Do you really want to know the reason you can’t get over your affair?
The ‘Think-Feel-Act’ Series:
Part 1: 5 ways your affair started in your thoughts.
>Part 2: The real reason you can’t get over your affair.
“What’s the reason I can’t get over the affair?” & “When’s it going to get better?”
“I just can’t stop thinking about my affair partner.”
These are some examples of questions that I get from many different women.
The questions may be phrased differently but they all share a common theme:
Their inability to get over their affair.
Or, they wonder WHY they even had the affair in the first place…the very thing they thought they’d never do.
My answer might sound simplistic. I’m sure you might wonder if there’s more to it- and there is.
But my answer is a very important first step in your affair recovery plan.
So, if you’re struggling to end contact with your affair partner, you still feeling shame and guilt everyday, if you want your marriage to be healed, but
you’re still thinking about your affair partner more often than you care to admit…this is the post for you.
My friend, your affair began in your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that are still keeping you stuck there.
Your thoughts are the real reason you can’t get over your affair.
But before you think it’s that simple, keep reading.
Understanding how the think, feel, act cycle is affecting your affair recovery is your key to change.
Although the Think, Feel, Act concept has been around for ages (it’s also called cognitive therapy),
The Life Coach from The Life Coach School, Brooke Castillo, added a few other pieces that help it make more sense, which she calls ‘The Model.’
She added Circumstance to the beginning of the cycle, and Results to the end, like a sandwich.
So, the cycle really looks like this:
Circumstances- Thoughts- Feelings- Actions- Results.
But I like to call it the Bicycle Concept because it’s a great analogy.
As far as I know, I’m the first one to put this bicycle analogy to the concept; yea, I’m just crazy like that.
But I hope it helps you to picture the concept more…if not, ignore it.
1. The Circumstance = the whole bicycle.
It’s neutral. We can all agree if a bike was sitting in front of us, it’s a fact, there’s a bike there.
2. The handlebars are like your thoughts that will steer you in whatever direction you’re telling yourself with your thinking.
3. The wheels, are like your feelings, and they’re just going to go wherever you steer them with your handlebars (thoughts).
4. The action is how you got the bike moving (putting our feet on the pedals).
5. The result is your destination. Where are you going to end up after riding this bike?
So,If you don’t like the destination (the result) which your bike is steering towards (your thoughts), and the wheels are leading you the wrong way,
(just your feelings following where your thoughts told them to go), you need to decide to stop (the brakes=another action).
and change direction of your handlebars (changing the thought-replacing it with something else for a better result).
I hope that makes sense.
Okay, let’s break down each one of these parts in this ‘bicycle concept’, because it’ll be so powerful for you, if you use it!
1. THE CIRCUMSTANCE.
The circumstance we encounter is the beginning piece of our think-feel-act cycle.
Because before you have a THOUGHT about anything, there’s a circumstance. Circumstances are just neutral events or situations.
Think of “Circumstance” as just facts that are happening in life, or of a situation, free of any judgment or opinion at the moment.
These are things that are out of your immediate control and neutral facts.
They don’t have a label of good or bad (although we often give them labels quickly), but they’re just neutral.
It could be the something happening right now like the weather, what our boss said about us, how our husband feels,
or how a friend reacted to something we told them.
But circumstances are also everything that’s happened in our past.
That can mean what happened to you last week, in your childhood, or even, for example, the history of how our country was founded.
Circumstances are just unchangeable facts in this moment.
You cannot change the weather. You can’t change your boss or what he/she says about you, how your husband feels in the moment, or how a friend is treating you.
We also can’t change the past, or what happened in our childhood, or the history of our country. All past is unchangeable.
They’re all things outside of our immediate control. Some of them you won’t ever be able to change.
But the great thing to remember is, you have circumstances that you may be able to change in the future, but maybe just not this minute;
your weight, your marriage, your job, how much money you have in the bank, etc…
Here’s the important commonality in most circumstances; they’re neutral, until you think a thought about them.
