Infidelity Counseling

Revenge, Rage, or Restraint? What To Do With Anger After Infidelity

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Recovering from an affair can be excruciating.

It doesn’t matter if you were the one betrayed or the one who did the betraying. Healing can prove to be a difficult journey. And along the path to healing, you will likely feel a great deal of anger after infidelity.

Sometimes, your anger might feel like a need for revenge and other times it could even feel like a rush of humiliated rage. While these feelings are natural, dealing with them in a healthy way might not come easily.

Here are a few tips on what to do with your post-affair anger.

Uncovering Your Anger

If you’re like most people, you probably agree that anger doesn’t often seem to need uncovering. Rather, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

You feel mad, right? Yet, there is more to anger than simply being ticked off.

Anger is often an expression of hurt. In terms of an affair, anger is usually the emotion standing center stage like a powerful singer, but it is not the painful emotion driving the song.

Emotions like fear, hurt, guilt, or inadequacy remain hidden behind the stage curtain, but they are the ones actually writing the harsh notes escaping your angry lips. In other words, anger is simply the emotion that upstages your other emotions most of the time. But those other emotions deserve more attention and anger needs more management.

So, how can you deal with the red-faced musician hogging the stage? How do you find relief?

Understanding Why Anger Isn’t the Problem

To be clear, anger is a normal reaction to an affair, both sides of an affair. An affair is traumatic. So, it’s only to be expected that intense feelings bubble up.

Feeling anger is okay. It’s all okay and it’s all natural.

Still, left unchecked by your internal management system, anger can forge a destructive path. It can be harmful to your mental and physical well-being, it can also be harmful to those around you, as you may say or do things in anger that ultimately destroy the relationship.

In short, what you do with your anger remains the issue. Not the anger itself.

Accepting Your Anger After Infidelity

Changing the past isn’t doable. This means that erasing an affair or its fallout isn’t possible either.

But, changing the future is within your control. And, believe it or not, anger has a lot to do with that.

When it comes to anger after infidelity, it’s important to let it come to you as it will. Respect your feelings and adopt a self-validating approach to these uncomfortable emotions.

You feel them for a reason, so allow yourself to feel them completely.

As well as feeling and validating your anger, make a commitment to expressing it. The hard part is knowing how to express your anger in a harmless way for you and others.

How to Express Your Anger

Expressing your anger might feel like you’re doing something wrong. It might even feel a little forbidden. Yet, when expressed appropriately, it can be very healthy.

What does it mean to express your anger appropriately?

For starters, avoid reacting towards another person in the heat of an angry moment. In fact, intense anger often requires a release far away from other people.

If you’re dealing with a whirlwind of toxic pent-up emotions, write it out. You don’t need spell check or even worry that anyone will be read it. Just write what you feel. Feel free to burn it later after you’ve released what you needed to.

Many times, anger is so overwhelming that you have to physically release it. Things like screaming into a pillow, hitting an old couch cushion, or a brisk walk for few minutes all help to release that steam.

If you’re having a hard time dealing with anger after infidelity, do not hesitate to reach out for help from a counseling professional. A counselor who works with couples and individuals in the aftermath of infidelity can help you navigate this tough time, and support you on your path to healing and helpful expression of your emotions.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with couples and individuals to help them heal after relationship infidelity. Contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Extramarital Affairs: 10 Excuses People Give For Having Them

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

People can offer many excuses for a variety of reasons, all to defend or justify a fault or offense.

Excuses for why a work project wasn’t completed on time, or for getting fired from their job after only two weeks. Excuses for coming home late every day after work for the past month, or perhaps claiming a speeding ticket was undeserved “because everyone drives over the speed limit on that road!”

We’ve all done it at one time or another. Given a perfectly plausible reason as a defense or justification for some act or behavior that was really our own fault. Excuses are a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions, whether the infraction was large or small.

When it comes to marriages and relationships with our partners, excuses about romantic involvement outside the relationship commitment is a slippery slope.

Men and women alike may give all sorts of reason for why they were unfaithful to their partner — from the most comprehensible to the most outrageous.

The truth is, any romantic involvement outside your committed relationship is damaging to your union with your partner. There is no justification for having an affair when you have made a commitment to someone.

