It's complicated

I Stayed In My Marriage For Six Years After My Husband Cheated

I didn’t feel strong and ready to go my own way. I was broken. I liked my life and I loved my husband.

by Anonymous
Originally Published: 
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My world shattered when my husband confessed his affair. I knew something was wrong in our marriage; I knew he hadn't been acting like himself for several months. But I never would have guessed it was that. If someone had asked me if I thought my husband was cheating, I would have bet a million dollars that he wasn’t. He didn’t seem to be the kind of man who would ever, ever do something so damaging.

But he did. And after he told me, I had to process it and figure out what I would do with the rest of my life.

I had young children, one who wasn’t even in school yet. I was a stay-at-home mom and had been for almost a decade. I didn’t confide in any of my friends because I was embarrassed, and my then-husband was their friend, too, and their husbands’ as well.

I’d always told myself that I’d leave if anyone ever cheated on me. That the breach of trust would do so much damage, I’d never be able to recover. But I also never thought that the man I married would be capable of stepping out on our marriage, especially after we’d had kids.

And so, when I found out that he had cheated, and he told me he wanted to work things out, that he wasn’t in love with anyone but me and it was solely a sexual experience, my mind went in a million different directions. Only a sliver of me wanted to end my marriage, and I honestly felt ashamed about that. I felt like I should be the woman I’d always said I’d be: one who wouldn't stand for such behavior. A person that was strong enough to leave. One that felt I could stand on my own two feet.

But I didn’t feel strong and ready to go my own way. I was broken. I liked my life. I loved being a family; I loved staying home with my children, and I loved my husband.

So I stayed for another six years. We worked hard to repair our relationship. There were many rocky months where we barely spoke to each other. I had visions of him with another woman as I was driving down the street with my young kids in the car and would almost throw up. I had panic attacks. I wondered, nearly every day, what my life would look like if we divorced. And I was scared out of my mind. It felt easier to stay in a mediocre marriage with a man who’d had an affair than to believe in myself enough to start over.

Because that’s essentially what you have to do when you go through a divorce: dare to picture a completely different life for yourself.

I felt incredibly guilty for even thinking of leaving. After all, my ex-husband had wanted to work things out and improve our marriage. If I was the one to walk away, to say that our life wasn’t good enough for me, and I wanted something better, surely I’d be the one tearing my family apart.

It took me a while to unbelieve all of that. In that time, I’d heard a lot of women say they’d never stay in a marriage with a cheater, that they’d leave right away and never look back.

But for me, it wasn’t like that. I needed time to process everything. I had to realize, on my own, that I was capable of being a single mom and going back to work and I could manage my house on my own. I had to learn, through trying with my ex-husband, that it wasn’t going to work out, and we weren’t supposed to be together.

For some people, infidelity will end their marriage in a matter of days. For some, it takes years. And for others, they can put the pieces back together and have a new, beautiful relationship.

Deciding what to do after an affair is subjective. There’s no right or wrong situation, and everyone’s experience differs entirely. I now know the only thing I needed to do to get through it was take my time and listen to my heart. Yes, it took me years to figure it out, but that’s okay.

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