The exception to this (and this is where I disagree with some Life Coaches) is that there is an absolute of right and wrong
in the world. God as the creator of this universe gets to say what those right’s and wrong’s are.
But we still have a choice of how WE will react to those things that were done negatively to us;
and our reactions start in our thoughts.
Have you ever noticed how 2 people can react differently the same situation?
One person may say their cancer was such a life-changing event that helped them see what’s important, so they could change their life.
Another cancer sufferer may think that person is crazy, and believe that nothing good come from cancer. You see?
The circumstance is not creating your feeling, until you think a thought about it.
As a former cancer patient twice, I’m somewhere in the middle of those 2 thoughts- yea, I’m weird.
Thoughts are just a sentence in your brain that you’re thinking about a circumstance.
It’s your opinion; your assessment of whether something is good or bad, right or wrong.
We often think of our thoughts as facts, and unchangeable.
But it’s important to remember- your thoughts are optional.
They may be so ingrained in you that you don’t think of them as optional
(ex. “I’m so fat”, or “I’m not outgoing enough to have many friends”).
They might not feel optional right now, but they are.
(Remember my bicycle analogy in Part 1 of this series?
think of thoughts as the handlebars on your bike, steering you where you’ll eventually end up.)
Think of this like this: To determine if your thoughts are facts or just your opinion, assessment or your own judgment;
ask yourself this- does everyone would agree with that thought,
if there’s some who would disagree, then it’s an optional thought.
S0, What are your thoughts?
Are you continuously thinking about your affair partner?
Are you telling yourself you can’t live without him?
Do you keep having thoughts about how much you miss him?
That is one main reason you can’t get over your affair.
Your thoughts are keeping you stuck, like in quick sand.
And just like quick sand, those thoughts can eventually take you down into a affair relapse, if you don’t change them soon.
Yes, you can change your thoughts, because they’re optional!
This is a huge revelation because once you see that your thoughts are optional,
you realize you can change where your thoughts are leading you.
Circumstances can’t be changed, at least not in the moment, they’re outside your control. But your thoughts ARE in your power to change.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy, it takes practice to think about what you’re thinking about.
Most of us just let our brains control the directions we sail. But it takes practice.
Like a toddler learning to walk, we wouldn’t expect her to stand up and start walking without falling down right away.
It takes practice and a lot of falling, and getting back up, to try again.
It’s a lot like that with directing what we allow our brains to think.
Our feelings, or emotions, are directly affected by the thoughts we initially had about a circumstance we experienced.
So, feelings are the next part in the cycle of think-feel-act. (The wheels on the bike remember?)
Feelings are one-word emotional conditions: sad, mad, lonely, stressed, bored, jealous, happy, shame, compassion etc…
When we start to look at our emotions as physical sensations in our bodies that can’t harm you,
(especially the ones that are not pleasant, and even uncomfortable sometimes), then we can stop hiding from ‘negative’ emotions and face them head on.
Because if we can dissect our feelings to having started from a thought we had, then we can see that just because we felt something, doesn’t make it a fact.
Think of your emotions as a warning system.
We all have thousands of thoughts everyday, we can’t be aware of every single thought.
But when you experience an emotion, it’s a sign to pay attention to what’s happening in your mind.
We usually only want to go back to our original thoughts when we feel a negative emotion or one of discomfort.
But we can do this when we have good feelings (or moods) also.
Also, if we’re not aware of looking at our emotions as possible warning signs of a relapse, we’ll fall right back to old behaviors.
So, being led by our feelings is another reason you can’t get over your affair.
For example, when you find yourself thinking ANYTHING about the affair partner, stop, and recognize it.
If you don’t, your feelings for him will just be stirred up all over again, until you’re faced with the strong urge to call, text or visit him.
And that’s the last thing you want to do.
Let me give you an example from my own life.
I’m in the process of trying to lose weight. So on my weigh in days, I get on the scale.
The digital number that shows up on my scale is just the circumstance
(a situation that is reading back to me a factual thing that I cannot change at that moment).
But the thought that I allow myself to think, right after seeing that number on the scale, is what will drive my emotions afterwards.
