Your spouse has had an affair. As you both deal with the repercussions of the infidelity you have the extra burden of dealing with the images running through your head. After the affair, it may be one of the biggest ongoing hurdles you face. It can be hard to forgive when you can’t forget. Yet lasting healing cannot happen if you can’t get the negative images out of your mind. Let’s explore a few tips to help you gain control over your imagination.
Why Negative Images Cause More Harm than Good
It’s natural to wonder and imagine what the other woman looked like. It’s even natural to envision your husband in bed with her. You may ask for the dirty details from your spouse, which can lead to vivid images in your head. And if you caught him in the act then you don’t have to imagine, the images are probably permanently seared on your brain.
However, all of this imagery can be seriously destructive. It prevents you from moving forward through the stages of coping and recovery. When the images of the affair are running like a movie through your mind, it’s too easy to become stuck. Forgiveness isn’t possible. It becomes a vicious cycle of negative thoughts feeding into negative emotions and vice versa.
For example, Judy’s husband had an affair. This caused her to feel badly about her own physical appearance and attractiveness. She imagined the other woman being beautiful and seductive. This image further enhanced her own feelings that she was unattractive. Instead of focusing on what she could do to move forward, she became stuck in a cycle of negative feelings and images.
And if you’re not confident that your spouse has ended the affair, negative images can fuel the fears and paranoia. You imagine him with the other woman. This image convinces you that he must be with her and you begin to believe your imagination.
Finally, these negative images make it nearly impossible to remember anything good about your marriage or your spouse. And if you’re going to get through this period in your marriage, it’s important to be able to remember some of the good.
Take Control of Your Imagination After the Affair
Tip #1 Give it Time to Be
Instead of trying to wipe away those negative images right away, give them time to exist. After the affair, allow yourself some time to experience this very natural reaction. Keep in mind, as you’re allowing the images to fill your head, that you’re not going to allow them to take up space forever. By accepting that this is a process and experiencing the images without judging yourself, you’re retaining control.
For example, you might set a designated time each day where you allow your imagination to run freely. At 7:00 every night you might let them come. Give them fifteen to twenty minutes of your time and then stop thinking about it. Every week you might cut back the time you’re thinking about it.
By giving yourself permission and a designated time to experience the negative images you’re retaining control over them.
Tip #2 Replace them With A Different Image
As you begin to try to let go of those negative images, you may find that a few of them stick around. Instead of trying to wipe them out of your head, make small changes to the image. For example, if you’re imagining the two of them together in bed add a group of judges standing around them holding up score cards with big zeros on them.
You might imagine her wearing an ugly gorilla suit or covered in a horrible rash. Depending on the image stuck in your head, you might imagine the two of them fighting instead of in bed together. The idea here is to begin to change the images so you have control over them, not the other way around.
Tip #3 Create an Affirmation
With this tip, whenever a negative image enters your mind you replace it with a positive thought or image. The key here is to replace it with the same positive thought or image every single time. For example, if you’re imagining the other woman, you might replace it with an image of your favorite exotic location or vacation spot.
Instead of seeing her, you may see yourself lounging on the beach on a Caribbean island. Beautiful blue skies overhead, an endless blue sea ahead of you and nothing but relaxation filling your body, mind, and heart. Nice, right? Certainly much better than imagining the other woman.
A verbal affirmation can work too. For example, after the affair whenever a negative image enters your mind you might think, “I am a wonderful and interesting person with a beautiful life that I am grateful for and proud of.”
The Marriage Sherpa offers this suggestion for creating your own affirmations – “Make a list of all of your wonderful qualities. You’re giving, you’re patient, you have great legs. Once you have amassed your list of good points, recite them to yourself, over and over. Every time an image of the other woman pops up and you begin to compare yourself, get your list and read it out loud.”
Tip #4 Start Working On Yourself
One of the best things you can do to get over negative images is to start working on yourself. What do you want to do? What do you want to be? What part of you have you been neglecting? What actions or steps can you take that would make you happier and more fulfilled?
For example, if you’ve always wanted to take a ballroom dancing class then sign up for one. Begin to add fun to your life and focus on taking good care of yourself. Taking this step helps you feel empowered and more in control of your life. There won’t be room for those negative images.
Tip #5 Ask for Help
No one says you have to go it alone. If you’re struggling to get those images out of your head, it’s okay to ask for help. A counselor or marriage counselor may be able to help you move past those images after the affair. Or a marriage coach may be more beneficial to you. There are also many wonderful marriage fitness programs and marriage repair packages that focus on the steps you can take to manage and cope with the repercussions of your spouse’s affair.
For example, in How to Survive an Affair by Dr. Frank Gunzburg the first phase of the book deals with helping you. It’s titled, “Individual Healing – Understanding Personal Feelings and Sorting through Emotions.”
Simple resources like this can help you gain control of the negative images after the affair. It’s important to realize that negative images are a normal and healthy reaction to an affair. However, it’s also important to gain control over them so you can move forward.
To your success and well being!