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Surviving Infidelity: Relationship Expert Offers 5 Tips on Dealing with Flashbacks

Flashbacks or intrusive thoughts are very common after learning of a partner’s infidelity according to relationship expert and psychologist Dr. Joe James. He offers 5 tips on how to cope and control these intrusive emotional experiences.


Flashbacks or intrusive thoughts are very common after learning of a partner’s infidelity according to relationship expert and psychologist Dr. Joe James.  “They are often one of the most disturbing aspects of learning of an infidelity and can leave you feeling as if you are not in control of your emotions or as if you are going crazy” says Dr. James.  He offers five tips on how control and cope with flashbacks:
1) Let Your Partner Support You: Like every stage of restoring a relationship flashbacks are a shared responsibility and experience. This can be very challenging for the partner who has strayed because flashbacks can stir up feelings of guilt or frustration. But, challenging as it may be, the quickest road to getting back to normal is for the unfaithful partner to be there patient and understanding. This can be a very powerful bonding experience. “If both partners approach this with the right attitude they may feel themselves closer than ever before” says Dr. James.
2) Recognize Your Triggers: Pay attention to the things or situations that trigger flashbacks so that you can either avoid or prepare yourself the next time you are faced with it.
3) Work on Ways to Minimize the Number of Flashbacks: Once one begins to understand flashback triggers you can work as a team to avoid flashbacks or fights.  An example may involve saying something like: “When you’re late getting home from work and I haven’t heard from you, I worry about where you are, and who you’re with or what you’re doing. Can we figure out some way to avoid this happening?” Or if there is a place that triggers a flashback (e.g. driving by the restaurant you walked in on your partner and the affair partner and discovered the affair) consider avoiding it completely and taking a different route for the time being.
4) Learn What Helps You Feel Better When You Have a Flashback: You might have to try different things until you find what works best but try to pay attention to what soothes you when you have a flashback. Some prefer their partner to respond to their feelings by offering to hugs and reassurance while others need time and space to calm down. “Its very important to communicate one’s needs to their partner” says Dr. James.
5) Ride the wave: Sometimes flashbacks are unavoidable. Once a flashback begins one shouldn’t try to stop it. That could actually intensify it and cause more flashbacks. Dr. James recommends using self talk such as “This is just a flashback. It will pass.” Dr. James elaborates: “Flashbacks are like waves. No matter how intense and scary they may feel, no matter how much it feels like it will never end flashbacks usually last no more than 15 minutes. Sometimes they may last a bit longer, but that is more the exception than the rule. It is physiologically impossible for a person to stay in a state that intense for a prolonged period of time. Now, you may have days where they come in waves, almost like aftershocks after an earthquake, but they will pass. Just hold on, recognize it for what it is, get whatever help or support you need and it will pass”.

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 after infidelity
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