Should you really remain with a spouse that has cheated? This can be a tough question to answer, but for me personally, the decision became an easy one once I got to the bottom of who I really was. With any marriage, especially a long-term one, you can lose your ability to use sound judgment. In a sense, you lose a part of yourself because there’s so much history, and most of the time, it’s hard to walk away from such a serious situation. Especially if you have children. For most of us, finances also play a huge part. Odds are, you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, especially if you’re searching the internet about what to do. This can be a very trying time emotionally and you’re probably not in a position to make any quick decisions. Been there, done that. But not to worry. In this post I’ll share a few insights that helped me to come out on top. To regain a sense of who I really was. To realize why splitting permanently with my ex was a good thing!
Don’t Let Fear be Your Decision Maker
Some people allow fear to make the choice of staying with a spouse that’s cheated. Maybe it’s the kids. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. On the surface these seem like very valid reasons not to leave, but in the end, they’re really not. I’ve found that all these issues resolved themselves as time passed. If I had just been able to relax in the moment and breathe, I would have learned this valuable lesson a lot sooner. Yes, I had to do some things to make all those important transitions happen, and in the beginning it was all very overwhelming. My ex brought in half our income, and we had young children who were going to be affected. We couldn’t split, right? Wrong. Fear made me believe I had to stay with it a lot longer than I should have. I even tried to justify staying with her by telling myself it was the right thing to do.
In the grand scheme of things, I learned there is no right or wrong answer. There’s only a wrong or right answer when it comes to you personally. If your partner’s actions have caused you a great deal of pain, then obviously you want to reach some kind of solution so that this pain doesn’t happen again. You may have to make some tough choices that you’d rather not face, but it’s better to be happy in the end.
You Have to Put Your Happiness First
I’m going to state something below that you need to pay attention to if you really want your question answered.
To put it bluntly, YOUR LONG-TERM HAPPINESS NEEDS TO BE YOUR MAIN PRIOROITY!
That’s it! Period. If you’re going to be unhappy in the long run, it’s not worth it. No one around you is going to be happy either, even your children. Of course there are always some special extenuating circumstances than ensure some sacrifices on your part in the case of securing your children’s best interests, but there are always options to deal with this. So regardless of what you decide to do, let the main focus behind your decision be your long-term happiness. I would even recommend that you stop after each paragraph throughout the rest of this article and repeat this mantra to yourself:
“What is ultimately going to secure my long-term happiness?”
So now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s discuss what is going to make your long-term happiness a reality. Everyone is different, but once you’re honest with yourself and about who you are, you’ll be able to make the best choice for yourself, no matter what your situation is.
What Core Values Make You Happy?
If you’re the strict monogamous type, then obviously you’re going to want to be with someone who shares this value. You’re never going to be fulfilled unless your partner feels the same way. In my own experience, it was the single most important issue that I had to come to grips with, even though I tried to ignore it for a very long time. Ultimately, that denial led to more problems.
I learned something very important about myself that changed me for the better and eliminated all my fear of permanently splitting up with my ex who I was married to for fourteen years, which led to a happiness I had not enjoyed for a very long time. I was blind to it before, and if I had to come out of my comfort zone to learn more about who I was and what I needed to be happy, I would have thrived much sooner.
A Valuable Lesson I Learned about Relationships and Happiness
From my own personal experience, once a person has cheated on you, it means they’re not getting fulfilled by you anymore on some level. This may or may not be any fault of your own. It could be a deficiency in your partner’s emotional maturity. Or perhaps they’ve expressed frustration with you on some level and you failed to change course and meet their expectations. With me, it was sort of a mixture of the two. I believe my ex had some deep-rooted emotional issues that I couldn’t solve, and at the same time she had expressed some frustration over certain deficits of my own that I never addressed for her. In reality, we were very different people who desired very different things. When we ultimately parted ways, I mistakenly held on to the false notion that I was a happier person with her (for a time). Why? Simple. Fear of the unknown. In retrospect, I thought I needed her, but nothing was further from the truth.
When I got involved with my next serious relationship over a half year later, I had a big Ah-ha moment after we had been dating for five months. The expectations that I was unwilling to meet for my ex (for years) suddenly became easy to do for the person I was next involved with. When I realized this, I began to do some introspective digging. And I finally came to the conclusion that I willfully and happily met my new partner’s expectations because we shared the same core values about monogamy. This built a strong trust between us that served as the foundation for something that I can see working out long-term. Of course only time will tell if we can meet each other’s longer-term expectations, but at least the initial foundation is there. The level of trust and respect I feel for her far exceeds anything my ex and I had. I discovered that this is something I needed in order to feel fulfilled enough to happily reciprocate the expectations any new partner will bring to me. Of course there were many other good qualities she had that attracted me to her, but the trust I had for her sealed the deal. So ask yourself, what kind of person are you? What are your core values when it comes to a long-term partner? If monogamy is one of them, then perhaps you need to understand if your spouse really shares this value with you.
