Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dear Ally

This is a sad post.  It's about a real situation.

A friend of mine, who's a fellow-blogger, recently learned that her husband cheated on her.  She was, of course, devastated by the news.  Now, she's debating how to react: i.e., whether to work on salvaging her marriage or to throw in the towel.  She is wondering whether this transgression is unforgivable or forgivable.

Some female-members of her family want her to forgive him and resume the marriage.  A girlfriend of hers "basically said that any woman should expect it to happen at any moment and that I should just talk about it and continue my relationship."

Her frame-of-mind was revealed in this sentence: "I just cannot accept that the few women that I have talked to seem to find this behavior acceptable and forgivable and in my head it just does not seem right."

My friend wants more feedback so she can sort out how to think about this terrible situation.  She decided it would be a mistake to talk about it on her blog.  Instead, she asked me to pose the question to you here, keeping her identity anonymous.  So, I'm doing that. 

What do you guys think?  What advice do you have for her?


  1. I don't think its acceptable. It could be forgivable though if she creates her own boundaries for what is worth leaving the marriage for. In my own case with an ex, I could forgive the physical transgressions (numerous ones) but there was one that was more emotionally intimate and that was unforgivable.
    This is one of the BEST articles I have ever read. You should read it, I don't know how your friend might react to it now that she is struggling though. Your call.

  2. It's really easy to say it's acceptable if you're not in that situation. But when it comes down to it, it's NOT acceptable. It's disgusting and gross. But still, is it worth leaving him for or not?

    I think it depends on the relationship, the nature of his "act," and his personality in general. If she forgives him, what's going to stop it from happening again? And again? And again? A quick romp at the office is different than an ongoing infidelity and thus needs to be treated as such. If your friend truly thought it was 100% unforgivable, then she wouldn't be here wondering our opinions on the matter. She would have kicked him to the curb days ago. That in itself tells me a lot. Forgiving him and moving on with the relationship may be more painful than the alternative, but it might just be worth it. But listen to yo' heart, not us!

  3. It is a heartbreaking situation and I am really sorry for your friend.
    Unfortunately though these things are not as black and white as everyone seems to think they are. I used to think that way too when I found myself in a situation that made me realize it is easy to judge from the out outside but when you are in it whole other story.

    What she needs is support from her friends and family whatever she decides to do. She needs to know she won't be judged if she forgives him.

    And like the above commenters stated it depends on the situation as well. Was this a one night of weakness effected by alcohol or is it an ongoing emotional relationship which is harder to walk away from. Also, how was their marriage? Were there unspoken problems that needed to be addressed regardless of this terrible mistake he made. If she does want to work things out family counseling would be a must.
    I hope whatever she decided to do she is happy at the end.

  4. I am truly sorry for her. My personal experience says that she might regret it if she tries to salvage the marriage now because it's what society tells her to do, only to find out that in her heart of hearts she cannot forgive him and have it break apart later anyway. My personal experience says that cheating is unforgivable and that the relationship cannot continue after the breach of trust it constitutes.

    Still, as these things are incredibly personal and individual, I don't know if I can offer reasonable advice without knowing any specifics - so much depends on personal standards, boundaries, and previous agreements about the relationship. So much depends on how the emotional situation is on both sides.

    And so much depends, also, on how much of a jerk he continues to be now that she knows he cheated on her.

    Did she find out without him confessing? If he confessed, is he now pressuring her to forgive him before she's emotionally ready for it (yes, this happens)? Does he, like her family and friends, think it's just an expected thing that their relationship continue (because boys will be boys, which seems to be their general tenor)? Does he offer unsolicited but precious gifts to make up for it (despicable!)? [Also, while the cheating was ongoing, did he endanger her health by having unprotected intercourse with that other person?... sorry to talk about potentially icky stuff here but I think it's an important question, not just as a health issue but because it says something about the degree of inconsiderateness!]

    If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I'd say he's really not deserving of forgiveness and she should head for a breakup as soon as possible.

    Same if she feels that continuing the marriage would be from a sense of obligation primarily (because it's the "good girl" thing to do), not from love that could still be there. The problem with this is that she will need time to figure it out since emotions tend to be in utter turmoil after this breach of trust.

    I also think that her friends' and family's reactions are nearly as bad as the cheating itself. The attitude behind assuming that a woman being cheated on is normal and that she should just accept it seems incredibly sexist and disrespectful to me...

  5. That has to be so tough on her. Personally I think it depends on the transgression. She of course has every right to be angry. And I certainly don't think these things are 'inevitable' or 'to be expected'. But the amount of anger depends on the situation. If they enjoyed 15 happy years of marriage and then he told her that once six months ago he slept with another woman, it's a different situation than finding out through a friend that your husband of a couple years has been cheating on you for 3 months with various people. I would have a hard time forgiving my boyfriend if he cheated on me. I would certainly be angry and probably would make him move out. But I don't think there is anything wrong with forgiveness either. After a hypothetical infidelity there would definitely be a point in the future where I would consider forgiveness. But of course she has every right to be angry with him.

