last time he slept with her was more than a year ago. Seems like a weird thing to be happy about…

  5. This post and your link to the article on memory control has really helped me. Since I decided to stay and work on things I have had terrible swinging emotions. Now it is all out in the open and I havent left he is desperate for me to say everything will be okay and he hasn’t ruined our entire life with his selfish mistake. But there are a lot of issues that lead up to this that I am still working on and all I can say at the moment is that I desperately WANT it to work, but I am not yet sure that it will. I have times when because of the back story I feel I can forgive anything and then its as if I punish myself for being so forgiving of something I considered unforgivable. We have been calling the times that I let the pain take over my ‘Mr Hyde’ moments, I was having changing emotions from hour to hour and in the last few days they have been more day to day. Yesterday was the first day that I really considered that perhap will might be able to build someting better from the ruins of what I thought was a strong and stable marriage. I can really relate to being happy that it is a year since he slept with her. My husband was meeting his OW for coffee for almost a year and sleeping with her weekly for the last 3-4 months. I keep thinking that we are already almost 6 weeks down the line from his break down and 2 months since he last actually slept with her, it feels like no time at all and yet that is already half the time he had been having sex with her. It makes it seem less significant somehow. But then of course I think, ‘you risked everything you held dear, the only thing you were actually proud of for something so insignificant’; damn those ‘Mr Hyde’ moments!!

    • Those Mr Hyde moments are hard to escape sometimes. I would be lying if I didn’t still find myself hearing that voice in my head. Like you said, he risked it all for something so insignificant and it hurts to think about it. I often have to remind myself that he never fully allowed himself to understand all that was on the line for this affair. I am sure your husband felt the same way–ashamed and like he knew it was wrong but that it was his life and it wouldn’t affect you. It’s amazing that men are raised to believe their lives are completely isolated and their actions do not have ripple affects. I feel like my husband was completley self-destructing. His vulnerabilities were like a stamp across his forhead and his AP read them and took advantage. When a man believes someone is his friend he doesn’t think they will put them in a threatening or bad situation. But these women were never their friends.
      These Mr Hyde moments have the power to fill you with doubt. I always keep a mental tally of all the good things in our marriage so that when the question pops into my head: “why stay in this marriage?”, I have an answer.
      Take care.

  6. I completely know what you mean about the triggers, I have so many at the moment it’s so tiring trying to avoid them. My husbands AP’s name is part of an old song popular at weddings (go on see if you can guess!!!) and he used the name of the male artist who sings the song for her in his phone contacts. A couple of days before d-day he got up before me in the morning and left his phone. i heard a message come through and looked over at his phone. I remember thinking it was a strange name but i didn’t look at the message, it just wasn’t the kind of thing I would have done back then. I often wonder what i would have seen if i did. It amazes me he was so slack in trying to hide it, especially as he says he expected it would eventually run its course (there’s that phrase again!) and he would never tell me about the affair because he couldn’t contemplate the pain it would cause and leaving me never once crossed his mind. Anyway i digress… since discovery I have heard that song everywhere. We’ve been to weddings and parties together in the last couple of months and at each one it has been played. Makes me want to walk over and punch the dj 😀
    Maybe I need to come up with a new name for her too, this could be fun!

    • Did you watch Silver Linings Playbook? Bradley Cooper’s character is triggered by a song and it throws him into a violent rage. I get it. Honestly, calling his AP Bat Shit has taken away the pain from that name. I am not saying I would ever want my kids to marry a girl with that name (luckily it’s not a popular name for kids born in the last two decades) but I don’t hate every woman I meet with her name.
      I was reading through your other comment about the talking about uncomfortable things and why did you avoid it when your husband brought it up. I know for me–my husband would try to grope me in front of the kids (nothing crazy but you know what I mean) and I would brush him off. If he said anything I felt guilty but I couldn’t make him understand that I needed more from him too–yes, being playful is important but feeling like I am more than a play toy is important too.
      I spent so many months wishing I could go back in time and say one thing different or tell him I noticed he was insecure. There came a point where I realized it’s all in the past, including the affair. It took me almost nine months to get there. I am not saying that I wouldn’t go back if someone invented a time machine–I would. But I at some point I just had to accept this happened to us. It was the hardest pill I ever had to swallow but now it’s down and I’m okay.
      I am glad your husband calls you and checks in–I find that to be the most comforting thing when I am home alone and he’s at work or a meeting. I don’t expect his AP to be there but his willingness to call and be transparent keeps me sane.
      I am thinking of ways you could get over this song… I guess you have to give the song new meaning.

