Don’t Drive the Pain Underground Oddly enough, when my affair became public, I had an immense amount of internal anger. I didn’t know it yet, but it was there. However, I didn’t dare express MY anger. After all, I was the unfaithful spouse. My affair in large part (though of course not completely) was in direct result of anger I had towards Samantha, which had grown over the years. Sadly, my affair partner knew of my anger and it only fueled the affair in more ways than I can count. Unmet needs, physical rejection and disrespect all made a nice recipe for perceived rejection and my anger, though unprocessed, was off the chart. Like most unfaithful spouses though, when the affair becomes public, we usually don’t address our anger. We are waiting for the storm and the chaos to blow over and settle before we deal with underlying issues that may have driven us to act in ways we could never have foreseen. More times than not, it’s our anger which creates the actual vulnerability for our affairs in the first place. I mean how was I going to address MY anger when it had just come out that I was involved in a two year affair with my assistant? My anger was minimized, and even mocked by some. Had I addressed the anger earlier, the affair quite possibly would have never even taken shape. Time and time again though, we’re counseled to not process our anger at all and focus on our betrayed spouse’s emotions only. It’s healthy in many ways, and it’s right in more ways. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be processing as well. More than anger, I think what I was truly feeling early on was frustration, and many professionals would say frustration is merely a mild form of anger. Quite often in life I find myself frustrated and have come to realize it really is a lower form of anger and I’ve seen it eat me alive at times. I’ve also seen it help create the possibility of relapse if not dealt with appropriately. My earlier opinion has changed significantly. The unfaithful spouse’s anger must be processed early on. It doesn’t in any way trump the betrayed spouse’s anger and quite honestly, I believe the unfaithful has a right to be angry. It’s how they process their anger which can make or break recovery, since many (but not all) unfaithful spouses early on are ambivalent about what they want to do regarding the marriage. The unfaithful spouse must have a same sex third party to process their anger with. This may be a counselor, objective and trusted friend, clergy member, you name it. But early on, they must get in touch with their anger and process it, or else they run the risk of allowing the unprocessed anger to lie dormant. Years later, I assure you that unresolved anger, will be tapped into and create the perfect storm to return to one’s earlier self-absorption, seeking to find the fulfillment they never found in their marriage. Just waiting for the storm to blow over will not cut it. Keeping in the spirit of transparency and honesty, I’ve come to realize years later there has been some unprocessed anger I’ve tapped into recently. Not about the affair per se, but about our marriage struggles and unmet needs. In no way does it indicate my anger is proof I’m right. It may only mean that I’m perceiving things differently than Samantha intended, but that’s the very reason we must communicate. If unprocessed it’s a recipe for disaster and I care not to relive yet another disaster in my life. Rick talks about not processing anger by either spouse which therefore drives the pain underground, only to resurface later and usually in spades. It’s true for both spouses. It requires processing and it requires a plan. It requires being sensitive, strategic and willing to get the help you need to process through the anger to find wholeness to your own life and your marriage.