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

How do you deal with anger after infidelity?

"How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it." -Marcus Aurelius

I spoke with an angry man tonight. He had an affair about 2 years ago, and since then he has been trying to gain his wife’s forgiveness. It hasn’t worked. Unfortunately, due to an unwillingness to change response patterns, sometimes it just doesn’t. It is more than possible to find healing and reconciliation, but for an injured spouse the journey after betrayal is not easy. What is sad isn’t her inability to forgive, but the fact that the bitterness resulting from what has occurred and her lack of anger management is destroying them both. In her hurt, rather than letting go, choosing to walk through the pain and move on, it seems she has tried to hurt him as badly as he has hurt her; this is her antidote to dealing with betrayal. She may have finally succeeded.

Due to the enormity of what’s happened, his gruesome betrayal, the lack of help they’ve received, and because of the way she’s treated him, recovering from an affair seems near impossible. He now believes his wife is either mentally ill or she is just plain evil. He has trouble seeing the third option which is a vital part of the overall equation. She is expressing hurt as destructive anger; anger management at this point isn’t even an option. Typically, anger after betrayal is a secondary emotion. Behind the veil of anger, frequently you will find guilt, feelings of inadequacy, fear and/or hurt. Anger is the emotion that we often use to deal with painful feelings, especially when as it runs alongside recovering from an affair. Anger empowers us, motivates us, and strengthens us. It can even help protect us, but it can also kill us and those we hold dear. It isn’t uncommon, when we are wounded by a loved one after betrayal, to feel that primitive rage that is programmed into the core of our being. If left unchecked, it most certainly will destroy everything in its path.

Physiologically we are wired for survival. When in danger, we have a natural reaction of hyper-arousal where our body prepares for personal defense or escape. We experience a burst of energy and anxiety. While that physiological reaction is useful in times of physical danger, it can be difficult to control when it’s an emotional interaction with another person. In a less civilized era, the “fight or flight” response kept us alive in a hostile world, but in modern times, if left unchecked, it will cause problems and continue to hurt many.

For those suffering from a betrayal, the pain can trigger that primal fight or flight response. But hopefully there are internal checks and balances that keep anger from becoming a destructive force. Other emotions such as love, compassion, respect, and integrity can help form a safety net that prevents anger from going out of control; this is the healthy balance we look for in anger management. As I said, the anger is not the problem; it’s how anger is expressed that causes problems.

Anger can be viewed in a continuum from aggressive to passive-aggressive. When anger is expressed through aggression, we either cease to care whether our actions will hurt someone else, or sometimes we actually intend to cause harm. When we display passive-aggressive anger, we do what we know will drive the other person crazy. For example if our mate wants to talk, we’ll just give him/her the silent treatment. Either way, through such expressions of anger, we move away from our natural desire to be caring and loving individuals. We allow ourselves to act in ways that are completely contrary to the way we actually want to be. I’ve met very few individuals who profess wanting to be an instrument of destruction in the lives of others, even after betrayal. Most of us hope to be a blessing to others.

So what goes wrong? For some it’s a matter of a belief system. They may believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. According to such a belief, destructive anger and even a lack of anger management is justified, even necessary, for restoring the balance of fairness. But by exacting revenge from others, you wound yourself and become even angrier, creating the opportunity to establish a long standing, dysfunctional pattern in your own life. He or she hurt me and deserves to be hurt in return. It appeals to our human sense of justice. But this type of response is not ever driven by love and almost always gives way to resentment and long-term unforgiveness. The men who flew the planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon also thought this way. They acted according to their sense of justice and did what they thought was right, but it was an act totally void of love or compassion.

If you claim to be a Christian for example, and feel that destructive anger is justified, and you act on that anger, then you break the one commandment Jesus gave concerning relating to others - “love each other.” For others, it’s a mere force of habit. They just never learned how to control their overwhelming feelings of anger when dealing with betrayal. Instead, they allow the feelings to freely spew onto those around them. Some may actually find themselves powerless to control the impulse to wound and to hurt. For such individuals, anger may have become an addiction. Some people are only responding the way others treated them earlier in life. Regardless of the reason, it is not OK and will exasperate any and all attempts to reconcile when recovering from an affair, or at the very least, to move on. It may seem justifiable given life’s circumstances and the hurt that has occurred, but it’s not. Difficult as it may be, destructive anger needs to be controlled. Anger management is crucial to dealing with betrayal in a healthy manner.

