I had some very interesting responses to the Adultery post yesterday. One that really made me sad was a woman whose husband cheated on her. They have 3 kids and they’d been married 15 years when it happened. She said the relationship hadn’t been great but that she really didn’t see it coming. She also said she was staying with her husband for the kids.
To be honest, that just makes me really sad. I feel terrible for her. That’s no way to live, and it’s a huge sacrifice. I understand the mindset, because people want to give their kids the best life possible. I’m not sure that’s the best way, but it’s not my place to question their decision. Their kids will probably question it if they ever discover the truth, but that’s a topic for another day.
And I got to thinking more about recovering from infidelity. I’ve been cheated on in past relationships. Partly it was due to my poor taste in women. It hurts. It’s a huge betrayal. Your partner is giving her most intimate gift to someone else when she’s promised it to you. I remember the sick feeling in my gut when I discovered the cheating. And I experienced that more than once (not with the same person). It’s horrible. In at least one of relationships, things had been sour between us for a long time, and it still made me want to vomit when I found out about it.
I have always said that cheating is the one deal breaker for me. I am a big boy and I can do compromise, I can adjust, and I can work things out. But I couldn’t see how I could ever overcome the hurt and betrayal of infidelity.
Then things changed. For the past few months, I have learned what it means to be a family and have a child. When there’s a child it becomes bigger than the relationship. But more than that, it made me question my hard and fast “deal breaker” clause.
Disclaimer: My wife is a good person, strong Christian, and a trustworthy person. The following paragraph is purely a hypothetical driving towards a point.
I love my wife more than I’ve ever loved anyone before. More than I knew I was capable of. It’s without reservation, full of passion, and 100% vulnerable. To find out she cheated would be one of the most devastating things I could ever experience. That’s because the trust I have would be breached. And betrayal by someone you completely trust sucks the big one. The difference now is, I’d give the relationship a chance, even if she cheated. Clearly there would have to be true repentance and an acknowledgement of the wrong. Chances are there would have to be mechanisms put into place to help start the process of restoring trust. And the hurt would undoubtedly linger even if it happened once and never happened again. The cheating spouse would have to be willing to do what was necessary (even if a pain in the butt) to ease the other spouse’s doubts. But if both partners are willing to do what they must, and probably with a lot of counseling, I think that a marriage could be saved. I have no doubt it would be painful for both partners.
I think the biggest difference for me now is being equally yoked together with the person God intended for me to be with. A mistake, no matter how large, wouldn’t change that fact. And I do love my stepdaughter as my own. That’s part of the equation, too.
The difference between what I’m talking about, though, and what the woman that emailed me said, is that I wouldn’t stay in a relationship simply for the kids. I would not live in a “relationship” that was damaged and that had no hope of repair. The relationship would have to be fixed.
You see, I don’t see “staying together for the kids” to be the only way to raise happy, well-adjusted kids. If the home is tense, unhappy, miserable, etc., that’s not going to be a good environment to raise a child. Parents who think they are faking a good relationship are always underestimating their kids’ intuition. Kids know if you’re having problems. They just do. If the relationship can’t be salvaged (for instance, if the cheating spouse isn’t regretful or willing to change), then cut it off. The kids will be better spending time separately with two happy people then together with two miserable people.
Keep in mind, I’m not trying to tell you what to do. You have to make the best of whatever situation you’re in.
The best way to never have to deal with any of this is simply not to cheat. It’s not hard NOT to cheat. If you’re tempted, remember that an affair will bring devastation to your family, probably embarrassment, likely divorce & loss of custody of your kids, and if you’re really unlucky, STD’s and/or a baby with your mistress. Nothing good can come from an affair. Only very temporary pleasure followed by years or even a lifetime of emotional wreckage.
Your spouse won’t be the only victim of an affair. No matter how smart you think you are… no matter how hard you try to keep up illusions… your kids will suffer the consequences of your affair. And when they’re old enough to understand what happened, they will hate what you did to their other parent.
If you MUST sleep with someone else, you owe it to your spouse to divorce them first. They deserve to know where they stand. They deserve to find a new relationship. They deserve not to have you risking their life by exposing them to whatever ick your mistress gives you. Or to be more pragmatic – don’t touch something if you don’t know where it’s been.