Why I stayed after being cheated on
We all identify with Beyoncé at one point or another (or we at least we think we do), but this weekend, I sat speechless while watching Lemonade. She was singing about my life for the past seven years, channelling my experiences so vividly that I wouldn’t put clairvoyance past her.
You know when someone is lying to you. Even if you don’t know know, you still know. I knew. And it seems like Bey now knows, too. The line in “Pray You Catch Me” says it all: “You can taste the dishonesty; it’s all over your breath.”
Yet even after dropping a bomb like Lemonade, her marriage is intact. There’s no “Bey and Jay Are Getting Divorced” headlines screaming at you from the tabloids. No photos of her stomping him into the ground. And while most might be shaking their heads in disbelief, I totally understand why.
Being human means rolling with the punches. No, not literally. What I should say is you need to be able to take the not-so-great along with the great. Sometimes you even need to take the really very bad along with the really very good. We like to call it “compromise”—even when it really isn’t. That’s what makes us human—the ability to make the unreasonable seem reasonable and therefore tolerable.
Trust me. I’ve done it.
I married a man who was wonderful: generous, loving, understanding and ohmigod so smart it almost hurt my brain to talk to him. I’d never dated a man more intelligent than myself before. It was amazing. Yes, I saw a bit of bad even in the beginning, but the good far outweighed it. Besides, I adore a challenge.
Our life was blissful. We were happy for the two years we were together before we got married, and we were happy after we got married. About 10 months after getting married, I found out I was pregnant. I was deliriously happy; he was also. It just never seemed the bubble could possibly burst.
Then our son was born. Things remained good—not perfect, but good. Of course there were hiccups. Life was not a bowl of cherries, but neither was it the pits. It was normal. We argued, but we got along. We loved and we fought. We had stressful evenings with a colicky baby and we had house payments, we had in-law troubles (on both sides) and we had good times. Things were, as far as I could tell, normal.
Then, on Valentine’s Day, when our son was almost two years old, things were no longer normal. We’d never been huge celebrators of V-Day, but I expected we’d spend the evening at home, perhaps watching a movie after the wee one went to bed. At about 7 p.m. my husband took a phone call, after which he came downstairs and said he was going out.
I protested, “But it’s Valentine’s Day,” to which he responded, “We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day” and that he wanted to go out with his friend Justin. And Justin’s new girlfriend.
And then Beyoncé sings. “What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy?” And smashes a car window with a baseball bat.
I’ll admit it. I was super upset. His buddy wanted him to be a third wheel on Valentine’s Day? Um. Yeah. Right. We fought. I told him if he left not to come back. He said I couldn’t stop him. I told him to go. He left. I did not smash his car window with a baseball bat. Though I did want to. I went to bed. He eventually came home. I didn’t talk to him for 48 hours.
Slowly things went back to normal. He was back to being kindhearted and generous. He was once again understanding and caring. My heart healed. I was a mom. He was a dad. We had issues but we were parents and had to think of our son. Time passed.
Over the next few years, many other things became clear to me. Among them: He had cheated, was still cheating and would continue to cheat. Of course, I’d like to point out that I never looked for the signs. They would literally fall into my lap. An open computer on the bed with emails from other women. A note in a jacket pocket. An all-nighter “at work” on New Year’s Eve. A text message that he left sitting open. A receipt for flowers I never received. Trips. Hotel reservations on our joint credit card. Phone calls. Hang-ups. Disappearances.
Through it all, I made excuses to not leave. I adored my child and I wouldn’t give up my family and everything I had made—with him—just because he was cheating on me. That last point aside, this life—the child, the husband, the house—was what I had dreamed of. And to protect that dream I created a protective shell around myself. I hid the fact that I was a living, breathing woman who wanted to be loved and held and touched. I forced myself to focus on the fact that I was a mother to an amazingly lovable, perfectly wonderful little boy. I remember logically deciding that I could in fact very easily surrender my own happiness as long as my son was happy and cared for.
I kept up with the charade for five years. Five years of wanting to tell my spouse to hit the road. Five years of hiding the desires I had. Five years of being faced time and time again with the fact that he was cheating on me, lying about it and thinking, maybe even knowing, he was getting away with it. Five years of telling myself that I was doing this for the good of our son and our family.
Then one morning I woke up and it hit me. Like running into a brick wall. I had to get out. I needed to get out. We all needed us to get divorced and I had been hiding from that fact for years. I couldn’t believe I had actually convinced myself that staying with a man who was sleeping with another woman (women?) was the right thing to do.
“Me and my baby gonna be alright, we gonna live a good life,” she sings.
While reconciliation may be in the Queen and Jay’s future, it’s not in mine. My baby-daddy and I are divorced. We still speak—sometimes even nicely—but usually only about our son.
It seems falling in love is simple. Of course, staying in love is a difficult and tenuous business and falling out of love can be even more challenging. In the end, forgiveness can be possible, even if it’s only for your own sanity.
And apparently infidelity can happen to the most beautiful, talented and powerful women in the world. I know I’m in good company, even if Ms. Bey’s Jay didn’t shark out on her (which we all kind of figure he did…because: Lemonade).