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

Anger: Its 6 Roots

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It seems to me that much is written about managing anger, but not as much about its roots. If there is a universal emotion that we see as therapists when infidelity has been exposed, it's anger.

Whether it's anger at their spouse, themselves, or the whole world, anger is a very common part of disclosure. If reconciliation is going to happen, the anger has to be addressed. Many times, I have to help spouses realize: if you didn't care, you wouldn't be angry about it.

We're angry because our heart is broken.

affair recovery-euripides-the fircest anger of all the most incurable is that which rages in the place of dearest love

Anger is generally a secondary emotion caused by other feelings. Now, there are exceptions, and not all anger is negative. In my opinion, anger only goes negative when it becomes destructive in your life or in the lives of others. There are certainly ways to manage anger to keep it from being destructive, but eliminating the root of anger is an easier way to take care of the problem. As Michael Wells says, "Don't sweep the cobwebs, kill the spider." The following is a short list of the roots of anger I see most often when treating infidelity.

  1. Resentment:
  2. An inability to eventually let go of resentment will frequently result in anger. If the resentment isn't released, it will result in either anger or a perceived victim status. It's difficult to let go of resentments, but doing so is a gift you give yourself. It has little to do with the other person. Please don't think that forgiving a wrong perpetrated against you is the same as condoning another's hurtful actions. Rather, resentment prolongs the harm perpetrated by the other person. In short, it keeps the hurt going. The resulting anger robs you of your peace and ability to gain traction in your own recovery. This foreboding anger can also delay healing in your spouse's recovery. In the short term, it's expected that anger will not only be present, but off the charts. However, as you move towards finding help, healing, and the possibility of restoration, the anger must be diffused.

    Remember, forgiveness is not about reconciliation; it's an act of self-liberation that frees you from being a prisoner of the past and allows you to live in peace with your past, present, and future.

  3. Soul Wounds:
  4. Soul wounds are another significant source of anger. Our past is littered with occurrences where the very essence of our identity was wounded and possibly forever altered. It's also where we began to believe lies about our core identity. The memories where these lies are anchored can hold significant amounts of anger and pain. When similar circumstances occur in the present, the old wounds resurface and old emotions echo from the past, influencing how we feel in the present. These wounds can be a significant source of anger and can cause our emotional responses to be exaggerated. It's part of the reason we say,

    "Pain that is not transformed, will eventually be transmitted."

    When a hidden pain is triggered, we can have a $500 response to a $5 incident. If you find you tend to overreact to circumstances, then it might be worthwhile to seek professional help to determine if there is a past wound affecting your ability to have peace in the moment.

  5. Guilt:
  6. It may sound strange, but guilt is also a source of anger. I don't know about you, but each time I get caught for speeding, I get mad. Now it's not that I'm not guilty, it's the fact that my first response to guilt is anger. I hate it when I'm called to account for my bad actions. In fact, many of us will use anger as a way to push away our guilt and shame.

    Our defensiveness and anger are often a measure of the guilt we feel internally—with no idea how to remedy.

    I can't tell you how many unfaithful spouses deal with this paradox and feel powerless to remedy the situation. If you find yourself dealing with anger, make a personal inventory of your own areas of failure to see if your anger is a way of avoiding taking responsibility for your own actions.

  7. Inferiority:
  8. We have a strange way of giving others power over our life. If we feel we are being disrespected or feel inferior to another, anger is a common response. We hate it when others fail to value or affirm us. Why do you think we get so mad so quickly when someone cuts us off while driving? Or, my favorite, when someone interrupts us while speaking? Both actions send the message that we are "less than," and that the other person has more important places to be or things to say.

    When we feel undervalued, it triggers a response in us to place all the blame on the other party.

    Let me ask you, who is giving the other person the power to decide how much value I hold? I am. Once we realize that our value doesn't change based on individual interactions, we will be much freer to love even those who may disrespect us.

