Affair Article – How to Heal from a Past Affair… In the Present

How to Heal from a Past Affair… In the Present

   By Susie and Otto Collins, Relationship Coaches

If you and your partner are working to heal yourselves and your marriage after an affair, you may have experienced this… Words or actions happen that immediately trigger negativity within you. The words or actions may not seem like such a big deal to others but, for you, there is something about them that is upsetting. You may not even understand why you feel this way, you just do.

Consider this scenario…

Chuck brought his wife, Elaine, a beautiful bouquet of flowers following all of the rendezvous he had with the woman he was having an affair with. In the course of his infidelity being discovered, Elaine realized this pattern and came to associate Chuck’s action of giving her flowers with the pain of the affair. Now, 10 years since Chuck ended his relationship with the other woman, Elaine always bristles when he gives her flowers. She is unable to enjoy what is now Chuck’s way of expressing love for Elaine—not, as was his previous motivation, his guilt.

Being given flowers by her husband, fires off a negative anchor that instantly transports Elaine back to the past and the painful feelings around the affair. It is these past feelings of hurt and betrayal that Elaine needs to heal. In the present, Elaine can tune in to herself and realize she is experiencing the baggage of an unhealed experience. She can choose to let go of those old feelings, live in the present moment, and perhaps even allow herself to enjoy Chuck’s gift for what it is.

For his part, Chuck can be sensitive to this association and choose different ways to express his love for Elaine that don’t always involve flowers. Together, they can heal from the past and create a new future for themselves.

Stephen Covey refers to situations like this scenario when he says, “Old resentments never die. They just get buried alive and come up later in uglier ways.” When we hold on to unresolved resentments, they tend to come up again in different circumstances and even with different people. They may be similar to the original trauma—as was the case with Chuck and Elaine. Or, they may appear quite different but share similarities that are more subtle.

To begin to heal past resentments, take a moment when you first feel yourself being triggered. Examine where the negativity is coming from. Being aware of what you do, is an important first step to changing patterns. From within, take a look at the previous situation or relationship. Where did these feelings come from? Who and what was involved in the situation? Differentiating between what happened in the past and what’s happening right now is vital.

When it comes down to it, opening up to forgiving the person who may have caused you pain is part of the process. Honoring how that experience helped create who you are right now is another part. Once you are able to release the past, you will be freer to experience emotional freedom and the life you want for yourself.


Relationship coaches Susie and Otto Collins, authors of “Should You Stay or Should You Go?” “Relationship Trust” and “No More Jealousy” are experts at helping people get more of the love they really want. Learn how you can create more trust by visiting

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