  6. I think the best advice is "time". I know someone who immediately said she couldn't deal with her husband's transgressions and they divorced. We can tell now both regret their actions. While that may not be the case for your friend, it's better to take the time now to weigh the options than to jump to decisions

  7. Is it something she can truly get over? When he stays late at work, will she constantly be thinking he's cheating? If he goes out with the guys, will that thought linger in her mind? Will it eat at her and constantly be in her thoughts? Then no, she can't stay in it. It wouldn't be healthy for either of them. It would just foster a lot of resentment and sadness.

    If she wouldn't be constantly having those thoughts, can really get past the entire situation, wont retaliate, and truly believes that he will never cheat again, then maybe.

    I wouldn't be able to get past it. Not in a marriage. He made vows that he broke. If it was when she was dating someone, and they made a tiny slip (kissing someone when drunk, for example), that's a completely different story. The trust is broken and it's really difficult to get back.

    Anyways, I'm done rambling. She's going to have to listen to her own heart on this one, no one else is married to him.

  8. I agree with Cara. She needs to step back from the situation. Spend some time healing from the initial hurt. The situation is unforgivable in my opinion - but I know most people are not me and would possibly want to rebuild. That is a personal choice that shouldn't be made based on anyone's opinions, but why her husband cheated in the first place and how she feels about it and whether SHE believes it to be forgivable and whether HE is willing to take the grueling task of earning her trust back.

    I think that it's bizarre that cheating it so accepted in today's society - that many do think it's an inevitable thing that's just going to happen. But I also know there are people who make mistakes.

    I wish your friend the best in this. It's a very tough time she's going through and I hope she is able to find some emotional support that isn't as flippant about the transgression. Communication is key at this point. She needs to talk to people and her husband, but don't feel pressured one way or another. She needs to come to that decision on her own.

  9. I agree with the Anonymous post. It's one think to forgive and something else entirely. If she's never going to trust him again, I think she should take it into consideration when deciding what to do.

  10. Poor dear... I certainly send my best to her. I can only imagine what she must be going through.

    She shouldn't even decide what to do now. Giving herself some time to let the initial shock settle, and spending some time seeing how her feelings and her husband's behavior evolve over the next few weeks or months will give her greater clarity in whatever decision she makes. A good therapist could help her sort through her feelings.

    It's hard to be black-and-white about the decision to go or to try to repair a marriage. Both are perfectly valid decisions.

  11. Tough situation and unfortunately something I've been through and ended a 20 year marriage over. She really has to follow her heart. Did she catch him or did he come and confess? Was this an affair or a one time mistake that he is very sorry for? Do they have kids? Does she still love him? Is he contrite and does he want to work it out? How long have they been married?

    If they are relatively new in their marriage, then this may be a sign of things to come. I don't think that anyone can settle this in her mind except for her. It almost seems like she wants to end it. She is certainly justified in that. But I would say that if she is uncertain, it's best not to make any permanent decisions. ~Serene

  12. I didn't realize that cheating was considered to be acceptable -- that is a yet another nail in the coffin for today's society. I think that when a partner strays (and I am not talking about the kind of partner that would stray no matter what), there is usually a reason for it -- it doesn't make it right, but if she really wants to repair the marriage it would be in her best interest to find out why the partner strayed. And that is a tough road to follow -- she may not like what she finds out, and she may not be in a place to deal with it.

  13. I am going to respond to this question before I even read the other responses because I know my opinion probably wont be among the general consensus and would like to get this out as unbiased as possible…
    The initial question is How should she react?-She can’t help her emotions, they are going to come up and down in many forms and in many ways, sometimes being calm and centered other times being enraged. Commonly we will put blame on the other person and push the responsibility….but here is where I am going to have her take a look at her own situation..
    1-The warning signs should have been there. As herself How often has she had sex with her husband. During those times has it been passionate fulfilling, exciting. Is it more of a short chore just to get off, or are they filled with nights of wonderful sexual bliss? The moment sex is dissolved from the marriage is the moment its over.
    2-What type of communication does her and her husband have. When asked about work or day, is It answered with short answers just to pass the conversation or are they full fledge descriptions. Do they eat dinner and stare at each other making small talk, or are they filled with long debates and interesting conversations? Does she even know some of his fantasies desires and needs? (VICE VERSA, these are all answers her husband should have about her too)
    I am among the breed of woman who is the “mistress” in life. Married men have come to me because they don’t get the attention, the desires, the satisfaction at home, so they will find it elsewhere. An immediate question I have for the men is “have you talked to your wife about this” which is met with “My wife doesn’t understand or not into this”..UMMMM>>HELLLO No one knows how to talk to each other any more. Instead of “growing” together and finding out what is locked deep inside of the walls within the mind..too many couples are locked into the thought of what they were when they first met and are locked in that static state. You either grow together or grow apart, but no one stays static..change is inevitable….
    So the change in his life is he found someone else to give him something that the wife either wouldn’t couldn’t ignored….

