THE BLOG
01/11/2011 10:30 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

He's the One Who Cheated and Left; So Why is He So Angry At You?

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 his 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 know 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.