Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

A Discussion on Anger, Boundaries and Regrets After Infidelity

Recently, I shared a few of our most dynamic and engaging Expert Q&A videos from our Recovery Library. Personally, I love this feature of our Affair Recovery courses. As current course participants and active Group Leaders work through the weekly curriculum, the Expert Q&A feature allows them to ask Wayne, John, Leslie and myself their unique questions on infidelity. It helps us support and guide you on a deeper, more individual level. Whether you're enrolled in EMS Weekend, EMS Online, Harboring Hope or Hope for Healing, you're invited to send us your questions.

Today, I'd like to share some more of our powerful Expert Q&A videos. In the first two, I share tactics for setting healthy boundaries and releasing regrets. In the third video, Wayne discusses how to process anger and rage. No matter which stage you're at in your recovery, these strategies can be extremely beneficial as you move toward healing and restoration.

Question 1: 'What Boundaries Can I Put in Place That Don't Sound like Ultimatums?'

Q: I am the wayward spouse and have been trying to make communication with my husband safe for him, but it's an impossible task when he won't communicate with me. I am willing and eager to do anything he asks of me. We will go days, weeks and months without talking. And if I am lucky enough to have a conversation with him, my built-up resentment to his withholding communication explodes and my words are truth but my feelings and tone aren't. What boundaries can I put in place that don't sound like ultimatums? — e.g., "If you continue to ignore me or abandon me, then XYZ." As the wayward spouse, I want to carry the weight and help him heal, but I'm tired of being treated less than human.

A: What he's doing is called stonewalling. The problem with stonewalling is that it sucks all of the air out of the relationship. In a way, stonewalling is a form of punishment. When someone stonewalls you or disengages, all you can do is show them that you're trying to engage. If you can empathize, if you can begin telling them what you think they're feeling when they don't talk, they will at least see that you're trying to connect.

I would suggest seeing whether he will do EMS Online or EMS Weekend. That would at least help him communicate about all of this. I understand the problem with boundaries, but what I would say [to him] is:

"If you're going to do this, it's going to be awfully hard for us to have a relationship. I think you would really like something, but all I hear is your pain. I know you're doing this because you're really hurt, but I also know that me continuing to try to get you to talk isn't helpful either. When you're doing this, I'm going to go ahead and walk away and enjoy our family. Just know that I'm ready to talk whenever you're ready, but it's not gonna be healthy for me to continue to try to get you to talk when you don't want to talk."

Then, go live your best life. Setting that boundary and just telling him what you're going to do gives him the choice. Let him decide whether to talk to you, and reiterate that you pursuing him isn't helping. If he wants you to pursue him and for you both to connect, tell him that you're willing and welcome to all of that; that you want to grow with him. The pattern that you've been doing, though, isn't going to be helpful.

Something else you might want to try with him, when you're trying to engage and he disengages, is telling him: "Look, There's nothing you're ever going to do to get me to quit loving you." The next time he does it, say: "There's nothing you're ever going to do to get me to quit loving you." And then the next time he does it, say: "There's nothing you're ever going to do to get me to quit loving you. Even if you're not going to talk to me, I still care." Then, when he's ready to talk, say you'll be ready to hear him. And go live your life.

There will come a point, at 18 or 24 months, that if he's still not shifting, you can say:

"Look, you know I love you. You know I want us. But my love isn't enough for you, which is why I'm kicking you out. I know I did something horrible, but I can't fix you. Our love isn't enough for you. You need something else, so we're separated."

It may come to that place, but I hope it doesn't. Again, stonewalling is a form of abuse, and you can call it what it is. I'm sure he'll argue and say, "You abused me." Take responsibility for your actions and remind him that you're trying to make things different, but you can't control him. When you kick him out, as long as long as you're always telling him that no matter how much he stonewalls — and call it stonewalling — that you're still going to love him. At least he will know his behavior isn't helpful or healthy, and that you're not doing this because you're angry but because you really care for him. You're not the solution for what's wrong with him.

Question 2: 'How Do I Let Go of My Regrets?'