A common misconception is that an extramarital affair is about having sex with someone other than your partner. The fact is, extramarital affairs include emotional affairs, sending notes and pictures via text, email, social media private messaging, or any other dalliance outside your committed relationship with your partner.

Here are a few common excuses that may be used when someone has been unfaithful to their marriage or committed relationship. Even though they may be used frequently, they don’t hold water when it comes to cheating on your partner.

Excuses for Infidelity

1: It’s not love, it’s just sex

Some truly believe that having an extramarital affair is acceptable if it’s purely about sex. They think their spouse has nothing to complain about if they don’t have an emotional connection to their affair partner. Saying “I don’t love them,” doesn’t make it any less hurtful for the faithful spouse or partner.

2: I can’t help it

“I’m made this way” is an excuse that some may use. The notion that genetic influences or primitive instincts cancel out a person’s responsibility for relationship choices has no substance. If you “can’t help” but be unfaithful to your partner, there is likely a problem other than your relationship that needs to be addressed.

3: I don’t know why I did it

Completely renouncing responsibility for an emotional or a physical affair, is like saying you have no control over what you watch on television or how much you eat. Of course, there are a lot of factors that play into making decisions, and some things can influence a person to make bad choices.  In the end, it’s still a choice that is made and saying, “I don’t know why I did it,” is avoiding exploration of what happened and owning the relationship infidelity.

4: Technology made it easy

No debate here! The Internet, cell phones, and social media have made flirting and cybersex something accessible and easy to engage in. Of course, not everyone is hoping to eventually meet in-person someone they have been engaging with via text messages, private messages on social media, email, or other websites. Still, even “just” doing these things online is a breach of contract for any monogamous relationship. It’s a betrayal of a commitment to a spouse or partner, and it’s just as hurtful as an emotional or physical extramarital affair.

5: The other person made me feel good

After years of being with one person, it’s not surprising that a person seeks affirmation that they’re still attractive, interesting, funny, intelligent, etc. Instead of addressing this concern with their spouse and working on reconnecting, some may find it easier to look outside their marriage or relationship for the fulfillment of their emotional needs—affection, attraction, admiration, and conversation. Looking outside the relationship for affirmation may seem harmless at first, but it leads to further disconnection and emotional distance from your partner, which is not the direction to be going for healing your relationship.

6: My needs aren’t met

When one partner doesn’t have the same drive or interest in sexual activities as their partner, some people think it is perfectly acceptable to indulge in their fantasies with someone else. The underlying problem may be a lack of clear communication between the partners about sex in the relationship. It may be something else entirely. But, addressing this with your spouse or partner is the place to start having your needs met. Seeking professional help if you can’t see eye-to-eye on how to meet each other’s needs is a good next step.

7: My spouse has changed

People change over time. We all learn, grow, and change as the years move on. When someone falls in love with certain personality traits or looks, “they’re not the same person I met,” may sound like a plausible excuse for being unfaithful. Maybe they feel their spouse has changed physically, philosophically, or perhaps there is more focus on the children than on the relationship. Maybe romantic gestures and kindnesses of courtship are distant memories. Rather than look outside your relationship, look for the things you fell in love with that are still present in your partner. Successful couples grow together and continue to learn about each other through the life of their relationship, even as one or both changes.

8: We weren’t meant for each other

If the complex dynamics of a long-term relationship become unbalanced, some people may begin to feel that they married the wrong person. Maybe they believe they married too young or were too inexperienced to make a good choice for a life partner. If a balance isn’t reestablished, frustration often rises, fighting ensues, and soon they’re looking for a way out.

9: I’m unhappy/bored

The demands of making a living and raising a family can wreak havoc on romance. Moreover, a lack of communication and connection can lead to feeling unhappy. The excuse of having “fallen out of love” with their spouse, though, only serves to stifle an underlying sense of guilt and responsibility and makes a person more vulnerable to extramarital affairs. Some feel that an affair will make their life more exciting and spice up their marriage. The excuse of boredom for cheating on your partner is unfair to you, to your partner, and to your union as a couple. Being bored in your relationship happens sometimes, and that’s a signal that it’s time to focus on your relationship and find ways to become “un-bored” in your relationship or marriage.

