My wife of 20 years has been lying to me about an “office” affair with a man. I know she is lying because I have taped conversations in my home, checked the GPS in her car and even saw her with my own eyes kissing this man in a local park near her office. At one time, I downloaded her cell phone bill for two years and it showed over 500 calls to this individual. I hacked her e-mail account and found a very sexually explicit e-mail to him from her. I copied her cell phone’s stored voicemail messages from him to her.
After confronting her with the facts, she said he is not a part of her life and it was no big deal. I do not trust or believe her in the slightest way. I am distraught by these events and need guidance. My anger toward her is building daily. She will not tell the truth. I can handle the truth.
Help before I lose my temper and do the wrong thing.
– A reader
Thank goodness you wrote when you did. I can see that your racing mind feeds your anger, which in turn gets your mind thinking even faster. It sounds like you are on the verge of losing control. So let’s see how we can help you back away, catch your breath and rethink this crisis.
Most of our mothers told us to count to 10 when we were upset. Turns out they were right. So even before you finish reading this letter, close your eyes and follow your breath – 10 times. Every time your mind races away, gently bring it back to that breath you are following. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it could be very helpful. And notice how every exhalation is really an act of letting go. With practice, this might help you let go of some of this rage.
OK, now we can talk. Two things are going on in your marriage. One is your wife’s extramarital behavior and dishonesty, and the other is your obsessive behavior and anger. Yes, you could say that you are rageful because of her dishonesty, and you might be right. But at this point it doesn’t matter. Your anger and preoccupation is now the more urgent problem (and the only one over which you have control). And you seem to know that already, since your only direct request of me was about helping you control your temper.
Part of your brain is in obsessive pursuit of truth or justice. That’s logical: Anyone who has been hurt looks to repair the source of the pain in order to feel better. Unfortunately, it won’t work. Even if she were to admit that she has been unfaithful, at this point it would only make you feel more justified in your anger. You need peace even more than you need justice.
Obviously, there are major problems in your marriage that must be dealt with. To be frank, there is no way of knowing whether it will survive this crisis. Of course her dishonesty is immoral and hurtful and needs to be addressed. And your anger is dangerous to both of you. So try to turn your focus away from her and toward you. Underneath your rage is a man who has been hurt terribly. You may be feeling vulnerable, abandoned, anxious or ashamed. But whatever you are feeling or why, you need care and support.
Consider this analogy: Many people who are married to drug addicts and alcoholics become obsessed with their spouse. Just like you, they keep trying to find evidence with which they can confront their alcoholic partner in order to convince them they are out of control and need help. Meanwhile, the sober spouse is not sleeping, often not eating, and performing poorly at work because he or she is so obsessed with the other. At that point, there are two people in the family who are ill and need care.
Nothing can change until you take care of yourself. Seek therapy, first for yourself and then, perhaps, with your wife.