The spiral analogy

I read somewhere that recovery from an affair or any kind of trauma is like a spiral, and I’ve mentioned this here before.  It has hit me again like a rock and I’d like to talk about it some more.

I like this analogy.  It has been my experience thus far at 19 months out.  Recovery is like a spiral in that you keep going back over the same things over and over, cycling around and around through the same phases and emotions and pains.  Sometimes you spin so fast that it becomes a blur and everything seems to bang up against one another, like in a tornado.  Each time, though, you swing from one end to the other a little less and the circle gets slightly smaller.  You do this over and over, and slowly – ever so slowly sometimes – you move towards the bottom of the spiral.  Emotions become less extreme; pain is not quite so excruciating; the phases do not last quite as long.  Hopefully a time will come when it is just a dot – a little twinge – that comes up every now and then.  Some people say the pain can completely go away.  I’m not sure I buy that, but I do buy that it can diminish into a little sting versus the knock-out punch that it is at the beginning.

I think you can stall at a place in the spiral and get stuck, swirling around and around in the same place for a long time.  You don’t know how to move yourself down the spiral to heal.  This is when counseling can be good if you find the right counselor.

I think you can also get stuck, or even go backwards, when your spouse does not handle his/her side well.  It seems the most common issue is not divulging the truth about the affair, or worse yet, new lies about continuing contact.  Then there is the stance they often take that it should just be buried and forgotten.  In their attempts to get the betrayed spouse to “get over it,” they unwittingly cause the recovery phase to take ever so much longer.

My husband is not handling his side well.  I am stuck.


29 thoughts on “The spiral analogy

  1. Kris Washington says:

    You can not only buy it, you can take it to the bank. 😀

    I’m completely healed. No pain. That’s one of the testimonies i want to get out to people who are fearful that raw traumatic feeling of numbness and absolute shock will always be a part of your life. It won’t. That’s what God does. He heals. He doesn’t restore so we just exist, what glory is there in that? No God restores to get the glory and He sees to it we THRIVE and operate in our lives and marriage completely healed! 🙂

    He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3 NKJV)

  2. This is a great anaology. I just felt like I was on a never ending roller coaster that has no stop. But I like this better.

    I’m 11 months out, facing trigger anti-versaries. And well, “stuck” too.

    • Not Over It says:

      It does help in explaining a lot of what we go through, doesn’t it? No model is perfect, but this one comes pretty close. Here’s hoping that something comes along to help you get unstuck…

  3. nmw1 says:

    I get the analogy, but I don’t know that it makes me feel any better. You mentioned about contact with the AP You know, I don’t know if healing could occur if the spouse continues any contact with the AP, I know for me, absolute (Blind Furry) would have me in its clutches and I would not be able to communicate with my husband in any rational manner what so ever. I fear that our marriage would be doomed. For the first 4 months of this nightmare, I couldn’t even look him in the eye, (and still can’t at times, but I’m getting better about that ) and as I have said before most of our conversations about the affair, still at this point turn into very strong emotional meltdowns or out of control rages. (I’m in counseling to work through that, so far it hasn’t helped,cause I have a meltdown when we talk about the counseling ugh!! ) My husband knows if I had even the slightest notion that he had any kind of contact what so ever with her since the day I confronted him, our marriage would be unrepairable. To me there would be nothing left to repair. Its all or nothing, My heart could not take any more torture than it already has . If you have faced that challenge and still were able to move forward in the healing process, You are a stronger person than I am. But only the betrayed knows how much they can endure before giving up, but there is know right or wrong decision, its what ever you can live with, and overcome. Love is most definitely a battle field. nm

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi NM – Analogies like these are made for helping us relate and understand what we are going through. That doesn’t necessarily make us feel better. Understanding does not equal happy.

      It helps me to know that I am not crazy for still feeling many of the same feelings you are, even though I am way farther out than you. SHAPE is where I am and she also still feels these same things. And you feel most of the same things ExerciseGrace does, even though you are much farther out from D-day than she is. The spiral analogy explains that recovery is not a straight line, so we all go through these same things over and over. Hopefully it becomes less and less intense as time goes on. For me, it really has become less intense. I don’t have flashbacks anymore and I can deal with the pain and still function. Before, I would just shut down.

      I mentioned repeated contact with the AP because that’s how it often happens. Many, many people struggle with repeated D-days. Like you, another D-day would be the end for me. I draw the line there. Everyone has their own line and place it where they must. Sometimes I still think I should have drawn the line at the first time. But here I am.

