By Barrington H. Brennen, May 19,
You thought it would never happen to
you. You have been a committed lover and spouse for years and
you came home unexpectedly and met your spouse making love with
another man. That’s shocking, numbing, stupefying, and
enraging. In a split second, streams of videos of the loving
rush through your head, the colorful reminders of your
sacrificial love, the quadraphonic sounds of defying the odds of
unfaithfulness, the dim lights of creative romantic encounters.
Oh! The passion of just-me-and-her-alone love making! It is as
though your whole married life flashes before you while your
heart is beating with rage and anger. It is just a fleeting
moment as you watch someone else sexually ravishing your spouse
in a way you thought only you can do, and you thought all these
years only you she would want it from. What happens next? Or
what should happen next? How should you respond when you catch
your spouse being unfaithful?
THEY NEARLY DID IT
Danine Manette, infidelity expert,
states in her article on infidelity that “Infidelity
is one of the most painful and emotionally draining experiences
a person can endure. Whether it's the frustration or
psychological torture associated with a suspected affair or the
devastating emotional aftermath which follows discovery, the
knowledge that one has been betrayed by their mate or partner
can be simply overwhelming.” When one realizes over time or
suddenly that a spouse is having an affair, there are a number
of responses. First there is the initial shock, then
rage, and then desire for revenge. For many who find a
spouse making love to another, these responses can be compounded
as one response causing an irrational reaction that might be
lethal our wounding to the partners involved. This is when
reason sits on the back seat and revenge stands in the doorway.
But not everyone resorts to attack, fight, or murder. Many
wisely walk away, though painfully.
In the past year a
number of men have told me of their own experiences of almost
causing harm or possibly killing a spouse or lover they found
having sex with another person. All of them confessed that
there was instant anger, but something caused them to control a
violent reaction. One man said in a seminar that as he looks
back, he is happy he did not follow his first intent-to kill.
Another man said he fought the man, wounding him as he ran out
of the house. Why didn’t these men allow the need for revenge
lead to a lethal reaction? There is no real answer. However,
all of these men had a few things in common. 1. Their strong
childhood upbringing of faith and religion in their lives. 2.
Their respect for the dignity of human life. 3. Their freedom
from the need to control another person. They do not think of
their partner as a property asset 4. A strong sense of
self-control and discipline.
How would you
respond if you found your spouse in a compromising position?
If you are easily angered, quick tempered, obsessive, and
controlling you might be at greater risk to responding in a
dangerous way. The scary thing about these characteristics is
that they are not always visible. When one is known to be
manly and respectful, these characteristics can go undetected.
Their ugly faces may only be revealed through extreme anger and
revenge causing a gasoline-like combustion that is often lethal.
HOW TO PREVENT
THE VIOLENT RESPONSE
Perhaps the best
way to prevent revengeful, angry, lethal snaps is living a
peaceful, well disciplined life. Tell yourself, before you get
angry or enraged, that no good decision is ever made when one is
enraged. Keep the mind clear of revengeful thoughts. If you
constantly feed your mind with thoughts of vengeance, all it
needs is the right place and time and the explosion will take
place. Avoid the fantasy trap. Fantasying about what you
will do if someone causes you great pain is dangerous. With the
right time and opportunity the fantasy will turn into reality.
Realize that we are not the owners or bosses of others,
especially our spouses. Possessiveness is not healthy.
The bottom line is
the way you live will determine how you will die. Also, how you
deal with every-day stressors and if you possess a meek and
quiet spirit will lower your risk of responding in a deadly way
when the unexpected happens.
TWO KINDS OF
ANGER IN MARRIAGE
Several years ago I
wrote an article on managing conflict in marriage. I shared
that there is hot and cold anger. "Hot anger can be described
like this: In the first year of marriage, the husband speaks and
the wife listens. In the second year of marriage, the wife
speaks and the husband listens. In the third year of marriage,
both speak and the neighbors listen!" (Caring for Marriage,
1990) This is hot anger; it is excited and often cruel. It is
loud and frequently crushing. With hot anger you do have some
idea what the other person is thinking. It isn’t accurate, but
there may be some consolation that we care enough to be angry.
Cold anger, on the other hand, is like an iceberg. We can see
only the tip of it, and we have no idea what’s underneath. "It
can be devastating silence, coldness, strangers living under the
same roof. . . Cold anger can take another form. It can become
what we like to call being "an angelic phony"--- a covered up
courtesy that is full of pretense and deception. It says, "No
dear . . . Yes dear . . . Anything you’d like dear." But behind
the seemingly sweet words is the spirit of coldness, where
feelings have been anesthetized or worse extinguished" (Ibid).
What kind of anger do you have? Both are bad.
If you feel you
anger is getting out of control here are a few tips, from
various experts, to help prevent the explosion. 1. “Practice
Barrington H. Brennen
breathing. It is an anger control exercise that is
practiced by many people and with a high degree of success.
Whatever may be the reason for your anger, just close your
eyes, relax your mind and breathe deeply. Do so for a mere
sixty seconds and you'll instantly notice the impact that it
has on your rage or anger.” 2. Walk away. Take a time
out. As you feel the rage coming, move away from the
scene. Take time away from the environment where you can
process reasonably before you return to the scene. 3. “Relax
and visualize. Calm yourself down. Take a deep breath.
As you exhale, imagine all the bottled-up fury comes out of
your nose and mouth. Release it and be free. Repeat this
step over and over until you feel peace inside.
being in a place where you feel most happy, calm, and relaxed.
It may be a place like a beach, garden, scenic locations, or
anywhere else you might think of. Just imagine being there and
inhaling the essence of your serene environment. By doing this,
you will not find it hard to attain inner peace.” 4. “Listen
to soothing music.
It calms your soul. A
20-minute session of listening to relaxing music while resting
comfortably could soothe the upset spirit. Take deep breaths
often.” 5. Pray. Deadly consequences arise when people
cannot hold back their fury. Ask God for grace to control your
temper. Prayer brings inner peace to those who ask for it.
See next article for more on this subject.
Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and a board certified
clinical psychotherapist (USA). Send your questions to
or call 242-327 19809 or visit