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.

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Samuel your blogs are always very insightful and helpful. I am the cheater and my spouse thinks I have unresolved anger which comes out. I am trying not to show anger because this makes things worse and my spouse thinks I have no right to be angry. It's a difficult situation


Sadcheater....thanks for the comment. fact is, i bet you do have unresolved anger, only as most of us do my friend. the older i get, the more i realize we probably have more unresolved anger than we give ourselves credit for. early on, my anger was at myself, and my choices and even at samantha. but the anger was 2ndary as the primary was guilt, condemnation, frustration and even a bit of anger at Samantha for her rejection of me. it's normal my friend, it truly is. AND it's ok if you're the cheater to still have anger issues....making horribly stupid choices does not deprive you of being human, and having feelings and emotions and even the right to feel.....HOWEVER, having said that, right now, your anger has to be dealt with differently and for the most part I'd encourage you to help your spouse heal. where it gets complicated is how to you help her heal when you have issues.....tough one. there is hope though. i'd make sure you are doing all you can to deal with your anger....articles that may help are listed here but are just some suggestions:

additionally, as long as you get angry with your betrayed spouse when she asks questions or expresses concerns etc or what have you, you'll probably lose every time just like i did. if we are letting our anger get in the way of our healing or your spouse's healing, then we do have a problem and we need to get some help. have you taken a course or come to an ems weekend? rick does a q and a on monday's you may consider emailing in if you need some expert insight from him. it's ok to be angry friend. but how you deal with that anger, and how you express that anger is key and finding out what the primary emotion is that is in fact driving the anger, is even more of a key. for me, and it's not always a universal approach, but for me i was angry at myself more than anyone, and even angry at God as stupid as that is....i was frustrated more than anything, and frustration i've learned is a mild form of anger. finally, the difficulty lies in getting a place to process your anger, like a group or counselor etc, while also being able to help your spouse process hers. hers is far more justified right now as you can imagine. its tough, but possible. i sure hope this helps. if i can give any other perspective please feel free to reach out and i'll do all i can for ya.

thank you

Thank you. I'd found some but not all of those articles. I am trying to be sensitive to my spouse and recognize the pain I have caused. I know showing my anger is bad and I am trying not to but my spouse often to use our discussions to punish me and says things that will hurt or frustrate me deliberately. I know that is the pain and hurt coming through but it is hard to find a way to deal with it.
I would love to do the ems weekend but we cannot because we are not in the US right now.

pain coming through...

sadcheater, it's totally understandable on both parties my friend. fact is, this hurts like hell and there is so much hurt in both of you it WILL come out for sure. I'd consider getting a membership to the site so you can read as much as possible, then cancel it when you feel it's appropriate. one good thing to consider is Rick does a q and a every Monday and you can listen to it once he uploads it to the site. you can post questions, and he'll answer and then post to the site. that may help you both to get some perspective and insight to the anger and the processing piece. also, have you considered the ems online course? we've seen a decent amount of couples take that course form out of the country and it works really well. its certainly going to be more impacting than what you're dealing with and doing now ya know? it may help with containment and perspective so your spouse has a place to go to get help on dealing with it all. the problem is, trying to suck it up and chief it out on your own, with little to no curriculum and containment makes for a painful process. i'm sorry as i know it hurts, and i've been there. no containment, no momentum and i'm sure you get that by now. i'd try to do the ems online so you have a process to engage in, and if not, then i'd try the site and get into the recovery library pretty deep so you have some outside help for you and your spouse. do they read much on the site at all? are they involved in reading many articles and what not? i'll be praying for you my friend.

my anger

So now I feel anger towards the AP. I think they should understand the pain they have caused. I know I am responsible for my action but I hold him very responsible as he was a predator (later I found out he was a sex addict). I know the right thing is to rise above all this and just ignore them but it's hard. I want to make them understand what pain I am in - no one else does. Any advice on how to stop feeling like this?

how to stop feeling like this...

sadcheater, thank you for your comment. for starters, reaching back out to the ap only reinforces the covert alliance, or bond you have had. if you are truly cutting ties, you need to make sure you do all you can to maintain that mentality. to go back, only gives a chance to see it all happen all over again. id write them a letter. then burn it. or throw it away or shred it. write it, get it all out on paper, but don't send it. this is a new begining for you and right now, this is all part of the process of coming to your senses and seeing things clearly. you're not fully there, but you're on the right track and there is no reason to reach back out to them to reconnect. it will not make things better, but only worse. not to mention, any contact with the ap will upset your spouse and cause your spouse to question your motives as wlel. the best way to heal is to NEVER have any form of contact with the ap to help your spouse see how committed you are, and show yourself how committed you are. to go backwards, will take both of you backwards.
also, this is a normal stage. you'll need to process the thoughts you are having, and then realize you are not yet where you will one day be. this is a season you are in and part of the sobering up. as you sober up you'll learn mor and more about what you were doing and saying and how you were handling yourself. it's a process to sober up my friend and it takes time to get there. for what it's worth, i'm proud of you. its not easy nor is it always clear, but you're not giving up. we say this a lot here: its not about perfection but progress. you're making progress. if you talk to the ap though, it wil not encourage your spouse you're making progress as you've shown yourself to be untrustworthy, though you are gaining ground and one day you'll win/earn that trust back. it takes time, consistency, open living and dedication. but its more than possible.

I'm the betrayed spouse. My

I'm the betrayed spouse. My husband has told me many times that he is/was anger at me. I'm not saying he shouldn't be, I just don't understand why he is anger at me or what I can do about it if he can't put his feelings into words.

Why do you believe that The unfaithful spouse must have a same sex third party to process their anger with? I'm not saying I disagree with you, my husband goes to a women therapists every other week. Just wanted to ask your opinion.

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