      Your counselor is right that you are primarily in the anger/resentment phase. I am less angry but the resentment is building rather than diminishing. It’s good that you release it here and with your counselor. You will get better, NM. I can tell that you are a good woman. You will get past this. Not today or tomorrow, but you will. I pray every day for you and for all our friends in our blogging community.


      • exercisegrace says:

        “Understanding does not equal happiness”. That statement was HUGE for me yesterday. It struck me that, for some time now, I have subconsciously believed that if I just knew “enough”, just could “understand” it, then it would somehow lessen the pain. Make what happened to me a little easier to bear. No, I didn’t think that if I could just ferret out the correct “reason” that it would be “acceptable”.
        The real truth is that nothing makes this awful journey any better, (except maybe my friends here that understand!) or easier.

        My MC loved that phrase too,by the way. I ended up going to an individual session yesterday with him. He asked me about my need to ask so many questions about the affair. He asked me “so where do you go with that when you get your answers?” My response was that you don’t necessarily “go” anywhere with it. Maybe some people do, that they get one or two answers that are “deal-breakers” or just a last straw kind of feeling. But for me, it’s not about “going” somewhere with it. For me, answers are bricks in the path. I am committed to rebuilding this relationship, strengthening not just our marriage but our family, and healing us all. With working at home, my older two saw and suspected much. I am finally starting to face up to the truth that this is going to be a long road. So there can be no hidden surprises along the way. I think it’s my way of overturning every stone to see what’s underneath. I have made it abundantly clear that any further D-days will rapidly become a Done-day. Even undisclosed contact initiated by the OW would be disastrous and he knows this.

        But for today, I am thankful for friends here that “get it”. That understand without judgement and are generous beyond belief with their willingness to share the worst time of their life, in hopes of helping even one other person along the way. This blog has been my life boat.

      • Not Over It says:

        Hi EG – I have been where you are. I was like the FBI. I scoured records and receipts and statements. I read their emails over and over to find details to create a timeline. I needed to know everything. And I found most everything that could be found. I don’t have many questions anymore. I like your analogy – answers are like bricks in the path. That’s so true.

        I’m going to turn this into a post because my response is fairly lengthy. I’ll probably finish it sometime this weekend.

        It is unfortunately a long road. Our natural instinct is to cut someone out of our lives if they betray us. How can we ever trust them again? So to forgive and stay with a cheating spouse goes against the grain. We have to work at it. They have to work at it. Cutting someone’s heart out and then having to face them every day is not easy, either, if they have any heart at all. The road is sometimes muddy and dark and filled with potholes. And then there are other stretches where it is light and easy. But LONG is definitely the word for it.

        I’m glad we all found each other here. It’s like having someone to walk with us when the going is tough. You are doing very well in your journey, EG. That’s a wonderful thing!

        Love & prayers,

  4. backonmyown says:

    That stuck feeling is so uncomfortable. I hope you get past it soon.

    • Not Over It says:

      Thank you, Pat. We had an emergency come up with a close friend and it opened my husband’s eyes about a lot of things. I will post about it soon. Maybe God is working on him. I look at my candle of hope and my heart yearns for a loving and faithful relationship.

  5. recover3 says:

    What a great analogy – thanks for sharing it! A few days ago was the one year ‘anniversary’ of me finding out and I can’t help but feel a bit sad about where I was a year ago. I’m newly pregnant and every now and then my emotions do get to me and makes the old hurts surface again. But each time it is with a little less intensity and each time its a little easier to distract myself.
    I’m so thankful God is on my side and guiding me on the path He has set out for me!

  6. Not Over It says:

    Hi Recover3 – you are blessed to be carrying a life inside of you. I’m sure you are going to be a great mom. I am praying for you.

  7. Wendy says:

    Its been almost 4 years since D-Day for me and I can honestly say it does get better. And you hit the nail on the head when you said you need to find the right counsellors.
    Good luck on your healing journey.

    • Not Over It says:

      Thank you, Wendy. It’s good to hear that from someone who really knows. I’ve made some progress in the past couple of days. Although I am fearful of being optimistic at this point, maybe it’s not a lost cause yet.

      Thank you for commenting! I appreciate hearing from the people in our blogging community.

      Take care –

  8. Ariella says:

    Wow, you stated exactly how I feel most of the times. . . My mind is constantly spinning and I feel as though I will never be able to get it to stop. I don’t know too much about your story, I only read this post and your “About” post. I also never thought in a million years that I would ever stay with a man who cheated on me, but. . .until I was placed in that situation. . . Sadly, I have been cheated on over and over again. I constantly hope that the last time, will have truly been the last time. . . I look forward to reading more of your story!