So if I think “Oh my lord, I’m so fat, nothing is changing no matter how hard I try, I won’t ever be able to lose this weight, I’ll probably fail like I did before!”
What do you think my emotions will then be? I’ll be feeling pretty crappy right?
I’ll start feeling like a failure, and might even start feeling worse about myself for failing, (which often perpetuates the cycle if I used food to feel better).
As long as I keep thinking that way, what will my motivation be to continue my healthy eating habits to lose weight?
I probably won’t keep motivated for very long.
So that leads to the next part in the bicycle concept cycle, action.
This is what you DO in response to how you feel, (feet on pedals to get the result).
We either take action, or inaction, but our actions don’t just happen out of nowhere. They’re always influenced by how we feel.
So when we start paying attention to how we feel, especially if we’re journaling and getting our thoughts out of our heads,
we can begin to ask more important questions BEFORE we act upon our feelings.
Like asking yourself :
“what do I do when I feel angry or jealous?
How do I act when I don’t feel loved and appreciated?
Do I get lost in my thoughts, until I’m feeling so miserable and angry that I don’t know why?
What is my action or inaction when I feel these things?”
At the very end of the Think, feel, act cycle that Brooke Castillo teaches in her Life Coach school, is Result.
Results are what happens from the action you took (your final destination).
The interesting part is, you are creating the results just for you. Your results only ever applies to you.
Your results can affect other people’s circumstances, as our affairs did for our husbands.
But you don’t create results for others and they can’t create results for you.
The whole framework of Circumstance, Think, Feel, Act, Result cycle is about you. Each one of us has our own cycles going on.
They have their own thoughts, feelings and actions they’re working through, and you have yours.
The thing to remember is that the results you have now, is showing the original thought you held at some point. It’s a domino effect.
I love how Rachel Hart of the podcast “take a break from drinking” describes this part:
“The brain is always looking for evidence to support what it believes, so the best way to see this is to think of the results of 2 different types of people.
Somebody who goes through the world seeing the glass half empty will always be looking for, and finding evidence of, all the results that prove the
glass is half empty. But take somebody who chooses to see things as half full, they will find evidence and results for that everywhere they go
and in various relationships and circumstances. “
The thing is, both of those types of people can have the same circumstance, but see it completely different. It’s how they thought about it.
Finally, to review:
- The CIRCUMSTANCES in your life are just facts, completely neutral, and out of your immediate control.
They’re simply neutral situations that hold no other meaning than being unchangeable facts.
Remember, Circumstances can also be people or past events.
- We then think of THOUGHTS in response to the circumstance we’re encountering, giving it some type of label or meaning to it.
These thoughts are just sentences going through our heads, and how we define our circumstance.
We also can learn to have control over our thoughts by recognizing, and replacing, the thoughts that won’t serve us with good feelings and behaviors.
- As we process our thoughts, they then create FEELINGS; these are any one word emotions we feel in our bodies, such as lonely, sad, happy, depressed.
- These Feelings then cause us to take ACTION.
We often don’t realize it but we do have This is the part of the equation we can control also, but our actions are greatly influenced
by our thoughts and feelings first.
- Finally, our actions create the RESULTS in our lives.
We can see the results of many things in our lives and trace back to what our original thoughts were first.
Being aware of this cycle in your life is truly the first part of the equation to changing a behavior, habit or feeling.
Your brain will likely resist the change, and it takes practice to recognize and change our thoughts, but it’s vital in your affair recovery.
Back to my example about weighing myself.
So, what if I weigh myself and instead of beating myself up by the number staring back at me (circumstance),
but I don’t want to give up on my weight loss goal.
My thoughts would need to change.
So I could tell myself, “it’s okay, I know the weight will come off, it can be stubborn forever since
I’m eating healthy and exercising everyday. I’ve lost it before and I can do it again!”
What would my feelings be after that thought?
I’d likely feel more energized and determined to not give up. Which will eventually produce the weight loss.
You’ll notice part of this is self compassion and not thinking negatively about myself.
I’m not going to lie, this was my situation this very morning.