  7. I came across your blog yesterday when I was looking for help to control my triggers. After reading all your posts and the comments, I think I do find some sort of comfort or support, knowing that there are so many women out there like me who are fighting really hard for themselves and their marriages. It has been 35 days since my D-day. So it’s very fresh to me still. But I have to say I think I’m doing better now than I would expect. At least I have my normal appetite and routine back and I can get through the day without major breakdowns. I could really see myself in your story. I once thought we were the perfect couple and we loved each other so much that we would never do something deliberately to hurt each other. We dated 4 and wedded 2. But we were separated for one and a half year after we married because we got jobs in two different cities. I moved back to him in late May this year and because we knew we were going to move back together, we actually bought our very first house in March. One month after we celebrated our second anniversary, I found out this nasty affair and my whole world and all my beliefs were shattered. It’s like any other betrayed wives here that I never doubted my husband and one day I just suddenly decided to go through his computer because he was acting a bit strange lately, like he had his cell with him every single minute and replied to msgs in late nights. When I first found the pictures and those gmail messages, I was just stone like never before. I simply could not comprehend what I just learned and I cannot believe the one man I love and trusted completely could did something that terrible to me. The worst part was he even brought the AP back to OUR house and had sex in our new bed two weeks before I moved back. That is one of the major reason I keep having these triggers because I work from home and the triggers are everywhere in the house. I told him that he completely destroyed my dream and my attachment to this house. It was once my dream house. But it is not anymore and I don’t think I could ever have that feeling again. It is simply a house like any other apartments, people come and go, nothing special. I think I would like myself to not have deep connection to this house as it eases some of my pains. His affair was like any other old lame story. The AP was his old friend (not even that close to have regular contact in the past) and they met again last December because my husband had a meeting in the city she worked. She had some relationship problems that she kept calling my husband for “advice”. At the beginning, he simply felt sorry for her and tried to listen to her problems. And as they talked frequently and he felt like we were not having the same passionate sex as before, he just took advantage of this and wanted to experience something “NEW”. He admitted he didn’t realize how deeply his action could hurt me and didn’t see the evil side/ flaw of himself before. But now he does and if he could go back, he could never ever have this affair (like any other men would said). Somehow I do believe he is very remorseful and he is working hard to make this right again. He did delete everything related to her and blocked her in every single way that she could contact him. The one “advantage” for us is that she’s in a city no where near us and she will eventually go back to her home country when she’s done with her research here in the US. I think I’m still in the process of trying to accept the fact. Because deep down I still cannot convince myself that why and how a man claim that he cannot live without you could ever hurt you so deeply like you have never experienced before. And I also find myself having the urge to tell his parents every time we skyped (our families are not in the US). It’s so hard to lie to our parents and pretend everything is fine. But the rational self told me that I cannot tell them about his affair, at least not now. Because they are so far away from us physically, we cannot control what would happen if they know. I told him that I wanted to tell his parents but he said we should wait till we really put this behind us. He said it wasn’t that he didn’t have the courage to admit his mistake but he really doesn’t want any complications added to my recovery process. And I agree. But I really hope that, one day, he or we can be honest with our parents about what happened. I think (it may be just my naive self) they will give us their blessings after they learned how we get through this devastating event together.

    We are reading a book called “Getting Past the Affair” by Doug Snyder. In the book, it says, treat your marriage like your house. Regardless how perfect of your marriage/ house is, never lower your fence and open the door to increase the vulnerability. Because there are so many ill people in this nasty world that you will never know what their intentions are when they approach your house. I do hope that, one day, I can find peace.

