anger after the affairLast week many of you were kind enough to clue us in on some of the issues that you are still struggling with after the affair.  I think that many of the issues we have touched on in past posts, but deserve a little more attention.  Today we want to address how to deal with anger after the affair.

Our research has shown that there are two opposing ideas on how to handle anger. One is to really let it out and the other is that you should keep it to yourself.  Both ideas have their flaws.

If you let the anger fly, the thought is that it will make you feel better, but often the opposite is true.  You may tend to feel even angrier than you were before.  On the other hand, if you hold the anger in, it can lead to depression, addiction and possibly even physical illness.

But herein lies the problem, and that is if you stay angry, it begets more anger.  You can become so angry that all you have to do is think of whatever it is (for instance, the affair or the OP) that makes you angry and you associate that person (or thing) with anger.

Anger also causes less than desirable responses from the person that you are angry with—primarily anger displayed right back at you.  There is also the possibility of other defense mechanisms by the person you are angry with, like becoming distant and acting defensive. Thus it can cause a vicious cycle of anger, which creates distance, which creates more anger, etc.

So how can one handle this powerful emotion after the affair and turn it into something positive?

Psychologist Harriet Goldhor Lerner describes how anger in women is primarily caused by feelings of powerlessness.  Much of this is a result of being taught as children to nurture, serve and soothe, and that to express anger is not “lady-like.”  When a woman sacrifices her need to express anger, she turns it inward and may wonder what she did wrong that made her husband have an affair, rather than examining the relationship itself.

Women tend to express anger in ineffective ways such as silent submission, fighting and blaming, and becoming emotionally distant.  In Linda’s case, she was afraid to get angry for fear it might add fuel to my emotional  affair and ultimately harm our chances to save our marriage.

These are nothing more than ways to avoid the direct and productive expression of anger.  One interesting thing that Lerner observed was that the effect of this poorly managed anger is often to keep a situation (no matter how poor) from changing.  One example of this is the woman who begs or threatens her spouse regarding his infidelity.

Men, on the other hand tend to block themselves off from their feelings, and for many such men, almost all feelings can be expressed through only two ways:  anger and sex. Often they cannot control their anger and may even result in violence.

Don-David Lusterman, Ph.D. in his book “Infidelity:  a Survival Guide,” says that in order to turn a negative feeling of thought into a usable form, you must make a very important distinction:

Emoting (showing the raw emotion) has a negative and unpredictable consequence – you may have an occasional “win,” but in the long run, you lose.

Reporting(describing what you are feeling in calm, clear words) opens up communication and invites change.

Learning to report what you are feeling instead of emoting, will calm you down and allows you to discover that you now have the power to be heard and taken seriously.

Think about it.  How many times have you become angry and have gone nuts on the person you are angry with, and that person just dismisses your feelings as some crazy act.  However, if you act calm and report your feelings it is almost impossible for them to simply dismiss your feelings.  It’s the “charging neutral” theory that Dr. Huizenga preaches on his website.

Dr. Lusterman also suggests an interview technique that might help you as a couple to hear each other better.  In the following example, the person who is angry asks to be interviewed by the other person:

The interviewee should:

  • Speak in “I” language, not finger-pointing “you” language.
  • Report what you are feeling – don’t emote it.  Don’t blame the other person, but carefully describe what is happening inside yourself.

The interviewer should:

  • Listen attentively to what your partner is saying without interrupting.
  • Listen for the feelings that lie beneath your partner’s words.
  • Look directly at your partner.
  • Be aware of what your body is saying to the other person.  For example, nodding in agreement or disagreement.
  • Resist the temptation to answer back.
  • Stop after a few minutes to put into your own words what your partner is saying.  Even try to let them know what you imagine they might be feeling.
  • Draw your partner out as completely as you can. Put yourself completely in your partner’s shoes.

Lusterman says that when couples are able to communicate in this manner, they become empathetic with each other, which he feels in his experience is even more enduring and valuable than romantic love.  He even says that empathy is the most powerful tool to help people change their behavior towards another, as a person is more willing to change not because it is demanded, but because they can now feel for the other person. People often have no idea of the pain that they unwittingly inflict on one another.

For some additional articles on anger you might want to read the following:

Surviving Infidelity:  Expressing Anger Without Getting Angry

Surviving Infidelity:  Getting Past the Anger

Healing From Infidelity:  Don’t Keep it Inside

After the Affair:  I Am Angry

 

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    13 replies to "Managing Your Anger After the Affair"

    • mlb

      this post pisses me off!

      j/k, if I can’t find something to laugh at, I’ll go crazy.

