Chances are you’ve heard about how Khloe Kardashian has decided to stay with Tristan Thompson, the father of their newborn daughter, after he allegedly cheated on her. And you probably have feelings. Maybe even strong feelings.
Then again maybe you haven’t heard and don’t give a flying fuck about what Khloe does. But here’s the thing: whether there are cameras, tabloid articles, and wild rumors being spread or not, we’ve all had a similar situation that involved cheating (either directly or indirectly) in our real lives. And I’m pretty sure most of us have had something to say about that.
Maybe someone cheated on you. Maybe someone betrayed your sister or your best friend. Like many other women, I’ve known someone who was cheated on — and people just can’t seem to help but judge the situation. It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction for people to step up onto their soapbox, give advice, and talk about what they would or wouldn’t do if they were in that situation.
And it’s understandable to some extent. It’s incredibly hard to watch someone you care about go through that kind of hell, and you want nothing more than to tell them to pack their shit and go. You hope that somehow you can stop their hurt by telling them to split because they deserve so much better.
The path seems simple and straightforward if you aren’t in the actual relationship. Just put an end to the suffering by walking away — it’s what you think you would do — so it’s what you tell your friend who’s been cheated on to do.
But it’s not helpful.
Because when it’s you — when you find out your partner is being unfaithful — things are anything but simple. You are faced with the fact that this shit isn’t as easy as you thought it was. There are a lot of gray areas when it comes to infidelity.
There are those who say they’d never stay if it happened to them, but the truth is they really don’t know because it really has never happened to them.
There are also people who say they’ve been through it, stayed too long, and never will again.
Then there are those who have stayed married or in a relationship despite their partner’s affair and said it made their relationship stronger.
But here’s the thing: even if you have experience with cheating, you don’t have experience with this specific situation. This isn’t your relationship, and the only two people who know what it’s really like are the two people in it.
What we really need to do is stop judging women for whatever they do after an affair — whether they stay or leave. There is no room for outside opinions here, only love and support.
Going through something this heart-wrenching is some of the worst pain you can feel. You are embarrassed. Heart-broken. Ashamed. And you want nothing more than for your life to go back to normal.
It takes time to process all of those emotions. You may wake up one day a few months later and decide you are strong enough and ready to walk away. Or maybe you know that this relationship isn’t good enough for you, but you stay anyway because you are afraid of what life might look like without your partner. Or you might put your kids’ needs and wants before your own and decide you want them to grow up with their parents still married. Or not.
The point is, when women call each other out, make unsolicited comments, and chime in with their “nope” and their “never,” the victims of infidelity are judged. You are kicking them when they are down, and your opinion has no place in another person’s relationship.
The bottom line is: You don’t have condone the cheater’s conduct to support the victim.
But what you should do is keep quiet about the woman’s decision and offer support. Unwavering support. Just because she is choosing a different path than you would choose doesn’t mean she needs to feel even more hurt than she already does.
Believe me, her suffering is bad enough — she doesn’t need more pain from you. So be there for her. Support her. Listen. But by all means, don’t judge her.