Conviction without compassion prevents all of us from understanding other points of view. As a woman who has reconciled with the husband who cheated on her (sex addict, so LOTS of cheating; I hadn’t a clue), I’m all too aware of the vitriol that many of us are subjected to by those who subscribe to the “once a cheater…” philosophy. Women who leave are applauded. Women are stay are pitied and pathetic.
Life is rarely black and white. Abuse implies intent to hurt. It’s had to argue that a punch or a slap can be administered without intent to hurt…which is why I think it’s much more clearcut. But cheating? We cheat for all sorts of reasons without any intent to hurt our partner. Some cheaters are assholes, sure. Probably a lot of them are assholes and should be avoided at all costs. But many others make a horrible choice. Others still are driven by addictions that lead them to do appalling things.
Similarly women stay for all sorts of reasons that are perfectly legitimate. Their partner has sought treatment and committed to rebuilding a marriage; or an intact marriage is important to them for their children/culture/whatever…. My point is I don’t live their lives and I don’t know where their values lie. I’d always said I’d immediately dump a cheater. Yet…here I am, confident that I’ve made the best choice for myself and my family.
I’m don’t advocate that those cheated on offer up blind forgiveness (or forgiveness at all, quite frankly). But, on behalf of all of us, I am pleading for at least a tiny opening of the mind to allow for other points of view without immediately casting those who hold it as battered women too weak, stupid or scared to leave.
What you call “conviction without compassion” I call shooting straight. I’m not in the business of convicting anyone (I’ll leave that to the hanging judges of Texas) and I’m also not about compassion for cheaters. My business here is chumps — compassion for them. The bias of my site is very plain, in red lettering — Leave a cheater, Gain a life.
Also, as I have written many times before here and elsewhere, I do NOT believe “once a cheater, always a cheater.” It’s just that I see very little evidence of reformation around me. I think cheating is based in entitlement, and kibbles are hard to kick. I think cheaters can give up acting out sexually, but still retain all the entitlement thinking. I’ll give you an example — explaining their cheating with the line “I didn’t INTEND to hurt you.” That’s not owning it. If cheaters own it, I respect that. “I made a gazillion decisions that were utterly selfish and destructive and I didn’t give a shit if it hurt you.” If cheaters do the work on themselves (kick the cheating AND the kibble chasing), they could be decent partners in their next relationship. However, IMO cheating kills the relationship they’re in. It’s never the same, and I call bullshit that marriage is ever “improved” by infidelity.
Let’s address intentions. As I wrote yesterday, even if it is true that he didn’t “intend” to hurt you, his intentions are irrelevant. He DID hurt you. Grievously. He certainly was aware that if you knew about his screwing around, it would hurt you. There could be severe consequences. The break up his marriage, his home life. That’s why he kept it secret. If he wasn’t aware his actions were harmful, he would do it out in the open. And I’ll give other addicts this — most of them are pretty flagrant about their addictions. Alcoholics get hammered in bars. Junkies shoot up in alleyways. Sure, there are closet drinkers and secrecy, but a lot of addiction is right there under your nose. But your sex addict was hiding it from you, living his double life, that he KNEW full well would hurt you. What he didn’t intend was for you to find out.
Now that you know? He has to cop to well, he didn’t go out there with your personal destruction in mind. He just wanted a hit. Read: he didn’t CARE who he hurt to get what he wanted. Just like a drunk driver doesn’t intend to kill anyone, he/she just doesn’t care about the consequences of driving drunk. When you harm someone, the law is unforgiving about your intentions; it’s all about your actions.
IMO for you to do reconciliation, especially with someone as duplicitous as a sex addict, you have to minimize what they did. “He didn’t intend to hurt me” is minimization.
Here’s another minimization – But many others make a horrible choice.
Choice. Singular. No, even the one night stand is a series of choices. To put yourself in an inappropriate situation, to go forward, to conceal your activities. Many, many choices. Perhaps it is easier to overlook a single choice. It’s much harder to look past a series of deliberate willful choices.
