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As tears fell down my face as I asked, “Why should I take you back?”
He shook his head softly and responded, “Let me prove it to you.”
Table of Contents
Men cheat more than women
This is not to say men are the only segment of the human species that cheat, but statistically, they cheat more often. Keep in mind that these surveys are typically self-reported… so who knows.
People cheat no matter how loyal or beautiful, or bold their partner may be. Esther Perel would suggest, “Many times, people who stray are also hoping to reconnect with lost parts of themselves, with the lives un-lived, with the sense that life is short and there are certain experiences that they are longing for,” Perel says. “They are looking not just for another person, but in a way, they’re looking for another self.”
So here’s the thing…I wrote, “What if I Cheat?” back in 2019. I had several readers comment on their concerns. An intuitive notion, “Something isn’t right. There is something deeper to this question.” Correct, cheating was already happening in my relationship and I was blind, assuming I loved someone loyal, faithful, and truthful. In 2020, all darkness found light and my heart found pain.
In the article, I begged for him to confess, to be honest, but I never gave much feedback beyond that. I failed to set my boundaries on what commitment and loyalty looked like for me. Hindsight is always 20–20 so I guess at some level, I played myself too. What I’m saying is, tell me, wasn’t the right answer and I’m sorry.
The reason I requested honesty in the article, “What if I Cheat?” is because I consider myself relationally jaded. I’ve seen everything, so not much surprises me. From men collecting panties, posting their “eggplants” on Craigslist, keeping hard drives at work of all their transgressions, and married men getting head from random women in bathrooms. I’ve seen people lose everything they ever wanted, over a single transgression. I’ve seen men have two women and two lives.
I’ve seen great women do similar things, so I won’t act like cheating is always one-sided. I know there are a few unicorns out there that never cheat, shout out to y’all cause…same. So here I am, a year later asking my own question,
“What if I let him stay?”
The stakes of infidelity
Statistically, staying in a relationship after cheating is a high-stakes game. The challenge of staying is comparable to the relational Super Bowl. The amount of discipline to succeed as a couple post-cheat…well let’s just say the odds aren’t stacked in our favor.
Seriously, only 15% of couples that experience affairs successfully stay together. 85% don’t make it. 85%!! Also, cheaters are 3x more likely to repeat their offenses in the next relationship. Interracial couples, bless our hearts, those odds look even worse.
But when I look at my partner, knowing what I know, I’m painfully aware of the work necessary to rebuild the destruction that surrounds us. While I can fathom the work, to be honest, I don’t know exactly the steps to take and I will not suggest that I do.
What I am here to say is that my first article and suggestion of just tell me… that not enough family. I am better than who I was even two days ago because of what happened. I know my value more now than ever.
My therapist would suggest, people who get caught cheating get better at hiding; they don’t stop cheating. I also got a contrasting point of view from a few manic cheaters to understand, when to run and when to stay. The first thing they suggested in forgiving cheating: Know the body count.
Understand why there were transgressions, what the person went out seeking, and how much forgiveness are we talking about. 15 people or 2? We need real numbers and hard facts to truly forgive someone. Even when it SUCKS. The second thing the manic cheater told me is that I really have two options, well three…to go forward with.
Leave him ASAP.
Forge radical truth.
Forgive and move on.
What if He Cheated?
1. Leave him
This one is the easiest. We live in a throw-away culture nowadays so it’s tempting for me to say, “F* it.” With the apps, social platforms, connected devices, and a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, I’m sure I could meet a thousand men that adore me in no time (not to speak from ego, statistics suggest there are more single men than women in Texas).
Leaving him also means leaving the lesson behind of what I didn’t show up for, what space I didn’t create, and beyond that, what cries for help in our relationship that I didn’t hear. In each relationship, there are lessons learned through the pain, so I know those come, no matter what.
2. Forge radical truth
In relationships where there are potential risks of transgressions, the more often we as couples can sit down and speak on temptations the less likely they are to occur or, in this case, re-occur. When we release a secret to our partner, we take away the effects of excitement that they can have on our silly brains. In my eyes, the truth becomes imperative to connection in this digital era and while I was mad, the only way to understand what I was forgiving, required me to know the whole situation.
Knowing more than anyone else gives us power back. The more I know, the more power I have in a room. It is kind of like the lioness acknowledging the other female lions that surround her, but knowing her position as leader. Can’t fool me if I hold all the power aka truth.
Building an agreement: as a woman, I was livid, jealous, sad, mad, and disappointed. I changed the locks and wrote out my requirements in an email. One week to respond, negotiate, and find mutually agreed-upon terms. Understand my terms, you get a key. Don’t agree to the terms, stay at an Airbnb. Now is the moment to balance power.
Learning to cope with pain can also mean doubling down on the things that make us feel good. For me, buying new clothing, getting a massage, a manicure, and talking with my therapist helped me process and go forward.
For others, this may look different. Self-love is the goal here, so no matter what that is, do that. When we lose that sense of oneness with our partner, we must also recognize, we stopped doing the boundary work within ourselves.
Forging a new path of radical truth is messy, yucky, hard, and for the long-term. The statistics tell me the journey, the intentionality of his future efforts will show me the way. My gut and intuition will play a much bigger role in my decisions from now on, I know that I minimized myself on many levels before.
Option C. Not my favorite, but Miranda did it with Steve in Sex and The City. I know some women who have gone this route. Forgive and agree that this was a fluke. This is more of the forgive and forget philosophy, which is not my style. This practice requires fewer conversations, fewer video replays, and more forward motion.
It may look like a couple’s counseling or moving to a new city. Forgiveness may look like being separated for a period to let the tension wear off. Forgiveness may look like two people just sitting down on a couch and talking about what forgiveness looks like. Forgiveness is simple in theory but I find it to be difficult in execution without truth.
Conclusion: Throw-away culture
I’m not sure if he’ll be able to prove it to me. Not sure how long it will take for this sinking feeling to leave my insides. I cannot confidently say that I am handling things perfectly, but I am trying, reading, and getting coaching.
As a society, we want everything to be delivered in a perfect blue box wrapped with a white silk ribbon. We want our lovers always to exceed our expectations. We want them to be our friend, supporter, partner, lover, roommate, chores splitter, dog walker, errand runner, bill payer, mentor, in-home chef, and household decorator. We expect a lot, on both sides. The work with correcting throw away culture is to ensure within ourselves that the person standing in front of us, whom we choose to give our heart to, is exactly who they say they are.
In rebuilding, learn to create a radically honest relationship between us sounds a lot like something I said in 2018,
“You can always heal your heart if you are prepared for it to break. Just be open to the idea that you may choose to find that ‘one’ and that love may crush you. Once you accept that love can have many faces and can still break us, you will realize that love is this infinite cycle of lessons that teach us our own heart.”
Previously published on medium