  14. This is her chance to either win him back or keep it moving. If there is any kids involved or anything like that can make it difficult…
    First she has to
    1-End this “I cannot accept that women have talked to seem to find this behavior acceptable” guess what..WOMEN do…That’s why sites like Ashley Madison are thriving….People love to cheat..people love to find out what they can do behind their partners back..people love the thrill of it….the catch is to get on the band wagon and open up the marriage. Consent to being open and possibly invite partners into your life as well
    2-When confronting the husband…Get out of the mind of whose responsibility it is. This isn’t You DID THIS TO ME sort of mentality. This is a time to find out what is going on, what they can do together. I would suggest professional help, but even if you have a third party the key is to do it together. It should not be posed as YOU NEED THERAPY or we NEED should be…we can possibly use some help to come to an understanding together.
    3-Figure out what she really wants. Does she want to stay in the marriage..does she want to leave…does she want to continue in this unhappy world miserable..always looking at how the grass is greener on the other side, but out of comfort staying in a static miserable state. Figure it out..and do it…
    OK I know this all sounds cruel..but my advice for her..>Start looking out for herself..and if she wants to save the marriage…then Save it. Get her nails done, get her hair done, go to Victoria secrets and get that sexy teddy. Give her man a good long blow job, do something kinky, sexy and wonderful that they never tried before, and seriously fuck the hell out of him..but first talk about it..and discuss what it is that they both really want..and what desires they both really have. The catch is to rekindle the passion….If they are in a boring marriage..that part has already have its it is time to sex it up..and get back into the bedroom!!!! A satisfied Pecker and Pussy, makes an overall happy HOME! If she can’t find it through him..then have her find it elsewhere…An orgasm a day will provide a much happy Stay!

  15. sorry had to use two posts ...It was a long winded response and they only allow a certain amount of characters :-) Enjoy! (dont throw tomatoes at me :( )

  16. I think I would need to know more. Did something tragic happen that caused the cheating? Maybe the issues are deeper? Honestly, I would suggest councilor if she still cares for him and feels any inkling of wanting to stay. I would not accept it though if it were me.

  17. Thanks, everyone. I know she's reading your responses closely and trying to get a better understanding of the situation. Your words and thoughts help.

  18. I read everyone's response ... I honestly do not have anything to add. I agree with the few who said, it comes down to 'trust' ... if she 'thinks' she is forgiving him ... but continues to punish him and herself in the relationship then it is not really working out, is it?

    I truly believe the answer really lies within herself. She just needs to step back and let it become clearer to her ... all the suggestions in the world wouldn't help her make the decision which is right for her.

    ♡ from ©

  19. I'm with some of the others in that it kind of depends on a lot of different factors and isn't necessarily black and white. But I'm appalled that anyone would tell her to just accept it and act like it happens to everyone at some point; it doesn't. Whether she stays or goes, I don't think it should be blindly accepted. There are real issues behind it that need to be addressed.

    It's good to get advice from different sources so you can weigh your options...but the bottom line is, go with your gut. Only you know for sure. Take all the advice and opinions and stack them up to your personal values and what you can handle and whether you think the affair is really over. I think there are some situations that warrant forgiveness, but know that you do not have to stay if you don't feel right about it. The only one you have to answer to is you. How will staying make you feel 1, 5, 10 years from now? Whatever you decide, you aren't obligated to justify your decision to anybody.

  20. Wow, you have some great followers. These are all very intelligent, insightful, comments. There definitely is no black-and-white answer. There are so many potential variables. For me, though, the breach of trust would be very difficult to get past.

  21. I feel so badly for her; I've been cheated on more than once and it's humiliating. I wouldn't be able to get past it and trust him again, because to me, cheating isn't just the single act: a whole series of bad and thoughtless and disrespectful choices have to be made to get you there. You don't just look up from your desk at work and find yourself naked and having sex with someone who isn't your wife. Usually there's a lot of flirtation and lead-in, which offers many possible opportunities along the way to reconsider what you're doing. I guess there are circumstances where it isn't quite so premeditated; I might feel differently if it was a drunken bachelor party sort of deal, but even then it would be really tough. He's old enough to know better.

