Hey you. Yes, you. You, looking at yourself in the mirror. Squeezing your love handles. Turning around and trying to look at the reflection of your butt. Analyzing and overanalyzing every square inch of your body trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Asking yourself over and over again the same questions: What’s wrong with me? Am I not enough? Am I not attractive anymore? How could he do this to me?
I’d like to give you a hug and whatever comfort food you feel like eating and then I’d like to firmly say to you,
“YOUR HUSBAND’S INFIDELITY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.”
You have a lovely body. You’re a great mom. You made good dinners, you work hard, you are a sweet friend and you’ve been a faithful and devoted wife.
If someone jokingly implies that if a woman gains ten pounds, that’s grounds for a husband to have an affair, ignore them. Or punch them. I’m good with either.
If some well-meaning lady at a bridal shower says some nonsense about how it’s a woman’s job to keep her husband sexually fulfilled or else he’ll have grounds to have an affair, ignore her. Or walk out. I’m good with either.
If some speaker at a women’s retreat tries to tell you how often men “need” sex and warns you about dire consequences if you don’t give him what he needs, ask for your money back. Or stand up and let her know how damaging that kind of language is. I’m good with either.
If you are tempted to feel you somehow caused your husband to be unfaithful, you go ahead and shout back at that lying, insensitive, manipulative voice in your head that there is NOTHING you did that caused this and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent this because NOTHING about this was your choice. Your husband had every ability to walk away, to say no, to not return that text, to seek counseling, to double-down on his commitment to you. But that’s not what he did. It takes two people to make a marriage work. It only takes one to damage that marriage with an affair.
It doesn’t matter how pretty that other woman was, how strongly she came on to him, how frequently you two had sex, how quickly you got back into your pre pregnancy shape, how interesting your dinner conversations have been, how many nights you fell asleep putting the kids to bed, or when your last romantic getaway was. You did not choose this. You did not want this. There is nothing you have done or could do that gives your husband license to be unfaithful. Anybody who doesn’t understand that is living in a world where life must always be fair and make sense and bad things never happen to good people. That’s not the world you get to live in any longer once you find out your spouse has been unfaithful.
Could you be thinner, more interesting, less busy with your kids, have perkier boobs (you bought), and be more sexually available? Sure. But those aren’t the conditions you put in your vows. You said better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. There was no escape clause in case you accidentally got older or your priorities (and body) shifted with parenthood. There were plenty of options for working through those issues or addressing concerns without resorting to infidelity. With every celebrity scandal that breaks it becomes easier to see that it doesn’t matter how rich you are, how beautiful you are, how much you devote to maintaining perfection, there are those who will try to fill a void within themselves with the next person to show them attention. Even the most beautiful and “perfect” among us aren’t spared that pain.
Because YOUR HUSBAND’S INFIDELITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. It’s about him.
But you know what? It’s easier to be mad at yourself. It’s easier to blame yourself. It’s easier to scrutinize your body, your sex life, your priorities and look for a flaw. Because if you can find a flaw, you can fix it and maybe that will protect you from ever experiencing this pain again. Maybe if you lose ten pounds he won’t cheat any more. Maybe if you make sure you have weekly date nights you’ll be able to keep his interest. Maybe if you read more books and become more knowledgeable about world events and his hobbies, then he’ll be faithful to you. Maybe if you had sex more regularly and more passionately, then he’ll have no reason to stray. That’s a lovely idea. But that’s not how this works. You will never be able to control your husband. He makes his decisions. He may see the pain he’s caused and decide to get the help he needs to be the best husband possible for you. But you can’t decide that. You only get to decide if you want to rebuild trust with him or walk away.
If you walk away, you’ll take with you the pain this has caused you, but you should never walk away with guilt. Because this was not about you.
You didn’t choose this pain, but you get to have a choice about what happens next. Is there something worth saving here? Is he truly ready to accept responsibility and make the needed changes? Do you have the support you need to face this together? These are the questions you need to be ready to answer. But those questions about what you could have done differently? You don’t own those anymore. Because you didn’t choose this and it wasn’t your fault.