Why Is Affair Recovery Is So Hard?

The Typical Negative Cycle of Affair Recovery Pt. 3

This entry is part 3 in the series of blog post on how what each spouse is experiencing in recovering from an affair can easily turn negative. This entry covers what betrayers typically experience when recovering from an affair. In part 2 I described what injured spouses typically experience when recovering from an affair. Part 1 in this series discussed the 6 components of a negative cycle. 

Triggers for betrayers that kick off the negative cycle can include:

  • The emotional or physical withdraw of the injured spouse. 
  • Being judged or condemned by their spouse.
  • Blamed or criticized by injured spouse.
  • Injured spouse bringing up the same questions over and over again. (Primarily because they feel their spouse doesn’t trust them, and is trying to catch them in a lie.)
  • Feeling shutoff from their spouse. 

What does the betrayer think about their spouse in a negative cycle:

  • I can never make him/her happy or pleased, no matter what I try to do. 
  • I can never make him/her feel better. 
  • Seeing their pain hurts me and makes me sad, so I withdrawal when I see it. 
  • I want them to know I’m not doing anything wrong. 
  • I don’t think being honest will help him/her, but only make it worse.  
  • I can’t do anything that I am certain will cause them more pain, so I avoid talking about the affair. 
  • I am worried a random trigger will pull him/her into re-experiencing the affair. 
  • How long will this go on?
  • I feel like a punching bag. 
  • You’re in so much pain, I don’t want to share mine with you. I don’t see how that helps you. 
  • I feel like I am such a huge disappointment to him/her. I want to hide. I hate disappointing you. 

What the betrayer typically thinks about themselves during a negative cycle:

  • I literally don’t know what I can say or do to help him/her. It isn’t enough. 
  • I don’t deserve to have my needs recognized, because I screwed up. 
  • Its my guilt and sadness that causes me to want to avoid talking about the affair. 
  • I can't look at myself in the mirror.
  • I have no self esteem. 

Typical Behaviors of betrayers caught in a negative cycle:

  • Avoid talk about the affair because they don’t want to hurt their spouse or avoid because they know their spouse is mad at them. 
  • Withdrawal
  • Occasionally fight back because they feel they have their back against the wall. 

Typical Secondary Emotions of Betrayers (Emotions at the top of the iceberg.)

  • Powerless/Overwhelmed - How do I help you?
  • I feel horrible
  • Panic - Oh, crap feeling. 
  • Upset/mad about feeling grilled. 
  • Pain from knowing I broke his/her heart. 

Typical Primary Emotions of Betrayers (Emotions at the bottom of the iceberg.)

  • Sad - I can’t believe I did this to you.
  • Fear - I am scared of doing something that causes him/her more pain. 
  • Shame - I feel unworthy. I feel worthless. I can’t face myself or what I’ve done. I don’t 

Common Attachment Needs of the Betrayers:

  • Acceptance
  • I need to know I am not a huge disappointment to you. Feeling that way is demotivating and causes me to distance myself from you. 
  • Listen to me
  • I need to feel needed and useful
  • I need to know you can trust me. 
  • I need to know you are going to be okay.