      • Yuki

        LOL! You’re funny, Mark! It’s good we can still laugh.

    • Infidelity Rage

      This post is right up my ally. 🙂
      I just had an angry outburst about an hour ago. I feel that it’s healthy to release the pressure and at the same time makes my husband really understand the hurt he has done to me. I don’t fear that it’s going to drive him away because honestly, I did nothing to drive him away before so if this drives him away …then so be it.
      My therapist says that each time that I explode in rage, I was peeling away another section of the onion. I need to get these feelings out so I can get to the core of my pain to work through it. Or I may have issues for many years to come.

      Some people may be quick to argue that I shouldn’t allow my rage to get the best of me…but I really can’t control it. It’s like a monster that takes over me. My husband is even scared of my rage because it’s so huge that it could burn the house down. If I were to keep all of that bottled inside…I would wind up exploding I think.

    • Lostinlove

      wow, haven’t been here in awhile, because I was dealing with my frustration/anger. Logged on today to find this post! I am mad as heck, for many reasons….seems that for all the crap he did, my kids and I are always paying the price…..so I finally told him, I was angry with him, angry that every time he screws up, I end up having to be the one to pay the price…I can’t leave, right now, but I could in the future….my confusion comes with the thought….is he really going to change, or do people not really change. Do they hide/modify their behavior then eventually come back to this place! He’s in trouble with the law, part of his EA coming back to haunt him, they are requesting therapy! I am super glad, but I know him his pride won’t let this work for him, he thinks he just made a mistake and doesn’t have a problem, I know he has a problem…and i am super tired of being the good guy, taking the hits, emotionaly, financially, life is short and even though i love my husband…I am thinking about getting away from it all. I am hating that all day long I play act that I am ok…till I get home and look at him and I just want to smash his face…but I know it won’t make a difference..he will never hurt the way he hurt me.. and can I really get past it……. whew…that feels a little better….thanks for letting me vent!

      • Susan

        Wow!! I totally unerstand what you are saying. There are times that I just want my husband to get hit by a bus and during that same moment of anger; know inside my head that I would not miss him. I have no feelings left for him but disdain and anger but I do feel sorry for him because he cannot “fend for himself” because of bad decisions that he has made in the past.

        I have huge moments, hours, days of anger and outbursts that actually scare me, but it seems that I no longer have any control over them…I feel totaly alone and he has almost convinced me that I am crazy, which he has told me before and also conveyed to his ex girlfriend when they were still emotionally bonded behind my back.

        I have asked him for a divorce at least 30-40 times and he just thinks “I will get over it.” I am the real bread winner and refuse to leave since it is my house and everything that I own…I have given up all of my belongings before because of him.

        Now, since I really have no feelings for him other than a wisp of wishing now and then that I could make all of this go away and love him again,,,, he thinks that I just want other men… of course, he would think that way…that is all that he knows. I just want to feel like a woman again, not someone who is used for someone elses amusement…. a convenient inconvenience.

        I am tired of his selfishness, his belittling my feelings of not being able to get over his cheating, his insensitiviy, and the bagage that he expects me to deal with every day.

        I realize that I was the fool, not him…he had it made with me. I was the one there for him at home taking care of everything while he was have a good time one the side…getting his ego stroked…

        How does a person get over these feelings???? I do not want victim written across my forehead nor do I want the Big “L” on it either. I am hurt, I am angry and I am confused about how to deal with all of this…I want to be able to laugh and smile again.

        Thanks for listening to me vent…I really have nobody that I can talk to about this and it has eaten me up inside. This hurt and anger has been going on for so long that it almost feels like it is a normal way to live…

        When and if you reply, please don’t be mean about it…I really can’t take a lot more. Thank you in advance…

    • Kathy

      I think it’s interesting that the things listed in this post that the interviewer should do outnumber the things the interviewee should do. And while both parties can and should have the opportunity to be both interviewer and interviewee…in the context of the article it’s the CS who would be the interviewer. And yet, I don’t see my H as doing any of those things. If he had the capacity or desire to communicate with me in that way then he may never have had the EA in the first place.

      Conversely, I’m almost certain he was attentive and concerned when listening to the OW (as she must have been with him), otherwise how could they have connected in such a relatively short period of time.

      I most certainly have been angry with the OW because I feel like she had her sites on him for a very long time, and she took advantage of an opportunity when he was at a very low point. However, that in no way absolves him of taking the bait and turning to her for support, comfort, affection, whatever.