What If You’re still Positive You Want to Stay?
This often happens, especially when you’re spouse’s cheating comes as a surprise. A lot of the times for reasons I’ve discussed above, it’s often based on something false because you’re simply hurt. You may even be thinking irrationally. But if you’re sure it’s what you think you want, I believe you’ll need to make some important further assessments.
Again, you need to know what kind of person you are. For instance, how are you going to be able to handle the situation if they cheat again? Statics state that many spouses who have cheated once will. Not in every case, but it happens, and quite often. I’ve come up with a few simple suggestions that may help you decide the true intentions of your partner and whether you really want to stick it out.
Find out Why Your Spouse Cheated
If your spouse is not being fulfilled by you on some level, you need to find out why. And then you need to understand if it’s something you can change and be happy with.
For me, some of the things my ex was demanding weren’t realistic, at least not from me. This is not to say that her expectations weren’t realistic for someone else. They just weren’t from me. I’m not talking about little things, like being neater or taking more responsibility around the house. I’m talking about bigger issues. When you get down to the bottom of those issues and you’re honest with yourself about how you really feel about them, you can better determine whether or not you’ll be happy staying. When a spouse is not being fulfilled by you on some level, there’s a good chance that they’re not really fulfilling you either. Why? Because both of you aren’t connected. Something like cheating might have happened that reflected a bigger truth / relationship deficit for both of you. Perhaps it was your partner’s cheating that was the catalyst to bring out this truth. This happened in my case, and this is why in the big overall picture I really can’t put blame anymore on my ex for cheating. Yes, it seems like it might have been better for both of us if the cheating never happened and she came to me with the truth, but sometimes things happen for a reason. Perhaps I would have never admitted the things to myself that my ex already knew were true for both of us.
Is Your Spouse Truly Remorseful?
If your spouse expresses a desire to stay with you after you’ve both communicated about your deficits, then learn whether or not your spouse is truly remorseful. You’ll know by their actions, not their words. Are they willing to hand over passwords to e-mails, cell phones, or other means of communication devices to rebuild your trust? If not, I’d ask myself how serious they are. Personally, I’d be very doubtful. Upon further reflection, someone who is truly remorseful for what they’ve done is going to show you by volunteering to do those things which assures you they want to rebuild. And they’ll do it for the long-run, not just to appease you for a time. This is going to take some patience on your part, because a good bit of time must pass before you’re going to be sure that they’ve committed to repairing the damage that the cheating caused. But at least this will give you the time to really see whether you can be happy living up to their demands as well. Remember, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to have to make some big changes and sacrifices for them as well, even though you weren’t the one who cheated.
If you’re spouse doesn’t show you the kind of remorse you deserve, I’d take that as a sign that they’re really not serious about repairing what you had.
Cheating Changes Things, Big Time!
If you decide to stay with it, realize that cheating dynamically changes a relationship. It will either get better or worse. There’s probably going to be a lot of awkward days where you’re feeling very vulnerable. But don’t let these emotional states get the best of you. Focus on the positive. For instance, in one sense, cheating can be a great thing. It may get both of you to confront some deep buried issues that weren’t being properly dealt with. In other words, cheating can be a good catalyst to discovering truth about both of you and your deficits. If both of you are willing to meet those deficits, then staying in it might be a really good thing. But if it gets worse, you’ll figure it out, and fairly quickly.
My ex and I decided to initially stay together. Again, at the time it’s what I thought I wanted, but things went from bad to worse. Instead of properly assessing the situation, I fought harder to maintain it. What we went through after the first round of cheating should have told me it was time to throw in the towel, but I was still letting fear of the unknown rule my decision-making process. You don’t have to make the same mistake as I did. The fact that cheating will dynamically change the relationship for better or worse should be used to your advantage. Don’t wait around hoping things will get better if they aren’t. Pay attention to patterns of further distrust, miscommunication, and hurtful arguments. If you’re still going through these patterns, then the dynamics of the relationship has most likely progressed past of the point of no return. Take that time to understand why you’re not happy. Maybe the first round of cheating didn’t allow you to realize this because you focused on the wrong things. But if you decide to give it another chance and things are getting worse, it’s a sign that neither one of you are ever going to fulfill each other’s expectations.
While being cheated on is an experience that no one wants to go through, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. I was devastated for many months, but I came out on top because it turned out that the things I thought made me happy really didn’t. Sometimes we think we know ourselves and what we need, but often this is not the case. It takes life experience to learn who we really are, and, of course, a lot of introspection. But be patient and kind to yourself. Everyone deserves to be happy. It’s up to you to take a breath and discover what that happiness entails. Most importantly, do not let fear of the unknown make any choices for you. It’s not worth it in the end.