First comes discovery of sexual betrayal. Then comes anger.
Anger does not arrive gently or slowly. It roars in like a flash flood, sweeping everything up in its path, uncontrolled and uncontained. Anger roils through us, erupting from our bodies, shocking those around us and even shocking ourselves.
When I experienced my own story of betrayal, I turned into an emotional street fighter. I had no idea I had it in me to say the things I said, yell as loudly as I yelled, or feel the flow of physical violence that surged through my body.
I grew up in a household where only one person was allowed to be angry, and that was my father. The rest of us avoided our anger, repressed our anger, and masked our anger. Now, here I was, a grown-up dealing with ongoing betrayals, and I was ANGRY.
The problem was that I did not know what to do with this anger. Not only was I raised in a household where I was shamed for showing anger, I was female. And in North American culture, women are not allowed to be angry.
Don’t believe me? “In a 2010 large-scale study conducted in the U.S. and Canada, only 6.2 percent of people thought that expressing anger is appropriate for women. This statistic is staggering; it means that 93.8 percent of respondents believe it is inappropriate to be an angry woman.”
I am not alone in the dilemma that anger creates for many betrayed partners. We are angry, and we have a right to be angry. However, our childhood shaping and our cultural training often tell us that we are wrong for being angry, wrong to express our anger, wrong to give our anger a voice.
The belief that our anger is wrong coats us in shame. And guess what this does? It makes us angrier.
When we are told that our anger is wrong, when we are instructed to repress our frustration, squelch our sense of injustice, and bury our dignity, it is enraging. And with that, our anger becomes its own cyclical problem. We release the lightning of our anger, striking out at our cheating partner. This is followed by a gut punch of shame that makes us feel nauseous and wrong. Then, as we feel our need and right to anger squelched, our anger morphs to rage.
Anger is one of our primary emotions. Anger itself is neutral, but as it moves through us it becomes a tool that can be wielded for great good or great destruction. Anger can sweep and sift debris and old patterns, ushering in positive change. Or it can surge through and destroy, maim, and ruin.
When anger is shamed, repressed, and avoided, it becomes more likely to be expressed in damaging ways. The inability to feel and express anger becomes a crucible that escalates and twists our anger into uncontrolled rage that is destructive and harmful.
Many of us get stuck in this dilemma. We are angry and rightly so. Yet we do not know how to express our anger, or we do not feel we have permission to do so. As a result, our anger builds until it is unleashed at our cheating partner in ways that feel bad, create more conflict, and damage and violate our own relational values.
In this blog series, we are going to look at both the pain and the gift of anger. My hope is that we will learn to honor our anger, express our anger well, and allow our anger to teach us the lessons that it longs to bring us. Next week, we will look at anger as a messenger.
 Johns, Cheryl Bridges. The Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause: An Unexpected Spiritual Journey. Brazos Press 2020 p. 71.
About the Author:
Michelle Mays, LPC, CSAT-S is the Founder of PartnerHope.com and the Center for Relational Recovery, an outpatient treatment center located in Northern Virginia. She has helped hundreds of betrayed partners and sexually addicted clients transform their lives and relationships. Michelle is the author of The Aftermath of Betrayal and When It All Breaks Bad and leads the field in identifying and crafting effective treatment strategies for betrayed partners.
Braving Hope is a ground-breaking coaching intensive for betrayed partners around the world. Working with Michelle will help you to move out of the devastation of betrayal, relieve your trauma symptoms and reclaim your life.