Most people would probably suspect that most of the wives who contact me for help in dealing with their husband’s affair are extremely angry. And many are. Some of the wives are quite sad and mourning the life they thought they knew and are now afraid of completely losing.
But I have many wives who describe themselves as “numb” or “just doing the movements” or as “sleepwalkers” throughout their lives. And many of the wives who see themselves as insensitive think that something is wrong with them. They wonder why they can’t be furious or devastated like the women they know in this same situation. They wonder if they are letting their husband get out of trouble. They wonder if they are so emotionally hurt that they can no longer feel anything. And they certainly hope this is not permanent. But, at this point, they seem to prefer shutting down to feeling pain.
The following article is for those wives who have become somewhat numb or distant as a result of their husband’s affair. There is nothing wrong with you and there is a reason for this. And no, this certainly doesn’t have to be permanent.
Being numb after an affair is a normal form of self-preservation and control: Many women in this situation have children. So they kind of shut down because they don’t want to lose control or lash out in front of their children or other family members. Also, they don’t want their children to know what their father did. So, they put one foot in front of the other and resume their normal lives for the sake of their children. They try to turn off their emotions because those same emotions are potentially devastatingly painful and troublesome.
Sometimes the handcuffs are closed as a way to maintain control over the situation and your emotions. Or they know that once the feelings start to flow, they won’t be able to stop them. However, they do not want to give their husband “the satisfaction” of seeing a reaction.
Either way, the feelings will eventually have to come to light. If you don’t release them, they will manifest in a passive-aggressive way, or you may find that you are directing your anger at yourself (which is definitely not fair). Understandably, you don’t want to. Lose control, but there’s nothing that says you can’t journal, talk to a trusted friend, or just take time to reflect.
Unfortunately, ignoring this doesn’t make it go away nor does it mean you won’t have to deal with it eventually. Tried this myself and I can tell you it doesn’t work. What happens is that feelings continue to fester and boil beneath the surface and then they will show themselves in other ways. Sure, you may not be openly showing your anger or sadness, but I can assure you that it is there and that it will eventually manifest itself, if it hasn’t started yet.
What must happen so that you can feel again after your husband’s affair: Every now and then when I explain the above points to handcuffs, I have a few who just don’t buy what I’m saying. They will insist that they are dealing with this in their own way and while the result of this has left them somewhat stunned, they find this to be preferable to anger or devastation. Believe me when I say that if I can, I want to spare wives painful emotions and I am not pleased to know that someone is going to experience negative emotions. But I have to tell you that being numb is also, at least in my opinion and experience, quite negative.
Sure, you don’t feel the pain, self-doubt, and resentment as much, but you don’t feel the joy, spontaneity, and peace of mind either. Therefore, you are sacrificing both good and bad for the neutral middle ground, which never feels quite right. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to laugh and be spontaneous. You deserve to be able to express yourself and react to whatever it is that you are really feeling. If you are just following the movements, then you are allowing your adventure to take these things away from you, which are expressions of yourself, and that is certainly not fair.
Wives often tell me that they don’t want to be like this, but they don’t know how to stop. They can’t seem to get out of this rut and they worry that in order to feel numb any longer, they will have to evoke so much anger or some dramatic emotions that they don’t seem to really feel. This is not really the case. Often times, just allowing yourself to think about this or face it when you’re ready will make your honest feelings and reactions come naturally. And this does not mean that you have to react negatively to them. Just sit with them and acknowledge that they are there. You do not need to do this when your children are around.
Often times, once you allow yourself to feel, you will also need a few things from yourself and your husband to begin to heal. You will often want answers. You’ll often want to know if (or so) he’s really sorry. You will often need a workable plan to rehabilitate your marriage (if you want to save it), and you will need a few things to help restore your self-esteem and sense of confidence. This may seem like a lot to think about and assume, but it is actually a gradual process that you can go through at your own pace.
And it is preferable than allowing this to absorb all your emotions and your ability to truly experience and embrace life. It is true that working this is difficult. But, it’s the only way to make sure that you really get your life back on your own terms rather than just being numb to everything that goes on around you. Because this, for me, is as tragic as the matter.