If your spouse has been chronically unfaithful, and you’ve disclosed it to family or friends, you’ve probably been asked this question.
You likely had one of two internal responses: shame or shame + confusion.
Shame because the question implies that there must be something wrong with YOU. The person posing the question may think that if the same thing happened to them, they would leave. Or maybe they assumed you would “think more highly of yourself” if you found out your spouse was unfaithful.
If you feel shame + confusion about the question, it’s likely because you’re also wondering why you’re still in your relationship.
These responses are perfectly normal. But the question “Why are you still with him?” is not.
First, it is your business, and no one else’s, whether you choose to be in—or out—of any relationship. Second, because the question implies that there is something wrong with you, it is shaming, demeaning, and hurtful.
There are many reasons betrayed partners stay with an unfaithful spouse. Here are just a few:
Many of the betrayed partners I’ve worked with over the past decade have been with their unfaithful spouse for two decades or more. Some have been married over 30 years and have grown children, as well as grandchildren.
When you have a 10, 20, or 30+ year history with another person, you are unlikely to walk away as soon as you learn about your spouse’s infidelity—even when the infidelity is chronic or rises to the level of a sex addiction.
If you have minor children still living at home, you are probably reluctant to leave your marriage due to infidelity—at least initially. Divorce is a major, painful live event and has a profound impact on children. While there are times that divorce is best for one or both members of the couple, as well as their children, it is not a decision to be made without careful thought and consideration.
If the betrayed partner has delayed her (or his) career to be a stay-at-home parent and has been out of the workforce for some time, she is more likely to want to stay in her relationship to find out whether her unfaithful spouse will do the necessary work to heal and restore the relationship. Even if she knows she wants to leave, she will probably delay making any major decisions until she knows how she will support herself financially.
In addition, it is a well-established fact that most women are financially worse off after divorce, even when they are the primary caregivers or custodians of the couple’s children. In fact, research has shown that “the average woman’s income falls by more than a fifth” after divorce.
Belief in Your Spouse
Especially in long-term relationships, a betrayed partner has had the experience of seeing her unfaithful spouse weather many difficult life events.
Perhaps he was there for you when you had a major illness, surgery, or when there was a death in the family that was particularly painful for you. Or maybe he is an involved and loving father to your children. You know he is not an inherently “bad” person, and you want to give him an opportunity to repair and restore your relationship.
For all of these reasons, I recommend that betrayed partners not make any major decisions about their relationship for the first year post-discovery. While there are some situations where the partner is clear that staying with her unfaithful spouse is not an option for her or her children, the majority of partners are not only uncertain, they hope their relationship can be salvaged.
Giving yourself some time to process and begin healing from the discovery, as well as finding out whether your spouse is willing to do the necessary recovery and repair work is often the best course of action.
And if you’re a family member or friend of the betrayed partner, don’t ask them, “Why are you still with him?” Listen, validate, empathize, and ask if there is anything you can do to support her/him.
Curious about Formal Therapeutic Disclosure?
Listen to a 110-minute presentation hosted by Vicki Tidwell Palmer, CSAT where she will teach you the fundamentals of a sound Formal Therapeutic Disclosure (“FTD”) process.
Get all the details and purchase online here.
If you’d like to receive blog posts just as soon as they happen, enter your email address now in the Subscribe to Blog via Email form on the right of this page.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity. Submitted comments containing profanity, offensive language, or otherwise objectionable material will not be published.