Similarly women stay for all sorts of reasons that are perfectly legitimate. Their partner has sought treatment and committed to rebuilding a marriage; or an intact marriage is important to them for their children/culture/whatever
“Intact marriage” was important to every chump on this site. For their children, their culture. Absolutely. People do not leave cheaters because they don’t value marriage or fail to love their children. (Although cheaters love to play that mindfuck on chumps….) They leave precisely because they DO value marriage and know that they’re not getting a true commitment, mutuality or respect. They leave BECAUSE they love their children and do not want to model dysfunction.
If a sex addict/cheater has sought treatment — wonderful. I truly mean that. If cheaters stop cheating that is all to the good. But my point of view is let them do that on their own time. Recovery is a long, painful road. As any addict can tell you (my brother is one, btw, sober 8 years) — they’re a bad risk for re-offending. My brother has made recovery a lifestyle. He goes to meetings every week. He married another recovering addict who understands the struggle to stay clean. He’s a productive member of society and he’s a guy who spends an inordinate amount of energy trying to do something non-addicts do pretty easily — stay sober.
You’re NOT an addict. IMO, you have no obligation to gamble your future on such a risky investment. You deserve someone for whom monogamy is not 12-step. You can wish your husband the very best and encourage his recovery, and not be married to him.
Women who leave are applauded. Women are stay are pitied and pathetic.
I have news for you Elle. Women who get divorced are also “pitied” and deemed pathetic. I left two marriages and I should know. Even from people who knew your ex, you, and what you lived through. My own family wasn’t terribly understanding and the whiff of failure was all over my divorced status. Getting married a third time? “Oh, I hope this one works.” Good luck with that. And don’t even START me on single motherhood. You want a group that is vilified and pitied? Single mothers are IT.
I understand why many women cling to marriages to not face the stigma of divorce or single parenthood. I get it. There’s plenty of toxic judgment to go around, whatever your decision after infidelity. Part of the purpose of my blog, Elle, is to put the opprobrium back where it belongs — on CHEATERS. Chumps just get left with a shitty set of options. In my opinion, the option that will maximize your happiness is to leave.
I will say this about reconciliation — I think it takes a tremendous amount of personal strength to do it. Had an argument about this with my husband this morning on the subject. (He tried it for 10 days, and threw her out. She was still cheating.) He sees his reconciliation as regretful, humiliating, the lowest point of idiocy. I’m sure it was dreadful, but I give him props for trying. I know for me (over a year of attempted reconciliation, all of it false) — the “remorse” kept me stuck. I felt I owed it to him, my marriage, my “culture,” my values. I’ve had a good rethink about all that since, Elle, but I do think it takes a very big heart to try and forgive the unforgivable. Some may say you’re sick with codependency — but I think it takes a lot of personal bravery to stick it out.
Here’s where we part ways — I think your heart and your bravery are misdirected. I think you deserve better. Much better. I think your situation isn’t even a close call. The guy is a serial cheater. Call it sex addiction or Fucking Around Disease or whatever, the guy was very adept at living a double life. Felt entitled to it. Was good at it (you had no clue). IMO, guys like that are disordered. 77 flavors of fucked up. I don’t see how you could ever feel safe in that marriage again, no matter how much time that man spent in recovery.
My ex was a serial cheater and I consulted four shrinks when I went through that nightmare. One worked in the prison system for 20 years. He told me guys like my ex, even with a ton of therapy, don’t stay straight. Even in prison, with all the structure and shrinkage, in a clinical trial, can’t sustain their “reforms.” When they’re low, there’s a window. When things improve, they’re back at it. I didn’t want to hear that then, I stuck out R. He was right. (Read Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test) I’ve seen it play out like that over and over and over again on every board I’ve been a member of. I know you think you’re different. You know your husband and we don’t. IMO, I wouldn’t take the gamble.
I mentioned the Psychopath Test. You’re probably taking umbrage. I shouldn’t diagnose your husband. Maybe he’s a run of the mill philanderer. A broken person with bad coping skills… I’m just saying, people who lead double lives successfully, over the span of YEARS? They aren’t right in the head. He’s got mad manipulation skills. How would you ever know if he’s playing you? You wouldn’t. And that’s a terrible way to live.