I Cannot Get These Images out of My Head
H. Brennen, January 27, 2016, 2020
Several months ago a husband asked me this question:
“How can I get the images of my wife with another man
out of my head.” Note that the husband never saw his
wife with the other man. However, it is not uncommon
for spouses to imagine, ask questions, and create their
own images of their partner’s unfaithfulness.
It is very painful emotionally when a spouse finds out his or
her partner has been sexually unfaithful. What is even more
painful is when the unfaithfulness has ended a long time ago
and the erring spouse informs the other spouse about it
months or years later. The thoughts about deception and
lies jump into the head of the one who did not have the
affair. Anger often takes over and trust is blown out of
the window. There are countless questions piling up in the
head of the faithful one. Who is the person? When did it
happen? How many times? Where did it happen? Am I not
good enough for you? What color clothes you had on? Etc.
Then the faithful spouse starts producing his or her own
movie scripts or a photo album in one’s head about the
partner’s sexual escapades. These photos soon become so
vivid and clear they leave the person shaking, doubtful, and
full of anger. But these photos are only the imagination.
They are not actual or real. The longer one dwells on
these imaginary photos the more vivid they become and the
more they are factual. So dear husband, what can you do
about those picture in your head?
One author writes “Getting the image out of your head can be
extremely difficult. As one cheated-on husband says, “Now
my wife cheated on me, the image of her with another
man haunts me constantly!” Even if your wife is working as
hard as possible to restore the trust in your marriage, the
awful image of her cheating is not something that is easily
Here are a few points to remember. I decided to share in
full what I read without editing because I think it is so
helpful. These are by psychologist, Andrew G, Marshall in
the article “Forgetting Details of Affairs – Does It
Matter?” (1) You may never literally forget your wife’s
affair. “This is the truth, an affair is such an
destructive, enormous circumstance that there is a very low
chance of you ever forgetting that it happened. You cannot
change what has already happened, and that memory is there
to stay. Just remember, this isn’t about pretending that the
affair did not happen, or that your reactions at the time
are gone as well. That is not a healthy, constructive way of
moving forward. Lying to yourselves is a terrible way of
trying to restore trust. However, you are not trying to
forget the affair. What you need to focus on is being able
to love your spouse once more without having these feelings
of anger and resentment intrude on your relationship. These
feelings need to be processes and dealt with. Just remember,
trying to forget is not realistic. What you should be aiming
for is to try to leave the affair behind.”
(2) Treat the affair as a learning experience.
It is not about placing blame on a single party. Learning
from the affair is an enormous part of learning to get over
what happened. Affairs usually have complex underlying
reasons. Elements in the dynamics in the relationship that
can often be changed to make sure an affair does not happen
again. You may say, “My wife cheated on me! It’s her fault!”
While this may help you vent your anger, getting an affair
is an opportunity to examine the habits and dynamics in your
relationship that led to infidelity in the first place.
Focus on what you have been doing that may have contributed
to the affair, and examine the choices you have to change
your habits and behaviors in a positive way. This is often
more about finding out whether your needs are not being met,
and making your partner aware of that.
(3) Live in the present.
Expecting to forget an affair immediately is unrealistic.
You will need a lot of time and space to recover from the
grief and anger associated with infidelity. However, it is
best to focus on your present feelings rather than on your
expectations of the future or on what happened in the past.
By focusing on your emotions, you will have less of a
problem living in the present, an essential part of moving
forward and putting the affair behind you."
It is a good thing that you really do not forget the
affair. The author said because never forgetting builds
trust, and discourages moving too quickly. You cannot heal
overnight. It might take a year or so.
Dear friend, it is not fair to leave your spouse who was
unfaithful without honestly seeking to heal and looking deep
within your own heart. In many affairs the
"faithful" partner is not really "innocent." I wrote in a
previous article on affairs that often the innocent partner
creates the reason for the affairs--lack of affection, love,
spending time, etc. So before you rush out of the house and
leave your spouse you have to humble yourself, suck in your
pride and take a good look at yourself. You might need your
partner to help you to do this. You coldness toward you
spouse is not an excuse for your partner’s affair but it
certain helps you to understand why it happened.
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, is a
marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit
or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.