  9. Fear:
  10. There are times when fear is at the root of anger. The "fight or flight" response is a God-given mechanism intended for self-protection. In a moment of danger, we will frequently utilize anger as a method of self-protection. Don't misunderstand; there are times to honor your fear; there are circumstances that are not safe. However, not all fear is justified and at times anger blinds us to its root. When asking yourself, "Why am I angry?" always ask if the root is fear.

    You'll find it's far more productive to deal with your fear than it is to deal with anger. If fear is the root, then focus on how to increase safety.

  11. Righteous Indignation:
  12. I saved the best for last. At times, anger is justified. When a wrong is done and needs to be corrected, then anger serves an intended purpose. Even in infidelity, however, it's important to manage anger. If you believe in the concept of love, then it's important to be loving, and maintain love within the expression of your anger—that is not the same as being abusive. While angry, it is still possible to speak the truth in love.

    It's OK to right a wrong, but be sure to stay within the bounds of love as you follow your quest.

I hope and pray your search for the roots of anger will result in a newfound peace for yourself and for those you love.


A great place to uncover your anger roots, reasons behind the infidelity, and to gain momentum in recovery with your spouse is our EMS Online course. It's a safe place for couples to process the trauma of infidelity and grow with your mate as you try to reconcile your marriage.

EMS Online Registration opens today. Space is limited.
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Hope Rising 2019

If you're the betrayed spouse, we'll be specifically addressing some of the anger roots at our annual Hope Rising Conference. We'll touch on shame, gaslighting, and identity in light of infidelity. You won't want to miss this chance to hear from our experts.



Tickets sold out and we added limited additional seating to meet the demand. Space is limited, so don't delay!

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Comments

On the receiving end of anger

8 months after confessing my 2 month affair and committing to forward movement and healing with my spouse, I am still on the receiving end of his anger. Our time together seems great. But the $5 mistake quickly becomes a $500 reaction, including verbal and emotional abuse. I couldn't be more sorry for what I did and would do anything to move forward with him. But he remains stuck - in his hate and his anger and pain. It breaks my heart to see it fall apart when I've put in everything that I could.

Healing from betrayal is a

Healing from betrayal is a long process. Is he in counseling? Are you both in counseling together? He may need ongoing reassurance. There may be issues he still needs to address - it's a process - new triggers crop up,... When you've been betrayed your whole foundation has broken apart. Your whole sense of life as you knew it is shattered. You don't like the feelings you feel. You don't like having to deal with all those feelings... You don't like yourself for having been blind, etc.... There is a lot to process. My understanding is it is harder for men to heal and reconcile than for women... And it takes the betrayed longer than the infidels. Have you asked him what else he needs beside more time to heal?

From the mind of the betrayed

Your reply sounds very familiar to me... your words are the same that I hear from my husband since his affair. He continues to say he is giving more than he ever has and it still isn't enough for me. Today's actions from him doesn't take away what he has already done; broken vows, disrespect, put another above me, left me feeling I have no one truly to have my back and stand up for me or our marriage. Advice from one betrayed woman - say I'm sorry a million times and mean it, reinforce that it was a foolish act and you will work every day to repair the damage, understand all that you have taken away from him - his very identity and meaning. To me, like feels worthless at times and I'm sure he feels the same. My heart is shattered knowing that my husband shared things with another woman that was private and intimate - not really sexually but on a heart, mind and soul level. This pain is real and the anger is a direct reflection of this pain and mistrust. He trusted you with his heart and life will never ever be the same. This entire situation has me questioning my entire existence as I'm sure he does also. Who I am is forever altered. I miss the carefree spirit I once was who believed in love and above all, my husband. It is a hard pill to swallow believing that you should have had your guard up. I never questioned but gave him full trust only to be blindsided. Proving your patience, understanding, remorse, commitment to him (& your marriage) and love is an everyday event you must make him feel and see. You broke his world. Like my father use to say "if you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler"

Thank you

Thank you for putting to words what I have been fighting to say and even understand since 6 months ago.

My wife read this and finally better understands a lot of what I am going through.