    • It sounds like you are working hard to rebuild your marriage and put all the pieces back together. Like you said, it is a long process and it’s hard to know who to talk to about infidelity. Everyone has a different take on it and you just have to trust what you need.
      Keep moving forward and keep the lines of communication open. The triggers can be difficult but it sounds like you are managing them well. I found that I would be fine for a few weeks and then break down for a night when I least expected it. One of the lessons I learned is that it’s okay to breakdown and let my husband know. My husband and I have always been extremely close and loving but before the affair I sometimes hid my insecurities from him. Not on purpose–just because I didn’t entirely understand my vulnerabilities and I didn’t want him to feel responsible for me.
      Anyways, I am rambling… it’s late and I am exhausted! Thanks for writing and sharing your story with me.

  8. we have similar time shcedules as I am about 8 months frm full disclosure of two/ almost three affairs..unbelievable…and now understanding and compassion enter the picture about what was going on with him at the time. but I am struggling to move on how?. Getting tired of trying and trying and trying to overcome the many emotions and then I start to resent him…I hate feeling this way…he is a good man, and working very hard…we even went to a Gottman weekend and are reviewing…yet it bugs me to see him moving on faster than I am…..So I share my feeling with him and then (this is good) actually feel guiltily for making him listen to me and making him feel a bit bad again….so what do I do talk to him or not…I always struggle with sharing my feelings (this time it was to ask for a bit more reassurance and acknowledgement of my struggle) and feel bad afterwards or just deal with the feeling ansd hope that my talk will have a better long-term effect on us…I want to feel close to him, but I do not always feel this way and I worry and feel bad about this…nothing is EASY in recovering from infidelity…we have been married 31 years and affairs were years apart and well over now…but not for me….I can relate to your posts so much…I spend way to much time thinking about the affairs…Do you think about them daily and often over the day…I still do….

    • Hi Kay,
      I see you have a few comments but I wanted to reply to this one before reading the others. I noticed with my husband that he could move forward much faster than I could too. This is common and it makes sense because they were the ones to “do the crime.” Once they see the damage they have done and make the decision to end the affair they feel like they closed the door. They know there is more healing to do but they are not caught up in the past like we (the betrayed wives) tend to be. We have much more to learn, understand and know in order for us to be able to take small steps forward. Through this process I realized that my husband was (and still is) struggling to deal with the pain in inflicted on me. For my husband that is his most difficult hurdle–to know that his actions hurt me in a way that he cannot fix easily. In those moments I see that he hasn’t just closed the door and moved forward–but he has no thoughts of his AP lingering in his head or haunting images of her there. Unfortunately, it’s just the betrayed wives that get stuck with the triggers…. But I’ve been there too–feeling guilty that I had to bring something up or watch him get upset and then I found myself apologizing. Luckily, he’s smart enough to say that I should never apologize for feeling pain–he did this and he needs to know what he’s done.
      It’s such a struggle to move forward sometimes. I think of the affair daily but it doesn’t necessarily hurt me now when I think about it. Sometimes I feel the memories of last year beginning to get fuzzy. I actually want some of this to fade away in my mind. I can’t spend my energy focused on this every day. That’s why you will notice I don’t write every day because I have to separate myself sometimes.

      • I haven’t been here for a while but I wanted to say Thank You so much for replying! You are quite insightful and express your thoughts and emotions so well. Please know that though you are struggling yourself, you are really helping a lot of other women get though this as well. Thank you so much!

        I still struggle with sharing my pain verses enduring my pain — after 8 months now — and wanted to know your take on this: Do you believe we have to sometimes “suffer alone” and endure a bit for the sake of moving forward, encouraging an already (at least in the past) our vulnerable spouse,as well as in may ways helping ourselves as well by not drawing it out to the open which also triggers, me at least, for the next several days? I sometimes find that enduring (one”evil”) is sometimes “easier” on both of us than “sharing” my pain. What do you think?

