Obsessing over the affair is an absolutely natural and normal response to the trauma you have experienced.
If you find yourself unable to, at times, stop turning over the lies, snippets of conversation, unanswered questions, things that don’t add up, or visualizing the same devastating images over and over, know that although this can be agonizing, it is actually part of your healing process that will probably go on for some time.
You might wonder how it can be part of healing if it feels like going over the same thing over and over again. There are many reasons why almost everyone obsesses after being traumatized. Here are a few common ones:
You are in shock. Replaying everything over and over is an attempt to integrate the fact that this has really happened to you.
You are trying to reconstruct the history of your relationship. You are searching among the ruins, sifting through debris, trying to find the pieces you need to rebuild a more accurate story. Many of your assumptions about who you and your partner have been have been shattered. You are struggling to make sense of what has happened. You need this to eventually be able to move forward.
You are trying to regulate the emotional roller coaster that has you feeling like you are going to careen out of control. In this way obsessing, or thinking, especially when you already know the answer to the things you are thinking about, serves to keep you in your head and out of your gut feelings. This is important and useful at times, for example when you need to function and keep your life from falling apart on the outside (even if it feels like it has on the inside).
You are trying to achieve emotional mastery over the trauma. From the outside this can appear to others like you are needlessly torturing yourself. It’s as if you are saying, “If I retraumatize myself, I am in control of it, rather than it being something that happened to me.”
But obsessing about the affair also has it’s costs. In my next post I will discuss different ways to deal with these disturbing experiences.