A cheating spouse takes on a lot of risk when they engage in an affair, including the possibility of losing you, their friends and family, and even losing the respect of colleagues and acquaintances.
Along with cheating, your cheating spouse’s extremely poor error in judgment in having the affair has created the opportunity for one very destructive element to worm its way into your marriage.
And – it’s one that researchers say is predictive of a marriage ending in divorce.
Learn how to counteract this destructive force and save your marriage. Read on to find out more.
Let’s face it: in your post-affair world, communication has taken a major hit. And for some couples, it can be a mortal blow – one they’ll grapple with and struggle to overcome.
If you are the victim in this affair mess, you are also struggling with a tsunami of negative thoughts and images. You’re also dealing with trust issues, and are suspicious of your spouse and don’t know how to trust them anymore.
But what may be worse than all this is the negative emotions that you are feeling. You are so disturbed by the fact that your cheating spouse unleashed this nightmare into your world – and now you are the one reeling in pain from their decision to cheat.
And this is where the destructive element has been introduced into your relationship via your spouse’s clandestine actions: the element of contempt.
Contempt is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as “the feeling or actions of a person toward something (s)he considers low, worthless, or beneath notice; scorn.” Researchers who specialize in studying marital relationships consider contempt to be the strongest predictor of a marriage ending in divorce.
You may want to save your marriage, but contempt for your spouse could be undermining the efforts you are making. Your spouse’s actions disgust you, and it may be a struggle to not let this disgust enter every conversation, every look, every dealing with your spouse.
You may not even be aware that you are showing contempt – literally. Your words may come out right, but your facial expressions show something else.
It’s because of emotions within that need to be fully faced and dealt with, and the sooner you have unveiled everything you’re feeling inside related to your spouse and the affair, the sooner you’ll be able to heal and work on mending your broken relationship – and remove contempt from your interactions.
Survive the Affair – by Frank Gunzburg, PhD
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Negative Emotions Feed this Relationship Destroyer
There are a range of gut-shredding emotions you may be experiencing. Here are just three negative emotions that can help feed the contempt monster, leaving you and your spouse feeling even more alienated from one another:
Contempt-feeding Emotion #1: Anger
Your anger may be simmering constantly below the surface, or it may be full-on rage that results in explosive outbursts. Regardless of the form it takes, anger can cause you to experience very violent feelings toward your spouse.
This can lead to contempt: after all, your spouse’s cheating has caused these feelings, and you want to lash out at him or her for making you feel this way. You’re disgusted that their actions are causing these awful feelings and thoughts inside of you, and so you may find yourself feeling what the dictionary definition given above described as “scorn.”
Take the time to figure out what is spurring on your anger: what thoughts about the affair make you so angry? Are there specific thoughts or images associated with this anger? Put a name to what is causing this emotion so you can better understand yourself.
Contempt-feeding Emotion #2: Vengefulness
A close sibling of anger, vengefulness can leave you feeling the need to “get back” at your cheating spouse, their paramour – or both. You think of their hurtful actions, and it makes you feel awful, and a part of you wants to strike out and make someone pay for the pain you’re feeling.
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Again, this emotional reaction to the affair can leave you feeling contemptuous of your spouse. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings of vengefulness – but not to act upon them, which will only leave you feeling worse.
Write out what you would like to do, instead. Just the act of putting these ideas and feelings down on paper – and out of your head – will help you feel some relief.
Contempt-feeding Emotion #3: Disappointment
It would be a rare person who has poured themselves into a marriage that doesn’t feel disappointment when discovering their spouse has cheated on them. It’s the equivalent of a slap in the face.
The disappointment may expand beyond your spouse, and be turned on yourself, or at the world at large. Again, these negative feelings can make you feel that your spouse is beneath you: after all, you held up your end of the marriage bargain, whereas they did not, and now you’ve been injured by their inability to keep their vows. This in turn can lead to your expressing these feelings in the form of contempt.
I encourage you to get a journal and write out these various emotions you are going through, being specific in stating what it is that is making you angry, making you feel vengeful, and making you feel disappointed – as well as any other emotions you are experiencing.
My very best to you as you eliminate contempt from interactions with your spouse and strive to save your marriage.
Have you found yourself reacting to your spouse with contempt? How is it being expressed?
What are you feeling when this occurs?
What is your spouse’s reaction to your contempt? In what ways is it harming your chances of reconciliation?
Please share your ideas and experiences with the community.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,