      • I know what you are saying–when I fall apart I see my husband break too. He sees that he caused all of this. He hurt the person (me) he loves most in the world–and he can’t take back what he’s done.
        There are times when I don’t let my husband know when things are bothering me but overall I try to share my journey with him as much as possible. My reasoning is that when he was cheating and just before the affair I had so many moments when I was struggling and upset but I didn’t tell him because I felt like it was my issue. If I had opened up and been honest about what was wrong then it would have prevented this entire mess. My husband also says he was struggling and depressed but didn’t want me to feel like it was my fault–ironically, he then displaced the blame on me.
        I feel closer to my husband when I can share my emotions with him. He says it can be difficult to hear but it helps him understand that he needs to do more to help me. I feel the same way–I want to help him. The only way through this mess is together.
        I would talk to your husband about how you feel–what you wrote here and see what he thinks. Does he want to help you or does he feel like he needs some space from the pain? Some couples initiate rules that they can only discuss the affair for up to an hour a day or week. Each couple has to figure out what works for them.

  9. Just found your blog. Thank you for the inspiration. Talk of triggers…I just ran into OW at a school function. D day…8 months ago. She was my friend and his lover for 3 years. I never would have suspected. I thought he was the last person on earth to cheat. We are still together. He is remorseful and wants to start over. More later…I left the school after staying a few minutes. I’m still shaking.

    • Hi Mary,
      I am sending you hugs and strength because I can’t imagine having to see my husband’s OW at school or anywhere else. I often wonder how I will react when the day comes that I do run into her, face-to-face. I am not sure if I’ll keep my composure or if I’ll say all those words I’ve said in my mind.
      I hope you are doing better today.

      • I want to see her, call her but I have no idea what I would say. It bothers me that she knows so much about me but I don’t know anything about her. My husband says he does want to talk about her (except to answer specific questions) because he is protecting me. It feels like he is protecting her.

      • I found that my husband while he was involved with his AP felt she was a very good friend, at one point he told her she was his best friend (in an email) but after the affair ended he realized he didn’t know much about her as a person. He didn’t know what she liked to do for fun, her hobbies, her birthday. And then the things he did know came into question because we discovered how that 99% of what she told him was lies. I did ask lots of questions and when I felt like I needed more I spoke with the AP’s ex-husband to fill in the gap. In the beginning I thought my husband felt too much pity for his AP. He spent a year believing she was a victim of an abusive marriage and that she was separated and all alone but the truth was that she was still married and her husband was not abusive–they just didn’t get along (surprise!). Sometimes the wayward spouse has this “idea” of who his AP is and it is very common for married men to involve themselves with women who seem like victims so the men can feel like heroes. But the truth is a real friend would not encourage you to have an affair and cheat on your spouse and children. Once my husband heard those words he understood that his AP was never his friend or looking out for him. The fog was lifted.
        It’s possible your husband just doesn’t want to keep thoughts of his AP in his head because he feels such regret.

  10. I just found out yesterday my husband had met a girl in a night club and kissed they exchanged numbers and called and text each other I found dirty pictures of her on his phone plus dirty message he said it was a year ago and only a kiss he met her twice and the second time was to tell her to stop bothering him he said the pictures and mess was deleted off his phone but icloud backed it up and they went bk on his phone I don’t believe anything can someone please advise me

    • Hi Jamie,
      Trust is something easily given but once lost difficult to regain. I don’t know you or your husband so it’s hard to give advice. What is your gut instinct? What do you believe and what are you finding difficult to digest?
      Do you feel like the kiss was a betrayal or not? I think before I found out about my husband’s affair I would have been devastated to find out he kissed another woman. Now, I don’t know. I do believe kissing another woman was the gateway to beginning my husband’s affair but that may not be true for everyone. Looking at pictures of a naked woman (especially one he knows) is pushing the limits too…. My best advice is to trust your gut.

  11. What do you do when you and the AP share the same name?! I wrote a note to tuck into my husband’s suitcase — he’s left on a business trip — and found I couldn’t sign my own name.

    • Another woman once wrote that to me. I know for me I had to take away meaning from Bat Shit’s real name. I knew that I had friends from my past that shared her name and it’s common enough that I knew I would meet more people with her name. That’s why I came up with calling her Bat Shit. Calling her that took away the power of her name.
      Has your husband ever called you a nickname? Maybe you can write that name for now. I am sorry…

      • That’s a wonderful idea. He does have a nickname for me. I’ll use that. I talked to him about what happened. We’ve come up with a generic name to use when we talk about her. It’s been really helpful.

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