The thought of cheating was completely confusing to me when I was younger.
Stories would reach my ears of men and women who would stay with their unfaithful partners, and I secretly thought they were weak and pathetic. The very idea of staying with someone who was cheating seemed so utterly insane to me that I swore up and down that I would never end up in this situation.
Many years later, I was in a serious relationship and was about to get engaged when my boyfriend suddenly betrayed me. My perception of infidelity was shattered when I realized that leaving was not as easy an option as it once seemed. I loved my boyfriend very much and didn’t want to throw away our life together.
If I could go back in time with more knowledge of relationships, these would be the specific questions I would have asked him to find out if we had a chance to save our relationship.
. . .
Are you ready to work on this relationship?
James and Diane were an older couple I became friends with straight out of college. They had been married for over a decade and seemed relatively happy, so the news of their divorce came as quite a shock. Months later I met James at a party and he explained what had happened. He said Diane had been coming home late for months and James ended up asking the question that was always in the back of his mind.
“Have you cheated on me?”
The answer was yes and James immediately started doing everything possible to make the relationship work. Even though Diane was the one who cheated, James pretended to be the one who got it wrong.
He planned dates, couples therapy, and anything he could think of to bring the spark back. Despite all his best efforts, Diane left him for the man she cheated on him with.
There’s a question James could have asked that would have clarified both of them. He could have asked Diane if she really wanted to make things work to save time and heartache.
. . .
After cheating, did you feel remorse or guilty?
Over a decade ago, I witnessed the decline of my parents’ thirty year marriage.
The beginning of the end was when my father found some emails my mother had exchanged with her secret lover. When he confronted her, she was calm and subdued. My father asked her not to leave him and was determined to make things work. However, anger began to build up inside him until he got angry and asked my mother if she felt guilty at all.
Unfortunately, I witnessed this exchange and I still remember the look on my mother’s face. There was no regret, she just looked smug.
I wish my dad asked if she even minded cheating instead of immediately trying to get things going with someone who felt completely indifferent to the relationship.
. . .
Why did you choose to cheat on me?
Melody was absolutely beautiful. She was a waitress at the restaurant where my friend was bearded and kept trying to flirt with him even when I was around. Before he told me the full story, I knew she was the person he’d slept with.
My friend told me immediately after it happened. He said he couldn’t bear to hide it from me because I was his best friend. He claimed he had no feelings for her.
What is interesting is that my boyfriend mentioned earlier in our relationship that he cheated on all of his previous girlfriends and it felt like self-sabotage.
I never asked my boyfriend why he was cheating. It was truly a once in a lifetime event and Melody quit shortly after their night together and we kept trying to get things going.
But if I could go back … I would have dug deeper. Because I really believe that there is a deeper reason my boyfriend cheated and it ultimately had nothing to do with me and I asked why there could be something exposed behind his actions that he needed to know about himself.
. . .
As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, the majority of couples stay in their relationship after infidelity. In fact, I was shocked to learn that around 70% of couples stay together after their partner cheats on them.
After my friend cheated on, he was ready to work on our relationship and I saw how devastated he was that he had been unfaithful. It was almost impossible to be mad at him because I saw that he really hated what he’d done. We broke up, but there has been love between us for a very long time and we’re still polite almost a decade later.
The whole experience taught me a lot about my preconceived notions about being unfaithful. When I was younger, I associated cheating with screaming fights and doors slamming.
Now I associate infidelity as something that can be worked through and even a relationship can be strengthened. It will just take a willingness on the part of both parties to rebuild trust and ask the right questions to make sure that saving the relationship is truly worth it.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
If you believe in the work we do here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, join us as a Premium Member today.
All premium members can watch the Good Men project without ads. do you need any more information? A full list of benefits can be found here.
Photo credit: Unsplash