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Wayward Side :
Anger and Defensiveness

Topic is Sleeping.
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 MrsStrangelove (original poster new member #80364) posted at 11:20 AM on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

My husband and I are 10 1/2 months from dday. The thing I seem to continue struggling with is how to cope with the difficult feelings that he is experiencing. This is routinely the root cause of most of my issues. He will communicate how he feels and I move into one of two directions: people please or start to get angry and defensive. Every 4-6 weeks I get caught into the same web. We will argue, then we will analyze the argument at home and then in couple's counseling. Ultimately it ends up pushing him away, makes me feel terrible - we become distant and then over a few weeks the tension begins to clear.
I know why the defensiveness and anger comes out - I spent a majority of my old relationship resistent to any type of confrontation. I cowered at it and would hide from it and in turn I felt I couldn't share how I was feeling. There last 10 months I have been no stranger to confrontation. I am not trying to stake ground or feel that I want to win the argument, I just want to be heard. Ultimately this path is not working. As he said yesterday, "we are two just very sad people right now."
I read some posts this morning and meditation was suggested on one of the threads. I have read some of the books recommended by the members: Rising Strong was one of them. Maybe there is the opportunity to re-read the book. As I'm posting this I realize there is probably an opportunity to re-read the book How to Help your Spouse Heal From Your Affair. They mention in that book several times not to get defensive.

Me: WW, 38
Him: BS, 38
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (EA and PA)
DDay: 3/22
Status: Attempting R

posts: 6   ·   registered: Jun. 6th, 2022   ·   location: United States
id 8775483
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Oldwounds ( member #54486) posted at 5:15 PM on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

My wife still tends to be conflict avoidant and she has to work very hard to drop her instinct to be defensive.

That’s tough in any normal relationship.

It’s far more difficult when one partner is recovering from the horror show trauma of infidelity.

And for my wife, she was always trying to explain she isn’t THAT bad of a person (she’s not, she’s a fantastic person who made horrible, hurtful choices, and both of those factors are a part of nearly every discussion for the first year or two of recovery).

I didn’t need her to defend herself, I needed to be heard.

During infidelity the BS is invisible and doesn’t exist. Some level of understanding needs to be established so that a BS is able to vent and be seen and heard over and over again until they believe they mean something to their spouse again.

You want to be heard too, I get that. A relationship requires two people to be all in for the other. It just takes a long time to heal.

Six and a half years in, I make sure there is balance, but there are still some moments where I need to vent a bit, and I love that my wife is so patient with me, and then we have a better day the rest of the way.

That book (How to Help Your Spouse Heal) was something my wife read all the time. She started every single day listening to me, and it helped us a ton.

It didn’t mean she was perfect, or she didn’t get defensive now and again, she just made such an effort to make me feel like I was her guy, to make me feel heard, that I (eventually) made sure there was a proper balance in the M. She attacked our recovery with a she broke it, she WANTED to fix it mentality. None of it was easy. None of it. But we did find our way through.

Married 35+ years, together 41+ years
Two awesome adult sons.
Dday 6/16 4-year LTA Survived. M Restored.
"It is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it." — Seneca

posts: 4699   ·   registered: Aug. 4th, 2016   ·   location: Home.
id 8775533
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DaddyDom ( member #56960) posted at 7:32 PM on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

I just want to be heard.

By who? By him? Or by yourself?

When I was at a similar point in my recovery as you are, I found myself asking many of the same questions, and feeling the way that you express. What seemed to frustrate me most of all was that, no matter what I said or did, somehow, everyone (my wife, the IC/MC, people at SI) kept telling me that I was making everything about me. On one hand, to me it felt as if I spent every waking second thinking of her, doing things for her, trying to please her, trying to apologize... I would write her volumes of letters expressing love, regret, sorrow, support, everything that everyone kept telling me that I was completely devoid of. I just could not understand what the hell they meant. How could I spend every waking second of my day thinking of her and yet be constantly told that I think of no one and nothing but myself?

As time went on however, and as I learned to dig more deeply into my recovery, I started to understand what they were saying. And they were right. I just had my head so far up my ass that all I could see was my own shit.

I'm going to pick a few pieces out of what you wrote, and make some observations. I want to make it clear that I'm not "attacking" you here or trying to make you feel bad in any way. My goal is to try and help you to frame a few things from your husband's point of view, and maybe it will help you to see where some of the communication breakdown is occurring. Okay?

