The Stigma

6 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Okay I wasn’t sure I was going to talk about this but once again today I overheard it.  The stereotype.  The stigma that is attached to the person in a relationship that is cheated on.  It is everywhere and to be honest I don’t think the people who are talking about it fully understand what they are saying or how they are impacting anyone.  Such is the way of the world on a good day. 

As with anything, the media glorifies it.  I mean “forbidden” love does sound kind of sexy and it also seems like the people involved are just “carried away” or “overwhelmed“ by their emotions they just can’t help themselves.  It’s like that isn’t it?  Just like in the movies?  And the person they cheated on well, they deserved it didn’t they?  I mean if their partner was happy, if they were keeping them happy and fulfilled then they wouldn’t have cheated now would they?  And so the stigma is born.  The person who was cheated on was deficit in some way or they were withholding sex or they were just plain evil or they just must have done something or didn’t do something, so they “deserved” it.  Right?

I see it all the time.  The moment I speak out loud the words, the expression in their eyes change as they look at me.  They wonder "what did she do?"  Why was her husband so unhappy with her that he HAD to go out and find someone else?  She MUST have done something right?

I can’t blame people for thinking that.  I really can’t.   Before it happened to me I would have tried hard not to judge and to be sympathetic but that stigma of the cheated on would have been in the back of my mind.  I mean how could it happen if they didn’t do something wrong, right?  Right?

Enter reality.  Enter the cold light of day staring me in the face when I became the one cheated on.  Believe me, I wracked my brains trying to find a reason, something, anything that I had done to deserve it but I always came back to the same result.  I cried for days and months trying to fathom the unfathomable.  I couldn’t wrap my head around that it had happened to me.  To ME?   But in all that time I couldn’t shake the fact that I really didn’t DO anything to deserve it.  I simply didn’t. 

I was in a long-term relationship with all the ups, downs and round and rounds that go with it.  We got along and we fought.  We had great times and we had terrible times.  We faced challenges as a couple dealing with a blended family and every trial that goes with that.  Not perfect, not by a long shot but also not any different than any other long-term committed relationship.  Sex was not an issue.  Not with us.  Now I am not saying that I am terrific in bed.  To be honest I really have no idea on that one but I do know that we wanted each other.   A lot and often and that it really never died down even after 13 years together.    13 years and we were still exploring, learning and growing in that area.  I think that was the one area where I felt closest to him and the most free.  So the “stereotype” that he wasn’t getting any well, just not true.  But the stigma is there isn’t it?

The issue that we did have was communicating but only when things were bad.  We didn’t disagree well and we definitely did not fight well.  Nothing was ever resolved.  It just slowly faded from the present only to pop up again, just as ugly, at some point down the road. 

When we fought we were horrendous to each other.  I can say I never threw that first volley of below the belt attacks but I definitely hit back just as hard and just as low so I am no better than he was.  I didn’t take the high road when we fought.  It was immature and I was not doing my part to protect our relationship and the bond we shared.  We both should have been protecting that with everything in us.  But we didn’t.  I didn’t and I own my 50% of that. 

When he left he said he couldn’t be himself with me.  I believe he meant that but I also know he had no excuse for it.  I never expected anything from him.  I was never the wife that stopped her husband from doing something he wanted to do.  I never restricted or chained him.  I raised my objections.  I spoke my mind but in the end decision was his and agree or not he never had to “pay” for it.   He did what he wanted to do so if he didn’t ask; well I can’t be a mind reader now can I? 

My whole life I wanted a man to “want” me because he chose to, not because I made him or because he felt obligated to.  I don’t want a man who feels trapped or feels he has to be someone he isn’t.   That was never and will never be what I want.   Why he thought he couldn’t be himself is something only he would be able to answer but I’ll never ask him.  His actions at the end of our relationship told me everything I needed to know about the man he is now and how very little I had come to mean to him.  I don’t chase men.  He knew that about me.  Everyone knows that about me.   

Our communication was deficient and unhealthy and it was a cancer we allowed to grow freely between us.  I admit that.  I get that.  But I only own half of that problem.   We were TWO people in a relationship.  TWO, not one so the communication required BOTH of us and not just me.  I can’t be blamed for his part of the deficit we created.  I can only own my piece and I do.   

I held back when I was afraid of making him mad.   I stuffed things down and ignored them in order to keep the peace and in a way that was pretty disrespectful to him.  I should have trusted him more.  I should have trusted “us” more but for my own selfish reasons I didn’t deal with what I was afraid of.   I rationalized it but the truth is that I didn’t fully disclose what was going on inside of me.   I can only assume he was doing the exact same thing.  

But I didn’t cheat.  I was just as frustrated by the bad parts of our relationship.  I was holding back just as much and I was in the exact same relationship.  I didn’t cheat.  He did.   By the stereotype or the stigma, didn’t he “deserve” to be cheated on as much as I did?  Didn’t he?  No, he didn’t and I didn’t either.  

Cheating is never a viable option to any unhappy relationship.  It’s like trying to repair a mirror with a sledge hammer.   His commitment to me changed for whatever reason.  How busy and involved I was in everything was probably part of it.  I could blame him for not helping me which is true but then I’d have to blame me for not asking. 

Life and perspective is a funny thing.  I never thought I would be here.  I never imagined myself to be in the place in my life that I am.  But here I am.

This stigma thing bothers me still.  I feel it stops a lot of people from really seeing “me” when I start to get to know them.  They are always looking for the reason I “deserved” it and when they don’t find it they don’t really trust me, because I must have done something right?  It hurts to see those with such a narrow view of the world and the people in it.    

I just wish people would really start to take the time to think about the stereotypes they believe.  I didn’t deserve to be cheated on.  I don’t deserve the stigma that is attached to me now.  I don’t deserve to stare back at eyes that have already decided on what they could never really know about me.  The label doesn’t fit because it shouldn’t. The human relationship dynamic is just so much more complex than that stereotype can ever be.  The stigma attached to me and to others walking in the same shoes is just another label placed by people who don’t really know what they are talking about. 

There are no quick fixes here. There are no easy answers.  There is probably no answer at all. Just know that I am so much more than one of the circumstances that is a part of my life story.   I deserve to be known, not labelled.    

Trying to change it feels like spitting into the wind during a tornado.  Nobody seems to notice.  They just carry on with their lives, happy to have fit you into a box that makes sense to them and gives them a false security that something like this could never happen to them.  After all they don’t deserve it.  Not like I did, right?


Back at ya!


More from love

by Hannah Rimm | a day ago
by HelloFlo N/A | 2 days ago
by Charyn Pfeuffer | 5 days ago
by Elizabeth Yuko | 6 days ago
by Charyn Pfeuffer | 7 days ago
by Allie Gemmill | 12 days ago
by Charyn Pfeuffer | 15 days ago
by Katie Smith | 20 days ago
by Katie Smith | 22 days ago
by HelloFlo N/A | a month ago
by Monica Beyer | a month ago
by Lisa Fogarty | a month ago
by Monica Beyer | a month ago