DR. CELESTE CATANIA-OPRIS, PH.D., LMFT
Being cheated on has been described as one of the most heart-wrenching experiences one can face. Some have shared feeling numb, constantly anxious, and extremely betrayed after finding out about the infidelity. Still, every woman undoubtedly has the right to choose to forgive her partner or to move on from the relationship, depending on what she personally feels is right.
For this piece, I interviewed 10 women, ranging from 23-67 years old, who shared intimate details regarding their personal relationships.
Here are 5 main reasons why women stay in relationships after their partners have strayed.
There is an enormous fear to “start over” after finding out that a partner has cheated. After years of being with the same person, some women feel afraid to start over with someone new. They imagine sleeping next to a new partner at night, picture themselves having to be intimate with this new person, and feel insecure about having to show their bare bodies to someone different. One woman shared, “My body has changed so much over the years. What if a new man won’t find me attractive?” The thought of dating again and the fear of rejection appear to intimidate many women causing them to think twice and to stay with their current partners.
Guilt has an enormous impact when deciding to stay or to leave a partner who has cheated. Many women feel guilty breaking their families apart. They think about the effects of separation on their children. They worry how their kids will adjust or how their children will grow up without their father living at home. One woman stated that her children became angry and lashed out at her after she wanted to move forward with divorcing her husband. This particular woman stayed married and shared, “I just couldn’t handle how sad and angry my kids were, so I gave my husband another chance.”
After years of being with someone, many women can’t fathom having to “let go” of a relationship. The mere thought causes extreme anxiety and panic. Even though these women are aware that their partners have been unfaithful, the idea of “throwing it all away” doesn’t make sense. Some consider the years of memories they created together. One woman revealed, “He’s my best friend. He is all I know and I love him.” There is a sense of comfort felt within a relationship that is formed throughout the years. For some women, that comfort is irreplaceable and certainly worth fighting for.
4. Belief in Change:
Some women live with the mentality that people deserve a second chance. Many women also believe that people can change, including their partners. When love is involved, you want to see the goodness in people, even when they have hurt you tremendously. With this in mind, numerous women have stayed in relationships after discovering that their partners have strayed. Some shared that attending therapy helped their partners to change. Others mentioned that thoroughly discussing their issues helped strengthen their weaknesses and made them stronger. Sometimes we just may have to get the kinks out in order to get something to work better than ever imagined.
One of the most common reasons women stay with their unfaithful partners is the fear of having to financially take care of themselves. Even in our modern world, many women rely on their partners to financially support them. One woman mentioned, “Where would I go? Where would he go? I wouldn’t even know how to start that process.” It can be frightening to be on your own, especially after being with someone for so many years. Sometimes fear of the unknown and feeling financially tied to a partner can result in forgiveness and moving forward within the relationship.
The power of love can make us do things in life we can’t explain. In the end, staying together or separating after infidelity is a personal choice. The choice is yours and no one else's. You are the expert of your own life. Sometimes you may feel lost. During those times, your heart will always guide you.