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Ariella – I’m glad you have found some things that you can relate to here. It is really helpful to be able to share with people who have had similar experiences. I know it is for me.

      I’m sorry to hear that your partner has repeatedly cheated on you. I hope you have sought counseling and help from people who understand. Is he remorseful?

      In my case, I have made it very clear that my husband will not get a third chance. When I first said that, I was not really sure I could follow through with it. Now I know I can.

      Take care and please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.


  9. AngelWings says:

    DJ~I too lately have started feeling “stuck”. Seems like I was doing well for a while, but then we had all these end of school year events and they were a huge trigger as to that time last year he was having his EA and she knew everything that was going on in our lives. Then came Dday anniversary and feels like I’m spiraling out of control again. Trying very hard to get a handle of things and my emotions. I pray you find your path in all this soon. Take care

  10. Not Over It says:

    Oh AngelWings – feeling stuck and out of control is overwhelming at times. I will pray for you, too.

    There are many, many things I still don’t have a handle on, but I was able to deal with D-day by changing my perspective on it. I think of it as the day my husband was forced to come clean and face me honestly. It was the day my blinders came off and I learned the truth. That was a good thing. I would not want to continue living that lie. So that day does not hold fear and grief over me like it used to. But there are still a lot of other things that can do that. It’s one battle at a time until the war is won, or unless I decide it’s not worth it. Hope you find the way to center yourself again.

    I am spending a lot of time outdoors and that is a big help for me. I believe that God designed us so that the good earth can bring us back to center when we are thrown off balance by circumstances. I am so grateful for that.

    Love & prayers,

    • nmwf1 says:

      Hi AW and Dj, and all, Something must be in the air cause I seem to be in the middle of the spiral as well. For a while I have been in sort of a depression, D day is just around the corner for me, next holiday. But things went a rye the last couple of days. My husband could not come home this past weekend because his crew had to work overtime on Saturday to finish a phase of their project. Sunday (yesterday) was our daughters 25th birthday, my son and I took her and her husband and my new granddaughter out to breakfast to celebrate, i was somewhat disconnected but I managed to keep it together. But when i got home of course I was compelled to look up the dreaded cell phone history. (I guess I’m a glutton for punishment,) He was working out of town on her Birthday last year to. Of course that morning (last year) he called his AP on his way to work, and talked to her for about 35 minutes, but didn’t call me that morning, ( i remember him telling me a few times back then that he wanted to let me sleep in ugh!!! ) Anyway that day last year when he got off work, he called my daughter to wish her a happy birthday, then he called his AP again. talked to her for about 35 minutes of which time I called him; he put her on hold and talked to me for 3 minutes and then got back on the phone and talked to her for 45 minutes more. Plus many many other calls back and forth to her on that day. So yesterday after I stressed myself out about the calls, I decided to keep it to myself even though my anger was building, I talked to my husband a couple of times on the phone during the day, but still I could not shake it. Then yesterday evening my husband called me and I was a little moody and kind of short but tried desperately to hold my self together, somehow I couldn’t stand it any more, my mental anguish got the best of me and suddenly I blurted out (WE REALLY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO TALK ABOUT DO WE?) He got shook up and said; we are talking, and of course I lost it and started yelling and screaming at him about how his conversation with her on this day last year must have been great and meaningful since he camped on the phone with her that day for hours and barely talked to me. I went on into hysterics and said a lot of extremely vulgar things about him and her, (I’m sure you can imagine ) and yet i could not get a handle on myself for about 45 minutes, i do not know what got in to me, he was very somber, very pitiful and very apologetic. And kept telling me how much he loves me and can’t bare to loose me, and much more. But I ran him into the ground before I came to my sinces. (God help me !!!) I do not want to loose this man, I love him so much, I don’t want to push him into leaving, and yet this thing has such a strong hold on my heart and mind that I simply cannot break free. It tortures me, i torture him and its a vicious spiral. I want to just love my husband without a heavy heart. I was never like this, I want my life back. i want that beautiful relationship and bond that my Husband and I shared. That loving, trusting, (I thought HAPPY!) relationship that I cherished. How do I get it back? A year ago I thought I had it all. Now I just wish I had myself back.

  11. AngelWings says:

    nmwf1 ~ I completely understand! I, too, many times have felt like what’s wrong with us/me if we have short conversations while he was having hour long conversations with her!! He would barely text me throughout the day but texted her from the moment he left the house until the moment he came home. That is something that weighs heavily on my mind. At times when we have a bad day I can’t help but think he would love to call her and talk to her about our issues as he was during his EA. As he said she “helped” him out with his problems and he was helping her out with hers!! WTH!! How blind was I to think we were doing pretty good!! Life isn’t perfect and neither is any marriage and it still hurts like crazy when I think of the things he discussed with her and how much she knew about our lives during the EA. Yep, it’s these thoughts that have me spiraling out of control. I’m so glad for these blogs where I can come and “vent” with others who understand because I really don’t have anyone else I could talk to about this. Hoping for peace in your hearts! Thanks for “listening”.

