Infidelity as Aggression

Have you been wondering why the man who cheated on you is also so furious at you?  Where does he get  off blaming you when he was the one who cheated?   When my ex told me he was leaving I kept asking him why he was so angry at me, what did I do that was so terrible?   He insisted that it wasn’t about me.  “Why do you always think everything is about you.” he’d snap at me..  I guess he  meant it was about her – he fell in love with someone else.   Then why was he so angry at me?  Why did he blame me for the demise of the relationship, why did he seem to feel entitled to leave me for someone else, why the constant rage?   I was bewildered by that.

“Dumping someone is certainly an act of fear, aggressiveness and symbolic violence .  When an individual dumps a partner he expresses narcissistic rage comparable to a child’s temper tantrum,” explains sociologist Catherine B. Silver, in an essay in Cut Loose; edited by Nan Bauer-Maglin.    This is the difference between men who are simply unfaithful but want to stay in the marriage and men who find someone else and dump their wives-the act of aggression.   Why are some men so cruel?    It’s all about neediness.   He needs you to admire and approve of him, but hates himself for having these unacceptable, “unmanly”  needs.      Men see us on some level as their mothers and when mommy lets them down they get mad, especially if their actual mommies  let them down when they were kids.    My ex’s mom let him down big time by totally ignoring his emotional needs.  I was supposed to take mommy’s place and be the big tit, but I fell down on the job.   When men hit middle age this internal conflict intensifies because they see that most of their life is over and they’re never going to get whatever it was they wanted from mommy,  i.e admiration, unconditional love. They direct their hatred at us, their longtime wife/mommy combo, because they’re so dependent on us.  Finding a new love  cuts the umbilical cord.  Of course the same pattern repeats with the new love, but by that time the marriage is long over.

I couldn’t understand why my ex never expressed remorse for what he’d done to me,  just  regret at what our daughter suffered.  He’d always been extremely concerned about me while we were married, worried about my health, mental and physical.  He’d always apologized every time he blew up at me.  I was stunned at his coldness.   He did say to me on various occasions that he felt “guilty” but he never apologized or showed any empathy for my suffering.   “Infidelity is harder on women, who are more vulnerable to feelings while men are a law unto themselves,”  explains   psychoanalyst Simone Sternberg.  “Men don’t allow themselves to empathize with women’s suffering.  It’s too threatening.  Also  underneath male supposed indifference or even hostility is self-hate which they project onto  the wife.  They can’t afford to empathize or they’ll have to experience the full force of that emotion.”  This went a long to way to explain Zeke’s cruelty.

Unfaithful husbands-even husbands who have always been loving– can be inexplicably brutal.   The incongruence between you makes it all worse.  He’s already found a new partner, and doesn’t feel the loss of the marriage.  You, on the other hand, are shattered, terrified of the future and  collapsing on friends and relatives.  His  happiness  is the unkindest cut of all.   He’s already detached from you, or is in the process of detaching, which makes him excruciatingly insensitive.   For us older women this scenario is even more painful, since the departing husband has found love, usually with a younger woman,  and we knows that we’re unlikely to do the same–our  years of prime sexual attractiveness are over and  available men will be few and far between at our age.   I was furious that  my husband waited so  long to leave when he insisted  he’d been unhappy since day one,,  Then why hadn’t he left on day two when I was young enough to find another partner?.  He admitted he never could have left unless he’d found another woman, which was honest at least.

Sheree, a tall impeccably dressed brunette girlfriend,  fifty-two, was treated despicably by her unfaithful ex despite her description of  her marriage as “fun, more good times than bad.  We both had a sense of adventure, we were good partners, a good team, worked together well as  parents, coached Little League together.  But five or six years ago he started to keep secrets, became nasty and distancing.”   This didn’t prepare her for what he told her when he left for another woman.  She relates with bewilderment and hurt that said “he was counting the days until the kids graduated from high school to leave.  He told me he hated me.  He’d had a plan to leave for twelve years before he left.”    Her husband, who had always been a good father, refuses to see his children now because they won’t accept his girlfriend.

When Sheree was in my divorce support group a few years ago she still hadn’t totally absorbed his brutality, she still called him looking for approval.     I’m happy to report that she no longer wants his approval, just the money he owes her. Emotionally she has finally “moved on.”