You’re angry right now . very ANGRY!
It’s understandable. When the person you love and trust most in the world betrays you, lies to you, and cheats on you, the natural response is to feel angry You have every right to your angry feelings. I would be angry too.
Perhaps you find yourself blowing up at your spouse almost every time you see him or her. You feel like you can’t help it. The rage you feel about being betrayed is too much and you explode in a fit of hurtful words and actions.
Perhaps you start unloading on your spouse when he or she does one minor thing that offends you and the offensive behavior sets you into motion-berating your spouse, not just for the current offensive behavior, but for an endless chain of other misbehaviors that may or may not be related. I refer to this as “throwing in the kitchen sink,” or “kitchen-sinking” your partner.
Or maybe your style is to conceal your anger. It seethes under the surface. You might even do this so well that you have convinced yourself you’ve overcome your anger. But secretly you know it’s still there, bubbling below the surface waiting to explode like a ticking time bomb.
These are some of the natural reactions to feeling betrayed by your spouse.
If your spouse cheated on you, it’s a natural urge for most people to verbally explode, especially in the very early stages immediately after you find out about the affair.
This anger can be useful to the injured person, but there comes a time when expressing your angry feelings gets to a point of diminishing returns. It starts creating more problems than it solves.
Most people know when they have hit this point. They want to let go of their anger, but they don’t know how. They desperately look for a way out of the nightmare of rage that never seems to end.
In my last article, I suggested you think of acceptance rather than forgiveness as an alternative way to move toward repairing your marriage.
However, the problem of unrelenting anger is one of the single biggest obstacles on your path to acceptance. I’ve seen it many times when couples repair their marriage. Learning how to cope with, manage, and express your feelings so they effectively help you change your marriage instead of tearing you apart inside is a major goal for many of you as you search for ways to forgive your spouse.
In fact, some of you may not even know the full extent of why you are really angry. There are some underlying factors that maintain the cycle of anger that you may not be aware of. This lack of awareness can perpetuate the problem.
So in this article I will explain 3 reasons you may be holding on to your anger, and offer some tips for expressing your feelings in a more meaningful way so you can begin to let them go.
Learning the information and the skills in this article has the potential to help you accept and eventually “forgive” your spouse so you can move forward in your relationship rather than feeling stuck in your angry feelings.
3 Reasons You are Still Angry
There are a lot of reasons you might be holding on to your emotional pain and anger. The reason is that holding onto the pain and anger feels like a kind of protection.
The thinking goes:
“If I continue to feel the pain, it will keep me from being foolish in the future by being duped or having this happen again.”
Another variation on this might be:
“If I maintain my anger, my partner will really know how much he hurt me and how important this issue is to me. Consequently, my spouse will be motivated to take care of my hurt feelings and not repeat the transgression.”
You may be experiencing thoughts and feelings like this right now.
However, what you might not be aware of is that there are at least three issues hidden inside statements like these that reveal the real reason you are still angry.
1. You want to show your spouse how hurtful his or her actions were so you can get the special treatment you desire from him or her to make you feel that you can move on from the transgression.
2. You want your spouse to know how hurtful the behavior was and continues to be, so he or she will diligently search his or her behavior for an understanding of how this happened, accept full responsibility for it and for the subsequent pain it caused, and be authentically remorseful about it.
3. You want to have some assurance that this will never happen again. This is a big one and it comes up over and over again. You may feel as though you have been made to look foolish, and you never want to feel this way again. Through the logic of points one and two, you feel that extending the pain and anger will effect a change in your spouse.
These issues come up over and over again. They are understandable, and they reflect important aspects of the healing process.
You’ve been made to feel like a fool and you want to make sure that never happens again. You want some assurance that your spouse understands the pain he or she caused, is properly remorseful and apologetic about these actions, and is monitoring his or her behaviors to make sure what happened before won’t happen again. And you want some special treatment from your spouse to help you feel better about your marriage.
However, anger, particularly continuing anger will almost never get you what you want.
If you’re angry, it’s more likely your spouse will feel attacked and either withdraw, defend him- or herself, or attack back.
In any case, he or she will likely stop trying to provide you with the words and actions you need to feel better about your marriage or will do so reluctantly, feeling coerced and perhaps resentful.
It’s true that your spouse behaved in a selfish manner that completely failed to take you and your feelings into consideration. That’s a character flaw your spouse has to overcome.
If you decide you are going to stay and work out the relationship with your spouse, then at some point you have to manage your angry thoughts before they become angry feelings: You begin to treat your spouse as your friend and not as your enemy.
The anger is not protecting you. In fact, your anger is probably hurting you more than anyone else.
For one thing there is the additional psychological stress and pain you feel every day you continue to carry this anger.
However, anger has more than a psychological impact. It changes you physically as well. It’s hard on your heart. It alters the way your blood vessels deposit fat. It can affect the way your body processes sugar and insulin. It can even change the biochemistry of your brain.
