Nomusa wrote, “Thank you Gloria and I agree with you Gloria. No matter what you do, you cannot stop him from seeing that other woman. In my case, my husband cheated twice and we have only been married for 2 years. The first I forgave him, the second time I think I forgave him because I was thinking of my unborn child. But it haunts me why I had to forgive him the second time. The woman he is cheating with was the one who called me at 3am declaring my husbands love for her and telling me that they are having sex. My husband promised me that they are not seeing each other anymore. But I find out that they actually are going to business trips together. What possibly happens there when I am not there? I am on the verge of breaking down. I love my husband but staying means being cheated on for months and years to come…. I really dont know what to do.” [sic]
First things first, see a counselor to help you process the overwhelming enormous hurt and abuse your husband is choosing to inflict upon you. I say choosing given the fact that he knows you are aware of the other woman and this is second incident of cheating. The act of cheating is not normally thought of as emotional abuse. Never-the-less, his maltreatment of you is abusive behavior which is no different than the physical and emotional abuse that women suffer at the hands of being in relationships with abusive men. The symptoms of emotional and physical abuse are humiliation, emotional distancing and feelings of abandonment, neglect, codependency, shame, and depression. Woman who are victims of abusive cheating behaviors are subject to the identical symptoms. The emotional abuse of cheating is harmful because it can weaken self-perception and increase self-deprecation as you struggle with the pain, anxiety, and reality of knowing that if he isn’t home with you, he is with the other woman.
A husband who abuses his wife with cheating behaviors places her in a mental prison; caged within herself and consumed with extreme feelings of despair and misery. This is not the usual hurt, disappointment or loss that you can share with friends. His cheating is humiliating and you feel ashamed. You are either afraid or not sure whether to share your despair with others because you don’t want him to lose the respect of family, friends, or your community. You suffer in silence as you try to appeal to his conscious either with tears or by threats, or by rationalizing with him on how his actions will destroy the marriage. When he is gone, you agonize as you sit home alone, wondering where he is; what is he doing; and is he with her? You begin to withdraw into insecurity and become depressed and emotional fragile to point where you feel susceptible to a nervous breakdown. You find it difficult to get up in the morning, preferring to retreat under the covers. You are confused on how do to deal with this lack of control in your life. How can you make him stop cheating? Sadly, you can’t unless he wants to and if he doesn’t want to, you have to determine what you need to do to take care of you. You may think, “I love him and I don’t want to give up on my marriage.” My question is: While you are loving him through all his abuse, who is loving you? In my book, How to Successfully Date a Married Man, I emphasize self-love over a self-deprecating, destructive, relationship with a married man.
“Loving a married man is self-deprecating, destructive, and degrading to your sense of self-worth. It is the antithesis of self-love; if you are going to love someone, love yourself first.”
The same is true if you are the wife of a husband who continually subjects you to the abuse of his cheating behaviors: It is debasing to your sense of self-worth. You feel as though you are not good enough, you feel naïve, and you feel stupid if you have taken him at his word and then discover that he has cheated again. You may also feel that no one cares about you and most importantly, if the marriage ends, you are likely to carry baggage and insecurity into the next relationship. This is what happens when you stay too long in an abusive relationship and it eats away at every fiber of your being. You are worth loving—you are not worth being a victim of abuse in the name of love.
Nomusa, what is disturbing about your situation is that your husband is still cheating with the woman who brought knowledge of the cheating to you. How could he not know how this is affecting your heart? He is now aware, which is the really tragic part of your story, that his cheating is hurting and tearing you apart. Do you really want to resign yourself to live in a marriage with a man who lacks respect and the instinct to take care of and protect you? While he is engaged in an affair with her, he is neglecting you and giving her what is rightfully yours.
