The Dangers of Revenge Sex and Other Stupid Relationship Mistakes

Relationships hurt sometimes. People always seem to provoke emotional pain in the ones they love. Unfortunately, as the importance of the relationship rises, so do their defenses against getting hurt or being abandoned, betrayed, misunderstood or unappreciated. For example, when you feel that your partner has mistreated you in some way, you often lash out in anger. This reaction is common-but unwise and potentially stupid. Let’s look at why people tend to respond with such anger, the dangers and what can help reign in hot-headedness.Anger and HurtAnger and hurt are opposite sides of the same coin. If your past relationships and life with your parents and caregivers were emotionally harmful, then you might be more vulnerable to both deep feelings of hurt and anger when your partner upsets you by actions such as lying, withdrawing, yelling, ignoring, misinterpreting, cheating or being insensitive.You might also be more susceptible to what is called the “fight or flight” response-your brain and body’s reaction to perceived threats such as loss of your partner’s love and the negative behaviors mentioned above. This “fight or flight” response occurs in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which contribute to a dramatic increase in the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. Your breathing and heart rate increase, you panic or feel sick to your stomach, and your anger becomes stronger than your ability to reason. If your family or caregivers used anger and abuse to express their emotions, then you might also have learned that these reactions are acceptable and expected.The Dangers of the “Fight or Flight” Response:Stress Triggers and Stupid and Dangerous Thoughts, Feelings and ActionsStress Triggers. Many couples experience similar situations and stress triggers that provoke feelings of anger and revenge. The top relationship triggers include finding out your partner has cheated, lied, took off with your money or used money irresponsibly, got into trouble with the law, became addicted to pornography, criticized you, embarrassed you, hit you or the children, forgot your birthday or anniversary, was not supportive during your illness, got high or drunk too or was insensitive in general.Many couples can survive these reactions, but sexual affairs seem to cut the deepest. They rob your feelings of trust, being loved and cared for, and they replace these important feelings with the gut-wrenching emotion of being abandoned. At least a third of couples do not recover from affairs-so they are also highly dangerous to the life of the marriage or relationship.Stupid and Dangerous Thoughts, Feelings and Actions. All biological drives-sex, aggression, hunger, pleasure-have powerful grips on humans. When your partner cheats, the force of those biological urges can get the better of you-and one of the things that cheating provokes is a feeling of wanting to get even and punish the other spouse. It’s a bad case of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” It’s an immature and hurtful act in response to being hurt.Some partners run out and have affair “to get even.” Others, rather than have “revenge sex,” have “revenge spending.” For example, a man might run out and buy that boat he’s been wanting or a woman might go on an expensive shopping spree. One women marched into her husband’s closet and cut the sleeves off all his expensive suits when he complained about his wife’s clothing expenditures. He told her he didn’t know why a stay at home mother needed high-priced designer outfits.These seemingly fun reactions serve the dual purpose of getting back at the other partner and also “filling that deep hole of hurt” in the partner who is hurt. But the satisfaction from these revenge acts is short-lived. Soon, the wronged person has opened an “emotional can of worms” in the relationship. The real danger occurs when these worms crawl so far away that they can’t be put back and forgotten. Now the couple is trapped in a domino affect of “You hurt me-I hurt you.” For instance, the woman who cut the sleeves off her husband’s suits was really reacting to feeling unimportant. She had temporarily suspended her career to raise the two children and no longer felt vital. Since she accompanied her husband to charity events, she felt she needed to “wow” the other people with her appearance.Tips to Stop Anger ReactionsThe first step is to make a list of all the reactions that you want to change about YOURSELF. Show it to your partner and ask him or her to make one about his/her reactions.The second step is for each of you to tell the other what reaction you would prefer. Be very detailed. Imagine you are giving precise directions to actors on a stage. For example, if your partner was not supportive when you went to the hospital, don’t just say, “You weren’t there for me.” Your partner is likely to say, “What do you mean? I drove you there and sat right next to you.” Instead, say to your partner, “I need you to hold my hand and tell the nurse that you want to come in immediately to the recovery room.” Script the scene with actions and words.The third step is to make a list of those totally unacceptable behaviors such as hitting. Tell your partner in advance that if these reactions occur, you will remove yourself quietly but quickly from the area. You might even need to develop a more elaborate “Protection Plan” such as have a safe place to go, keep 911 on your speed dial and have cash at a friend’s house.The fourth step is to review your lists and rehearse them in your minds. The brain often does not know the difference between an imagined event and a real one. So, by rehearsing, imagining and saying your lines out loud, you begin to “train your brain” to develop new brain wiring that, over time, become stronger than your anger reactions.The fifth step is to become more aware of your body reactions, thoughts and feelings when you do get angry. If you are experiencing a desire to “get even,” have “revenge sex,” harm your partner or say words that cannot easily be taken back, then try to catch yourself before you complete the dangerous behavior.Develop “signals” to each other. For example, tell your partner to breathe or count to ten. Agree ahead of time which signals will not make the situation worse. When you are in company, for example, you might just nod your head at your head.The last step is to examine yourself to find out the root of the reactions. The woman who cut off her husband’s suit sleeves realized that she needed adult company and adult accomplishments. She felt “cabin fever” from being at home with the children. She decided to become more active in charities. She also discussed a clothing budget with her husband-for his clothing as well as hers!Remember that you can help reduce the domino affect of anger, revenge and hurt, but you cannot ultimately be responsible for your partner’s reactions. If you feel you are in danger, get professional help.