Thank you

Just like another comment on here, I found it hard to put in words how I felt when my husband cheated and feel guilty three years on for still feeling anger and not being able to move forward. Your description of how you feel sums me up completely. I was betrayed by the person I trusted the most. The thought of him sharing his feelings with another woman over me and probably discussing why he was unhappy with me, is heartbreaking and i just cannot forget it never mind forgive it. Like you, I no longer believe in love and feel I have wasted years of my life thinking we would be happy forever. And like you say, I miss my husband and who we were. I am another person now, and I dont like myself. I once was a caring person but now I feel irritable, angry and miserable. I commend anybody who can move on and continue as normal, or rather should I say, find a new normal. I wish I could.

Anger

Anger is the most difficult thing to manage, and process after infidelity. That has been my own experience, as the betrayed spouse, and trying to empathize with my unfaithful husband. He has yet to deal with his own wounds that set the stage in himself to cheat and lie. While he is aware of the entitlement as a precursor to the affair, he has not done and has consistently refused to do the work to resolve why he became abusive towards me in order to justify his own actions. He was angry with me for not responding in a way I've yet to understand.... I guess I was supposed to continue acting like nothing was wrong in our relationship. He accused me of refusing intimacy with him while he set e stage continually for me to NOT want intimacy with him! Even in counseling I would tell him what we needed to find resolution about... He never followed thru on any changes in himself but would be angry when I could not respond to him. He had a different set of standards for his behavior than mine. And he was angry that I couldn't trust him, and still don't because he has yet to address half the issues. I admitted when resentment built up. I communicated when Triggers would send my emotions into a downward spiral. I have worked extremely hard to disperse my anger - unfortunately without him working on the myriad of issues that his sex addiction, porn addiction, 2 affairs spanning 15 years, his financial abuse put our whole family thru I have grown so detached from him or any hope of restoration. That is the deep sadness and reality of not addressing the issues. Anger is a killer of the spirit and so much more. Now the anger in our children just perpetuates...

Anger

I am the betrayed Spouse who has had anger issues in the past which was in part the cause of the deterioration of the marriage. Affair on him not me. I read a lot on the subject of anger which is a very tangible emotion to have to reckon with. What I don't hear a lot about is emotional apathy which can trigger anger. I am often the target of being the problem - but want to say this. I spent years expressing in both a kindly and not so kindly way that I needed support which fell on deaf ears because of what I view as emotional apathy for another's needs. Anger is no good - and easily seen, judged. Emotional apathy not so much and the focus turns to the anger as being the rooted issue. Not so. Emotional apathy can create an angry response over time if never addressed or viewed as a rooted issue causing separation and isolation in a marriage.

Thank you, Elizabeth

Your perspective feels very relevant in my situation. In the end, I was the emotionally & physically betrayed spouse.
I think a series of personal events (job layoffs & family deaths), as well as my negative attitude toward life caused me to no longer be the confident man she fell in love with. Because of that, it was easy for another perceived successful man to sweep her off her feet.

Having come from a broken home & previous failed marriage, I had not learned to communicate as effectively & affectionately as I should. During disagreements, it either came out whiny, angry or I just shut down (I became apathetic for the sake of non-confrontation). She is a very strong willed, independent (and prideful) woman, that was attractive. She nagged, pleaded, yelled and I just went deeper into my depression. I am responsible for my lack of leadership (spiritual, financial and emotional) as a husband.
Unfortunately, we both became resentful and angry at the others lack of communication. She, during the marriage (leading to an emotional affair & filing divorce) and me after discovery. It seems, in part, she was attracted to the "confident & successful married man" she didn't have. Much of his current success is based on her dedication, organization and hard work and ironically, he's now getting a divorce.
Time will tell how he continues to interacts with our children. As our kids grow and see the situation, I wonder what distrust they will feel about relationships?

Anger

It has been almost 5 years and the anger and triggers are still there. This article was enlightening to me. I know I have some soul wounds that need to be addressed still. Thank-you great article.

