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Imbalance of Anger

Imbalance of Anger: What's a Mom to do?

May 8, 2001

I have been married for 12 years with  4 yo twins. 10 yrs ago hubby had an affair with a woman who worked with both of us. Ouchhh! I did not discover this – he told me. When I pressed for details I discovered that the 2 of them had been carrying on physically literally under my nose – petting and kissing in the workplace behind closed doors – for 3 yrs. What came next was a denigration of my anger – I was not supposed to feel THAT angry for THAT long. Well, perhaps not, but I did. It took me years to realize that his telling me about the affair was basically manipulative. Of course you remained angry. You continued to be manipulated! He felt very guilty about it, and only through telling me could he end it. I remember so clearly he once said, "Well surely you ALREADY KNEW." Good for you that you are as clear as you are now.  Your anger was a signal that something was wrong...

Through 8 yrs of couples therapy I realized how unequal our relationship was, but I was told it was my problem – that only through insisting on my rights could I win. I never heard the word "abuse". The "abuse" literature is pretty new...  Meanwhile I had our son, which made it even more unequal, as I bore the responsibility for child care as well as continuing to work.

We have been through a very stressful time in the last 3 years, enduring a major move, 2 new jobs, etc. I knew we were at risk and I was trying to pay attention to that. Several months ago the bits of our lives were really settled down, when he suddenly announced that he was in love with a woman at work, and that he wanted the "freedom to love her." Ugh... Hubby has problems. A few seconds later he blurted out, seeing my slack jaw, "Emotionally only!" So started the latest round of therapy, with separate therapists for both as well as a marriage counselor. Meanwhile, I learned about emotional abuse. He said that he wanted to right things between us. 

We have talked of divorce many times, but neither of us has initiated it. He does not want a divorce. I have not had the strength or courage to get one, because my own parents divorced when I was very young.  My children have close relationships with both of us. When I ask hubby what he wants, he says that he wants to be married to me, and that we are "this close" - all I need to do is accept that he loves this other woman romantically! It is true that they have no sexual relationship. She is happily married. Really? He says that they are "working on resolving it". But why should I ACCEPT this? Why indeed. It’s insane. Yes. I feel torn about my own needs and my child’s well being. I can’t figure out whether I’m taking care of myself or whether I’m cutting off my nose to spite my face. 

I feel like I’ve been manipulated into asking for a divorce so that he could feel free of blame. I also feel that we are "this close", but with a different outcome. You sound angry. Think: anger is a signal... But I think I’m holding onto a fantasy. How do I find the strength? Anger is a signal... I feel so very alone. Part of my uncertainty is knowing that I truly can’t escape him. We will always share this child. I suffered a major depression because of this, but am on meds and better now. Still, my guilt and pain are almost overwhelming. He is also angry with me for "telling other people" about this (which I did, to close friends and family, when I needed support). Apparently I should live with this knowledge, but not share it. Apparently. Hear the anger in your sarcasm? I hope so...    Loretta

Dear Loretta,

Every now and then I am confronted by a question that seems so obvious, that I second guess myself - and turn to my very sane hubby for feedback. When I said to him, "What would you do if I were to tell you I was in love with another man emotionally," he said: "I'd show you the door."  I suppose this is why I think he is so sane...

You feel torn about your child's well being and your own needs. You ask if you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. Well, given these thoughts, I'm glad you've made no decisions yet. Let's look at the pieces:

Your child no doubt loves both of you and needs both of you. Your parents divorced, and you apparently still feel the pain associated with their divorce. But guilt? You feel guilty?

Are you the one who disregarded your marriage emotionally (or otherwise)?  Maybe you feel you are somehow at fault in "betraying him" by telling other people. Check yourself dear. He committed "the indiscretion," not you. If he does not want himself talked about, why did he do something shameful?  Why does his faux pas become something you have to protect?  

Is love is about protecting mis-behaviors? Or, do you enable him by protecting him?

Are you cutting off your nose to spite your face? Perhaps. It depends on what your priorities are. Financially, divorce leaves both partners less well off. Plus, your son would likely have less access to his dad. But, on the other hand, hubby has forced your hand. You are between a rock and a hard place: What do you teach your son if you "allow" hubby his indiscretions? Are you teaching him that mommy has little self-esteem? That it is OK to "Sacrifice" and "Endure" when you love? Would you prefer your twins be the ones wh6 sacrifices and endures, or wh6 act out?

Are you teaching your child that love and marriage is about self respect and respect for other?

These are difficult choices. I know what the "right answers" are, certainly for myself. And, I think I know the "right answers" for you. But, so what? You need to know what the right answers are for yourself. 

I think you need to deal with the guilt that blinds your vision. I think you need to get a handle on the dependency needs that put you in a place where you willingly sacrifice your self esteem, even though your body is screaming in protest (with anger that lasts and lasts)....

I think the right thing to say is, "No. You're married. And if you continue to do this, you're not going to be married to me any longer. Your choice..."  "No. If you don't want my loved ones hearing about your mis-behaviors, stop making them."  "No. Telling me about your affairs does not make it somehow more OK; you're not off the hook."  

How do you find the strength to deal with your guilt and pain? You listen to your body. I think your tendency towards long-lived ANGER and your history of depression is telling you that you are not paying attention to lots of stuff in the present day that you should be paying attention to... 

But, please don't act until you know what you're doing. Pay attention. Hear  your body's message. There will be no confusion.

You are asking the right questions.  Keep asking.  And, look here:

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You

If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him

Dr. Irene

 

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