My best friend finally got confirmation of what she had feared for years: Her husband had been cheating. While she suspected it, she never had concrete proof until now. Instead, what she had was a withdrawn husband unless sex was involved. She was always in the wrong whenever there was a disagreement. Whenever she would question something, the gas-lighting began.
Verbal and emotional abuse had taken its toll, but when this realization finally came to light, she was at a loss of what to do. While she knew she deserved better, she felt stuck. Stuck in fear of what leaving would look like. Fear of what it would look like to be divorced—again. Fear of what the future may or may not hold.
Whew. I get it. What she has been going through, I went through for years. Stuck in a fear cycle of what I knew I deserved versus taking the steps to make it happen. To make matters worse, I told virtually no one. Only my best friend knew that he cheated. I kept it locked up tight, portraying the perfect marriage to everyone else.
The News Nobody Wants to Hear
Recently, I befriended someone new. One day, her husband came home and let her know that he had met someone else and that he was leaving her. She never saw it coming, thanks to travel for work that kept him busy and occupied. A few weeks later, he packed up and moved out, leaving this beautiful friend and their three babies behind. I was heartbroken for her. We talked often as I shared my story. One month later, she had drafted separation papers, he signed them, and she began therapy.
I was in awe of her strength in the face of devastation. I kept expecting him to decide to come home and for her to take him back. I mean… that is what I did over and over. That is what my other friend has done. I remember talking to her after one of her therapy sessions and she said, “I didn’t realize that what was happening in my home was a form of abuse until my therapist pointed it out. He can try to come back all he wants. I know too much now. I’m done.”
Another friend had a very public affair, and as her world fell apart around her, her husband forgave her and held her hand as they walked a path they never expected to walk. It was extremely painful for both of them, and it took years of work, but you would never know what they went through by casually meeting them. They are the infidelity success story.
There is no right or wrong answer to infidelity. No matter how you dice it, each path is rocky.
He Cheated—What Do You Do Now?
So, which path do you take? I can only speak from my experience… and I wish I could tell you that I stayed because I believed that my marriage could be redeemed and it was. It wasn’t. I believed so many lies that kept me in place, like:
He’s says he’s sorry and God wants us to forgive… so I stayed.
God hates divorce… so I stayed.
It’s not physical abuse so it’s not really abuse… so I stayed.
I love him… so I stayed.
If I was better at ____ it wouldn’t be like this… so I stayed.
These lies, and lies like it, keep women stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is easy to look at someone and tell them to leave a cheating spouse. To get out. That they deserve better. But it is not that easy.
Not all marriages can be saved. As desperate as I was to stay and save my marriage, both parties have to be willing to do the hard work to get there. If both are not willing to put in the work, the marriage may not survive. It is up to both people to work to fix what is broken; God cannot do that work for us.
I cried and prayed for years for God to change him. I prayed for the type of husband that I knew I deserved and who God wanted him to be. But even if our marriage can’t be redeemed, we can. (Oh, and all those things I prayed for? I got them, just not in the way I imagined).
Taking Steps Forward
Whether you decide to stay and work on your marriage or not is a personal decision that only you and your spouse can make. Sometimes that decision is made for you. Regardless of what happens with your marriage, it is important to note that even if our marriage doesn’t turn out like we’d hoped, God can still clean us up and redeem us. Your personal redemption story is not predicated on your marriage’s success or failure.
So, while I can’t tell you how to proceed with your marriage, I can tell you this:
- You can’t stay between a rock and a hard place forever. It is not healthy for you or your children, if you have them.
- God does hate divorce. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons for it.
- Sometimes God closes doors because it’s time to move forward.
- If you both are really committed to doing the hard work – DO IT! It’s not easy, but oh-so-worth it.
- Seek help. As you navigate this path it is imperative to get both individual help and help as a couple. Those that are most successful find a good therapist to help them navigate and make decisions that they might not be able to otherwise make while emotionally drained.
No matter your decision or the outcome, you are not past redemption. You are not a failure. This may be part of your story, but where you are right now—the rock and the hard place—is not meant to be forever. Take your time to think through the situation, talk to those that will lovingly support you. Get guidance from a professional. It is not a quick decision or path, but a journey that only you can walk.
Want an infidelity success story? Listen to this podcast episode: Infidelity Isn’t the End—You Can Save Your Marriage with Cindy Beall – 198