Navigating Explosive Emotion and Rage After Infidelity
If there has been infidelity in your relationship, it’s highly likely that the betrayed person has or will at some point become extremely emotional and/or enraged. This often happens when this person does not feel heard, understood, or validated, or that you do not understand the profound impact of the infidelity or the depth of the pain you have caused. Sometimes it comes as a result of wanting you to experience a fraction of the pain he or she is experiencing. If you respond with defensiveness or with moving away, the anger or emotion may escalate.
If you are caught up in legalistic discussion, arguing, or defending any part of what you’ve done or said, I urge you to shift into humility and to see pain. Check yourself to see if a change in emotional posture would better serve you and your betrayed partner. You may feel that you’ve apologized a hundred times or that nothing you do or say is enough. The process of healing takes time and patience for both of you. Instead of arguing or defending, remember that anger often masks a deeper emotion, pain, fear, or grief. It may be difficult for you to understand the depth of your partner’s pain. Infidelity in the context of a romantic relationship is perhaps second only to the pain of losing a child. It will take time and intentionality to heal. Seeing the pain under the rage may help you to move towards your loved one. While you should protect yourself from violence and physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, staying present when your partner is angry and overwhelmed may actually help the repair process. Often it is our instinct to move away when someone we love becomes angry. After infidelity, this may be counterproductive.
Suggestions for responding productively to help with repair and healing:
- Stay physically near the person and don’t leave the room unless he or she asks you to. Be predictably and dependably present with him or her in moments of pain and anger. This will help to ease pain and build trust over time.
- Allow emotion. Do not attempt to shut it down. It will likely be perceived as dismissive or silencing.
- Accept responsibility consistently and be humble. Do not parse details, become defensive, or dismiss any part of the emotion or its expression.
- Ask what you can do in the moment to help.
- When the anger and rage begin to subside, offer reassurance and comfort.
It may feel counterintuitive, but moving towards your partner when she or he is enraged is a path to healing. Every time the infidelity is raised is an opportunity for healing. If you embrace each one, you will help your partner to move through this pain and loss.
Laura Lindekugel, M.S., M.S., LMFT, SEP is a partner in Rekindle Counseling and specializes in infidelity. You may contact her directly with questions or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 952.806.0014.