The thing I seem to continue struggling with is how to cope with the difficult feelings that he is experiencing.

I want you to imagine that someone, without warning, just punched you hard in the face. As you stand there in pain, in shock, bleeding, unsure of what the hell just happened and why, your attacker starts to tell you that you aren't being sympathetic to how much his hand hurts from punching you. The more you try to get him to show some genuine remorse or concern for your well-being and the sheer fact that they just attacked you, the more they push back, accusing YOU of not hearing them, of not caring about their pain, and telling you that having to deal with your pain (from their attack) is too much for them. How would you feel about the attacker's response? Do you feel they care more about what they just did you, or more about how it's affecting THEM?

Your husband feels attacked and blindsided by your infidelity. It's not that he doesn't care that you are hurting, but since you were the sole cause of both his pain and your own, it is also hard to feel sorry for you, and the fact that you are, in essence, blaming his pain, that you caused, for causing your own pain, is insulting. In the same way that you wouldn't care if the guy who punched you hurt his hand, your husband doesn't care that you are struggling. It's not a punishment on his part, it is a natural consequence of your own actions. What's grinding his gears the most is that when he tries to express his own pain to you, you react by getting mad at HIM! And then you get bent out of shape, and why? Because of HIS feelings being too much for you, the person who caused his pain, to have to deal with.

There is no reason for you to get defensive or angry with him. You were the abuser, he was the victim. Any other story you tell yourself is just another justification or excuse for having done the wrong thing. So if that's the case, then who are you really angry at? What are you really angry about? Well, there are only two people in this relationship, so if it's not him... it's you.

I move into one of two directions: people please or start to get angry and defensive.

Both of these feelings are about ourselves, and both of them are manipulative in nature. Why do we people please? Because we want others to like us, to praise us, to make us feel special, wanted, needed, loved. But when we people please, are we being genuine? No, otherwise, we'd just be ourselves. If we're not being genuine, then we are being disingenuous. If we are being disingenuous, then that means that we are being deceitful in some way, and in most cases, trying to obtain some personally desired outcome, so in other words, manipulative. To recap, people pleasing involves being disingenuous and manipulative in order to achieve a specific outcome we desire.

Given what I just said, does people-pleasing sound like a loving and caring way to be? Or does it sound selfish?

The thing is, your husband understands this. When you try to please him, he knows it, it feels disingenuous to him. He feels manipulated, he feels lied to, and those are EXACTLY the same things he felt during the affair. In other words, trying to people please with him will likely have the opposite effect from what you desire. It only proves to him that nothing has changed, that YOU have not changed. And if you have not changed, then there is nothing to talk about, no love can be rebuilt.

As we already said, getting angry and defensive is also not going to achieve anything, other than again proving to him that nothing has changed and that you can only see your own pain. His pain, from his perspective, is something you "admit", but don't really "own". What do I mean by that? Well, let's discuss getting punched in the face again. Imagine that, instead of complaining about his hand, your attacker instead said, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry! You didn't deserve that at all! Are you okay? Here, let me call an ambulance for you. Don't worry about the bills, I'll pay for everything, and if you can't work, I'll take care of you until you heal. Let me help you sit up, you seem woozy. Can I get you anything in the meantime? Listen, this is not acceptable of me. I don't want to be this person. I'm going to sign up for anger management classes today, and also turn myself into the police and face my punishment. You may not care and I don't blame you for that, but I promise you, I'm going to change into a better person and make sure I never do this to you or anyone else again." How would you feel about that, as opposed to the "hey you hurt my hand!" response? The second response shows ownership, it shows empathy, it shows concern, and most of all, it shows a willingness to do the right things even though some of those things will be painful and hard, because the person won't be able to sleep at night unless they do something.

When you are able to get to a place where you "own" and are responsible for what you did, that may open the door to your husband being able to "hear you". But you have to actually hear him first. That's how it works.

I just want to be heard. Ultimately this path is not working.

Exactly. So stop taking this path and take a better one. Let's get back to that... who are you really mad at, and why? Sure, you are made at yourself for having an affair, that's the easy part. But why did you have an affair? Have you always prided yourself on your ability to lie, cheat, gaslight others and live with no boundaries or self-respect? Probably not. My guess is that you probably thought of yourself as a good person before all this shit went down. So if that's the case, then how did that "good person" turn into someone who ended up lying, betraying, cheating, etc?