Let me state again that anger is not the problem. Who wouldn’t be hurt and angry if you were betrayed, slighted, or rejected by a loved one? But anger needs to be expressed assertively not aggressively. The truth needs to be spoken, but it needs to be spoken in love, not in a fit of rage with the intent to destroy or wound. There is no glory in attacking a mate who has taken responsibility after betrayal for a wrong done and who is trying to make amends. It may help bring momentary relief, but in the long run it leaves only an empty and alone feeling. No amount of torture when dealing with betrayal will be sufficient to stop the pain that was initially inflicted. Furthermore, the torture performed as a response to that pain will leave both parties in a worse state than before.

You may be asking, “How can I ever be with someone who has betrayed me?” and that’s a great question. The answer will never be found in fits of rage. You may not choose to be with the one who betrayed you. Your mate may fail to accept responsibility for what has happened which may leave you feeling unsafe. He or she may choose to abandon you, leaving you few choices. You may feel incapable of getting beyond the pain or you may have lost the desire to be with your mate. These are all possible outcomes. But if you continue to respond with integrity and honor, respect and love, then at the very least, when all is said and done you will have your own self-respect and life intact which is essential for recovering from an affair.

When thinking about the couple at the beginning of this article, I grieve that he failed her and himself by breaking his vows to his wife. I grieve the fact that she was unable to control her anger and so wounded herself, her husband and her children. I grieve the fact that now his anger has become destructive and is costing him his self-respect and causing him to respond in ways he never wanted. I grieve the fact that their lack of anger management destroyed what they both wanted. Since they have been living in this horrible cycle of anger for two years, we can assume that they both actually want the marriage. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have stayed around for two years, enduring her destructive anger, and she wouldn’t have hung in there for two years dealing with betrayal, destroying herself and her husband. But I’m afraid this destructive cycle of anger and hurt may have caused just as much damage as the betrayal, and caused each to become someone or something they never wanted to be. But anger will do that.

 

 

 

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that horrible feeling of rage

I am only too familiar with that white hot, burning, all consuming rage. We went through several revelations of my husband's betrayal because he initially tried to deny and downplay. We are coming up on the 3rd anniversary of the 1st revelation of his affair, which makes this time of year so hard for me. And when I think about it, I remember all too well how I was so filled with anger that I was scared of myself. I wanted to not only emotionally hurt my husband and his AP, but I had thoughts of physically harming them as well. It frightens me to think about the intensity of my anger and how hard it was, and has been, to deal with. I am thankful that much of that initial blinding rage has passed, due to time, recovery efforts on both our parts, and my husband's grief and remorse, and willingness to accept responsibility for what he did. But I still have those flashes of anger when his betrayal comes to mind. I guess that now it is less rage and more of an aching pain, almost like a tootheache. Sometimes it is barely noticable and I can put it out of my mind...other times it throbs fiercely reminding me of it's presence, keeping me awake at night.

Anger from the Cheating Spouse

How about when the cheating spouse can't control their anger and help to heal? After discovery, sincere talks, disclosure and resolution are prevented because the CS can't communicate without anger, expletives, contempt, stonewalling, "just get over it", hate you, f you, etc. I'm the betrayed spouse facing uncontrolled anger from the CS.

Angry CS

I am also dealing with anger from my CS whenever he feels I am quiet or if I ask him anything he feels uncomfortable answering. I refuse to punish him for a mistake he has owned and tried to change, so how is it fair that if there is a situation that arises that I carefully express my discomfort, I am met with rage and anger? I am never beyond reassuring him, no matter if what he feels is unreasonable to me, when that isn't reciprocated, it makes me feel humiliated all over again. And fearful that I will slide back into self-preservation which will be horrible. I don't want to live in fear of angry response, that isn't fair.

I'm in the same boat

I get the same thing from my cheating spouse. I get verbal abuse, namecalling, stonewalling, evading answers to questions, "get over it", physical intimidation and abuse, he's even spit in my face. How do you get over anger and forgive for that? The abuse is worse than both of his affairs were and seems to be because I keep asking questions about the affair in an effort to understand and process what has happened! Nothing he says matches up with his actions at confrontation. I moved out because the abuse got so bad. He was supposed to be in anger management counseling since last March, and I just recently found out that he has not been doing the anger management although he has been seeing the therapist off and on. I have no idea what he has been talking about with the therapist, except how "junior high" they feel that my actions are for just not letting this go. Anger management was one of the four things he had to do for me to stay in our marriage and now I find out he's not even done that. The other three things have not been done either. The anger from him has quadrupled the anger that was in me due to this recent knowledge.

