By Stacey Freeman
“Could I be that woman?”
As in the woman who forgave her husband after he admitted cheating on her. In all honesty, I never thought I could be and told my husband so from time to time during our 16-year marriage. However, when push came to shove and I faced deciding whether to fight for my marriage or let it and my husband go, I became willing to do what I had at one time believed unthinkable. After all, we had time in, 24 years, in fact, a home, three children, and a cat. Why would I want to give all of that up without a fight?
For months I pleaded with my husband to stay, even as he told me he needed to see his new relationship through. He did just that, while I waited at home for him to come to his senses and return to the life we once shared, the one I believed I still wanted.
Three months passed, and my husband did agree to come back and give marriage counseling a try. For nearly one week, he returned to our bedroom, attended a family holiday, and went on a “date” with me to the movies. It was like old times. Except, the more I thought about it, I recognized it wasn’t. Not only was I living with the knowledge that my husband had disrespected me, so, too, were our young children who, unfortunately, saw and heard too much during those early days after my husband announced he was leaving me for someone else.
It was then I knew I was sending my children, particularly my daughters, a message. And it wasn’t necessarily a positive one.
Even though my kids were young when we decided to reconcile, 11, 10, and 7 to be exact, my daughters looked at me questioningly as their father returned home. It was then I knew I was sending my children, particularly my daughters, a message. And it wasn’t necessarily a positive one.
Though I desperately wanted to forgive their father, I couldn’t. At least not yet. So, there was no way I could legitimately point to forgiveness as the reason for my decision. As time would eventually tell, I wouldn’t be able to forgive him until many years later. When I did, it had nothing to do with any change or gesture on his part, only my willingness to move on, which I did.
What troubled me most about taking my husband back was the risk I ran of communicating to my two daughters and my son that cheating or being cheated on was in any way acceptable behavior from them or their spouses. That was not a message I ever wanted to send.
For that reason, among a few others, I reconsidered my decision five days later and requested my husband retain an attorney, which I had already done the same week I had learned he had been unfaithful to me. And I began the process of rebuilding my life, alone, as a single parent of three.
Divorced life has not been easy, and it continues to be a struggle. Loneliness, financial concerns, and stress are constant combatants. But with every day, including the bad ones, I make progress – with my career, financial stability, relationships, and, most of all, outlook.
My children have been along for the ride the entire time, watching and learning. In many instances, I have been a case study in what not to do. There have also been the times when I decided just right. And, of course, there were those moments when I haven’t always been quite sure. Opting for single life fell into this last category, until relatively recently.
No longer do I question the choice I made. I hope my children would make the same decision for themselves if ever in a similar position.
A few months ago, my eldest child was working on a school project at our house with a classmate. When this girl saw me working at my desk, she asked my daughter what I was doing. My daughter explained I was a writer and had started a business. The girl remarked how she thought that was cool. What was even cooler is that my daughter told me the story after the girl went home, adding how proud that made her feel and how proud she was of me.
No longer do I question the choice I made. I hope my children would make the same decision for themselves if ever in a similar position. However, if they did choose to stay and work on their marriage, I would support them. My only hope is that if they made such a choice, it would be for a reason other than a fear of being alone. Being with someone who doesn’t value you is far, far worse.
I consider myself lucky. Something told me early on that lecturing my girls about how to be confident women was not going to be enough. I needed to show my daughters instead, empowering them in that way. Five years after my separation, my daughter gave me a sign she had been watching and learning all along. At that moment, I was never more sure of my decision to pursue a divorce. And there was no better feeling.
About the author
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at Stacey.Freeman@WriteOnTrackLLC.com or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.