The name of the blog
"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.
Thursday, 12 December 2013
Why Can't I Get Angry?
Why can't I get angry? It has been over six months now, and the anger still hasn't surfaced. I am waiting for it, even hoping for it to the point that sometimes I re-read some of his emails trying to egg the anger on. I know that anger is one of the five stages of grief, and it is inevitable that it should come at some point, but it mystifies me that I have felt so little anger. The anger has come in quick flashes, like a firework that sparks and shoots into the sky suddenly andy then dies out too quickly. Perhaps I am too exhausted from depression to sustain that amount of fire within myself right now. I feel defeated, squashed, and worthless, and I imagine until I can rid myself of those feelings I won't get too worked up about anything.
I took a cruise in September and when I told my story to a friend of a friend on the cruise, her first question to me was "how angry are you"? And I wasn't then, and I am still not. And just weeks before that, when I had seen my hairdresser and friend who knew what was going on, she commented something along the lines of "you really have taken on the victim role haven't you?" And I have. Most of the time I feel very sorry for myself. Most of the time I cry and grieve my losses, both real and expected. Most of the time I miss him and worry about him. Which is not to say I don't worry about myself too. My hairdresser told me I needed to put on my shit-kicking boots. I can't even find those boots let alone try to pull them on.
Am I so out of touch with my anger that I don't even recognize it? Is it lurking under the surface of other emotions getting ready to blow at a really inopportune time? Ironically, in the months, and almost full year, leading up to my husbands disclosure, I had been working on my anger with my psychologist, who said I was a very angry person. So, did everything she do to help me appropriately deflate my overwhelming anger actually rid me of the ability to get angry completely? When I look back over the last six months, I have felt very little anger in any situation; it doesn't seem to be a response mechanism anymore for me. Again, like my reaction to my ex-husband, in my day-to-day life I have experienced very brief flare-ups of anger of little intensity, mostly irritation or frustration, which is usually replaced almost instantaneously with another emotion like sadness, shame, longing, or fear. Those, along with joy and contentment when I am happy, are my primary emotions these months.
I could probably count on one hand all the angry moments I have had since June 4th. That day I threw the wedding picture that sat on my bedside table across the room. It banged up the frame and dented the closet door, but remained relatively intact. M cleaned that up without saying anything. The day I found out he had cheated on me I pushed his humidor, which I had bought him, off the top of the liquor cabinet where it sat with such force it cleared the small room. It didn't even break; the glass top chipped in one corner, and some of the cigars got ruffled up or broken. I ended up cleaning that up because he didn't come home that night. I don't know if he ever figured what had happened, and sometimes I wonder if he has any trouble getting the humidity correct. A couple of times I called him an asshole, and then I always apologized. A couple of times I said mean things about her, and he always defended her, which deflated my anger and started me crying again. And the last angry thing I did, after going into his email a couple of times (he had given me the password months before), was forward him back an email he had sent to her with my two cents on the topic. And that was our last communication. I told him in anger that he was a liar and manipulative and I didn't need to see him ever again. I later apologized for going into his email, and he wrote that he forgave me and he understood. Truthfully, most of my vile thoughts and glimpses of rage are directed at her.
I want to get angry because I think it will be crucial to my healing. Anger can be a motivating force to correct what is perceived to be wrong. I want to get angry because I deserve to be angry for what that man did to me and has put me and my son through unjustly. And that was my primary trigger discovered through months of counselling; nothing burns me hotter or faster than unfairness. When I perceive something is unfair, my back goes up faster than you can say what happened. Or at least it did, not so much anymore. I want to get angry because it seems to be a normal part of the grieving process, and I am concerned that I am stalled somewhere. After my Mom died, unexpectedly, when I was 27, the anger was intense and almost immediate. Within a week or so of her death I remember being angry every time I saw someone who I perceived was older or in worse health than my Mom. I was angry that they got to keep living, and my Moms life was cut short. The world felt unfair and I was an angry young woman for several weeks, possibly a month or two before it passed.