      It’s been about a month and a half since my D-day, and almost that long since he called it off with her. And for all this time I’ve been telling myself I’m not angry with him. But the more I think about it the more I realize I am angry with him.

      The problem is, we can’t talk about it. It will make him angry, for one thing. Although he doesn’t realize it, he is a proud man who has a very difficult time admitting his faults. Yes, he has told me he is sorry and he’s sorry he hurt me. Yes, he said it was a stupid thing to do. Yes, he said he didn’t know what he was thinking, that in fact he wasn’t thinking. And for me, for now, that’s almost enough. The only other thing he could say at this point that would help me would be to admit that, even though there were things I did which pushed him in the direction of the EA, he is not blameless for the problems in our marriage. There were things he did, and didn’t, do that contributed to my behavior toward him. And even though he’s sorry and knows it was a stupid thing to do, he’s never said anything about the blame behind his decision, other than when he initially blamed me in the first place.

      I don’t want to talk with him about the details of the EA. I really don’t want to know, because I know I will dwell on them obsessively. What I DO want is to talk about the things we need to work on and how he is really feeling about me and our marriage right now. I want to tell him how scared and nervous I feel almost all the time without him getting mad at me. I feel like I’m making all the effort, and he just gets to reap all the benefits. That also makes me angry.

      I’m most angry because he still keeps his cellphone locked, and the reasons he gives me don’t hold water (for me anyway). He and my son always tell me that men say what they mean and mean what they say. There are no hidden meanings to try to figure out. So with that in mind, I’ve been trying to accept his reasons for keeping his phone locked, but it drives me crazy. Every time he picks up the stupid thing I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and wonder if he’s texting her.

      I tell myself that, if he is still in contact with her, then he will get exactly what he deserves, because he knows now what kind of person she really is. And if I do discover that he’s still seeking her out for more than the interaction required for their jobs, then I’m done because I can’t live this way.

    • Kristine

      One of my issues when we talk about the adultery (i refuse to use the fluffy word AFFAIR any more) is I express anger. What I really feel though is HURT. Extreme hurt. I think showing anger though is somehow easier for me than showing hurt. I’m not condoning it, it’s just something I recognize. I’m very expressive, I’m a writer by nature. My husband is quite the opposite, very practical and one dimensional. Sometimes when I’m trying to explain how I’m FEELING and I don’t think he gets it, I end up getting angry and expressing it too.

      Just something else to work on 🙂

    • Joan

      The thing is about acting calmly and using the “I” statements….doesn’t always work. My husband of over 30 years just calmly gets defensive anyway and says he will respond if he feels “attacked”. But in this case, he is just looking for a reason to tell me why I am overreacting and why I should “move on” and say that I don’t know how to have a trusting marriage and besides if I never “get over it” and “forgive him” then nothing he does will help. But he is wanting me to believe that his fascination with this girl 40 years his junior is only because she is in the same career field that he always wanted to be a part of but could never get employment. After an emotional infatuation with her for almost two years in which he wrote her secretly on a daily basis and told me at one point he loved her but knew she did not love him back, even lying to me about following her on social networking for a year after he swore he wasn’t doing that. Yet I am the one who has the problem, according to him. I do because I do not trust his word. He defends lying because he thought I should not be bothered by his following her on social networking because he wasn’t contacting her. Yet all of this keeps his fantasies alive in his head. He has been in counseling yet is getting stronger in his resolve that he had done nothing wrong and it wasn’t an “emotional affair” because she did not love him back. What a fool he takes me for and the ineffectiveness of his personal counselor must be because he has not told him everything. We are going on Year 3 of counseling and I am frustrated. And feeling like he doesn’t want to feel guilty so he is making this about my problem with forgiveness rather than any empathy on his part. And his lying just keeps me from trusting him. Sad. So sad.

