Should you forgive or walk out on a cheating husband?
In our college hostel, we were a dozen or so young teenagers, debating on whether we would walk out on a cheating lover or spouse. Almost all agreed that they could not and would never be able to stand the sight of the cheater. Only two girls said that unconditional love meant forgiving him and learning to continue with the relationship.
It seems incredible that women can be forgiving towards an errant husband. “In my opinion the only reasons one must consider for leaving or separating from one’s husband is insanity, addiction, and domestic violence,” said one of the two girls. “So, infidelity does not fall in that basket.”
I have spoken to several of my friends who chose to forgive their wayward husbands and here are a few stories.
1. True unconditional love is difficult to fathom
Anna was under the Stockholm syndrome where the victim falls under the spell of the tyrant. When it came to beauty, there was no one to compare with Anna’s wholesome and complete personality. She was my paternal grandmother, married to an arrogant and wealthy zamindar.
In those days taking other women into your harem was not unheard of but ours was a staunchly disciplined orthodox Christian family. No one dared to confront him, and he strutted his prowess like a peacock. His absolute power would drive him to beat her mercilessly and before the age of 30 she had lost all her teeth and had had several miscarriages.
Her two children would cower in terrified agony seeing this brutal assault on their mother.
Yet Anna would forgive and go back to her husband. Her in-laws watched in mute disbelief, unable to intervene, and her 5 brothers would plead that she leave him and return to the maternal home.
Anna would quietly bear with his abuses and even cook for his latest mistress. I once asked her when she was in her seventies, as to why she kept returning to her horrible husband. Her eyes got dreamy and she said, I just loved him so much.
2. Social constraints and lifestyle compromises
Women tend to nurture their partners and children, and they come before anything else. Rani was a well-educated and elegant woman married to a handsome Vice President of a well-known global Fortune 500 company.
Money was in abundance as he hailed from a billionaire family and he chose to work only to keep himself suitably occupied, as the family business did not interest him. Not only was he blessed with good looks and wealth; he also ran marathons and was extremely fit. As if these traits weren’t enough he was also gifted with a superbly subtle sense of humor. Rani was supremely happy but as soon as she got pregnant with her first baby, she discovered the worm in the apple.
He would sleep with his secretaries, then get them married off with a handsome gift of money and gold jewellery. This cheating mortally wounded Rani. After a lot of to and fro conversations and bitter fights she decided to stay. Her in-laws were mortified that she dared to speak about it. They believed that she should have turned a blind eye. After all she and her kids were being looked after sumptuously. When I asked why she did not leave him, she said –“Well I had to be practical, I could never have afforded the lifestyle my kids have now, and I thought that would be unfair to them.”
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3. Let’s sweep it under the carpet
Women always like to keep the peace and swallow the hurt – let’s not rock the boat is the meme. Sonali was a regular woman of the world, but her man meant the world to her. When her first baby girl was born her attention was riveted on her. She wanted to quit her job and be a stay-at-home mom. Her husband would not hear of it – he said he needed her salary too to make ends meet.
Reluctantly she asked her cousin, her aunt’s daughter Anita, to come over to help with the care of her baby. Well soon, Anita was looking after the baby and her father, with more than just tender loving care.
Sonali confided her anguish with her mother-in-law, who chided her for allowing such a young girl into the family. You can’t leave the fish unattended when you have a cat at home! Sonali put her foot down and sent off her cousin back to her native place, where she was soon married off and had a baby girl, who, it turns out, is a splitting image of Sonali’s husband.
Sonali says, “Well it’s all in the family, and my hubby is a good provider, a kind-hearted soul, great with the children and I would rather have a known devil than go looking for another Mr. Perfect.”
4. Society and approval before righteous anger
Tradition, family, religion, society and one’s own conditioning to what’s right and wrong, keeps even the most tortured woman in the habit of forgiving the husband. Sushma belonged to a traditional Jain family, and was married off at 16, and even now at 31 she looks gorgeous. Then, it was an arranged marriage and she had no say, except to say yes.
Right from the word “Go”, he was the epitome of the bully, verbally abusive and openly indulging in booze, gambling and inevitably women. By the way even ugly men get laid if they have easy money. Her beauty was a source of great insecurity and suspicion and when he left to look after his garment shops – he would lock up his young bride in the house.
She put up with all of it all due to the intense pressure to comply; from her very traditional parents and in-laws. Even today – as her daughter has begun to work and she could easily split from this rogue of a husband, she refuses, because it is against the tradition.
Also divorce would mean she wouldn’t acquire her husband’s inheritance for her daughter. Marriage proposals will be a near impossibility for her daughter if she was divorced. She’d rather hang on to a broken relationship, while her husband absconds with his latest catch somewhere in Hawaii.
5. Career women chose to forgive too
When your priorities align with your significant other, then his infidelities seem trivial. You would rather stick with an imperfect spouse, than cast a new net. After repeated failed relationships Christy found Aatif, who like her was a computer geek, and was just as experienced in the nuances of love making as she was. Also with the combined 6-figure salaries they enjoyed the perks of holidaying in Maldives, Singapore, Dubai and Europe.
Though she was aware that he had a long-term relationship with an older woman, Christy was blind-sided by Aatif’s charms. Like all women in their late thirties, all the nesting instincts come up and requests for a commitment for marriage began popping up. Aatif was a confirmed polyamorous man and he had never hidden that fact from Christy. Yet she was aghast when the older woman called her at her place of work and accosted her, about stealing her man. All hell broke loose.
To be fair, the older woman only wanted to share Aatif’s time and energy, as her kids were quite attached to him. Christy couldn’t quite accept the way the dice had fallen, and declared that it was all over. However, the need for sex is a huge motivator to forgive the errant lover. She figured that at 39 she would be hard put to begin the pursuit for a man who is not only a good lover, but also intellectually her equal.