If your husband has been – or is being – unfaithful, or if he’s showing less love and commitment to you than he used to, it’s very likely you’ve heard words along these lines come out of your mouth:
“I can’t stop thinking about my husband’s affair.”
“I can’t stop picturing my husband with the other woman.”
“I can’t stop obsessing over the details of his affair.”
From thinking to overthinking
Now, to be honest, some amount of “obsessing” in the aftermath of a spouse’s affair or other marriage-shattering behavior is natural, even helpful. When something is upsetting – emotionally and life-wise – of course we are going to spend a disproportionate amount of our days and nights thinking about it. That’s how we as human beings work through things – we think about it! We analyze the problem, try to understand it, and try to solve it.
But unfortunately that isn’t always a linear process, and too often people get stuck in that obsessive stage. The disproportionate amount of time they spend thinking about their spouse’s affair or analyzing their marriage problem continues for weeks or months, and shows no signs of letting up or progressing. They just sit and think, and think, spinning their wheels but getting nowhere.
And when that happens, the other areas of a person’s life can be impacted. Their work may suffer. The relationships they have with other people can suffer, too. Their kids may not get as much of their attention as they need, or their friends may—to put it bluntly—get sick and tired of talking about the same thing all the time, and begin to pull away.
When obsessive thoughts cloud your clear-thinking
As bad, getting stuck in that place of obsessive or overanalyzing thoughts can fill one’s mind to the point of eclipsing the kind of open-minded, clear-headed thinking that one needs to do to actually solve their marriage problem! Talk about self-sabotaging behavior.
If your husband had an affair or is still having one, it’s easy to spiral into a self-sabotaging storm of obsessive thoughts and overanalyzing. But you can calm the storm – you have the power!
There’s a lot of advice out there on how to deal with obsessive or overanalyzing thoughts (e.g. distract yourself to disrupt the thought process, redirect your thoughts, practice self-care, meditate, keep a journal, let the thoughts flow through and out of you, talk it out, know your triggers and avoid them, exercise, etc.). All of these can work.
Go back to the beginning…
But I think it’s important to start at the beginning, or go back to the beginning, and ask yourself this question: “Am I handling his affair the right way?”
That is, are you confident that you’re doing what you should be doing to manage your spouse’s unfaithful behavior in a way that is most likely to a) preserve your well-being and dignity, and b) ensure your spouse ends their affair and recommits to you with increased maturity, respect and devotion.
While obsessive or overanalyzing thoughts can be a problem unto themselves, I have definitely seen cases where a spouse is “stuck” in that place because they aren’t clear or confident in regards to how they should be handling their partner’s affair or their partner’s unfaithful, untrustworthy or uncooperative behavior.
And because they lack clarity and certainty, they can’t quite relax—they can’t just let out a deep breath, sit back and say, “Okay, I know that I’ve done what I can do, and that I’m doing things right…I can stop obsessing now, because now the ball is in my partner’s court.”
Get unstuck by taking these two steps:
So by all means, if you find yourself stuck and spinning your wheels in obsessive thoughts, use those tips—disrupt the thought process, exercise, talk to a pro if you need to—but do be sure that you start at the beginning. The first step is to ensure that you’re managing your partner’s affair (past or ongoing) in the way that is right for you. The second step is to learn how to manage yourself…but again, that’s something you will likely find much easier to do once that first step has been taken.
But how do you know whether you’re handling your spouse’s affair the “right” way? Well, that’s another matter altogether. I offer specialized online programs that can help, so you may want to review those. And if they aren’t right for you, keep looking until you find the resource that is. You have options. What you don’t have is time to obsess over something! Your time is far too valuable for that.
Debra Macleod, BA, JD, is the creator of Marriage SOS™. She has served as an expert resource for major media around the world, from The New York Times and Entrepreneur to ELLE and Men’s Health magazine.