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!

Purchase In-Person Tickets Here! (Limited)
Purchase Live-Stream Tickets Here!



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Same as jen1

My experience was similar to jen1. I had no idea my wife was cheating on me. We met, had kids, and were a happy family. She started being very angry with me in her late forties. I knew something was wrong and kept blaming myself for not doing enough. I trusted my wife more than I trusted myself. I knew that I was weak when it came to my own attraction to the opposite sex, so I practiced avoidance. That was my technique for never cheating and it worked. We were married for 23 years and I never slipped. She got interested in bicycle riding and that is when the cheating started, at least I think that was the first time. She even tried to get me to cheat with a girlfriend of hers and I was absolutely in disbelief that she would even ask that of me. I refused. Any unbiased person would have caught on to what was going on, but not me.

The following is a sore spot with me. I worked very hard all of my life for my family and now she takes half and shares it with her affair partner. It's not about taking the money that I earned so much as it is taking it from my family. I have worked hard so that the next generation would have an easier life than I had and now that is compromised.

So, I was dealing with my divorce, taking care of my mother and being audited by the IRS at the same time and my ex-wife was absolutely heartless with me. Luckily, I have friends that I could lean on and advised me during the divorce. So, I was able to prove the cheating and in NC (where we live) if a spouse cheats they forfeit the right to receive alimony. Before the proof she was perfectly willing to take everything she could. I finally realized, if she doesn't care about me, even as a human being, then why should I care about her. We are three years out now, and we have not spoken. Our daughter really doesn't like spending time with her because my ex is not the same person. My son won't even return her calls even when I encourage him to do so. I have questions that I will never know and am slowly learning to be okay with not knowing.

For instance:
She had a bicycle accident and had a concussion. After that her behavior got way worse.
Was this a contributor?
What did I ever do that was so bad?
Why was she so angry with me?
On what planet did you think our kids were going to like this guy?
Why would you have anything to do with anyone that would sleep with a married person? (I would never do that)

I'm sure that she has regrets, her affair partner has nothing invested so if she screams at him I'm sure it will get ugly. But, I'm happier now, as I can come home and not worry about getting yelled at. Our son, lives with me exclusively as it is his choice. I have become the person that our kids turn to in time of need and ask advise from. They actually want to spend time with me voluntarily which is great. So, I'm better off now but I would like some things answered that I probably will never get answers to.

I have dated some but have not found another person that I really click with. I'm not going to rush in or anything but it would be nice to have someone to share life's experiences with.

What type of affair was it?

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-D, Texas