Abusive cheating has a direct effect on your mental and physical well-being. Forgiveness is healing, whereas to be unforgiving dims the light in you, which stagnates your living. Forgiveness releases you from reliving all the wrong that has been done to you over and over again, helping you to move on and live more brightly. An individual’s capacity to forgive can be difficult in repeated patterns of offensive behavior such as chronic abusive cheating. Remember that forgiving doesn’t mean you are required to allow someone back into your life. If the person is worthy, and you desire their presence in your life, forgiveness must be gifted as an absolute, but with terms—marital or couples counseling intervention. As I have stated in previous blogs, it is naïve on the wife’s part to believe that he will not see the other woman again, simply because he says he will not. He may promise to stop seeing this other woman, but there is no guarantee that he will abruptly end the affair or discontinue talking to her, which in time will lead back to flaming the fires of the affair.
If you want to remain married to your husband, the both of you need to work out your feelings about his abusive cheating, and why you want to be in a marriage that you feel will subject you to years of abusive cheating. Some women are financially and emotionally dependent upon their husbands, therefore, forgiving him and staying in the marriage may be borne out of necessity. That withstanding, you should still expect him to end the affair and commit to faithfulness in the marriage.
Perhaps you stayed the first time because he promised that he would not cheat again, and you forgave him because your desire to make the marriage work was greater than walking out and leaving him—especially with a baby on the way. Nothing wrong with this reasoning; however, giving a pass to a two-time or more cheater shouldn’t be as simple as forgiving him. Men repeat the perfunctory, “I’m sorry” and “it’ll never happen again; it was just sex” to women and receive forgiveness. What is the incentive or consequence or work required of them for change in their behaviors? There should be a solution, a consequence, and work on the husband’s part (and I’m not talking about pulling a “Koby” and buying jewelry) for cheating and that is psychological marital counseling to ascertain your husband’s honesty on his feeling about the marriage. If your husband wants to save the marriage, he must be willing to seek counseling on why he isn’t able to be faithful, why he continues to cheat, and what he needs to do to be presence and committed in the marriage.
There are men who will cheat for no other purpose than cheating and risk all that is important as if they are confident about their cheating. Could it be that they know their wives will forgive and take them back in time? Women are much more capable of forgiveness than men, and are more likely to forgive instances of cheating while men are intolerant of forgiving a single indiscretion. Some men, such as in your husband’s case, may feel that they are in no real danger of being banished forever from home…just hysterical crying and screaming, angry veil threats, and maybe a few nights on the couch? Most women, in time, will forgive and take the cheating husband back. You will forgive him although if the tables were turned, husbands tend not to be so forgiving. This age-old double standard has plagued the roles of men and women for generations. If a man cheats…well, it happens. Tele-evangelist, Pat Robertson, recently advised a woman on his secret for moving on from a husband’s cheating by telling her, “Here’s the secret. Stop talking [sic] the cheating. He cheated on you, well, he’s a man.” Pat Robertson obviously is from a different time where cheating is acceptable and the “tendency of man.” I hope that no woman is following his advice. You can’t heal from cheating or other problems in a marriage by not talking. If a husband cheats, his wife has the right to want to talk about it, and he is obligated to answer and communicate effectively.
Be warned, if the causes for your husband’s abusive cheating behaviors are not uncovered, he will continue to cheat. Cheating if symptomatic of problems in the marriage or perhaps a poor orientation on what constitutes commitment to marriage in the first place. Why is your husband numb to the hurt he is causing you with his abusive behavior? As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced marriage counselor to help expose the nature of the cheating abuse. Negative behavior is usually the result of unresolved hurt or childhood experiences that may be thought of as normal behavior due to environmental conditioning. For example, do you know whether you husband was exposed to abusive cheating behaviors of his father? Healing from hurt or changing a mindset or a poor frame of reference will mean reliving and releasing the past buried in your husband’s emotional closet.
In-the-mean-time, do all that you can not to languish in the emotional pain. Avoid ruminating, worrying, and living day-in day-out with the anxiety of a husband who is willing to allow you to suffer through his abusive cheating. Keep up your appearance; be conscious of your eating habits to avoid extreme weight losses or gains. Pull yourself out bed, get dressed (not in sweats) put on your makeup and get out of the house and into counseling, even if he fails to go.
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