I have started my divorce, working on the settlement, and I’m a few months after my D-Day with a spouse of 20+ years. The cheater is planning to marry the Other Woman. He told me a few months ago that we need to go our separate ways, etc. So I’m on the path, and definitely over it. I TRUST THAT HE SUCKS, and I trust that they suck together. (I read/carried your book with me daily to get to this point.)
I found support with a good counselor. I tried an RIC support group that went badly because the women were sticking around for years (yes, years) waiting for their cheaters to come around. Whereas, I am a few months in and ready to dump the cheater; so I quit that group. I am now in a divorce group, and that group is going better. But… I am getting handed continuing messages that: “I need to look at my role in the marriage. It takes two people for things to go wrong or right. I need to understand my areas for improvement, etc.”
So I know I am not at fault for the cheater’s behavior. I know that even happily married spouses will cheat. But I also have heard that “broken relationships should fail” and “happy relationships seldom fail.” These various things are leaving me confused. I agree that we had our problems, and there was some definite growing apart in the past 4-5 years, each of us changing, plus major stressors (major financial stuff, elderly parent issues, job loss/changes).
Every time I hear that I need to look at myself — it keeps reopening the wound, just as I start to feel stronger and ready to move on with my life. I know that I will be better in my next relationship, because I’m a changed person — forever. But how much do I need to revisit my role in everything? Do I share some responsibility for the breakup of the marriage, even while I know I wasn’t responsible for my cheater’s behavior?
Did you wrestle with this? I’d really like your take on it.
You’re not responsible for someone cheating on you. You don’t have superpowers. And if you did, you’d choose something cool like x-ray vision — not rejection. We don’t make people cheat on us. We don’t drive them to drink, we don’t make them hit us, and we don’t compel them to cheat.
Linking a “bad marriage” with cheating is blameshifting. If you got mugged, and I said, “I’m sorry you were mugged, but let’s examine why you were walking down that street with $100 in your wallet” — you’d see the mindfuckery.
Intimacy makes us vulnerable. Intimacy is the cash in your wallet. You should be able to go about your business without being accosted and pistol-whipped.
If you got mugged, you would probably torture yourself with woulda-coulda-shouldas afterwards. If only I had walked on a different street. If only I looked more assertive. If only I hadn’t gone to that ATM.
Because that’s what victims do — we untangle skeins in an effort to understand Scary. Why we were vulnerable. If there’s anything we could’ve done differently. All the factors leading up to Scary Thing. We’re trying to avoid the central terror — powerlessness.
Victims do this mental loop — but the resources purported to help victims should not blame them.
Somehow a lot of the world has blinders on for transgressions that occur in a marriage. Think how long it took for the mindset to change around domestic abuse or marital rape.
You never caused your husband to deceive you, gaslight you, or risk your health. You did not consent to be cheated on.
Your flaws — real or perceived — are completely irrelevant to the conversation. Your marriage — your imperfect, human marriage — broke up because he cheated. End of story.
Self-improvement is laudable — and it’s also not relevant to this conversation. And I’ll tell your Divorce Care group that. Are you flawed? Sure. We’re all flawed. Should you examine your flaws and strive to improve yourself? Yes, because we should all try to be our best selves. But self-examination is the wrong tool in the “I Got Cheated On” recovery toolkit. Compassion is the right tool.
You shouldn’t be asked to own what isn’t yours to own. Your flaws and life’s stressors didn’t compel him to cheat — his shitty character did that.
No one gets through life without “major stressors.” Everybody ages (okay, unless you grew up on Mount Olympus and are immortal), has job challenges, health crises, money problems… And not everyone cheats. Your character determines how you respond to adversity — and that includes how you reject someone. Ideally, we hope our partners will stick with us through thick and thin. But relationships can still end. If those challenges are too great — there is still an ethical way to end things — honestly, with a fair settlement.
Your ex didn’t leave honestly — he got engaged to another woman while he was married to you. He cheated. That’s on HIM. You can’t fix that, or woulda-coulda-shoulda it. Your mistake was investing in a guy who didn’t have the raw materials — character — to be a life partner. (The irony is not lost on me that he’s remarrying.)
I know that I will be better in my next relationship, because I’m a changed person — forever.
Here’s a perspective as a chump who moved on to that next relationship — it’s been 10 years, and my big revelation is — I’m not that changed as a person. I’m still flawed, but overall I’m a pretty great wife. I was always a pretty great wife. What changed is I got a quality partner who faces life’s challenges with me.
And that’s a freeing revelation — I didn’t suck as a partner. I was in a no-win situation.
I’m not saying that as a pass to ignore my obvious weaknesses — I have plenty of faults. I did a lot of wrong things in my past relationships (trial tested results of What Not To Do shared here). But I never had a fully invested partner before — and that’s the difference.
“broken relationships should fail” and “happy relationships seldom fail.”
Well, that’s just Monday morning quarterbacking, isn’t it? If it failed, it’s broken and if it’s together it must be happy. That’s trying to make causal links between unrelated things. Plenty of broken relationships endure. And “happiness” is transitory. So is failure.
Divorce Care isn’t the oracle of Delphi, okay?
Rock on with your new life, and leave the blameshifting at the door.