Anger after Betrayal.

As usual, I agree with what you are saying in this message. GOD makes it possible to forgive and reconcile after betrayal. Sadly, you can forgive your spouse and they continue to commit the same behaviors that led to the breakdown of the marriage. In that case, there is no understanding of their part in continuing the hurt, which triggers the same angry response and dredges of the painful memories of hurtful behavior. The cycle is too toxic to be in an on-going relationship until the destructive behavior ends. You do not have to reconcile to forgive.

NEEDS ADVICE

My wife was committing adaultry with four policeman and was suspected many times. When I asked her about who this people were, she said that they were her brothers. When she was caught, she admitted everything. Since then, I had been very angry with her and also the four policeman as well. Since I am also a policeman working at the same police station, its a terrible pain I,m feeling to see there faces. Please help me on that case.

Anger

I could use some insight. I am at the tail end of betrayal. He's been having an affair for over 2 years with same 'girl'. I found out a little over a year ago but he lied and told me he ended it. Just this past October, I found an email from 'girl' proving it had not ended. I have not seen him since then (we are not married and live in different states) nor does he even want to see or talk to me; only if i make contact most of the time. He has given me NO closure whatsoever; we've been together 10 years. What I know about this affair is what I've found out through my own 'investigation'; its not much but yet it is. He also keeps stating that he is not a coward and he will face me and tell me that our relationship is over. Really? There has virtually been next to no contact between us. I am now dealing with anger and extreme hurt all at once. He has given me many gifts over the years and I am giving them all back for 2 reasons: anger (I don't want his 'guilt' presents - they feel like that now if I keep) and hurt (hopefully to convey that I only wanted his love and loyalty, not material things). I joined the Harboring Hope group and also had spoke with him about attending the weekend course to no avail. After reading this piece on how to deal with anger after infidelity, I am having second thoughts to how I would like to approach this. Can you help me decipher? My plan was to drop it all off at his business (he owns) to one of his employees when he is not there. He does not of course want anything back (this was discussed previously when he pretended it was over with the AP to get info out of me of how I found out, knew things etc and I had told him that I was planning on giving things back) but I also feel like he has given me no closure so I have to get some kind of closure on my own. Help!!

Anger :(...

This is precisely the boat my husband and I are in, the anger boat. My rage has become unbearable for everyone in the house, even the dogs...this put things into perspective for me. I feel like I'm holding onto my last shred of dignity and respect. I'm so resentful I only see red when I think about our situation and his lack of accepting any responsibility only makes those already fuming feelings crackle and sizzle even more.

So how do we let the anger go

So how do we let the anger go? Been with my husband for 17 years, married for 6. My heart is shattered, we both want it to work, but I'm angry!

GREAT article

My divorce was finalized recently. My ex-husband cannot understand that I didn't leave due to his betrayal but I left due to his ongoing blaming, anger and manipulation. I realized that I did not like who I was becoming around him. I had a choice to make and I made the best one available. I wake up daily and CHOOSE to forgive him AND to forgive myself. He claims that I am angry and bitter. It just makes me sad for him at this point as he continues to destroy our relationship even further (if that is even possible). I will continue to show up with character and integrity for both my children and for myself. I am grateful to Ric and Affair Recovery. AMAZING articles and resources! THANK YOU!!

wish i read this years ago

I would like to thank all of you for sharing. I am a CS who recently lost his wife due to my actions. The anger that was created from her side just justified but I didnt want to see that, so in defense, I too would become enraged and battle back and lose the ability to be what i was suppose to be which is sensitive and more understanding. The anger after betrayal is so so toxic that it changes people. The last thing I imagined was my wife becoming angered,but I never recognized that her anger was really her hurt being expressed differently. For CS, learn from me IF you truly want to fix your relationship with your partner...manage your anger and explain to your partner why you are reacting the way that you are. To the best of your ability, use right speech where you are carefully choosing your words to express your emotions but not igniting an argument. I can't tell you how many times I blew my top becasue I wanted her to 'get over it' so that I could feel more comfortable around her. In reality, her anger was really a manifestation of love & hurt that I wasn't empathetic too. Do not follow my footsteps.

anger

I have been angry for a long time with my husband. He has had three physical affairs and two emotional affairs. We have been married 13 years. I have never really been able to forgive him and there are times when rage just seems to surface. He recently ended his latest affair and says his reason for even having it was that he felt controlled and I didn't trust him anyway so why not give me a reason to not trust him? He said he was tired of the anger and bickering. I don't know how to just let it go.I would give anything for our marriage to work but don't know that I can ever trust him again and I don't know how to begin letting go of my anger.