    • Lost33years

      I have been brutally honest my husband is an abuser of women . I am angry he raped me for 19 years YES I call being lied to by my husband his lies hmm oh I love you ,you know me I would NEVER do that to you, you know me I would NEVER hurt you like that , you can trust me WOW and the daily lies 24/7 365 days every stinking day of every year. Do I have anger issues hmm of course I do I after all am a fully functioning human . I have RAGE I was abused by my husband I was abused by the whores he invited to join him in his abuse of me our marriage our children our grandchildren our past our future my heart is walled in by his lies and abuse. I have no trust in him of his “version” ever being the truth he is a manipulative conman and my anger is partly due to his believing his own lies . My anger at his stupidity to have prostitutes as fwbs hmm benefits such as whores who abuse your spouse who abuse your kids and grand kids and who intentionally and deliberately spreads their STDs /infections as if they have the right to be satans minions and shame on me for having MORALS. Hmm I did tell my husband to remove our marriage bed with his whores skunk stench from our home or I would burn the whole fricking house down if it was still there ( he lied and said of course I never screwed whores in our bed ) yea and if he speaks he lies. Am I angry ? After 2years and 10 months with MULTIPLE ddays I am at the space he is toxic . Can he be a good person ?was he ever a good person ? When his whole life he has lied to get what he wanted or or to avoid consequences or simply cause he could .I have lots of doubts I also can write an encyclopedia on the lies and deception a serial cheater /with multiple personality ISSUES will say or do or be. i dont know if can he really be a man I can love with my whole being I don’t see it in him anymore. Can I live fully happily even joyfully with the emptiness is my marriage a fake now emptied/embezzeled of all value marriage? I know I am angry and so emotionally drained all the years I invested my very life all to hear the cheaters play word for word am I angry. I think I am too exhausted to love care or even truly desire any more abuse my anger is the ONLY thing I can feel grief is too much the future is only limited to my fantasy. Anger is healthy if it helps us keep getting back up to stand strong against evil.

    • Gizfield

      When my first husband of 15 years died of a heart attack 20 years ago, I went to the therapist. I dont know that he was a cheater, mostly due to technology of the time, but I do know he was an alcoholic and an abuser. Phyllis, mentally, emotionally, sexually, you name it. no one really knew this, and I wanted to keep it a secret. I felt guilty cause I couldnt do anyway to correct it. Before he died, I was very angry with my hustler. It came out, and the therapy told me that I had felt powerless and that anger was my only defense mechanism.

    • Gizfield

      Physically, damn autocorrect.

    • Gizfield

      Husband, again autocorrect. And an android phone late at night. Great combo…

    • BeckyB

      My mother was ill and the same month of dday #1 she was hospitalized with a serious lung/kidney /heart issues she was a double breast cancer survivor ,I had a reconstruction on my thumb w/carpel tunnel surgery also found out his whores gave me herpes. During the next 8 months watching my Mama die living with a lying cheating denying TT ever changing fantasy weaver I came to a night where I sat with all my pain meds and prayed all I wanted was the pain to stop (i was raised to know tomorrow is what you make it suicide is the end it stops tomorrow forever) believe me the pain of dday ? and dday?a 25+year friend like my sister friend was whore #? All this 3 weeks before my Mother died was too much grief too much pain I got so angry all over again. I asked God to hold my heart before my husband totally murdered my love. I am a survivor of cervical cancer CINS 2 then went to CINS 4 while I was pregnant( my Dr said to abort happy to say my son just turned 21 in May 🙂 . I have survived 12 miscarriages . I am going to survive this I’m not sure what the future holds for me . Lately (3-4)months my husband shows he gets some of the total devastation , he has been showing a change of heart, yet I have absolutely no trust. My mind says is this any more than his last ditch effort to hide his lies and twist the truth more. I have stayed this last year for 2 of my daughters who needed my support and experience during their 1st pregnancies and I got to be there for my girls and 2 more of my grand babies births only 3 weeks and 1 day apart ( the months of Feb and Mar were CRAZY as our 16/17 year old daughter who has cystic fibrosis was hospitalized with double pneumonia and a loss of 45 percent lung function for 29 days she got to be in the delivery room for the 2nd baby’s birth she also spent her 17 th birthday in the hospital) can you say STRESS hmm squeeze me real tight I am so good under pressure it’s true but heavy sarcasm as my coping with all of life is min part due to my husbands shirking his responsibilities onto me. I have been the caretaker/ physio/ physical therapist /port o cath (implanted IV site for IV meds) IV flusher IV runner NG tube and Gtube for nutritional needs up to 35 pills plus more meds every day for our 2 kids with cf for 30 + years I can count on one hand how many times my husband has done chest physio therapy which is done anywhere from 3 times a with inhaled medicine 3 x a day 20 to 30 minutes to 12 times a day. I have done all dr visits all therapy and all 504 plans all the Breastfeeding all the cooking cleaning shopping teaching loving caring just plain being 100% in this life we made and my hurt and anger at my marriage being embezzled and abused by sick abusive low lifes is a powerless place sometimes. I am 52 I am a survivor I will survive this cause giving up isn’t ME.

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