Anger doesn’t serve you. It’s not a shield. It’s a weapon- a weapon you use against an enemy, but in today’s world, you are destroying yourself with it.
You need to let it go. It’s killing you.
However, that doesn’t mean you should suddenly pretend everything is rosy in your marriage again. That isn’t realistic either.
You need to express your hurt, or, rather, the ideas that are driving your anger. You need to communicate your pain to your spouse if you are going to move past this terrible trap and continue down the road to acceptance and eventually forgiveness.
Communication is the core of your marriage. It’s your method to heal. If you can’t communicate, your marriage may never heal.
When it comes to anger and the hurt that underlies it, learning how to communicate those thoughts becomes more important than ever-especially if your spouse has betrayed you.
In the rest of this article I will give you some tips on how to do that.
Expressing Your Anger without “Getting” Angry
What follows are some tips on how to express your thoughts and feelings to your spouse so you can begin to overcome your sense of betrayal and move further down the path to acceptance.
This is not a comprehensive treatment of either communication or anger. For that information you should refer to my complete program: How to Forgive and Work through the past (go to: http://www.howyouforgive.com/?i=576)
Tip #1: Control the Inner Cave Man
Before you even begin talking to or listening to your spouse you need to control your inner caveman.
I’ve discussed this concept in detail in previous articles. However, I’d like to offer a reminder here.
The person you are talking to is not your enemy. You want this person to be your best friend.
I know that may be hard to keep in mind when you are trying to discuss feelings of anger and betrayal, but it is critical that you do so.
If you identify your spouse as your enemy, you will let out your inner caveman. Doing this will start the cycle of anger all over again and you will feel the desperate need to win and conquer rather than heal and repair.
You are not a caveman. You can control this beast inside you and choose to act differently.
The control is in your thinking-in your attitude. The thinking and attitude occur before you have the resultant feelings.
You contain yourself for a reason: It’s the best way to move forward with your marriage. You choose to change your attitude to one of friendship and accept your feelings and not act out in rage so you can heal your marriage.
If you won’t do this, if you make excuses about it being too hard, you are essentially giving in to your inner caveman and creating justifications for further unproductive (and perhaps even destructive) arguments with your spouse.
I know it isn’t always easy. But it’s the first step in getting past your anger.
Tip #2; Use “I” Statements
In order to communicate your feelings to your spouse effectively, you have to talk in a manner so your spouse can hear what you are saying.
There are a lot of parts to this process, but when it comes to communicating anger and resentment the most important is using “I” statements.
Instead of saying “you did this” and “you did that,” I recommend you focus on your personal experience and your feelings.
You might say: I feel crushed, I feel sad, I feel disappointed, or I feel resentful. You can then tell your spouse why you feel these things. But the point is to focus on your experience. Tell your spouse how you feel, not about what “he or
I can’t tell you exactly what to say, because each situation and each person is different. However, I do offer a method for creating good “I” statements in various parts of my writing. I refer you to those materials for more information and ideas.
Tip #3: Manage Your Feelings So You Can Truly Listen
This one is more for the cheater or the spouse who did the betraying. However, it does apply to the injured person as well and it is one of the most important pieces of the whole communication process.
You need to learn to manage your feelings so you can listen to your spouse.
That means identifying him or her as a friend instead of an enemy as I discussed above.
It also means no defending, no editorializing, no argumentation.
It means accepting what your spouse is saying as his or her experience even if you don’t agree with or like what is being
It means assuming your spouse is a rational person with good reasons for thinking or feeling the way he or she does.
And it means you make an attempt to understand your spouse’s perspective even if it doesn’t match your own.
Give up the idea of someone being “right.” Instead focus on the experience your spouse is describing.
Allow your spouse to develop his or her thoughts and feelings in real time. Ask questions. Be attentive. And don’t hold your spouse to previous statement made in the conversation.
Listen to your spouse. Understand his or her perspective. Don’t stay buried in your own perceptions.
These tips are only a small part of a larger step-by-step program for managing angry feelings, discussing them, and improving your communication skills overall.
But if you incorporate these tips, by themselves they can make a dramatic difference in your marriage.
These are ways you can move beyond your anger and continue down the path toward acceptance.
Another part of the process is learning how to “forgive” in an uncertain world. You want to be sure your spouse will never betray you again, but you are also aware how uncertain this prospect is. After all, he or she did it once before. What’s to stop him or her from doing it again?
In the next article I will discuss this problem and give you some ideas about how to move toward forgiveness in this uncertain world we all live in.
However, if you know anger and forgiveness is a big problem for you, then I strongly encourage you to invest in my new program called, How to Forgive and Work through the past.
I designed this program solely to be a step-by-step system that will show you how to forgive your partner, move past your pain and begin to trust again.
Holding onto anger and pain damages you more than anyone else. Make a commitment to yourself to get rid of it.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage. Post a comment to this blog by clicking the comment button below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,