“When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it. Don’t try to take it away. Grief and pain…are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They’re sacred.” Glennon Doyle Melton
It was as close to love at first sight as you could probably get. He was a bit of a bad boy, but she couldn’t resist. The attraction between them was palpable 20 years ago and she still remembers that day they met.
Four years later, they married and had a son within a year. As his career began to take off, they moved around the country a lot, her placing her career on hold so that his could soar. Taking care of the home and raising a strong-willed teen was no walk in the park and as his need to travel for business increased, my client, Elizabeth felt increasingly alone in her marriage and lost in her life.
This was the time where they both began to change, him becoming more arrogant and irritated; her becoming more nagging and resentful. He also began to work out more. His business trips became longer and were scheduled to go in on the weekends.
She knew he was slipping away from her, but she didn’t know how to fix it and the distance between them was thousands of miles, both physically and emotionally.
The day she uncovered his affair was when the bottom fell out of her life.
It wasn’t a one-night stand…this was a relationship. This was someone he cared about. This was someone he had been sharing his heart with.
When our mothers found out about an affair in their day, it was through lipstick on a collar or a receipt absent-mindedly left in a pocket. But today, when women find out about their husband’s affair, it’s a tidal wave of evidence slamming you to the ground again and again and again:
Text messages, emails, social media site messages, fake profiles, dating sites, cell phone bills, credit card bills, digital photos, browser histories, GPS and tracking devices…the digital trail of betrayal is almost never-ending.
Elizabeth was crushed, spending most of her days in sadness and despair.
But every once in a while, she felt anger and rage – which frankly was a breath of fresh air compared to her sadness and despair. But it didn’t last long.
Because as women, we don’t know how to DO anger.
We know how to feel.
We know how to do grief and fear.
We even know how to do worry and frustration.
But anger and rage aren’t emotions that we were allowed to feel as young girls, mostly because it made those around us uncomfortable. Even now, as grown women, we’ll live with fear and regret before we get comfortable with a little healthy anger, blame and self-righteousness.
Although you were never told this, there is some good that comes with anger: You can take action from a place of anger, where you cannot when you’re slammed to the ground in despair.
You’re allowed to own both your sadness and your anger when people hurt you.
You’re allowed to feel a perfectly rational emotion (even if it makes others uncomfortable).
You’re allowed to use your anger as fuel to help you move forward.
- Sometimes that looks like leaving the relationship to protect yourself from being hurt again.
- Sometimes that looks like being able to forgive the hurt and stay together as a couple.
- Sometimes, it even looks like trying to save the marriage, trying to fix what was broken in the relationship before the affair ever happened, trying to create something new together and moving forward (rather than backward).
Even after all this pain and hurt, Elizabeth tells me how her heart still goes “pitter-patter” when she looks at the man she chose to spend her life with. She knows healing her heart won’t be easy and creating a new, different kind of relationship with her husband isn’t for the faint of heart. But she’s going to try anyway and through our work together, I don’t know if her marriage will ultimately be transformed, but I know she will be.