It was a struggle in my mind to not think thoughts of discouragement,
telling me to give up working so hard at eating healthy and exercising.
So I chose the last example, gave myself self love and compassion and recommitted myself to not giving up…..
And then I put my scale away for awhile. But that’s okay too.
If you know there’s a temptation to regress back to old thinking or old habits, then do what you need to do eliminate that temptation.
If it feels weird and foreign to you, that’s okay. It’s not your fault you didn’t know this before.
But now you have this tool- so start asking yourself:
“what am I automatically and habitually thinking?”
If you can’t stop a certain habit, ask yourself “what is the message I am thinking, and keep telling myself, about that circumstance?” (that person, place or thing).
I’ll break it down to show specific examples regarding acting out in an affair and trace it back to what your original thought was.
How this applies to the Christian.
This think-feel-act cycle is not contrary to God or the power of God in our lives.
I know there are other Christians who might think I’m saying WE have all power over everything, taking God out of the equation.
I’m definitely not subscribed to that.
For me, God is the most important piece in this ‘bicycle framework’ because HE created our minds and He’s instructed us in the bible on how to use them.
He also tells us to pray, asking for His strength in every circumstance which gets your thought’s in alignment to His power and will.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not [a]carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing
that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. “
Also, Romans 12:2:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
You might also like to read:
How to end an affair for good.
5 reasons why ending an affair is so hard.
What is affair fog- 5 signs to watch for.
Well all of this is a little late for me, but I think it is still the answer I’ve asked God for. I started an affair 2 1/2 years ago. I’m a Christian and the man I was (am) seeing is also a Christian. I can’t believe it happened, but it did. My husband and I were good friends but definitely not intimate in any way. I struggled with that Part of our marriage from day one. I went to counselors and I took medication and I begged God to fix me for all of those 25 years.
But anyway, here I am. Divorced and still seeing the man I had an affair with. My husband remarried 6 months after I left and I see my son only once a week and my daughter won’t speak to me still. I lost my home, my friends, my everything, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t cry. I’ve not missed my husband even for a second, but I miss my kids so desperately and I miss my life.
Well anyway, I’m writing this to say that the man had an affair with Is just now reaching the final days of his divorce and he desperately wants to keep his family. He is “ambivalent” as you said in another post, just as I am. We love each other or whatever you want to believe we feel for each other, but know the consequences of what we’ve done and I’ve been praying that God would cause his wife to take him back. I know how painful losing everything is and although I would love to be with him I would rather he not lose his family. We have committed to not seeing each other over and over for 2 years, and yet see each other every day and talk all day long. Ahhhhh! It’s very hard as you know. But now, at this moment I am deciding to go my separate way. I have sent him links from here to give to his wife to read and for him to read. I told him that I believe this is the answer we have desperately asked God for (as dumb as it sounds in our situation). It’s too late for me but I pray it isn’t too late for him. Tomorrow is the day they meet with a judge and I pray it’s not the end. I truly feel like dying but I’m thankful that I have your blog to read through to help me. I’ve read many many blogs on affairs and how to get over them, and only end up wanting to kill myself for how awful I am.
Thank you for this! Now off to keep reading about how to get through this. Only with God’s help will it happen.
Debbie Rose says
Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry your situation ended and the estrangement from your kids, that’s really a hard part of all this. It’s growth on your
part to not want your AP to lose his family too. That is caring more about another than you do yourself. Letting him go and work on his family is the
most mature and loving thing you can do now. I’m glad my blog has helped you in some way. My hearts desire is for women to know they are still loved by God
and this does not have to define who you are. But also the tough love part in me leading the way to show HOW to end it and move forward with healing.
I’ve been on the other side of judgement, rejection and shame and that never motivates change in anyone. Blessings on your new beginning my friend.
C K says
Thank you for your blog. It has been very helpful and thought provoking. I had an affair a year ago but am having difficulty letting go. During the affair we had an app that we secretly chatted on and last spoke October 5. I can’t stop thinking about downloading it again to see if he’s said anything. It’s been a source of struggle because I’ve downloaded it a few times. I keep thinking that by doing so and seeing nothings there it will help with closure but it rears its ugly head after several months and then I want to do it again. Help! How do I stop?