Sooooo angry

I am 14 month post discovery and I'm still so angry at my husband. Every time I am around him I am angry and every time he speaks my first thoughts are "is this the truth or a lie". For background sake, I accidentally saw an email between my husband and another woman when my husband handed his phone to me for some help. I later looked through his phone and found many others between him and a total of 5 other women which were inappropriate (flirty) and mentioned many dinner "dates" (my word). Many were signed "all my love" or similar and had comments like "you looked so beautiful last night" or "I miss you so much, if only I could hold your hand" or similar comments. When confronted, he said they were just friends, nothing happened, etc. He admits that he told at least one of the women that his marriage was problematic. As far as I knew, we had a good marriage with the exception that my retired husband was always gone (to the gym, library, etc). I had asked to spend more time together which he ignored. So I have multiple problems,

1. The mutiple relationships (at least emotional, if not physical). He claims they were nothing and to just get over it.
2. Lying - he was taking these women out to dinner, lunch, etc and not telling me what he was doing (omission), or outright lying saying he was going to a meeting, but going elsewhere
3. Deceit - he was paying for meals with gift cards he bought as part of grocery shopping so I wouldn't know (I handle finances).
4 I thought our marriage was good and he told at least one women that our marriage was problematic. Said he felt distance, but yet he was always gone, probably has something to do with feeling guilty on his part.

When I first discovered all this, I asked him to leave. He asked that we go to counceling, which we did, but it was a waste of time and money. He either continued to lie or acted like a jerk. I cancelled joint sessions after 8 sessions and went on my own for another 4 or 5. I then moved to my daughters to help out with her kids for 6 months (mainly to get a break from the situations). Now it is time to go back home. How can I escape the anger when husband is not really sorry (says I'm sorry I hurt you). I think all relationships have been ended, but how am I to be sure since he was able to fool me so completely in the past. I did make it clear that if any thing else occurred, our marriage would be over. I don't wear my wedding ring anymore since I feel vows were broken. He still wears his.

So how do I get out of this mess of anger and get back to my old happy self. I want my old life back (but not with my husband if any of those old behaviors contine).

infidelity

I have tried to forgive my cheating husband but i can't. I wish now I had not even tried to forgive. He thinks everything is ok but its not.

Forgiveness

I am in the same place. Husband makes no effort to help me work through this. I have asked him for a written apology detailing everything he had done to hurt me which 8 months later he still hasn't done. He says he is sorry he hurt me but just wants me to move past it.

It's not just the Husbands...

My wife had an affair over this past summer while out of state. She lied for 4 months that nothing happened just friends. Than she finally said actual sex but just once. All the calming things you'd expect to hear if you were totally blind and stupid. Phone records look like she went back for more that same night and by her own confession she went on a shopping spree with him the next day and spent the following night there as well. She claims that she felt guilty about the "one time" but just wants the subject dropped and me to accept her "I'm sorry" without her honestly giving any details or showing any remorse. I'm about to the DIVORCE point. She clams up and stonewalls me if I ever mention it. But snice she has some communication defect and can't just say what she wants honestly, I should expect nothing less. She claimed to be miserable in the marriage but never voiced it to me. She just snuck off and had her fun. Now she thinks we're great and my anger isn't righteous.

Anger

I like how this article identifies and describes the different causes of anger. I was able to identify two within myself as a betrayed spouse. The word "angry" has been assigned such a negative meaning, yet this article helped me to see that anger does not have to be ALL bad. But for those causes that are, I will have to continue to work through those

Very good article!

I'm going to have to save this one. I have come to the realization over the past couple weeks that I have a lot of anger. This article came just in time. I have several roots to my anger but as the unfaithful one of the biggest portions is rooted in guilt. I just keep ruminating over what I did now almost 4 years ago and just can't forgive myself and move on. I have tried many things but am still struggling. I am 100% sure the inability to forgive myself is rooted in other factors from childhood and that is going to take a lifetime to get a handle on I think. Still, I refuse to give up and will continue to work on myself. To healing!

Anger

I do have anger still as the betrayed. I'm struggling with how to show this anger. I've had fits and rage and all that happens when you start dealing with the affair but there is still anger there. I guess it is also that we are only a few months into recovery. I just don't know how to deal with my anger and not show it to my husband every time a trigger pops up.

