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Revenge!
by Peggy Vaughan

I know that feelings of revenge (whether toward the spouse or the third party) are quite common when in the midst of such intense pain from a partner's affair. However, I didn't personally experience revenge feelings in any depth - because it seemed so useless. I couldn't see how those kinds of "thoughts" could help me, and I intuitively knew that I would not feel better if I "acted" on any such feelings - and, in fact, would almost certainly feel worse. I took a certain pride in my standards of ethics and integrity, and didn't want to lower myself by acting on (or even dwelling on) things that would diminish who I was.

Through the years as I have worked with people struggling with feelings of revenge, I have gotten even stronger in my belief that this is at best "counterproductive" and at worst, "destructive" to the process of recovery. That's because the intensity of the feelings actually works against someone's own best interests - since the painful feelings are actually reinforced and strengthened by these words or actions, not diminished.

While thoughts of revenge (or even some actions aimed at revenge) may provide a momentary relief, this usually does not lead a person to actually feel better about themselves or their situation in the long run - which may actually slow down the process of recovery.

You may notice, for instance, that I try to avoid ALL "loaded" words for this reason; I don't use "infidelity, adultery, cheating," etc.... They simply inflame the already raw emotions and delay healing. And since using loaded words is one of the ways of reinforcing feelings of revenge, these two issues are closely connected.

The impact of constantly focusing on your pain and rehashing the reasons for the pain actually makes it more (instead of less) difficult to deal with the strong feelings. If it's true that "whatever you feed is what grows," the painful emotions may be reinforced rather than diminished by too much of that kind of venting. Discussing your feelings can be helpful if it's used to deal with them and generally move the process along, but venting that just goes over and over the same thing can actually make the feelings stronger—and even more painful.

So while you can't avoid having painful feelings come in the first place, you can do something about them once they arise. At that point, you can either focus on them, obsess about them, talk about them—and generally reinforce them. Or you can deliberately try to focus on understanding more about the issues related to affairs that will allow you to work toward reducing the feelings. The goal is to get to the point where you have control of the course of the feelings instead of them having control of you.

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