10: My partner did it, so I can too

It can sometimes happen that, in the aftermath of an extramarital affair, the betrayed partner often feels as though they “deserve” to even the playing field by having an affair of their own. Unfortunately, this adds insult to injury. By adding another wound to the relationship, the couple can be even further from finding trust again.

This list could go on and on. The list of damages extramarital affairs cause is just as long!

While something may be driving a person to be unfaithful, the choice to go through with it is never the faithful partner’s fault. However, understanding the underlying reasons can help both parties to move on, or perhaps repair their broken relationship. Often, the help of a counseling professional who specializes in working with couples is a step that can get your relationship back on solid ground.

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Jill Baumgarner is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Her practice specialty is working with couples to help them with infidelity recovery, sexual health, regain intimacy in their relationship, and improve communication skills. Request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page, or call her at 512-270-4883, ext. 108.


Infidelity and Broken Trust: 5 Reasons Why Couples Counseling is Your Best Option

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Few things can disrupt your relationship like infidelity.

While infidelity doesn’t have to end your relationship, it is a major cry for help.

Couples counseling can help salvage your relationship after a betrayal like infidelity.

Why Couples Counseling Is Your Best Option

1. Express Anger with a Third Party Present

If you’re the betrayed party, your anger can be intense and righteous. This anger should lessen over time, but it is likely to be very strong in the early stages after you discover it.

It’s understandable and natural to feel and express anger in this situation. But it’s wiser to do it with a neutral third party. You can still vent your anger, but a counselor can help you do it in a less damaging way.

2. Check the Root Causes

Some people may have other issues that can make infidelity more likely to occur. Addiction to alcohol or drugs commonly occur, but substance addiction is never an excuse for cheating. Yet, an addiction is often brought to light after discovering infidelity. You can encourage your addicted partner to get help for that issue as well.

Jobs are another common factor in infidelity. People in certain professions are more likely to cheat on their partners. Some may even have to change jobs to decrease temptation.

3. Identify and Address Underlying Issues

The unfaithful partner is always responsible for his or her own actions. But infidelity is also rarely an act that occurs in a vacuum. Unaddressed issues in your relationship need to be out into the open.

Many couples have hidden resentments in their relationship that are never addressed. But this can create the kind of environment that allows infidelity to occur. Resentments do need to be addressed so that both partners can move past them.

Talking about past resentments isn’t going to be comfortable. It will likely include at least one difficult conversation, if not several of them. Non-judgmental listening will help your partner feel safe enough to share these feelings. But you may not be able to have this conversation without a mediator. This discussion is best held in the safe environment of a counselor’s office. 

4. Learn to Prevent Future Infidelity

Unfortunately, there’s no 100 percent foolproof infidelity fighter. But strengthening your relationship makes infidelity less likely. Expect some time for healing if your partner was the unfaithful one. It’s okay if you aren’t ready to invest in your relationship yet.

Having more positive interactions will help restore your relationship. These efforts also help to prevent future infidelity. But you will likely need some help to discover the right actions to take. Both partners need to learn how to show love and appreciation to each other.

Though, you need to learn how to do it in a manner that the other can appreciate. It’s like starting over again—but this time, you get help to do things the right way.

5. How to Reestablish Trust

Rebuilding trust after infidelity is a long and difficult process. The offending party likely wants to be forgiven right away and to put things behind them. But it will take time to establish the trust that was lost.

This generally requires a series of steps by the unfaithful partner to prove accountability. They may need to be more transparent about where they’re spending their time. They may need to share access for social media, email and even bank account information. And they may have to give up some privacy to prove their trustworthiness.

A counselor can help you determine the unique steps you need to take to help you rebuild trust.

Unquestionably, infidelity is a difficult experience in any relationship. But it doesn’t have to spell the end. When you still love each other, couples counseling can help you heal the rift. You can even make things better than they were before.

Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern is a couples therapist at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin (RCC Austin). She works with couples recovering from relationship infidelity, helping them to regain emotional connection and to reignite the erotic spark they once had. Call her at 512-270-4883, ext. 108 to schedule. You may also request an appointment with her by submitting the completed form on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page and request her as your counselor.