Great Article

I am the betrayed spouse. My ex husband married his affair partner abut a year after our divorce. I wanted to save our marriage. My ex is extremely angry with me which blows my mind as he has gotten what he wanted (a life with the woman of his dreams as he told me). It was enlightening to read this article as I do think my ex has numerous sources of anger including resentment, soul wounds and guilt. Our marriage counselor said "he would never get over his anger for me." She never elaborated on this but I believe she knew something from his personal counselor she couldn't tell me. Is the severity of the anger proportionate to the guilt? I have a feeling the anger he AND his new wife have for me fuels their relationship. "Infidelity and Private Lies" is a great book by Frank Pittman explains that in detail. I just wonder if some personalities are more prone to holding onto the anger and transmitting that pain? Anyway, this site is wonderful.

Anger

My heart breaks for you. Are you doing better these days?

Husband is very angry

My husband found out a month ago that I cheated on him several years ago. It was a terrible mistake. After I did it, I put a lot of time and energy into out relationship and into myself trying to be a better person and a better wife. I grew to love him even more deeply and I hid the affair from him because I knew he'd be devastated. It has been a month since I told him/he found out and he has extreme anger right now and I totally understand it. He is mad that I betrayed him and he is extremely hurt. I wish I could help him with his anger. I know right now that it is only hurting him. He can call me all the bad names in the book and I deserve it. I wish I could make him feel better, but I can't. I hope time and therapy will help him. I desperately want to make things work, but I have no idea if he can let go of his anger. Right now in the early time period, he needs to let his anger out. I need to listen and be patient and be there for him. Still it brings me so much sadness and pain to see him so hurt. There's also guilt and shame because I hurt someone I love so much.

Husband is very angry

My heart breaks for you as well. How are you doing these days? I hope things have calmed down somewhat.

Thank you - this is so

Thank you - this is so incredibly important. My husband and I finished EMSO a few weeks ago and my anger had subsided but now I seem to be having a resurgence so a reminder to look at the root cause(s) is so helpful. I've been thinking about these this morning - and realized I could cite pretty much every single one in any given argument. But I would even add one more: jealousy/envy. Don't get me wrong, I have no interest in having an affair. But there is an element that my husband, being a pain avoider, has always had this happy go lucky attitude about everything. His self confidence has always been off the charts and something that initially attracted me to him. He cites feeling down on himself and having a self esteem/confidence crisis for the first time due to career and other disappointments as the main reason for his affair. But the thing is, I've struggled with self-esteem all my life! I've had a hard few years too. But I forged ahead and focused on us and worked for us and tried to communicate and failed again and again. Whereas he had this pain for the first time in his life and instead of feeling it went and had a fun, flirty, ego-boosting, high-inducing fling to avoid it. I know he says now that he would take anything over what he is going through and wouldn't wish it on his worst enemy, but it's still hard not to feel like during the hardest time in our lives, when we had 3 kids under 5 to care for, a home to buy, so much to do, I was here working and suffering because I was being shut out by him again and again and he just got to have fun - as always. I'd love a video on how to tackle this (envy/jealousy) as you talk about the other reasons behind anger!

I agree with you. I

I agree with you. I struggled with this envy/jealousy feelings for a very long time. I am almost 3 1/2 yrs past D-Day and it's still a struggle within me at times still. I am at the point where I am just tired of feeling mad and angry. I have my moments when I just can't keep my mouth quiet and I say something mean and nasty, then I regret it...but do I really regret it? That's the part of my new self I dislike. I was never this way, I was a very loving, happy, nurturing person. If I thought mean things I never voice them out loud because I would not have wanted to hurt my husbands feelings. Now I feel some elation hurting him. I know it's wrong, and because of the feelings I get after saying them I wonder if I am supposed to stay with him or would I feel better if I was by myself. I know they say it's a choice and we would be happier if we just let those feeling leave us, but I guess my choice is still to feel miserable at times. Best of luck to all those suffering with this.
Rachel

Jealous

I have felt the same way. I was having just as much of a hard time but I stuck to it and took care of what I could. He was not providing any emotional support - and now I know why - but I didn’t go cheat. He was out at bars going to the casino getting rooms for them when I was out of town working. He said at one point I was acting old. Well someone has to be an adult. I am jealous because I want to just ignore everything and go have fun too.
Since then I have read about Peter Pan Syndrome - men who don’t want to grow up. They want to hang around much younger women and pretend they are a teenager with an expensive car and lots of money. Unfortunately I am Wendy to his Peter Pan. I am having a very hard time getting him to step up and take care of business now. I also think he is either BPD and/or NPD. Both of those personality disorders fit him and explains soooo much.
Anyway - UOU are spot on and not alone.

