I don't know what it was like for any of you that found yourselves married to a cheater, but for me, the nights I sensed or knew my now ex-husband was out cheating were the most tortuous moments of my marriage.
Of course, our marriage started like most do. We were happy and in love and thrilled to be embarking on a life together. Those first few years seemed perfect, filled with all the hope and undying conviction for each other that most marriages bubble over with post-honeymoon.
It's in those early days that you think nothing can ever go wrong; that you can overcome any adversity thrown before you — mainly because you are no longer one, you're two, and together, with the strength of that bond and your love for each other, nothing will ever tear you apart.
Ironically enough, it's that very love that blinds us. It's the thing that can often cause us to look past the obvious, or even the not so obvious. That love is the very thing that causes the tint on our rose-colored glasses to adjust ever so slightly to a more shielding hue; just dark enough for us to miss the clues, just light enough for us to continue euphorically walking past disaster.
To this day, I remember the first time I started to sense he was having affairs — it was one tiny little clue.
Eventually, that one little clue turned into two, two turned into three, three into four. But even with all of those early signs, they were not nearly enough for this most devoted wife to see through. In retrospect, I subconsciously darkened the hue on those rosy colored glasses and went about my life, free from all rational observation.
With time, those little clues led to an occasional late night out — always wrapped within a believable and indefensible alibi, of course. Then, as the years went on, the nights got longer, the alibis got weaker and the suspicions increased. Until eventually, his nights out grew into a blatant gesture of alcohol-induced defiance. Against what, I'm not sure, but perhaps they were acts against me, perhaps against himself and his own demons.
There was much forgiveness, redemption, healing and counseling throughout the twelve years we were together — so much hope and understanding on my part, hoping he would change. Unfortunately, no matter what we did, no matter how much patience and forgiveness I extended him, nothing changed, and eventually I came to the realization that I had to get out.
I've since separated, divorced and moved on. I've made tremendous steps towards my own independence. I have my own life now, new job, my own apartment. I've even started trusting again, trusting men, and have a new boyfriend.
But even with all of this personal progress, there is still one thing that lingers in the back of my mind — I can't help but question why he cheated all of those years? Was it something I did? Or, rather, something I didn't? Is it just something something wired within some men that doesn't allow them to stay faithful?
I read a famous study online recently that was performed in 1950, which said that at that time, 50% of men in the United States cheated at some point in their marriages. Ironically, according to a more recent study that number hasn't changed much — recent research showed that about 40% of men seek sexual satisfaction outside their relationships.
Whatever the numbers reveal about cheaters, I'd like to send a message to any woman out there in a similar situation as mine: while some men do have the ability to change, you need to protect yourself, your emotions, and your own sense of self-respect, first and foremost in life.
You see, I was afraid to leave. I don't know why, but I was, and I allowed myself to be victim far too long.
Honestly, if I could turn back the clock, I would have gotten out of that toxic situation long ago. I would have ignored my fear, believed in myself, reached out for more support from the friends around me, maybe even found friends and support here. But I didn't. I stayed in that situation out of fear.
If I only knew then what I know now. Famous words, right?
Well, I know now, and I'm here to tell you: I'm happier than I've ever been, I'm more confident, more peaceful, more appreciated, and there is light at the end of a the tunnel, just be sure to chuck aside those rose-tinted spectacles and allow yourself to love you first.