Sincerely thank you,
Debbie Rose says
Hi CK You’re facing the one thing that many find so difficult- but incredibly necessary- to do. That is ending the affair for good.
There’s so much to this and learning how to stop the obsessive thoughts and face your subconscious beliefs and lies you believed about the affair is important too.
That’s why I created an online course for women to take them through every step of breaking free of the affair for good since there’s so much more than I can adequately share in a short answer here.
You can learn more about that course here: https://www.debbierose.com/pl/145800
The important thing is to not download that app again so you can stay free. The more time that goes by, the easier this becomes as long as you’re avoiding the little traps along the way which
I share in my private online course. God bless you on this journey. You can do it!
Mine is a story which started ten years ago. It was a very intense five year one which ended in heartbreak, one which totally broke my heart. I could never get over him, he was the love of my life, but timing was never right for one or the other of us at the same time. He’d hurt me along the way but out of love I forgave him and stayed in it until it was discovered. The pain I felt when I had to tell him goodbye( due to him suddenly him not knowing what he wanted) is something I could never cope with again.
He reconnected two years later telling me he was desperately unhappy and wanted to spend his life with me. I couldn’t commit to that future because I didn’t want him to only want me because his marriage hadn’t sustained discovery, but I couldn’t let him go again either. I loved him so much. It hadn’t just been a physical thing, we connected on all other levels and we’d practically lived a double life for those five years.
This time round the physical chemistry is always there but it’s never happened and I find myself in an emotional affair feeling like an agony aunt. Both talking about how much we want each other but it never quite happens. I’m in a very sad place right now. He slows his usual very constant morning and nightly contact down every so often leaving me feeling he no longer needs me if things are good elsewhere for him. He’s stopped using our usual app for contact and is passively giving me subtle excuses for future contact.
Christmas has come and gone without a word when for the past two years he couldn’t get enough of me and he’s is so ingrained into me that I dont know how to let go. How do you let go of someone you love, who took over your life for so long?
Debbie Rose says
Hi Dolly, I’m afraid you’re facing a repeat of his behavior that you experienced last time (5 years ago);
he wants the fun without the commitment. His marriage failed and conveniently “he came to his senses” and
suddenly wanted you again? I don’t think so. Oprah said once “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
But for some reason, so many of us (especially women), keep holding on to the version of someone that we believed
them to be. Affair’s are fantasy wrapped up in deception at its foundation. Let him go and move forward with your
life or you’ll still stay stuck 5 years from now. If you’re having a hard time ending the affair or letting him
go from your thoughts- consider my course “How to end your affair and reclaim your life”…it will help give you
the tools and strength to get free. https://debbierose.mykajabi.com/EYAENROLL (the link is also at the top of my home page)
So I got to stage 1 of an emotional affair with my husband’s brother for just a month, maybe 2 tops. Told his brother how I had feelings for him, brother doesn’t feel the same way. Contact has been cut off with the brother and my husband wants to reconcile. I am trying to reconcile, it’s hard, how I felt with his brother I have never felt with my husband, that has been the main source of my marital problems for the last five years. At some point though (most likely at Christmas) I will see and be expected to interact with his brother. How do you get over someone who you are still expected to have some sort of ongoing relationship with?
Debbie Rose says
Thanks for your comment Jean. This will be a huge challenge for you and your husband in different ways. Part of what keeps people stuck in the affair fog is the deceptive thoughts
surrounding the relationship and what you thought it would be, or who you thought this other person was or could do for you. That’s not to say there’s some truth in there, but you must
realize that this man won’t fill that empty space within you any more than your husband will…that is the lie we believe when we look for “greener grass”. You might see some great traits
In him that you don’t see in your own husband-but you also don’t see the other side that only a spouse sees. So it’s important to be very real with yourself. Stop glorifying this guy and
what you think he would do for you and look within your heart to what you’re really missing and longing for…I guarantee you it’s not this other man.