    • nmwf1 says:

      Hi A.W. you know, I find myself wondering how in the hell my husband was able to keep who he was calling strait, he called her so many times back to back, (God only knows how many text messages ) And sometimes me in between. He’s lucky that when he placed her on hold to take my call, when he went back to talk to her, I wasn’t the one he was still connected to and could have called me by her name. OMG! I would have screamed at him and hung up and he would not have been able to reach me for a week. Bad as it sounds i wish that would have happened. I don’t know where my head is these days, it just seems to be getting worse and worse instead of better. I need a relief from the stress of it. the pit in my stomach will not go away and it just keeps me spiraling out of control.

      • Not Over It says:

        I think about things like that, too. Sometimes I look at him and wonder how he could do those things and live with himself. How could he talk to her and tell her he loved her and then turn around and spend the day with the family as if nothing were wrong. Of course, there were often times when it did show that something was wrong, but not always. How could he leave me alone when I was grieving the loss of my mom and go across the country to visit his precious OW? How could he make a big deal about putting unlimited texting on our phone plan a few years ago as my birthday gift, when he knew very well that he was getting it so that he could text her? On D-day I found the emails they exchanged about that one the day after my birthday. I’ll never forget those things.

        I know that in order to move forward, we need to put these away in storage in our memory banks. We need to focus on the good they want to do now and the lessons both sides have learned about having a good relationship. But sometimes it’s just really hard. Sometimes like now…

        I’m praying for us all.


  12. nmwf1 says:

    Hi Ladies, I agree we need to put it all away in storage. But I just can’t break free of the thoughts. No matter what I am doing, the thoughts are overriding my other thoughts. I feel the weight in my heart every moment of everyday, its there, its annoying, its exhausting. He’s still working out of town Mon – Thurs now and he calls me every chance he gets. I know he’s trying his best to help me. When he calls, he’s always upbeat, happy, loving,and very sincere, aside from my episodes, I respond to him lovingly. But for the life of me I don’t understand why I cannot let it go and just move on and be happy. He did it , he knows he did it, he’s remorseful, he’s giving his all. So why can’t I let it go? The jealousy of the OW is haunting me. The jealousy of him and her is tearing my heart out, How do you move past that? My mind simply won’t let it go. Do I need a shrink? What the hell is my problem?

  13. Not Over It says:

    Hi NM – I wish I had all the answers and could make it all go away, but I struggle, too. Today’s blog on Marriage Sherpa discussed the affair partner. The article is not a magic fix-all, but it may help give you a start on dealing with thoughts about her. Here is the link:

    I’m glad you are going to counseling, but maybe you need something more immediate. My coach is part of the Marriage Sherpa coaching program. At the beginning, you pay $99 for two months and get the third month free. After that it’s $99 per month. You can write every business day and receive an answer by the next business day. The counselors are trained to guide you along, and if they think you need a psychiatrist or other help, they’ll tell you.

    I know this may sound like an advertisement, but I sincerely believe that God led me to my coach and that my coach is THE best thing that I did for myself after D-day. Most people use the program for a few months. I have become a regular because I like having an objective and trained guide to keep me on the right path. He even helps me when I fall off.

    Check out the description to see if it might work for you. Here is the link:

    I just finished a note to my coach and asked for guidance on dealing with resentment. I always so look forward to his responses.

    Praying for you,

  14. Amy says:

    Hey DJ! I just saw this entry and was really hit by it. I think I understand what you mean by it. I have had some traumas (death, violence and the end of my long term relationship) that were so painful that I thought I was going to die. Some of those traumas were years ago and some were as recent as last year. I think that they will always be painful. I have just learned to cope with the pain in a functional way now. But it will always be a part of me. It’s funny that I was thinking of this idea this morning. I was praying and actually told God that it I wished these things would stop affecting me and yet I am sure they always will. Maybe they are supposed to in order to learn. I

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Amy – I’m glad you found something you can relate to here. Hopefully the pain decreases as time goes on as it consumes less of our lives as we learn to cope.

      There are definitely good days and bad days within the framework of the spiral. I am having a good day today! Hope you are, too.


  15. Amy says:

    sorry to send before finishing…
    I was going to say I hope you are well and to take care of yourself.

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