Friday, April 29, 2016

Lemonade: Forgiving a Cheater

Lemonade is Beyoncé's short film containing music from the new album of the same name. It was released on HBO and bootlegged across the internet for those who refused to pay extra for HBO. It has been evaluated in many different accurate and inaccurate ways. This is not an evaluation of that music video. This post is about women who have decided to forgive their spouses after he or she has had an affair.

Cardinal Rules of Marriage

The extensiveness of this list of cardinal rules is dependent upon one's vows and spiritual beliefs. There are a few rules that seem to be universal.
     1. Be faithful
     2. Be honest
     3. Secrecy

The rules are self-explanatory. "Be faithful" means not to have any affair. The word "affair" has been manipulated since the evolution of the internet, specifically the introduction and takeover of social media. An affair is obviously physical. An affair is also emotional. There are laws that were quickly abolished by unfaithful US Senators called Alienation of Affection, that deal specifically with the non-physical part of the affair. "Be honest" means not telling direct or indirect lies, lying by omission or white lies, (or lies of any other color).

Secrecy is one that needs to be explained. There are to be no secrets between spouses. Secrets break down trust. To hold a secret is to enter into a pact of loyalty with someone other than your spouse. This causes a cascade of problems in a marriage. For example, one might lie to keep the secret or cause a spouse to be suspicious of an affair. Secrecy also means that what happens between spouses is to be kept between spouses. Beyoncé's Lemonade is a direct violation of that cardinal law. She not only told all her business, but also, she told her mama's business and her grandmother's business. If you are going to forgive a cheater, you cannot break this rule.

Now that we have a general understanding of what three of the Cardinal rules are, lets apply them to the task of forgiving a cheater.

Be Faithful

If you are going to forgive a cheater, you cannot then go out and cheat. Revenge cheating is always a bad idea. You were in love with your spouse. You still are, but now you're hurting. Revenge cheating is intended to hurt your spouse and repair your ego. However, your spouse didn't cheat with the intention of hurting you. He or she may have been careless, lustful, seeking something they felt they weren't getting at home, fleeing commitment, or cheating for some other inexcusable reason. At this point, you have but one problem, dealing with his or her infidelity. If you revenge cheat for your own pride, now you have another problem. Your spouse will want to know, where did this person come from? Did you already know each other? How were you able to cheat so fast? Were you already thinking about it? Did you use protection? Are there paternity questions? Will this person continue to wait on the side for the right time to come for you?

True, the first cheating spouse may have caused you to ask the same questions. But in this case, what incentive does the cheater have to change once you "even the score"? Why not just let the whole marriage burn? If you are not ready to burn it all down, find the strength to resist vengeance, remember that you still love that person and begin finding a way to heal.

Be Honest

The nightmare of the affair is over for the cheater the moment he or she confesses or is found out. They no longer have to live two separate lives. But for the spouse who was cheated, on the nightmare is just beginning. If the affair happened with a coworker, every time the cheating spouse leaves for work, you may have a panic attack. Every time your spouse comes home late, leaves the room to take a call, tries something new in the bed, looks at a someone too long, you will feel pain. You will wake up in the middle of the night angry over a memory popping into your head. You will go out for an anniversary dinner, and like a switch being flipped, you will go from feeling romantic to feeling crushing pain. You'll wonder if the beautiful words your spouse whispers to you were the same words whispered to someone else.

When this happens, and at some point it will, be honest about it. Don't lie and say you're fine when you're not, just to save the mood. Remember, you didn't cause this rift. Your spouse will not feel what you feel or even begin to understand how you feel, if you hide your emotions. They will not truly feel the magnitude of their poor decisions unless you tell him or her. Remember, they were relieved of the affair the moment they came clean or were found out. You don't need to beat them over the head with the truth, but it is important to explain what is triggering your mood swing.

Counseling is crucial at this point. It helps get all of the emotions out in a safe space. It provides the two of you the guidance and tools you need to recover from the affair.


Never ever tell anyone outside of your family what is happening in your marriage. If you tell everyone who will listen that your spouse is a cheater, you have now boxed yourself into a corner. Your marriage, and your decision to forgive or not to forgive is resting dangerously on your pride. What will people think or say about you when they find out that you've forgiven a cheater? Will they laugh at you? Will they say that you're a doormat? Will other adulterous suitors want to have a go at your spouse? Will anyone respect you again? The decision to forgive is one of the most difficult decisions of your life. You don't need to complicate it by being an open book for people who aren't going to help you through this.

The same can be said of your family. Think carefully about who you talk to about this within your own family. Your parents may never like your spouse again no matter how things improve. They're your parents, they want what's best for you. Telling your brother or sister may result in an assault charge for them if they're hot tempered. This is why a counselor is the better person to talk to. They at least are bound by confidentiality. Still, you may have a close family member with whom you share everything. If you feel they will be the most objective and supportive, then talk them. This option is better than not talking to anyone at all.

Marriage doesn't have an expiration date. You vowed to be together for better or worse, until parted by death. There is no reason to allow and affair to bring it all to an end. Recognize that if your spouse isn't willing to change or you just aren't willing to work it out, it may be time to let it go. But take your time coming to that conclusion and leave your pride out of the equation.

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