I was reading a reprint over on Chump Lady last week or the week before. It was How To Save Your Marriage After Infidelity. She was messing with her Google analytics really, knowing that that is the question so many people want answered after finding out they’ve been cheated on. I know many people, especially those who wish to reconcile, are not a big fan of hers, but she actually gave some great advice.
#1- Recognize that it’s dead. That’s a step most people don’t want to take. I get it. The reality though is that when your spouse cheats on you and betrays you you can’t trust them. You shouldn’t trust them! You probably don’t feel safe with them. Here’s the important part of that piece of advice though: We don’t control other people. The only person you control is you.
This is both good news and bad news. It gives you agency. You decide what you’re willing to put up with, what your deal breakers are. At the same time, if your cheater violates those deal breakers then it’s up to you to decide what to do. Because you don’t control the cheater. You control yourself. So, you tell your cheater you want access to all of their social media and you don’t ever want them around the AP again, and they violate that. Now it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to put up with that, or if you’re going to walk away. I can’t make you show me your Facebook/Instagram/text messages, or make you stay away from your AP, but I can leave you if you’re not willing to do those things for me and for our relationship.
#2- It’s not your fault. If you take only one or two things away from Chump Lady please make sure this is one of them.
Pay no attention to the blame-shifting. You didn’t hold a gun to their head and force them to create dating profiles. You might actually suck, but you did not make your cheater cheat. That’s completely on them. People have agency and many options, including therapy, divorce lawyers, and honest conversations. They cheated because they wanted to. It’s that simple.
They don’t cheat because you were too fat, or too skinny, or played too much Candy Crush. They didn’t cheat because they’re in a fog or having a midlife crisis or because you didn’t understand them. They cheated because they felt entitled to cheat. They wanted to and they did it. You’re not the boss of them!
Her third point was talking about the importance of having boundaries in the midst of infidelity, especially if you are planning on reconciling. Folks, as I said above if you only take one or two things away from Chump Lady make sure this is the other one. If you have any hopes of saving your marriage after infidelity you need to be willing to walk away if those boundaries are violated.
I am guilty as charged. I was petrified at times. I didn’t want to upset the apple cart. If I’m a good little wife and I keep everything perfect then he won’t be upset or leave. You know what? It didn’t help in the end. He cheated with the exact same person and this time he actually left. Or at least was making plans to leave until I found out and hightailed it to a lawyer’s and filed for divorce myself.
So, if one of your boundaries is your cheating spouse needs to give you details about what transpired? Then cheater better ‘fess up. If one of your boundaries is telling you who the AP is, cheater better ‘fess up. If one of your boundaries is letting you see Facebook, text messages, emails, etc.? Cheater better be showing you everything. If cheater hems and haws, does “trickle truth”, or just flat out tells you, “No.”? Then you need to be prepared to show Cheater the door. If you don’t? You are telling this person who has already horribly betrayed you once before that you are willing to put up with anything in order to keep this person in your life. You’re letting them know there will be no consequences for their atrocious behavior. They can abuse you again and again because the most important thing in the world is that they stay. You’re willing to put up with whatever in order to make sure they don’t leave you. Put another way: They’re the ones that cheated and you’re willing to let them call the shots on how reconciliation will play out.
Again, I get it. Sticking to your boundaries is scary. Truthfully, the cheater might leave. They’re not known for doing the difficult things. They like easy. But is this how you really want to live?
I didn’t stick to my boundaries. I didn’t realize they were being violated actually. But I recall that October back in 2013 when I found messages between him and his nephew and he was telling him how he was going to bring her with him and he was going to marry her one day.
I was so pissed and I refused to come home. He threatened to kill himself, which I later learned was a form of manipulation. We talked a few minutes about those messages but then he made his plea to give it a rest because he was “so anxious and stressed” and he just wanted a day to not talk about it. We never talked about it again. Until he tried to keep me off the deed to our new house when we moved.
I confronted him, asked him if he was moving me out there to divorce me. Once again he had the tears going. “How could you think that? I don’t know what that person is doing and I could give less than two fucks about them!” That was the end of it.
You all know how it played out. Approximately four months before D-Day #2 I was recording messages for my loved ones after they found my body. That’s how crazy he made me. That’s how desperate I felt during that period.
That’s not even mentioning the lies he told or the way he disrespected me the entire summer as he lied and handed money over to his whore bitch and her kids. I jumped through hoop after hoop trying to help him and make him happy and my payback was finding out he was fucking his cousin that he swore up and down was the worst mistake of his life.
I’m not saying that if I had been more confrontational all would have been well, but I know when we set boundaries and they step a toe over that line that’s not respect and that’s not how you behave when you are truly remorseful and wish to reconcile.
Tracy has this fantastic post called, Real Remorse? Or Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse? that should be required reading for those who want to reconcile. As much as it sucks you better be able to suss out whether they’re genuinely sorry or if they’re simply trying to avoid any harsh consequences.
I will say this much for myself. I told him back in 2013 when I found out about Harley the first time that I would forgive him this time but if he ever did it again there would be no second chances. I would leave him and I would cut him off at the knees. I found out on a Monday night and I was calling lawyers the next day. I hated it. I hated the fact that I was in this position. We had been in our new house in a new state for a year at that point. I had a brand new pool that had been filled for six days. I had new furniture and a new car. The last thing I wanted to do was file for divorce. But I knew there was no going back. He knew what my boundary was. He didn’t care. I guess he thought I was prepared to put up with anything in order to try to keep my cushy life. Cheater found out the hard way that was not the case.