My husband had a relationship with a married woman in May. They ended in August. We seem stronger and happier now, but I can't seem to forget. The image of them having sex keeps on popping up in my head. I think the fact that he almost left me for her makes it even worse for me. If they just had sex once, and that was it, I wouldn't feel as much pain as right now. My question is, will this ever end? Can time really heal me or do I have to do other things to help me forget?
The "vividness" of the pictures in your mind will fade with time, but they will likely never be totally "forgotten." The mind is very much like a computer in that it stores information for a very long time and only a physical breakdown of the system (i.e. alzheimer's) can totally erase the information stored therein. However, as you noted, with healing of the marriage and with time, you will find yourself "accessing" that information less and less and in that respect it will be "forgotten."
The biggest change will actually be the emotional impact that it has on you (or doesn't have) as love is rebuilt and as you learn to trust him again�and that takes a significant amount of time. Until then you have to "choose" to endure the "flashes" and keep moving forward. But the "key" actually lies with your husband, not with you. HE has to do everything he can to rebuild the marriage and reestablish trust and love with you�and trust me on this, he is NOT there right now. I can say with confidence simply because I've "been where you are currently at." I can say that because there is NO compromise or substitute for NO CONTACT with the OW, not for ANY reason. THAT is one of the "prices," a KEY price, that HE must pay as a consequence of his actions. How long you may choose to "give him" to get to the point of agreeing to, and implementing, NO CONTACT
is up to you, but there will be NO recovery until that is established.
I understand that my husband should stop talking to the woman, but he is not willing to. He keeps on telling me he will never leave me and they will never be more than friends. He lets me see his conversation with her too. Should I just back up and let it be? I told him every time he talks to her, it's a stab on my already bleeding heart.
NO, you should not let it be. There is room for only 3 people in any marriage�Husband, Wife, and God. There is NO room for anyone else. "Forsaking ALL others and keeping myself ONLY unto you." Promises are promises and the marital vow does NOT equivocate. Neither should you.
One of the things that a WS needs to learn, accept, and embrace is the idea that "I will never again be the source of pain to my spouse." ANY contact is a very high level of pain that is inflicted upon the Faithful Spouse by the unfaithful spouse. How do you think HE would like it if you were the unfaithful spouse and you were continuing to have contact with the Other Person. Having endured contact for the first several years of my own recovery, I can tell you that I confronted my wife every time I found out about it and reiterated my "condition" of remaining in the marriage�NO CONTACT FOR LIFE.
But recovery is not a simple and smooth thing, so only you can evaluate the totality of your recovery efforts. But if you don't make a firm Boundary on this issue, you will never heal and neither will your marriage. He CROSSED THE LINE, and there is NO "going back to we're just friends." Period. "Choose� her or me, but NOT both" is an ultimatum, so be careful how you state it. But be firm and uncompromising that he cannot "have it both ways," and he WILL have to choose because YOU will not remain in a marriage with any other woman involved in it, let alone one that he had a sexual affair with.
I think I am holding it up pretty well, but occasionally, I will picture them having sex while I am at work or in school. As you can imagine, that really decreases my productivity in life. Please help.
It sucks�no doubt about it. I used to have to pull off the road and cry for a while before going on to see my next client. It will pass, but it will take you time to get there.