Hard to put aside anger when partner appears to have no remorse

I have been dealing with my partners infidelity, deceptions and lies for close to five years now. He claims to want to make this work, and he even claims to have remorse, but every time he has the slightest negative emotion (whether related to recovery or just general life stress), he cheats again. Although he claims to care about all this, it's hard to imagine he cares very much when he repeatedly returns to betraying me. When he apologizes it sounds generic and flippant without much thought. When I attempt to tell him what this all means to me, he either makes little to no effort to understand, or becomes angry. I have become more and more angry over time and honestly believe it's a sign I need to get out. So far, nothing he has done or said has convinced me that I matter, and even on the rare occasion I have begun to believe he might care about me and the way he's treated me, I discover a new cheating episode or another huge lie. The most recent and painful cheating lying episode was when I left for about 7 months, and the whole time he tried to convince me that he had seen the light, was reading comprehending and incorporating what he read on the affair recovery web site, and that he was no longer cheating. The "I am no longer cheating," was like a tenacious, relentless mantra he repeated over and over and over again. Once I returned I discovered it was all a lie and he kept right on cheating before during and after my return until after my return I caught him again. I have begun to believe I am dealing with a sociopath or narcissist or more consistent with his behavior a covert sociopath, and that this is all a big game to him. My anger has become worse over time after repeated false promises and what appears to be very little remorse, while he claims to be "sorry" and then does it all again. To me there just never seems to be much depth to his apologies, and then, even after all the repeated episodes of continual cheating and betrayals, he acts like the oh so shallow "I'm sorry" should be sufficient and becomes angry when I don't believe his claims of remorse. It's a mess, and I think it's time to get out, and my anger is the guiding light right now. I never hear anything about personality disorders associated with infidelity. It seems like this should be discussed, so it's easier for the betrayed to tell when it's time to get out. Some things just can't be fixed and will never get better.

anger

I was so happy the read the comments about the anger. Through the comments, I could see that I'm not the only one. It's been 2 years since I found out. My husband has made some wonderful changes. He is attentive to me now, he talks to me, he shares with me.... so many things have changed. But I find that I'm still so angry about so much. Sometime I think I'm mostly over the anger of the actual affair (sometimes). But i'm still angry that for years and years I kept trying to talk to him, share with him (even about his own children), spend time with him, etc.... Six months a year he works out of town for 4-5 days a week. While I was at home trying to run our 2 home businesses, take care of our children (one of home has Asperger and the other has ADHD), picking up the messes (literal and paperwork/business wise) that my husband had left or created.... He was out of town getting drunk most nights and I'm pretty sure, sleeping with different people. Only been able to prove 1. When I found out, he wanted us to stay married, live in the same house, and me continue to do all of the above while he would go and have his affair and fun. Before I knew about the other woman, I just thought his actions were part of his personality. I believe that he is an Aspie like our son. Now I know that he was just having a lot more fun there than at home. Guess what.... sometimes real life with kids, and especially people (including him) with special needs isn't fun. It's hard work. It's not all drinking and spending your evenings out. I feel bad for my kids because their dad hasn't really been there for them. Now that they are 16 and almost 20, they both tell me "you know Mom, Dad's an @##." And my kids don't know most of the things Dad did. All the lies about so many things other than the affair. It sound here like I haven't forgiven him, but I really am trying. I do love him and don't want to be angry anymore. I know.... choose not to be angry. That is much easier said than done. Thanks all for letting me vent. I really am on the road to recovery, it just doesn't show here.

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