The third kind of denial women like us on the journey can experience is a bit different. It is not a denial of your husband’s sexual addiction but a refusal to acknowledge the pain and loss his behaviors have brought in your life. In my experience, this kind of denial shows up outwardly in two ways in a woman’s life: consuming anger and frantic busy-ness.
Let me try to clarify something about anger. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process. In a healthy grieving cycle, anger comes in intervals lasting a few minutes to several hours. Sometimes these are periods of intense, murderous rage that demand some physical action. These are the times you feel like hitting him or hurting him in some way. Other times the anger is less explosive but more pervasive. You might feel like you’ll vomit if he touches you, that you can’t stay in the same room with him. As long as you are talking through your anger with safe people, journaling, exercising, or using some other physical outlet to deal with your anger, and feeling other emotions besides anger, you are probably experiencing the normal anger that comes with grieving. There is a different kind of anger, however, and it lends itself toward denial. Let me explain.
When we are angry, our bodies respond physiologically, preparing to act in some way. We feel more powerful, more in control, and less vulnerable. Getting angry at your husband’s sexual sin and betrayal is normal and healthy. Staying angry is not. Why? First, anger keeps you from feeling sympathetic emotions and prevents you from connecting with others. When you are angry, you are on the defensive. All self-protective walls are up and you have two goals: to protect yourself from getting hurt and to attack the one who is trying to (or already has) hurt you. This consuming anger keeps your husband as the bad guy, and you are unable to see yourself clearly. It also shields you from feeling the pain of your losses. That’s where the denial part comes in. Your heart says, “If I don’t let myself feel the painful stuff, if I stay angry, I won’t have to suffer and I won’t have to acknowledge that my life as I know it is over.” Of course, that’s all a subconscious process. We’ll talk more about anger later this week, but I do want you to be aware that if you are struggling with constant anger toward your spouse, you are also denying yourself the opportunity to feel the real losses you are experiencing and to heal. (You are probably also damaging your body greatly. Chronic anger and good physical health cannot co-exist.)
–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One