I often hear from wives who are understandably extremely upset to find out that their husband has been cheating. Unfortunately, many place at least some of the blame on themselves: Why didn’t they see it? Were they not a good wife? Is there something wrong with them that contributed to a seemingly good man cheating? Even worse, some of these wives have had previous failed relationships, so they are even more likely to blame themselves and to worry that they are going to now be in a never-ending cycle of hurtful and bad relationships.
One of them might say, “my mother would probably laugh at my situation if she were still alive. She told me not to marry my first husband. She told me that he wasn’t a good person, but I ignored her. Turns out, she was very much right about him. I ended up divorcing him within five years. However, I thought I’d hit the jackpot with my second husband. We met in a support group because we both had the same illness. My husband was so supportive of me. I thought that after the pain of my first marriage, I had finally found the one. We were really happy. Honestly, I thought that we were still very happy. We are both healthy now and I thought that life was good. But last weekend, I found out that he had cheated on me. It was not a long-term relationship. It was at the end of his treatment when he went out to celebrate. He admitted this to me himself and has begged me not to leave him. He swears that he has never cheated on anymore before. I feel like a fool. Here I thought I’d finally found a good man. I don’t know what to do. I loved this man and I enjoyed being married to him. But part of me thinks that something is wrong with me so that I can’t maintain a good and healthy relationship. And yet, when I look back at my current marriage to see where I might have gone wrong, I don’t see anything. I think that I’ve been a good wife and my husband agrees. So why am I possibly looking at two failed marriages? What in the world is wrong with me?”
I will admit that I am biased before I even attempt to answer this question. I have dealt with infidelity. Frankly, I don’t believe that the faithful spouse has anything wrong with them – at least in terms of infidelity. I admit that in some affairs, there were marital issues. But this is not always the case. Some people cheat who are in very healthy and happy marriages. And even when there are admitted issues, there are so many other options besides cheating. For that reason, I believe the responsibility for cheating lies with the person who cheated. That is just my take on it. And I have learned that there is no upside whatsoever to blaming yourself. You have tried to look honestly at your marriage and can say that you were a decent spouse. I am not sure what else you could have done.
No matter what you see or don’t see when you try to look back, the reality is now. You can’t change the first marriage. You can only learn from it. But you are now in a position to decide what you want to do with your current marriage. However, you don’t need to decide today, tomorrow, or even next week. You can simply gather information, gauge how you feel, and watch/wait. You could also see a therapist or read some self-help to help you to determine what is truly in your best interests.
It may help to know that people cheat for many reasons that have nothing to do with their spouse or their marriage. They cheat when they are in stressful situations (like illness.) They cheat when they have low self-esteem. They cheat when they do not feel worthy of something. I am not in any way defending the cheating. All people who cheat make a choice. I am just trying to reassure you that a spouse’s cheating is not because of something you did. It comes back to them. Not you.
The cheating also doesn’t necessarily have to mean more failed marriages, if you do not want for it to. Of course, there are never any guarantees. Restoring a marriage after an affair is hard work. But in my experience, if you have two willing people, it can be done. This is a very individual choice. Some will decide that the marriage can’t or shouldn’t be saved. Some will feel that it is healthier for them to walk away. But others will feel that it is more beneficial to at least try to make it work as they are still invested in at least seeing if their marriage might be saved. Neither decision means that there is anything wrong with you. It just means that you are taking care of yourself and doing what is best for you. But one failed marriage and one infidelity doesn’t mean that you are flawed beyond repair since marriage is a two-way street that involves two people. And you are not the one who cheated.