Q: The last contact I had with my Affair Partner was 13 months ago. I've gone through tons of recovery work, including Hope for Healing, EMS Online and individual counseling. My husband is very passive-aggressive. I did the heavy lifting in it all. I'd send him any text or email I had with any man. I'd even tell him any conversation or feeling I'd had for any man. He appreciated this and shared in our EMS Online [group] how this helped him feel safe. I still miss the Affair Partner and feel very alone in my marriage. We have children, and so we push on. My husband is unemployed, and we are broke. Recently, I discovered that someone gifted us $100 and my husband blew it. He also had a hidden credit card that he racked up debt on. I also caught him watching sensual music videos, and he claims he's been doing that since my affair was discovered — and he was quite defensive when I caught him. What gets me is that all this time I've been honest, and he's said he was so thankful, only to be lying to me behind my back through it all. I wonder sometimes if my whole life will be washed up in regret from staying with this man, who has already gotten the best of my youth and of my fertility.

A: I believe it was Viktor Frankl who said between stimulus and response, between any event that happens negatively and how you respond, that there's choice. Choice is what you have to look at here. It's really easy to find and blame somebody else for what's happening in your life, and to find co-conspirators who are going to sit there and support you and agree that yes, this is horrible what he's doing — and I agree that it's horrible what he's doing. You have worked really hard and then the sad thing is, he's not seeming to take the same path that you've taken. You have a choice:

You can choose to see yourself as a victim of what's happened, his bad behavior, his lack of motivation OR you can choose to be a victor and rise above and transcend even him.

Your wholeness, your completeness, your life isn't dependent on what he does. Ultimately, you get to be responsible for you. You have to be honest with yourself about how you are and how you want to be. Because the story you want to tell through this is how in spite of the fact that you made a mistake, you did these things and you grew. Even when he was like this, you still built something in your life that you're really proud of.

Suffering is really hard, I do believe that, and I hate that you're there. Being able to forgive him will take a lot of courage, and I hope he takes responsibility. You really don't want to focus on the unfairness or the injustice of this because, ultimately, whatever you focus on is going to capture you. Intentionally, you're going to have to:

  • Focus on what you're grateful for.
  • Remember what you're proud of, in terms of your own growth.
  • Set goals for yourself, in terms of your personal growth.

You've done a great job of doing that, from what I hear, you've already done Hope for Healing, individual counseling and a lot of work. Don't stop there. But remember, don't focus on the unfairness or the injustice because that's only going to lead you to regrets and resentments. It's hard because, I understand, it's not fair; but you want to say that in spite of the fact that it was difficult, you were still able to do this.

This is really about transcending where you've been and, hopefully, he has enough integrity to come along with you. I don't know what's going to happen if you continue to heal and he doesn't. It might be something that isn't going to work. Stay mindful. Stay in the moment. Speak your truth. Hopefully, he is going to begin to take responsibility; he may never do it as you do it, but don't focus on that piece. Try to find the good in what he's doing and how he's responding. You can transcend, and you can be the victor rather than the victim.

Question 3: 'How Do You Deal With Anger and Rage?'

Q: My husband is stuck in the constant "you hurt me, so I'm going to hurt you back with my words" phase. He wants to belittle me and tell me what I'm saying isn't true. That's ridiculous. We have been in this stage of anger and rage for over a year. We have been to specialists and gone over our story. He's not accepting and asks, "How did you lose your morals?" No matter how many times I give the same answers, the fights are awful. My triggers are the feelings of not being enough, not being heard and not being valued. These conversations fire me up, too. He says I have no right to be angry because I did this, as if his actions and words don't have consequences. It's hard to be empathetic when you're constantly being torn down. I'm tired of the cycle.

A: Well the truth is, I don't blame you. One of the things I'd highly recommend is enrolling in EMS Weekend or EMS Online to help you guys do this a little better. You've done Hope for Healing, and you know that anger isn't the primary emotion most likely; it's more likely:

  • Hurt.
  • Devastation.
  • Grief.

We have seen couples stay in this cycle for way too long. As I read this, it doesn't seem like it's emotionally safe for you. It might be time to separate. You guys can do this pattern for years, and you'll just continue to traumatize each other — that's really what's happening. You gotta do something different, whether it's a structured separation, some counseling together or EMS Weekend. You can ask him to do that with you and he has the right to say "no." You get to decide: Do you want to stay in that kind of environment? Life is too short.

People get to be angry and anger is not the problem, it's about what we do with our anger. Is it destructive? Is it retraumatizing to yourself or the other person? Anger keeps you in that victim mentality. You gotta do something different and want to do something different. You should ask him:

  • "Do you want to keep this up forever?"
  • "Do you want a better relationship than we've ever had before?"

