He Cheated, She Stayed: Was That Weakness?

If you are Nigerian, you are probably thinking ‘he cheated, she stayed…ehen? Kini big deal?’ Well, IF you are Nigerian, there is probably no big deal. Men cheat most of the time (there are exceptions, of course) and their women stay. Life goes on. BUT if you are not Nigerian – or belong to this new generation of Nigerians with ‘funny’ ideas, it is a big deal.

The African expectations from marriage are a bit different from those of our western counterparts. When a woman gets married in Africa, she expects to build a home with her husband; she hopes that they will be happy and looks forward to being happy. She prays he will take care of her and believes without much hope, that he will stay faithful. (At least in the time of our mothers.)

In the US for example, it is a bit different. Most women when they get married, expect to build a home with their husbands and also that they will be happy in the marriage. They might not put much stock by his taking care of them BUT he had better stay faithful! And if he is not…see you later, Alligator!

Which is why when one woman decided to stay even after her husband cheated on her, it became headline news and was even on Oprah! (dot com) You can read it here.  You see, I think that most western women give up too easily when it comes to marriage. So this article definitely caught my attention. What held me though, was the verbal abuse that went on in the comments section. She was literally vilified for daring to stay, like she had violated some unwritten code. She was called several things including weak. The general opinion (from about-to-be-divorced and divorced commenters mostly) was that in staying, she was NOT being strong for her children and was enabling abusive behaviour.

OK. I was mystified. In my own opinion, deciding to forgive and remain with a partner who has cheated, in the USA is a VERY strong thing to do.  The society makes it easy to walk out. I mean, it is the only thing to do. You watch it in the movies, read it in novels and magazines…he is not allowed to make that kind of mistake. The decision was made the first time he took the conscious step to cheat.

Now I am not advocating for cheating men (heaven forbid!). I am just saying that a good marriage is not good because it is perfect. It is good because both parties (or maybe even just one party?) put in a whole lot of determination and perseverance liberally sprinkled with forgiveness. So maybe this does not work for everybody and some men are just serial cheaters. There is no need to put yourself through an endless emotional bashing. However, if one person has shown the strength of will and determination to make it work against the odds, and if she is rewarded for that by having a good marriage, she does need to be applauded. There is no need to take out our frustrations on her.

I do not believe all men cheat. Neither do I believe that most people who have good marriages in the western world, have them because no one ‘cheated’. Many people do not talk about the intimate details of their marriages so we really do not know what goes on. I admire this lady, not for ‘staying’ per se – really, it is not a big deal in Nigeria – but for being honest and coming out and letting other women who have decided to make their marriages work know that they are not foolish. There is life at the other side of cheating, and that life can be good.

Conversely, deciding to walk out in Nigeria might be a big deal because the society makes it difficult for a woman to walk out even when she is being abused. I admire a woman who can take her children and walk out of an abusive relationship – anywhere she is situated. It takes a strength of will to do that.

The trick is finding the balance. Do you stay and keep getting physically and emotionally abused or do you walk? Then again, are you willing to fight for what you have or do you walk out at the first sign of trouble? It is a question I really cannot answer honestly, because I have not quite been there. However, I will not presume to judge anyone who has either chosen to stay or to walk. And that is what I think those women-commenters in Oprah.com did. My own two cents! Or kobo, as the case might be.

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10 Comments to “He Cheated, She Stayed: Was That Weakness?”

  1. Can I just say thanks? I read this and u hit the nail on the head. My greatest fear is the backlash from people who are supposed to love me and have my back. I totally appreciate everybody being angry on my behalf, but I am so not up for criticism and the seemingly never-ending ability to show so little regard for my heart as to not keep their mouths shut.

    it takes quite a bit of strength to stay when everything and everyone says leave.It’s hard and it hurts bad enough without judgmental, self-righteous people adding to what is already painful beyond belief – if not traumatic….

    really, thank you for this, Sha. I needed to read it.

    love you

    • There are so many self righteous and judgmental people out there and it is sad. Each person has his/her path to walk and it is not right to use our own unique experiences to judge others.

      Glad you liked this girl.

  2. This is a great article and i really enjoyed it. I will have to bookmark this your blog. Thank you.

    http://www.motivatory.com

  3. Wow, I loved reading this and you really draw my in to ponder all of this and it is good. Thank you. Hugs

  4. I support the idea and practice of forgiving in all things. That being said, forgiveness has nothing to do with staying with a cheating husband if he shows no inkling of remorse or desire to change. It’s called tough love. You can forgive him of his actions but also let him know that the action is not okay with you and that you won’t tolerate a cheater. You wouldn’t keep a thief on as your personal accountant, would you? The fact is that cheating hurts not only the person being cheated on but also the rest of the people involved, including the kids. By staying with an unrepentant cheater tells your kids that it is the husbands right to sleep around and that the wife has no value at all.

    • You are so right Leah…forgiveness really has nothing to do with staying with a man who is not repentant. I prefer that word because once you have forgiven the man and he is no longer feeling guilty, he’s just going to do it all over again. Remorse does not last too long. Repentance however, that is much deeper. That means being sorry not because he was caught, or because the guilt just overwhelmed him, but because he realised what he was doing and was disgusted with himself. Repentance is when he knows coming to tell you might mean the end of your marriage and even though he desperately wants you to stay, he is still willing to come clean. Repentance means, the likelihood of his cheating again is slim to nil.

      When a man shows repentance, I commend a woman who is strong enough to know that she is no better than he is and is willing to forgive.

      However when a man is just remorseful, because he was caught or because he feels guilty…well, the decision to stay or leave is at the woman’s discretion. Staying with an unrepentant cheater, well! A woman needs to ask herself why she chooses to stay. Is it because she is scared of being alone? Or because she loves him too much to let him go? Could it be that despite everything in (and everyone around) you saying FLEE! you have the conviction to stay? Whichever way it goes I still do not think anyone and I mean ANYONE has the right to judge a woman for the actions she takes.

      Of course if the man is abusive – to her and the children – and she still chooses to stay, then that is a different matter altogether.

      Thanks for your post Leah. I needed to think that through before replying. I hope you visit again.

  5. What a powerful subject. And if I may be obliged to add my 2cents: I think that guilt is powerful, but not in a good way. I think that Adam and Eve hid because of the guilt and I know all too many people that stay hid away from God for guilt. Repentance should bring about freedom from sin, not bondage in guilt. When we start realizing we are to be Bond Servants of Christ, we may truly start to be free and free of any sin. But to judge the woman for staying, that needs to be weighed, especially if she has kids. Rightful judgment isn’t to condemn a person, but to help them get out of sin. I think the misconception is that we should judge but with a clean conscience (clean the mote out of you eye that you may see clearly to help someone with their speck). So if you may judge more the situation and help that person (if they want the help) then you may do some good, wrongful judgment or condemnation would only bring about more destruction.

  6. Very well said Sharon and Richard. Too often we forget what true repentance looks like. We also use the word judgment to replace the concept of condemnation. I don’t have the ability or the authority to condemn a person to Hell for their actions. But I can (as long as there isn’t a log in my own eye) bring the actions to the attention of the person so that they may repent and turn back to God. This is a hard subject to think about for me because I don’t want to think about how I would feel if my husband cheated. But this affects so many men and women and it’s good to address it. Thank you for posting the article.

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