It has been just over a year since I met S and since we started the affair and today it has finally ended. It was wildly passionate, addictive and compulsive and I fell head over heels, despite the fact I had a solid, loving relationship with my husband. I couldn’t stop and wanted to be with her so bad. I realised a couple of weeks ago that I was engaged in the well known phenomenon of ‘trauma reenactment’.
The following blog excerpt sums it up nicely: “Reenactment is a process that includes compulsively repeated thoughts, attitudes, and patterns of behaviour. The goal of reenactment is to resolve and heal a past traumatic experience or series of experiences……..reenactment does not occur on a conscious level. Rather, these patterns surface as a result of the pain and turmoil felt on a subconscious level. And because we do not actively choose these patterns, we are unable to actively choose something different”. (from, Excerpts from Trauma: Healing the Hidden Epidemic, by Peter M. Bernstein, PhD).
This is not to diminish what I felt for S, but it has helped to put things into context for me, given that I continually experienced feelings of guilt, shame, fear and helplessness throughout the relationship. I couldn’t understand why, if I was so happy with my husband, why I fell into the arms of another woman. I felt powerless to stop it, it was as though the experience was beyond my control. I oscillated between feelings of love and happiness, to complete and utter shame, disgust and guilt about what I was doing. Importantly I could not reconcile the powerlessness I felt to make an executive decision about who/ what I wanted. I did know that I never wanted to have an affair – yet, I couldn’t stop it. I engaged in that behaviour as a drinker, but now that I was sober, and a Christian, I just didn’t think I would do that. So to find myself in an unstoppable situation left me baffled and deeply ashamed – a feeling I have dissociated, but sadly lies at the heart of my being. It permeates through me and it feels bad. It is like a large snake crawling over my skin.
And I had to take the experience to the end – at the cost of others. I separated from my husband, I moved out with her and it was great, but it was still hidden and seeped in shame and I felt so bad about that. I couldn’t seem to let go of those feelings and because we would have to keep the affair hidden for another year and a half (until she graduated from university – the same place I worked), I just couldn’t stand feeling the shame any longer. I just wanted to go back to my normal life, but of course it is not that simple, when you have screwed it up. So now, I am left alone (yes, by choice), in an apartment, whilst I just wait and see if my husband will work on things with me. Unsure of whether I have driven a wedge too deep between us. It hurts to unconsciously re-enact trauma – a hurt, abused woman hurts and abuses others as she tries so desperately to reclaim self. Its sad. I feel sad and I just want the pain to go away.