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The Shrew Must Go On
A woman's husband has an affair, and they decide to put their marriage back together, but she can't stop going psycho. I just posted another Advice Goddess column. An excerpt from my answer here:

Greetings, Spurting Volcano Of Hate! Perhaps you’ve heard that venting anger will make it go away. It won’t. Anger begets anger. It also makes you stupid. Extreme emotional stress unleashes a chemical reaction called the “fight or flight” response, shutting down all systems except those you’d need to either club somebody or run like hell. Sure, this was an extremely helpful survival tool for our ancestors in the cave. And, in some ways, it’s still the perfect response -- for any woman married to a troubled leopard or a tribe of cannibals.

Your husband did pledge to be faithful to you. Oops, maybe he crossed his fingers! As upsetting as that must be, be honest: Is it his infidelity alone that turned you into the Denny’s of rage (no time’s the wrong time for a Grand Slam!), or does it have more to do with the head-on collision of reality and your expectations? Wham, bam, like a moose carcass through your rose-colored windshield, suddenly it’s all in your face: He’s human, he’s fallible, he isn’t the tower of ethics you closed your eyes and hoped he’d be. Stop erupting and start thinking, and you might acknowledge a few equally discomforting things about marriage; like, that it isn’t a simple solution to all life’s problems, but a whole new set of problems -- accessorized with a pornographically expensive set of china.

Sure, it’s easier to storm around picturing him naked with her -- which has to leave him picturing you fully clothed with a Home Depot salesman, pricing a nail gun and a couple of two-by-fours. By raging endlessly, you’re doing what he did, just without the sex -- avoiding the real issue, which is figuring out how to be married. But, first things first. Figure out whether you want a marriage more than you want revenge. If you’re up for a rebuild, stop screaming, start talking, and get reading -- “Surviving Infidelity” by Rona Subotnik and Gloria G. Harris and “How to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You” by Albert Ellis and Raymond Chip Tafrate. When you sense an explosion coming on, take deep breaths and think positive: Crazy as it seems, his affair could be the thing that saves your marriage. Yes, who knew? Maybe what it takes for you to live happily ever after is not the mythical perfect man but the real-life perfect floozy.

The question and the rest of my answer is here.

Posted by aalkon at November 11, 2006 9:06 AM

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Comments

I have no history with this issue...

But do you ever get the sense that the women who are most brittle about this boundary (and it's certainly an important boundary) are the ones who were never going to give their husbands any affirmative credit for being faithful anyway? Most men think of fidelity to one woman as a sacrifice even if they don't regret it, and they'd like props. A Disney culture that describes happy femininity as being adored like a Princess isn't helping anyone.

Posted by: Crid at November 11, 2006 2:43 PM

Amy, this was brilliant:

"By raging endlessly, you’re doing what he did, just without the sex -- avoiding the real issue, which is figuring out how to be married."

Back when I was young and in psychotherapy for an acute exacerbation of Icky Boyfriend Syndrome (IBS), I realized why I sometimes prefer unpleasant emotions such as anger or despair over figuring things out: On some really physical level, anger and despair are much more satisfying, and feel more "authentic," than thinking does. There's some kind of dark, infantile grandiosity in feeling the emotional victim.

Posted by: Lena at November 12, 2006 7:15 PM

What Lena said.

Posted by: Crid at November 12, 2006 8:02 PM

Women like the one who wrote in have a new national anthem: Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." Here's what she sings about doing while her boyfriend/husband is out with another woman:

"Well I dug my key into the side
of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats. . .
Took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all four tires.
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats."

Posted by: R at November 13, 2006 11:02 AM

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