True Story: He Cheated, I Stayed

I knew exactly what I’d do if I found out my partner had cheated. At least, I thought I did. The truth of the matter is, no one knows how they will react in that situation until they are faced with the agonizing truth. Your mind will be flooded with questions like “Why did this happen?” or “What the actual fuck is wrong with me?” Most importantly, you’ll have to make the choice to stay or go.

After weeks and weeks of ugly crying, working my way up to eating an entire burrito bowl from Chipotle in one sitting when my feelings got extra raw, loosing tons of weight (not sure how), and just generally distressing over this decision, I finally decided that working it out made the most sense for my life.

Even though my friends and family were supportive in the immediate aftermath of “the event,” understandably they had a difficult time after I told them we were going to try again. It’s not that their concerns and comments we’re unwarranted, it’s just that they hurt. It was hard to hear that they didn’t approve of my choice. What’s even worse is that they weren’t the only ones. It seemed I was surrounded by people that had a negative opinion about how I decided to move on with my life.

However, I’m not the only one to make that choice; 65 percent of couples stay together after infidelity is discovered. So, in an effort to shed some light on the experience of infidelity for those of you that haven’t been cheated on, this is the emotional thought process of someone deciding whether or not to stay when their partner has strayed.

1. “I don’t want to miss out on the life we planned together.”

I invested almost 10 years of my life into another person. I saw the life that we were going to have before “the event.” I saw the house that we’ve talked about building for years, I saw our future children that we’ve named time and time again, I saw our 20th wedding anniversary and long weekends spent at the lake. I saw it all, and I couldn’t give it up. Because aside from giving up the person that I love, I’d also be giving up on the life I was building for us to share.

2. “My life feels darker without him.”

I spent weeks feeling every contradictory emotion under the sun. Sometimes I was convinced that I’d been given the gift of freedom and was happy to move on with my life. Other times I would cry on my drive to work, thinking how my life was meaningless without him. When my emotions began to level out, I realized I wanted him around to experience things with me. He was my best friend for years, and it felt unnatural that he wasn’t sharing my life with me.

3. “I know he isn’t perfect. No one is.”

Look, I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect either. Every room I use looks like a two-year-old just tore through it, and my temper is ugly. I get it. A very small part wonders if I can really blame him for having faults. If I can work on fixing mine, he definitely can work on his.

4. “I don’t think he’ll cheat again.”

If he’s committed to making this work, then I’m going to trust that he knows better than to be reckless with this relationship again. It’s about rebuilding trust, too. I made the choice to trust that he can change and give him another shot.

5. “I don’t want to lose any of my friends.”

Over the course of a relationship, your friends become his friends and his friends become yours. Your social groups naturally end up forming one big social web, and you forget which friend was whose first at some point. The sad thing is, when you break up with someone, you sometimes have to break up with mutual friends too. I’m not quite ready to give up happy hours with his buddies’ girlfriends, and some of my own friends could probably jump ship, too. (If someone chose not to leave because he or she had no friends to turn to for support at all, though, that could be a sign of a bigger issue. Isolation from your friends and family is an indicator of emotional abuse, which means that this relationship might not be worth saving in the first place. Better to be alone than with a controlling jerk.)

6. “I have to make a choice.”

What you need to know is that I didn’t come to this decision lightly. Your friend probably didn’t make the decision lightly either. In fact, I bet she agonized over it. It was a conscious part of her every waking moment. She probably weighed the pros and cons during business meetings at work. She broke down in the middle of the grocery aisle wondering if she would ever argue about pasta sauce with him again. She stared in the mirror and questioned every little thing about herself. Parts of her – the parts where self-respect lives and flourishes – were just slipping away. And don’t get it twisted – she questioned every little thing about him too. I bet she lived for the precious moments after waking up each morning when she forgot the state her life was in. She suffered. And then she made a choice. She choose to move forward in her life with him.

Bottom line here: If you’re cheated on and you decide to stay, your decision is valid. If your friend is cheated on and decides to stay, don’t be the voice of judgment in her ear. If you’ve read this far you know she’s judging herself enough as it is.