Let’s keep it real. In today’s society, it has become way too easy to slap judgment on someone for just about any reason. Now imagine having the label of cheater. Maybe you are like me and know all too well what that feels like so you don’t have to imagine. Well, the flip side of this is being the spouse who was cheated on. With judgments being freely handed down, there’s a different label for you.
Deciding to stay in a marriage after discovering your spouse has been unfaithful is by far one of the most perplexing problems in a marriage gone wrong. Do I stay or do I go? Either decision is a difficult one. I know it was for me. Often times the betrayed spouse struggles deeply over the whole “stay vs. go” decision. If they have children, they have to take into account that the children’s lives will be forever changed too should they decide to divorce. But, when they decide to stay, they grant themselves the gift of becoming empowered to become both self-reflective and forgiving. And,
I can tell you from experience that people (including myself) who choose to stay with a spouse who has cheated are judged rather harshly, even shamed, for making such a decision. Yet, there are many reasons such condemnation is unfair.
As a relationship coach and infidelity expert, I know from my own personal experience that cheating is one of the top reported reasons for seeking coaching. And whether the cheating involved one person and/or a one-time occurrence vs. repeated cheating with the same person or multiple individuals, working through this temporary tragedy can transform the marriage. It did with our marriage! The reason for this is cheating is usually symptomatic of deeper rooted problems the relationship had been experiencing before the infidelity took place. These problems only seem to come to light after the cheating is exposed.
So, despite their judgment, “outsiders” have no clue as to what exactly transpired that led to the cheating.It is important to understand that betrayed spouses stay for a multitude of reasons:
- financial limitations,
- fear or harming the children,
- still being in love,
- religious beliefs,
At some point, the betrayed spouse may come to realize the role he/she played in the creation of the marital distress and disconnection. Please understand I don’t condone cheating! But in an effort to keep it real, I would be remiss not to mention that this is a tough reality for most but a life changing reality critical to saving marriages. Both spouses technically “co-created” the state of their union. It’s when they apply these insights to such occurrences that both spouses are capable of destroying, digging and rebuilding their marriage…together!
When I counsel couples where the man is the betrayer, the women usually own up to something such as:
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- never wanting sex,
- prioritizing the children above their husband,
- continuously criticizing their husbands
When the woman is the betrayer, men fessed up to:
- prioritizing work above their wife,
- ignoring their wives and/or not making them feel valued or special.
Both spouses shared struggles with addictions, conflict avoidance or simply not making time for each other. Digging deep to discover and scrutinize the influence of these behaviors can possibly get a couple to the core of the problems which left the marriage susceptible to cheating.
The spouse who cheated is not off the hook and still needs to take a long hard look at their behavior and role in the marital problems that may have led up to such a decision. This spouse must be extremely remorseful for choosing to be unfaithful. They must also have a deep understanding of why and how the decision to cheat was made. If the motivation is lacking to do the hard work (from experience, expect this to be one of the hardest undertakings ever) both on oneself and for the sake of the marriage, the couple will remain vulnerable to more cheating.
Couples reserve the right to divorce if they see fit. However, I do not advocate divorce unless it is obviously necessary or all avenues have been completely exhausted. Rather I’m advocating for opting to stay and WORK on your marriage as it involves incredible strength and commitment from both spouses. The last thing these spouses need is to be judged or looked down upon for making the choice that is right for them and their family. They need you to know that you are not walking in their shoes. They need your compassion, support, understanding, and last, but certainly not least, your prayers.