    All that said, I know people who have worked it out after one or the other partner cheats and have done just fine. Monogamy isn't really that easy, and people do make mistakes. It really depends on the quality of their relationship and whether she thinks she's better off with him or without him. Either way I think the suggestion of not deciding right now is a good one. If she stays with him though, I would advise her to be extremely clear that cheating would never be tolerated again -- and also that she reserves her right to kick him to the curb if she finds she can't in fact move on. He needs to grovel a little, at least.

  22. Oh and I forgot to add: if she can possibly swing it, she should take a vacation by herself, particularly abroad. It's incredibly good for the soul, and would be a great way to remove herself from the situation, do something positive for herself, and have time alone to think. I recovered from a cheater in Europe, and it was the best therapy I could've possibly gotten.

  23. After the original shock, I think she should spend time in REALLY thinking... I agree with what most people say. For me it's not about the cheating - it's mainly about the loss of trust and mutual respect (and probably a not very good communication level between the couple) which led there. Did she have signs before the incident? Did she find out on her own? What does the husband have to say about his behavior or about the relationship? Do they have kids? (this is crucial for me - If they don't I would just dumb the guy). How many years did they spend together?
    And one more thing. The women who suggest so easily to fight for the marriage and forget about it, are usually the ones who got married really young... In that case, both partners are more likely to cheat in comparison to a couple that has given a lot more thought and time into the matter. And it's not that I'm not romantic here, I'm just being realistic. (of course I don't mean to offend the couples that manage to stay in love since high-school - if there are any).
    She needs to take some time off it all and reflect. Understand her deeper feelings... The hardest part is to build up your self-esteem as a woman when someone puts you down like this. If and only if she decides this man worth the trouble she could seek professional help. I admire that woman for sharing her problem (even anonymously) and I have to say that what you read here, are plain suggestions. We are all different people and the decision is yours alone to take. Give it some time.
    Can I now say how much I hate cheaters?? (of both sexes). It shows a low self-esteem and a huge lack of responsibility and self-control. I'm more of the "treat others the way you want to be treated" philosophy.

  24. What a terrible betrayal. I am so sorry for your friend. Perhaps it's not something for her to decide right away. I'm sure she can hardly think straight she is so shaken... Why not just try to take it one day at a time, dealing with the emotions as they come? I'm sorry to say I was betrayed in my marriage. Within the first six months in fact. I attempted to repair it but four years later it ended. I at least have the comfort in knowing I tried everything... That may or may not be the right approach for her... Only she can decide and I hope she has a good support group around her. She's got your support so that's a start!

  25. It really boils down to whether she can truly forgive him and move on. Saying you forgive someone of this horrible act is one thing but to actually live life believing that he is worthy of that forgiveness is another thing altogether. If you can't move on, it will ruin the relationship in the long run, anyway. Ugh. Difficult to say one way or the other. Both parties have to want to stay in the marriage as well for a reconciliation to work. He has to prove he's trust-worthy and she has to trust him again. It's a long hard road but it can be done if they both want it badly enough. Therapy is going to be a huge help.

    This is a very awful and hard situation. I wish her the best during this incredibly scary and sad time.


  26. What a horrible thing to go through - the sad thing is he isn't the first person to cheat and he won't be the last...I think it becomes a double betrayal that friends and family are condoning his behaviour...when she feels that his actions are unacceptable....I agree with what most people are saying....It is a personal choice whether or not she forgives him and is prepared to carry on with the marriage and that choice is dependant on a number of factors...I think it will be incredibly difficult to trust him again and that is going to take hard work from both of them...Her not to jump to conclusions every time he geniunly needs not to be at home and him to prove to her that it was one transgression and it will not happen again..both will need to be very committed to moving forward...Time is probably the best medicine for her at the moment - she should not make any rash decisions either way whilst she is hurting, in time she will be able to see things more clearly and will know what she wants to do....

  27. Late on this but I thought I'd pitch in anyway, in case your friend checks back.

    Acceptable? No.

    Forgiveable? Maybe.

    The longer a relationship goes and the more history you have together, the harder it is to imagine giving up all that. At the end of our 60 years together, will the few months he spent with some girl make the rest of our time devoid of meaning? I think not... and I have a jealous streak a mile wide.

    I asked hubby, whose opinion I respect a lot. He said that circumstances need to be considered, the effort of each party to work things out and accept accountability for creating the situation that led to the event, and the ability of each of them to eventually let it go. He also said if it's the first time, work at it. If it's the second time, that effort has already shown to be a bad investment and you should move on.

    I would also like to add, personally, that AVOIDING talking about the issue with mutual friends and family is a really good idea. It is too hard to try to move on with someone when you have shared your dirty laundry with the world. People continue to judge the transgressor, and you, whether you stay or whether you go. Confide in a couple of people who support you and the direction you want to take it in, and let discretion rule the remainder of your relationships.

    Best of luck to you in this difficult time. I have been there, and I do get it. I can also promise you that whichever path you choose, it WILL get better.