husband won't forgive.

i confessed to husband about 16 yrs after 3 month affair. It has been almost 2 yrs since i told him. I told him out of guilt. I feel now I should have carried the secret as a burden as the hurt was so great. Very shortly after I told him, he started with the dating sites. I initially thought it was ok, because I felt so guilty. I saw several counselors who told me how each of us needs to be faithful to rebuild. two wrongs do not make a right. I shut the door on my horrible judgement many years ago and have not looked back and only think about the AP with revulsion and shame and sorrow. I wish I could take it back. I have told my husband over and over how sorry I am and that I love him and feel we have so many more milestones. He saw counselor only once. He has done nothing but show ferocious anger the whole time, justifying his current unfaithfulness. He continues to insist I must put down in writing specifically what I had done. He has threatened me physically and emotionally. I have written/emailed the circumstances under which I felt desperate in the marriage and how I let myself open to wrongdoing. I do not blame him/anyone for crossing such a line. I have gone to confession and explained to spouse that I start each day in sorrow, but I choose to lead rest of my life being the best person I can be and to function for my children. I chose counselors with strong spiritual conviction so that any decisions in my life would not cause further harm, even if that meant leaving home. I was blown away that I was met with encouragement support, and hope for our future. How do I get my husband to get past the control he feels he should have in punishing me . I can't withstand any more. It hurts he is dating.

Same here

Really angry everytime I think about it :(It's been a year but I can't help it. I I remember it everyday. So painful I can't not even explain the pain level.
Married for almost 7 years now, last year my husband, the perfect man, my best and only true friend I thought, the one who promised me love, respect and being faithful etc. Told me he was leaving me for another woman ( not even some one good) she was a prostitute that only wanted his money.
I think that's what hurts the most. After thinking I was a good wife for him he cheated on me with such a bad person, felt like I was something unuseful horrible...can't even explain how it feels when I think about it. I gave him another chance and a month later had his other lover knocking on our door...more pain for me that I was pregnant and had to deal with all this.
I have that anger, I feel it and I keep thinking about giving up and leaving him everyday when I see how he is talking to younger girls(16-20 years old) and locks phone and computer and doesn't try to help me deal with my pain.

anger

I have to tell you that I relate to your anger and know that you are not lone, so many women that I have talked with carry this for a couple of years even after the best work with counselors and a remorseful spouse. You need to surround yourself with support. I have had none so had to step out and find it after my husband of twenty five years decided to have affair. Why they think that is the answer for their problems with no regard or courage to tell their faithful spouse i will never understand. This is his problem and has nothing to do with what you did or didnt do. Seek good counseling get strong for yourself.and if he doesnt seek help you need to do better for yourself.....You are not alone......Sandra

Anger

It has been almost 3 years since he confessed to his affair, but 1 1/2 years since it really completely ended. The anger and hurt I feel today is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. I moved out for a year, then moved back home. He has done everything possible to help me with healing. I don't understand it when people say their marriages are better than they were before the affair. I feel that the hurt has left a scar so deep, that it will never really heal, no matter what. What if I can't really get over it? Sometimes I am so sad.

anger

d day was 3 years ago this july, I have been married 34 years, my husband had an emotional affair with an old flame from before I met him. the affair lasted approx. 3 months until I discovered it by chance, this woman lives in another state and I don't believe they ever met in person during this time however the affair resulted in thousands of text messages, phone calls around the clock, sexual pictures of each other back and forth and last but not least Phone sex. I was blind sided and traumatized an in shock, my husband is extremely remorseful, totally dedicated to saving our marriage, he has cried with me due to the pain he has caused and regrets ever contacting her and cannot to this day explain how it got so out of hand. My husband I know loves me very deeply and I love him as deep as a person can love another human being, but for the life of me, to this very day I cannot control my pain, jealousy, destructive thoughts and extreme anger. I feel like I am on a roller coaster ride from hell, my husband and I love spending quality time with each other, we laugh, we talk, we love, we are great together, if only I could stop the ( once every 4 or 5 week trigger episodes) that start out as just wanting to let him know my feelings, with every intention of just saying my piece and leaving it at that, but my mental anguish starts, because my heart won't let me accept the things I cannot change, the anguish turns into anxiety and all hell breaks loose, my anger gets out of control, I paint as vulgar a picture of him and her as I can get, to him and it tortures him (and me), my body trembles and it turns into a full blown rage for me, I feel like a total lunatic, but its not something I am able to control, It happened tonight that is why I turned to this site, i screamed and cried at him and it always turns into an anxiety attack so bad that i feel like i am having a heart attack, I cant breath, i scare my husband and i scare myself in the process, i have gone to counseling but the councilor pissed me off so bad I walked out. (twice). I don't understand why i can't find peace in my heart and mind, my husband and I love each other and neither want a divorce, and I don't want to continue having these episodes, its exhausting for both of us and unproductive, years of this is ridiculous, so what's the answer? How do you turn off the thoughts that haunt me..