THAT'S the question you need to be asking yourself right now. And that's the one answer I can't provide so easily for you. That's where IC comes in, that's where Brene Brown comes in, and most of all, that's where a lot of self-honesty and reflection comes in. For me, I had to go back to my childhood, and deal with some physical abuse, some sexual abuse, some bullying, some neglect... you get the picture. I needed to understand that I never really felt worthy of love, and that when things were going right, it was in my nature to fuck it up so that I could prove to myself that I wasn't worth anything. I used others to provide my own self-worth. I people pleased so that they would love me, and that worked great... until it didn't. The moment people didn't shower me with love and praise, I would tank and fall apart, and get desperate to get that feeling of love and acceptance back again. I would have done anything to feel better... even lie, cheat, and betray. You'll have to do your own work of course. Once you understand why you really did what you did, then you make decisions, make changes, and when you are able to love yourself without needing approval from others (such as your husband), then you'll find that the anger and defensiveness magically go away, forever.

Again, I hope I did not offend you here. My intention was not to be harsh, but to be honest, and share with you the very same things I had to find and deal with in myself, which is what makes it easier to see in someone else as well. What happens now is up to you. You can't control your husband or how he feels. But you can be a better person, and when you are not so worried about your own pain, it opens the door for you to be there for others in the way they need you to be. That's a good thing.

[This message edited by DaddyDom at 8:28 PM, Tuesday, January 31st]

Me: WS
BS: ISurvivedSoFar
D-Day Nov '16
Status: Reconciling
"I am floored by the amount of grace and love she has shown me in choosing to stay and fight for our marriage. I took everything from her, and yet she chose to forgive me."

posts: 1435   ·   registered: Jan. 18th, 2017
id 8775554
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SI Staff ( Moderator #10) posted at 1:10 AM on Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

The Stop Sign has been added to this thread. Betrayed Spouses are no longer able to respond.

posts: 10033   ·   registered: May. 30th, 2002
id 8775602
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 MrsStrangelove (original poster new member #80364) posted at 6:52 PM on Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

OldWounds. You're post made me tear up, becuase I felt that love for her. This is exactly what I needed to read. At times I'm not listening.

[And for my wife, she was always trying to explain she isn’t THAT bad of a person (she’s not, she’s a fantastic person who made horrible, hurtful choices, and both of those factors are a part of nearly every discussion for the first year or two of recovery).]

DaddyDom, I don't feel offended or "attacked." I think you are right in all capacities. Very much like your early journey I was writing to him and it wasn't getting anywhere. I spent hours just spinning my wheels thinking this is what he needs to hear. He needs to hear I'm an awful person who made an awful choice.

Then I started to action on some of the things and noticed an improvement. The stuggle of the journey has also been managing anxiety. Last year anxiety manifested in the way of drinking and spending too much money as well as hiding an affair. I've spent the year re-building what I lost. There are days I feel I can conquer all his needs and other days that I want to cry becuase how could I do this to him. Watch him struggle with the anxiety of feeling inadequate, alone.

I think you have a great view on people pleasing. I had never thought of it has manipulative; however you are very accurate in the description. It is seeking the validation and affirmation from others that I haven't given myself yet. Seeking that value because I was always an insecure person and then it progessively got worse in my adolescent years until one day I was having sex with several different men in college and giving away my body because I needed that validation that I was "liked, pretty." It seems very shallow when you boil it down.

This month has been particularly challenging as it was the anniversary of the first time me and my AP had sex. I have felt the weight of how it has impacted him all month.

I think you are right. I need to remind myself of what I can control. I can control being a better person so in turn I'm a better wife. Thank you!

Me: WW, 38
Him: BS, 38
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (EA and PA)
DDay: 3/22
Status: Attempting R

posts: 6   ·   registered: Jun. 6th, 2022   ·   location: United States
id 8775685
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drpod ( new member #82975) posted at 6:39 PM on Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

WS Only

[This message edited by SI Staff at 12:05 AM, Thursday, March 16th]

posts: 7   ·   registered: Feb. 28th, 2023   ·   location: New York
id 8782349
Topic is Sleeping.
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