My girlfriend, who is going through a similar situation, also doesn't have an appropriate amount of anger for the way she has been treated. She was also cheated on and abandoned for the "other woman". I encourage her to be angry. I want to see her get motivated by her anger to move on and forget that ass. I have the perspective to see how cruelly he treated her and how she has every right to be angry and not so sad. I am afraid for her that if she doesn't get angry she will be vulnerable to him if he were to attempt to come back into her life. Is that what is tripping me up? If I get angry, will I, in fact, then want nothing to do with him, thus negating any hope of a reconciliation? Perhaps.
Or is all the self-help books I have read in the last year and a half that have tempered my internal volcano? Books like The Saint, The Surfer, and The CEO teach and promote compassion, empathy, and unconditional love. After I read that book in July, I made the conscious decision to love M unconditionally. I understood unconditional love to mean I accepted him for who he is and focused on his behaviour, not the person. And while I could not accept his behaviour and therefore could not have a relationship with him, I could still love him. The book How Can I Forgive You is all about either accepting what has happened if you cannot forgive, or actually working with the offender to generate authentic forgiveness. Well, if I either forgive him his sins without his participation, or accept what has happened, there is no point in being angry is there? Is it my spiritual practise of meditation which promotes letting go which is hindering my anger? It is hard to be detached from your thoughts in your mind and get angry at the same time. So really, it doesn't take much reflection on my part to see what I have contributed to my inability to get angry with M. Perhaps it is time for me to read the highly acclaimed book The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner.
Some quick research into anger and infidelity suggests that my reactions are perfectly normal, but since no time frame is ever offered with regard to moving through the various phases, I can only guess at that. A 1999 study reveals that almost 60% of people who have been cheated on suffer emotional problems and depression after the revealing of the affair. And while earlier I commented on anger being a part of the normal grieving process, as part of the theory about the five stages of grief popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, in which anger is the second phase and depression the fourth, and last, before acceptance, I learned a new three phase model regarding infidelity based on a qualitative study conducted in 2002. That research suggests anger comes in the first stage after infidelity, the roller-coaster stage. And stage two is a moratorium period which seems to be more where I am at emotionally; however, that stage was forced on me by my ex-husband, so I may not have truly moved into that stage of my own volition. You can read more about typical responses to infidelity at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infidelity#Responses and about the five stages of grief at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model. To note, the Kübler-Ross theory about grief has been proven to hold true to many forms of intense personal loss, including: divorce, natural disasters, incarceration, addiction, and infertility. It is also commented on that not everyone will move through all five stages; that is just the norm.
In the months to come, I wonder if I will look back at my journey and be able to assert that I did not need to get angry to deal with the betrayal and move on? Will I be able to challenge the status quo on what grieving the end of a marriage and your future looks like, and say there is another way? I really don't think I am that special. I am still assuming the anger is coming. I am probably still in shock, based on my timeline. I know that after my Mom died the shock lifted somewhere around the six month mark. And the interesting thing about shock based on my experience with her death, is that I didn't even realize I was in shock, until it had worn off. I saw that again with my Sons serious car accident. Talking to him right after the accident, he could not even articulate what had happened or how serious it was; his brain wasn't grasping the severity of the situation because it was too busy protecting him. It took a few days for him to actualize that someone had died, and he had very nearly died. So, l think it is safe to assume that the game might change once the shock has lifted.
The expression "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" didn't materialize in modern language for no reason. And in case you have ever wondered about the origin of that saying, here is what Wikipedia taught me: nothing. There was no origin noted, no date the expression became popular, nothing at all. However, the website www.phrases.org.uk credits a 1697 poet and playwrights tragedy The Mourning Bride with the quote. The full quotation from William Congreve is: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." And from www.englishclub.com, that breaks the phrase down word by word, I learned that fury, in Greek mythology, is a female spirit of punishment. That sounds to me like there could be some interesting times ahead if I can find my inner bitch that used to live so near the surface.
I really would love to hear from anyone who has any personal experience with the emotions and the grieving process after infidelity.