“Why is she so angry? I told her I was sorry two months ago. I can’t believe she won’t let this go. Why can’t she just move on and let things get back to normal?”
If you are the unfaithful spouse, it’s very likely that you’ve said these words to yourself before. You may have even said them out loud to your extremely emotional betrayed spouse. You’ve apologized, asked for forgiveness, promised to never cheat again, and you are ready to stop talking and thinking about the affair now. You are tired of your spouse being so distraught over something you regret doing.
But her crying, cussing, and condemning are not all bad for your situation. In fact, they can be quite healing.
Whether or not your spouse suspected that you were having an affair, her world was shattered the day she found out the truth that you cheated on her. What she felt in her body and mind was trauma. Life as she knew it ended that day. Her stability ruptured. Her future suddenly became uncertain.
Recovery from a life-upending trauma takes time. She needs to grieve what she lost. She lost a relationship she thought she knew. She lost a trust she thought she held. It’s not that she can never get those things back, but she needs to grieve her loss in her own way first.
As hard as it is for you to listen to her anger and live with a person who is in the midst of emotional upheaval, it is better for both of you in the long run if she can work through her feelings now. If your spouse tries to downplay her emotions they will well up in the future. If she doesn’t get through her grief and anger now, she will be subject to bitterness and resentment in the months and years to come. It’s better to get the “ugly” feelings out there now and deal with them than to suppress them and allow them to fester under the surface.
Not only is it good for your spouse’s state of mind to work through her grief and anger, it is also good for you, the unfaithful spouse.
At first glance you may not see how it could possibly be good for you to experience the vehemence of her tears and raging, but consider the alternative. If she had zero or very little reaction to what you did to her there would be something very wrong in your marriage. The passion with which she loves you is reflected in the anger with which she now chews you out. Your spouse should be jealous for you. Her emotions prove to you the fervency of her feelings about what you two have together.
Even more importantly, it’s good for you to see how much you hurt your spouse simply because it is part of your healing process. After you disclose the affair to your spouse, you feel horrible about yourself. You broke a vow you made to someone you love. You need to see there are consequences to your actions. You need to feel hurt when you see how much you hurt your spouse. You did not act in a way that is consistent with the person you want to be. When you feel the consequences of your actions more acutely, you are more likely to seek the help you need, be empathetic to your spouse, and never repeat the actions that got you here in the first place.
Try to take a different perspective about your spouse’s volatile emotions.
Can you choose to see her angry outbursts, name-calling, and accusations as a bid for connection? Even though she is emotionally beside herself, she is still trying to engage with you. You’ve hurt her so deeply that she has every right to walk away from you and never look back. She has every right to protect herself from all interactions with you forever. Yet she is looking you in the face and speaking her mind. She’s asking you questions that she believes will help her put the pieces of this puzzle she doesn’t understand together. She’s trying to figure out how your relationship is broken and how deeply so that she can determine what to do next.
She needs you to hang in there. She needs you to put aside your discomfort with her tone of voice and seemingly constant need to talk about the affair and be there for her. She needs you to answer her questions. She needs empathy. She needs patience. She needs acceptance, affirmation, and probably touch if she can allow you to comfort her with a hug or a hand squeeze.
As hard as it is for you to allow her to express her emotions at your expense, this is part of the process of moving past the pain and moving on toward recovery. Prove your maturity and commitment to healing the relationship by hanging in there and giving her the time she needs to process all that has happened in her life.