If his answers are "no," then you'll want to get some help or strongly consider a separation. But there's always hope. Some people want to change and look at this from all sides, whether that's through EMS Weekend or EMS Online. We at Affair Recovery want to help and support you both in any way we can.

If you're a current course participant or active Group Leader, I encourage you to take advantage of this feature of the Recovery Library. To get started, simply search our Recovery Library for your question before submitting a new one. Then, look for the "Expert Q&A" link in your dashboard and submit up to one question a week, keeping it to 250 words or less. Additionally, our Recovery Library has more than 3,300 Q&A videos as well as numerous articles, mentor stories and much more. While you do have to be enrolled in a course to ask a question, enrollment isn't necessary to become a Recovery Library member. And right now, we're offering a discount when you sign up for a six- or 12-month recurring membership. I hope you'll give this invaluable resource a try.

Register Today for the Life-Changing Experience of EMS Weekend for Couples.

Ready to process your pain, break through barriers to healing, and start building a better future for your relationship? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you won't want to wait to register in our Virtual EMS Weekend intensive for couples. Space is limited.

During EMS Weekend, Affair Recovery founder and president Rick Reynolds provides invaluable guidance on accepting your situation, taking accountability and developing empathy for your mate. But that’s not all! You’ll also be placed in a supportive, small group of other couples, where you’ll work through restorative, transformative exercises with an experienced infidelity counselor. Our EMS Virtual Weekend is backed by numerous participant testimonials, including this one:

"Before EMS Weekend, I was expecting it to be hard and triggering for both of us. I expected to have moments where we would need to separate because of the painful memories we had to face. To my surprise, that was not the case. My fiancé had little to no moments of distress. He didn't display the usual signs of trauma — arm twitching, needing the weighted blanket, flooding — just minor discomfort and obvious pain. And I think that's due to the way Affair Recovery approaches it. I believe he felt safe, understood and well-represented. Our counseling session provided a breakthrough for us, and it gave me just the right adjustment that I needed to really be there for him. This program brought us closer, and we were even hugging and loving on each other without any barriers by Sunday." — Virtual EMS Weekend participant | February 2021.

Join Rick and our team of Affair Recovery experts for EMS Weekend and begin building toward a new, better relationship. Use the button below to enroll in our next session of healing.

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Comments

Stonewalling

The article addressing this as stonewalling by the victim is too general making g it inaccurate. In my case my husband has cheated multiple times. He has never taken full accountability and I do not talk to him because he refuses to discuss or tell anything I don’t find out on my own. Actually addressing any of it offends him - he thinks sorry is alll it takes to be done - til the next time. Ever heard of narcissism? Your emails never address that many cheaters are cluster b’s

Article just read

I have, after discovering my husband's affair through entire marriage of 10 years, read many to most of your articles and videos on this site and others to help me and sometimes him for the last 5 years. I am repeatedly amazed..shocked and disappointed by the worry, concern, understanding, and protectiveness of the spouse whom causes such damage and destruction. It just reinforces as with most social media..tv..music and even help sites and books that in many, too many ways damage is minimized, excused, overlooked and sometimes even glorified while the one who creates such hurt, damage, destruction regardless of reason is excused, hand held, and helped, focused on, and felt sorry for. It's a great boost for them I'm sure to repeatedly be told they are not that bad, there are millions who have done the same, their relationship will be improved by the actions, they will be forgiven, others they have destroyed need to follow rules as to not upset them or hurt them, or remind them. Others must be fair, others may only ask these questions and expect answers about their actions. Seriously let's just minimize the effects of breaking vows and ultimate selfishness and destruction to another's trust,
Life, safety, health, etc etc and basically tell them to toughen up while we coddle the abuser. Nowonder so much of this goes on, finding partners outside a marriage so easy, selfishness and selfish actions are quickly supposed to be forgiven, excused, understood, empathized and eventually thanked for. It is quite maddening, hurtful and not surprising that the loyal faithful honest ones are not helped near to the degree nor with the concern and delicateness as the ones whom destroyed it. I'm sure I'll get email telling me me and my nice poor wayward husband need to attend or buy your program so he can meet and mingle with others who have done what he did and feel better about himself. No thanks.