Accepting Infidelity: In Defence of those who Stay
Had I been asked some six years ago if I would stay with someone who cheated on me, my response would have been sure. If my man horn me, I gone! No way am I tolerating that level of disrespect – an absolute deal breaker. Today, three kids later, I hesitate.
Now before I proceed, let me lay a few things on the table in an effort to quell any speculation and curb any misinterpretation. No, my husband did not horn me. No, this article is not an endorsement of cheaters. Cool.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, what I do understand is that there are a wide range of factors that would play into a woman’s decision to stay with an unfaithful man. My stance is based on my experience as a mother, and as someone who (in spite of the unrelenting divorce statistics) really believes in the strength of the family unit.
I do confess that I have been quite judgmental in the past. Why would you be such a fool, a coward, a weakling to stay with this man if he is cheating? You’re financially independent, you’ve got a great career, and you’re not too shabby looking. So why would you stay? And why now would I hesitate when asked the same thing? The almost clichéd reply? I’d stay for the children.
After birthing and mothering three of my own, I think I get it. Sacrifice is motherhood’s truism – whether it’s drastic as a career that is put on hold or on a smaller scale like the constant lack of sleep brought on by an attempt to balance work with the rigors of family life. It is practically expected for a woman to put her physical and emotional needs on the back burner. It is quite easy to get lost in the role of a mother, and to even convince yourself that the endured unhappiness somehow serves the greater good of the family.
Some women would also consider the financial aspect, like how would they maintain a home alone, or if they were to remarry, would their new husband treat her children as ‘first-rate citizens’ in their home? Beyond that, there is sufficient research that shows children who are raised in a two-parent home are less likely to become involved in criminal activities, suffer from psychological disorders, experience poverty or drop out of school. All things considered, I think that the prospect of my adult child having a few therapy sessions in the future to deal with his or her trust issues, stemming from Daddy’s ‘wotless’ ways, seems far more favourable than the possibility of weekly visits to the remand yard. So really, how preposterous is the notion of staying with an unfaithful spouse who by some measure is still an involved and dedicated parent?
I’m sure there are those who may disagree since there is the valid argument that what happens in the marital relationship will to some degree ripple through the family; discontented spouses can hardly make ‘happy’ parents, right? One may also contend that a father’s lack of commitment and a compromised moral code can immediately cripple his ability to be a good role model for his children.
However, I have been around men who are dedicated fathers, in spite of their inability – no, let me correct that – in spite of their unwillingness to keep ‘Willy’ under control. Even though I write through the scope of a mother, I am persuaded that the thought process involved in striking some balance for a mother is similar for any woman whether or not she has children involved.
There is a careful weighing of pros and cons. So one must ask, at what point does having a great father or partner in the household no longer outweigh the hurt and inherent risk of staying with a man who cheats? Does it come down to a specific number? If he cheats more than three times is it over? Is it based on a single incident? If he’s not ‘cautious’ with his waywardness and I contract an STD then I’m going solo. Is it based instead on some ambiguous measure of embarrassment? What if my co-workers and my family find out, how would it ‘look’? There exists no single, precise formula, but instead a stifling cocktail of questions that only the one who endures the experience can answer.
So what of the men who choose to stay in the face of infidelity? I posed the scenario to my ‘better half’. Hypothetically, if I were to cheat, what would persuade him to stay? His initial response was, “No ‘real’ man would stay in that situation”. This is a sentiment that I found to be shared by almost every guy I questioned. Beyond the diminished manhood, guys seemed to all think that there must be something wrong with the man if he choses to stay. He ha’ no money, he have real low self esteem, he can’t find another woman, and the list went on.
As I pressed my hubby further, for a direct response and his exact words were, “He gets a free pass”. He reasoned that it was far more common for a man to waver. If he stays, his partner’s infidelity would equip him with sufficient ammo to still keep a ‘good’ woman even if he should stray. This response was so twisted I had to laugh. Endure the horn, so that if I were to mess up… well… now things are even – no foul.
For the few male friends who played along, there were the suggestions that maybe “he real love de woman” or “he want to keep his family together”. In each response, though, there was a clear detachment from this imaginary individual and an undertone that such a scene would never play out in real life.
As much as I tried to strike balance between the two sexes in making this decision, it would seem as though society’s inequitable view of women and men extends to this dilemma as well. Based on the reaction and responses of the guys that I questioned, it seems almost acceptable for the guy to cheat, but still keep his woman. However should the woman stray into the arms of another, the notion of man making a deliberate choice to keep pursuing the relationship seems unfathomable.
Ironically, in last week’s edition of Outlish, a writer posed the question: “Love or Pride: Which is Stronger?” – a question that is quite applicable in this scenario. The undercurrent of compromise that forms the base of any relationship demands that at various junctures we set aside our egos or pride for the greater good of ‘us’. Infidelity by any party, however, erodes the very fabric of a relationship. How does one move on when it is no longer a compromise, but an outright crushing of one’s pride, a total humiliation and betrayal of the same individual you claim to love?
I tip my hat to those who choose to swallow their pride and fight through this enigma, for it is indeed an ultimate demonstration of love and commitment that I can only hope I would never need to exhibit throughout my marriage. What do you say readers? Would you stay with an unfaithful partner?
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (04/04/11; Issue 51):
- A Trini, a Frenchman, an American and Customer Service
- Under the Radar: Living in America without Papers
- Baidawi: Detnating Beats and Sounds
- Primary School Body Tricks: Super Powers that go Away
- The Life of a Play Whe Jumbie: Hitting the Mark every Time
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday.