I sometimes hear from wives who are very surprised at their husband’s reaction after he has been caught having an affair. Many had assumed that if they ever found out that their husband was cheating, that they were going to absolutely furious. When or if this doesn’t happen, they can be quite confused as to why this has occurred.
I heard from a wife who said: “my husband came to me and admitted to an affair. He said that he couldn’t live in secrecy anymore and he wanted to tell me before I found out and ended our marriage. He promised to end things with the other woman and he was crying and carrying on. For a while, I just sat there silently because I had no idea how to react. I was so shocked that I was pretty speechless. I assumed that the anger would come, but so far, it hasn’t. I’m honestly just kind of numb. There’s some sadness. And there is definitely some disappointment. But I’m not really furious. At least not yet. Does this mean something? Does my lack of anger mean that my marriage is over? Does it mean that I don’t love my husband? Does it mean that I feel guilty for letting my marriage and myself go?”
These questions were really hard to answer. I do have some theories as to why you may not feel the anger that you may have expected. I will discuss some of them below.
Sometimes The Anger Comes With The Passage Of Time: The wife was right in suspecting that she was likely shocked. Sometimes, you are just so stunned that a strong emotional reaction isn’t possible because it ends up being delayed. Sometimes, things will seem quite calm and flat and then, seemingly out of nowhere, you will suddenly feel the fury that you’ve been expecting all along. And sometimes, this anger comes out when you least expect it. I can remember feeling absolute fury at my husband at times when he was actually being sweet and trying to make amends. I remember feeling that I would have loved his behavior if I wasn’t doubting it. Because for a while after the affair, I always wondered if his sweetness was really sincere. And then I would get angry at him for even creating the situation. Sometimes, recovery brings conflicting feelings. You will actually be happy in the moment, and then all of a sudden you will remember the affair and you’re suddenly angry and let down again. This is unfortunate but normal.
Some Wives Are Just Numb. And Sometimes, This Is A Defense Mechanism: I sometimes hear from wives who tell me that they are just numb. They swear they aren’t feeling much of anything. Sometimes, you close yourself off from your feelings because they are hurtful and problematic. Perhaps subconsciously, you worry that if you let your feelings out, they are going to be painful and overwhelming. Your thoughts might tell you that if you let go, you might be rendered in the fetal position on the bedroom floor. But if you stay numb, at least you can function. Not only that, but staying numb allows you to feel as if you are in control. And when your husband has an affair, you can feel a real loss of control. After all, you didn’t do anything wrong. But, as unfair as it is, you can feel as if you are now at the mercy of his actions. This can leave you feeling that your life is a mess and out of control through no fault of your own. But, if you can at least control your feelings or keep them reigned in, this can sometimes feel empowering. The problem of course is that if you don’t release your feelings, they are going to build and build until they begin to manifest themselves in negative ways.
If You Are Still Invested In Your Marriage, Look For Constructive Ways to Release Any Anger You Might Have: Many wives suspect that they are not angry because they just don’t care about their husband or their marriage since he jeopardized those same marriage vows. I suppose this is possible, but I often have my doubts about this. Even if you aren’t sure about your husband or your marriage anymore, it’s normal (and even healthy) to be angry when someone hurts and betrays you.
That’s why I think that it can be helpful to journal when you’re worried about your feelings or lack of them. Just write whatever comes to your mind, and you’ll often find that it eventually all comes pouring out. And when it does, it’s quite the relief.
Many wives ask me if they should try to force their anger or even if they should worry about it. I don’t think it’s healthy to force anything. But I do think it’s best just to be open, still and to allow whatever feelings come as they will. Dealing with an affair is difficult. You don’t need to evaluate or apologize for anything that you are or are not feeling.
So to answer to the question posed, a lack of anger after an affair can mean a few different things, including a need for control, a numbness, or a delayed reaction. But it certainly doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you or that any of this is your fault. And it doesn’t always have implications for your marriage or your ability to save it.