You made a vow to stay through it all.
By The Good Men Project — Updated on May 22, 2023
Photo: The Rabbit Hole / Shutterstock
By Anthony Smits
Editor’s Note: This is a part of YourTango’s Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.
Hey guy, if you’ve been cheated on, you’re an angry — or deeply saddened — man, for sure. Hurt in the gut. Either partner in any relationship is deeply wounded when trust gets kicked somewhere sensitive.
But is infidelity such an offense that it warrants passing a summary judgment and an automatic death sentence on your relationship?
I think the answer to “How bad is infidelity” depends on what you value most. And we humans are very good at breaking our word about lots of things. Some seasons in a relationship are full of missteps and making up.
“I can’t believe you did — or didn’t …” might be your reaction when your partner fails you, in any of the many ways we tend to fail one another’s expectations. And you might not say those words aloud. Yet you’ve probably thought of them, more than once.
I know I’ve felt I’ve been let down, often. And I’m certain beyond any doubt that I’ve let my wife down on more than one occasion. But betrayal is way beyond a simple “let down” for most. Can you come back?
Some people don’t regard exclusivity as their most important possession. Do you? If you’re married and have been cheated on, would you leave before nightfall? There may be good reasons to end everything today. Your relationship may not be worth putting any more resources into; it may be sinking whatever you do.
It’s easy to leave. Plenty of allies will buy you a drink for “not putting up with that.”
It’s not so easy to stay, with the aim of fixing your torn relationship. But here are some things to think about, in this season of many temptations; five reasons you might decide to stay.
Here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t leave the one who cheated on you:
1. You promised to stay
What? How can I possibly bring that up? Am I serious? Well, yes. Unless you wrote yourself an “out” into your vows, you promised, essentially, to stay in for the long haul; for good, irrespective of circumstances.
In return for that commitment, you’d enjoy the good times, and you’d fight together in the hard times.
And you also accepted this reality: you understood you might have to carry the whole load yourself for a time, should something tragic happen.
Infidelity is a tragic happening. And she should not have let you down. But what is your word worth — to yourself? If you thought enough of her to commit to her for the foreseeable future whatever happens, isn’t that what you meant?
Reflect before you break a promise you made to yourself.
2. You value the qualities she has
Don’t you? Even if your friends think you married solely for looks or some other equally shallow reason, it’s unlikely to be true. In most cases, we connect for the long term because we share a love of something, which is usually a lot more than the sex we might initially be drawn to indulge in often.
Reflect on the qualities she has. Your reaction to “cut out the cancer of betrayal” may drive you to push her cheating ass out the door tout-de-suite, but if you do that, you will lose things you value. And the term “cutting off your nose to spite your face” isn’t a well-known saying for nothing.
Our society is a very throw-it-away one these days; if one part is broken, the whole is somehow all at once useless. Perhaps you might pause first, and reflect if you believe this truism. I don’t.
Reflect before you discard a relationship you affirmed as valuable.
3. You’ll lose stuff if the relationship goes
I’m not referring to material things like half the bank account. I’m thinking about the non-material aspects of a joint life shared. If there isn’t anything you enjoy, you would have been dissatisfied long before infidelity became an issue. Thus, there are probably reasons why this relationship has been fulfilling when its predecessors weren’t.
My current marriage has much less of some things that I once thought were important, but a huge well of other things — I would fight for those because I doubt I’d find them again.
Think about the most important things you share, and what you gain from your partner’s presence. Your snappy reply right now may well be “Nothing” as you recoil from the knowledge you’ve learned.
The late Stephen Covey’s advice to “seek first to understand …” is something to remember.
Reflect before you easily dismiss the advantages you have in this relationship.
4. You’ve accumulated more than simply memories
You’ll have collected things, and you’ve maybe made a home. You might share children too, but I’m not making the argument that anyone should stay in a relationship because of the children. I think relationships will stand if their foundations are good and they get nourishment, not because the people in them have any obligations to others.
But you’ve also shared your dreams and may have achieved some of them together. You’ve shared hardships and may have pulled one another up more than one cliff already.
When my first marriage ended, I spent four years in a desert somewhere; we should have worked harder and saved what we had. I take responsibility for not being sufficiently present to enable that. What I had was worth keeping. What you’ve built together almost certainly has aspects that make it worth trying to save.
Reflect before you easily throw away past victories and successes.
5. Your relationship might be giving you things you value besides fidelity
Perhaps fidelity is the most important side of your relationship. But if you could only keep one thing from your relationship, would fidelity be it? Finding someone who wants to share the life path you’ve chosen is more difficult the longer you’ve been on it because so many of the choices about your direction have already been made.
None of the above suggestions should be seen as minimizing the effect betrayal has on a relationship. Have you been betrayed by someone who still wants to continue with you, saying, “I’m sure you’ll forgive me” or “I don’t see why you shouldn’t, it was ‘nothing’, really?”
You have to decide whether you want to rebuild trust and whether you want to do it. But often it’s worthwhile doing so, and many relationships are stronger afterward through having had to negotiate this fire too.
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Anthony Smits is a freelance writer and former editor for The Good Men Project who writes on love & relationships.