Why did you stay!?
First of all. Don’t do it. Every situation is different but if you are counting the amount of times you have been betrayed by a person on your hands, then you’re in a relationship that will continuously rip you apart. I want to address this stigma of victim blaming.
Often when people hear of the stories of a person that stayed with a cheater they question “why did you stay!?”. It is a fair question, but in most cases it is a complex and complicated mentality that keeps victims holding on.
A cycle of justifications for someone else’s behavior.
As you can tell, I am speaking from personal experience. I dated a compulsive liar and serial cheater throughout my teens to my mid-twenties. 8.5 years of my life was spent in happiness, pain, betrayal, and continuously pulling myself back together. It was a vicious cycle that repeated, amongst other things.
Like most victims, I kept quiet. I did not tell ANYONE. Continuously isolating the situations to just the people that caught him. The worse thing of all this, he denied every incident. Even with the police showing up at the door, screenshots from friends, a phone call from his mistress, eye witnesses; he denied everything. Constantly gaslighting me. Making me think that I was crazy and that people were out to get him. These are just incidents that I found out about, who knows what else he did.
The mentality I had at the time was the amount of time and effort I had invested into this person, into the relationship. For some people, they have children, a home and a marriage to hold together. Once I had invested a year into the relationship, the red flags began to show themselves. The first lies were realized. I remember feeling naive and stupid for believing them. Taking part of the blame. Again, I told no one, decided that I had already invested a year and that I could get over it. 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, 8 years = breaking point.
Victim blaming. This is why I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to be judged by his actions. There was a level of shame on my part but it should never have been my shame. It was his. Obviously, he did it to stroke his ego and gain validation. It wasn’t until I left him that the truth came out. The first person I told was my mother. I knew if I told her that she would kill me if I every tried to go back. My mum is a tough cookie and her anger alone was enough to make me fear the consequence of returning. Even when I tell people the stories now, I get blamed. Yes, part of the problem was my fault. I allowed him to treat me a certain way so he continued to do so. I was groomed into the relationship from sixteen by an older man. I didn’t know any better.
Protecting him. I kept quiet to protect him. I did a lot to protect him like lie to my friends and family about him having a job. That MOFO didn’t work for 8 years. I know, I know. In my head, I was like “Why does the man have to support a woman? She can do it”. I hated getting peoples advice about my love life so I protected his reputation to manage that. I was also protecting myself. Protecting people talking about me behind my back about my relationship. Something I always heard was “she deserves better” and for some reason it made me angry. People butting in. At the end of the day, they were right. I did.
Love. Such a huge factor in all this. I was in love. I was in love with him when I left him but knew that it wasn’t right. Why was I willing to give someone my life when they’d treated me so poorly? He had the ability to make me feel so loved and then unloved. A repeating cycle. You hold on to all the good things in the relationship as a reason for staying. Hoping that you will return back to those times. I learn’t the hard way that our love for each other was very different. Mine was resilient and loyal while his was out of comfort and looking the part.
Ignorant bliss was my coping mechanism. I was very good at this. Not digging, not spying, not looking for evidence of his infidelity. In my head, the less I knew, the less pain it would cause. I didn’t want to be paranoid, so I lived in ignorant bliss. The only time my ignorant bliss was shattered was when other people witnessed his actions and came to me with the evidence. When that ignorant bliss gets cracked, its absolutely devastating. All the pain it causes would blow up and then I would distinguish it with his denial. Back into ignorant bliss I would go. At the end, the veil was pulled and I combined all that pain from every incident into one. It was only then that I had the strength to leave.
Conditioning. I am not going to go to deep but as a child I had been conditioned to take hurtful words and destructive behavior from people close to me. When I entered a relationship, I was already used to it. The conditioning made me easily forgiving and resilient. I was then conditioned more throughout the relationship by a man 11 years older than I. A young girl, with no other comparison to what a healthy relationship looked like. I was insecure and here was a person validating me. The problem is that he could take that validation away at any point, until he couldn’t.
I don’t regret any of it. It has made me stronger. I only wished I’d left a little earlier. I will never let a person treat me badly again. I hold no pain or anger anymore. I will not give them that power.
So, next time you hear of a person forgiving a cheating, try to understand that it is more complicated then just the premise of “just leaving”. To all those men and women reading this that are currently in this position, listen to your family and friends. I beg you to listen. They are looking from the outside, where you’re stuck on the inside, blinded by love. To the people that are the “cheaters” you need to address your self-esteem and the way you’re treating another human being. If you know you have a problem, let them go. The psychological damage you are causing to them and yourself is irreversible.
My savoir and my destroyer. No person should be both.