anger

This is more common then alot of counselor want to talk about, most women that I have talked with and have read about goes through this experience too so dont think you are a lunatic.I Iearned that when my daughter was killed in an automobile accident that everyone grieves different and everyones marriages and circumstances are different that doesnt mean you crazy for not responding the way others do. It has only been one year since D day for me since finding out about my husband work affair on my 25th anniversary and find that the rages do start by some kind oft triggers but am learning. The best thing that I have found just like when my daughter died is talking with other women that have gone through this and getting positive support. I have also found good counseling is very hard to find, keep trying I went through 4 and had to drive an hour and a half.
Wishing you peace.

The anger

How do you get over the anger? It's been almost 2 years since I uncovered my husband's affair with someone he paraded around as just a good friend to both of us. The affair was at least 7 years and 4 months. I am still devastated. I am trying to do EMDR therapy with my therapist and couples therapy too. He just wants me to shut up and not talk about the past at all. He tells me to get over it. I know only I can make myself feel better but I don't know how to do it. I am fearful and far from trusting him. I deeply resent the pain he caused. On the surface everyone thinks he's such a great guy. I long for compassion and good reasons to swallow my anger and my pride. Help.

Forgiveness vs. Restoration

In reading some of your posts, I think it is important to remember that forgiveness is not restoration. Forgiveness is a process and takes just you...restoration and healing from the trauma of infidelity takes two people to participate in the recovery process. When the spouse who was unfaithful participates in the healing process and the injured spouse forgives, healing can be possible but it will be a long road and all parties will need to participate in the healing process. If there is an unhealthy cycle of anger continuing, them it is time for counseling help if both parties want to see their marriage restored. This is a process that needs 100% from both marriage partners. Remember, forgiveness doesn't make wrongs right because wrongs can't be made right, they will always be wrong, but forgiveness sets you free!

still trying to make since of it all.

Hi, July 3 (Dday number 3) is quickly approaching, I am in such turmoil in my mind that I almost feel like I am having a nervous breakdown, 3 years is a bit much don't you think? I started thinking about things and it occurred to me that when my husband and I are together, I feel such love and devotion FROM him, when he looks at me its so loving and so sincere, he always holds my hand in a very loving way, when we are together i feel so deeply in love with him, He does everything in his power to make up for betrayal. And when we are together If I somehow get a trigger moment I can somehow push past it, i feel genuinely happy and i feel his happiness to. However!!!! My husband works out of town 4 days a week, when he is away from me I cant control my thoughts about the affair, I try to block it out but it always comes back with a vengeance, A simple trigger will get me started and my mind takes a strong hold, suddenly in my mind he becomes the enemy, not the man I so love when we are together, but a husband whom threw me aside for another woman, a husband who had another woman on his mind twenty four seven even when he was with me. I try to make since of how he could do it to us, how he could not resist, why he didn't consider me for a moment. Why I was not a factor when he was about to cross the line. I get very angry because he always says he don't know how it got so out of hand, HONESTLY!!! really? REALLY? what a COP OUT nobody in this day and time is that naïve, lets face it, The whole northern hemisphere knows that contacting and old flame or having a friendship with the opposite sex (in secret) is a potential affair in the making. And ohhhhh please!!! Affair Fog , give me a break (what a bunch of crap) Affair fog is a pretty lame excuse for justification, what the hell was the excuse when he was at the cross road making a conscious decision. He shouldn't have put himself in that position in the first place. , I have had a few men whom i was attracted to Try and hit on me,but i never had a problem telling them that i am married and i love my husband and i would never cheat on him, EVER. I can't even fathom the thought of an other man touching me sexually. I don't want anyone but him. If he is still in love with me and loves me like he claims, how is it possible for him to be involved with another woman,. I simply don't understand, When you love someone, you don't want anyone else. You just don't.

What type of affair was it?

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