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Nancy Alvarez Headshot

I'm So Angry: What Do I Tell My Kids?

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When my husband and I separated, I was furious. He had been having an affair with a famous actress and lying about it for a year and a half. I would drive to the set in my sexiest outfit. The entire crew knew; God knows what they thought of me. It was very humiliating. I had the woman right, and the timing, but he kept lying and I felt nuts.

Our therapist, who knew the truth, suggested we go to a hotel for the weekend and talk to each other honestly. Leading me outside he told me that I was to allow my husband to go first, and that if I didn't, he would not continue to see me. He told us that since he knew the truth, he would know if either one of us was not being truthful. We went to the hotel, our kids waving good-bye from the living room window. My husband finally told me about the affair, and how long it had been going on, and I asked him to leave. His lies were the reason I had felt so nuts.

We managed to spend the night together when we returned from the hotel, though I barely slept a wink. He went to work on Monday morning, the kids went to school, and I packed up his clothes. I put them on the front porch, where one of his underlings picked them up before I left to pick up the children. Those first weeks were a blur; I have no idea how I managed to shop for food, cook our meals, read bedtime stories, or maintain a semblance of normalcy. I cried whenever the kids were in school, or asleep in their beds, muffling the sounds so they wouldn't hear me.

I was much less successful hiding my anger.

Although my daughters and I have often talked about this time in our lives over the years, they both still resent the fact that I didn't hide my anger from them, and even worse, railed about their father in front of them. "I can't believe he did that!" Etc. My frequent apologies for my behavior haven't made up for the damage I caused them. My younger daughter, who now has two young children of her own, recently said, "He was my father, Mom, and I wanted to love him without feeling guilty that I was hurting you."

She was absolutely right.

I wish I had continued seeing the therapist all those years ago but I was afraid I couldn't afford to. I wasn't even sure I would be able to pay for groceries by the end of each month. I took my ex to court at least two times over the next ten years for more child support, and received increases each time. In fairness to him, the money he gave me paid for the kids as well as supplementing my initially meager income. Although he was ordered to pay my court fees, that did little to appease me. I was still angry because I knew he wouldn't have paid more if I hadn't taken him to court. And of course I was angry about the lying. In retrospect I wish my friends would have been able to calm me down, but several were going through divorces of their own, and didn't have the energy for my rage or me. Nor were they responsible. It is painful to admit that I was, and that I didn't do very well.

If I could go back in time I would stay in therapy. I would use whatever tools the therapist offered to release my anger, and I would do so away from my children. I would exercise--that seems to deflate my feelings of anger about most things even now. I would write about my anger in a journal. I would concentrate on my kids and what would make them happy. And finally, I would try to find some friends who could listen. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I just wish I had handled my feelings and my behavior in a more appropriate way. My thirty-something daughters would certainly agree.