In the Counselor's Office - Part 7 - How to Handle Triggers

With boundaries and expectations up and running at home, and my feeling a little safer with them in place, it was time to get a handle on triggers. It was around our fourth or fifth visit with our counselor, when it was evident that I needed some help coping.

“I just don’t understand, one minute I am talking to my wife, who is sad but functional, then out of no where it seems like I am talking to a completely different person. She begins to panic and asks me to re-answer all the questions about the affair. We end up fighting, a lot. I feel hopeless because of it.” my husband told our counselor.

We had reached the point in our recovery that I was having a few “good days”, but those good days would quickly turn into terror when I was triggered.

I explained to the counselor that, one day, earlier that week, I remembered feeling hopeful most of the morning, when prepping lunch for my children triggered me so badly that I called my husband and asked him for the details of the affair all over again (I found out about the affair around the same time of the day, while feeding the kids).

Triggers, though extremely painful, began to lessen over time as we worked through them.

The counselor, in patience and kindness, reminded us that triggers are common in light of sexual betrayal, and using this five step process (that can be found in his wife’s brilliant workbook on amazon), may be the helpful tool we needed for working through triggers in a healthy manner.

(The following are cited from the book ‘Rescued’)

  • Step one - Identify potential or past triggers. What situations remind you of your spouse’s hurtful behavior?
  • Step two - Identify how this trigger makes you feel and why. The why is important here. Does it connect to something from your past?
  • Step three - identify what you need in order to feel safe. Anything goes. If you are having a hard time coming up with what you need, you aren’t alone. This is one of the harder steps.
  • Step Four - First, identify what assistance, if any, your spouse can give you in working through the trigger.
  • Step five - Allow God’s truth to speak into the trigger. What would He say?

I walked out of the counselor’s office that day, with these tools in order to gain a sense of control when panic flooded my thoughts. My husband walked out with an understanding of how a trigger works. However…

Tools are helpful, but the power to change a person's heart is a result of God alone.

The days and weeks to come, with this list in our possession, proved that we were powerless in our feat to conquer triggers, unless we ran to the One who made us and reconciled us to Himself. I never thought that something as powerful as a trigger, could actually be the thing that would drive me closer to God, allowing me to rely on him during my deepest feelings of hopelessness. 

As we continued to face the difficulties that triggers bring, God was softening each of our hearts toward one another, producing within in us a patience that only His Spirit can produce in us. It would take months, but eventually the triggers became less frightening. And strangely, somewhere along the way, they went from having the power to cripple me, to being a key component in rebuilding trust with my husband. 


"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)