Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when your husband cheats on you with your friend? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
My husband slept with my friend, and I just found out. It was a few years ago now. She has since relocated to a different state and I found out from her husband. I’m obviously heartbroken and blindsided. I want to pack up and leave and never look at his face again. But we have 3 kids, and I’m still in love with him. He’s deeply apologetic, willing to go to therapy and wants to work through this. We’ve become closer than ever during quarantine and working from home together, and if it wasn’t for this situation, then I would have said our marriage was rock solid. Will I ever be able to trust him again? Or do I just rip off the band-aid now and file for divorce?
First, take a deep breath and know no matter how you decide to handle this, it will not be wrong. This is a really tough situation and I can tell you from experience, when your husband cheats it isn’t always cut and dry — I’ve been there, and there are many gray areas and many stages. You will hate him, you will love him, you will forgive him, then it will creep up again.
You are allowed to take your time and figure things out. You are allowed to ask to be left alone. You are allowed to have a grieving period. You’ve been betrayed and hurt deeply by two people who mean a lot to you, and even if it did happen years ago, it’s fresh for you — and it’s going to take a lot of time to heal. So, no matter what you decide to do, give yourself that time and realize you may change your mind a million times before you come to a decision and stick to it.
Now, about that. You are asking what you should do with your marriage, and there’s only one person who can answer that: you. My advice is, in order to help you figure that out, you have to dig deep and ask yourself what you truly want to do. Write down your thoughts, talk it out with friends or family you trust (if you feel you can), but I wouldn’t go taking a survey of what others think you should do. This will mess with your head like you wouldn’t believe.
No one else is in the relationship so they aren’t qualified to give you advice. There will be people who will tell you to run (everyone who told me to run had never been cheated on), and those who will tell you to work it out.
Trust in knowing you will move toward working on the life you want. You will find yourself doing things like signing up for therapy if you want to work on things. If you don’t, you will be fantasizing about a new life, a new place to live, etc.
As a mother to kids, I decided to stay in my marriage for them, not for me. In our situation, it didn’t work, and it wasn’t long before they could feel the tension in our home. Your kids just want happy parents. In the end, it doesn’t matter if that means you are together or not. If you stay because you want to work on your marriage, great, but don’t stay if you’re doing it solely for the kids … especially not if you’re miserable. Because that won’t be saving or helping them in any way.
Remember if you decide to stay and work on things, that doesn’t mean you are glued to this situation forever. If you find years down the road that you still don’t trust him, or the situation has made you fall out of love with him, you are allowed to leave. Again, there is no shame in leaving, just as there is no shame in staying — at any point.
The only thing that matters is that you are happy and getting what you need out of a relationship. Trusting him again will take time, and I highly recommend paying close attention to the way he behaves and how it makes you feel. If you feel like you are over-functioning to save the relationship and he’s not doing his part, I can’t imagine that will look like the relationship you want. Please know you are worthy of having everything you deserve, whether it’s with your husband, or someone else down the road.
I promise you, the answer will come. And either way, you are going to be just fine.