After my husband suddenly left our long-term marriage for his affair partner, the anger took a long time to come. During the first months, I was hurt, sick, and stunned. Anger was nowhere in sight. But later, when the hurt started to subside, the anger filtered in and stuck around for a long time.
Women who experience Wife Abandonment Syndrome tell me that they hate feeling angry all the time, but they can't help themselves. They seek revenge and wish they could make their ex-husbands suffer what they’ve been suffering. They dream up schemes to hurt the guy and the other woman and some even follow through with those plans, but no matter what they do, it never hits the mark. The ex never suffers what you want him to suffer and, anyhow, it doesn’t make the anger go away.
I was thinking about how to help those women who can’t wriggle free from anger’s grasp—after all, it’s not a nice feeling—when I stumbled across an article in Harper’s Magazine called “Facing the Furies” by Rebecca Solnit and was struck by much of what she wrote.
Solnit referenced the philosopher Martha Nussbaum when she wrote, “The urge to exact revenge derives from our desire for ‘cosmic balance,’ as well as from our attempts to overcome helplessness through displays of power. By this logic, revenge rights the scales, despite doing nothing to restore what was lost or repair what was damaged.”
We long to restore cosmic balance. That rang true to me. We are indignant and outraged that a wrong has been done but helpless to set it right. The world doesn’t seem in balance and the continuing anger is a response to that.
Solnit later writes, “Anger generally arises from a sense of having been wronged.” The world is not the way it should be—OUR world is not the way it should be—and since we can’t correct that, we are left with just the tarry residue of bad feeling in the form of anger.
Interestingly, the author goes on to discuss why anger is so hard to dissolve. “Fury is a renewable resource: Though the initial anger may be fleeting, it can be revived and strengthened by telling and retelling yourself the story of the insult or injustice, even over a lifetime.”
By retelling ourselves and others the story of the injustice, we are seeking validation. We need to remind ourselves and need to hear from others, “Yes! You didn’t deserve that! What he did was wrong, wrong, wrong!” It helps us feel a tiny bit better but at a price—keeping the story alive also keeps us trapped. It fuels the unending anger that will turn us bitter.
So how do we break free once and for all from that cycle of retelling ourselves and others the story of the injustice? It comes from finally really knowing that what he did was wrong and no longer needing confirmation of that fact. Even if you weren’t a perfect wife, your ex-husband could have left with more kindness and respect. It comes from really knowing that you didn’t deserve to be “kicked to the curb.”
Once you have integrated that truth and really know it deep inside, you won’t have to keep reassuring yourself that it was not your fault and you will no longer need others to do the same. Then it gets easier to release your grasp on the outrage and let it all go.
Stop replaying all the sordid events in your mind. Stop telling the story to anyone who will listen. Start thinking about your future life and expand the periods of time in which he doesn’t even cross your mind. Fight for that and you’ll watch the anger dribble away. Become a fighter for your happiness and don’t let him turn you into an angry person.
Is anger still a factor in your life? How do you deal with it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.