Zuk­iswa Dlamini looks at the pain of hav­ing to de­cide whether to stay or leave af­ter be­ing be­trayed. This is a tough de­ci­sion, but one that you need to make with care­ful thought.

Bona - - Contents -

Your part­ner has cheated. Now what?

“Ibe­lieve that the most dif­fi­cult choice you’ll ever have to make is whether you should move on or hold on just a lit­tle tighter.” I can’t re­mem­ber where I saw this quote or who it be­longs to, but it is quite rel­e­vant to many of life’s is­sues, in­clud­ing cheat­ing. Infidelity can hap­pen to any­one, and the re­sults are al­most al­ways the same

– dev­as­tat­ing. “One of the rea­sons cheat­ing hurts so badly is that it makes you ques­tion if you are not enough for your part­ner,” says re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­lor Irene Jones.

“That can wreak havoc on your con­fi­dence.

This is why de­cid­ing on whether to leave or not is hard. Mak­ing such a big de­ci­sion when you are deal­ing with ma­jor emo­tional pain is not easy.”


Should you find your­self in this sit­u­a­tion, no one should tell you what or what not to do. “Ev­ery­one will have an opin­ion on whether you should stay or leave your re­la­tion­ship af­ter infidelity,” says Sheila Kekana, a church re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­lor in Dur­ban. “Gen­er­ally, there are two camps that are both pas­sion­ate about their stance. The one camp be­lieves in stick­ing things out, no mat­ter what, es­pe­cially when you are mar­ried. The other one be­lieves that you should leave im­me­di­ately, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances. But, the re­al­ity lies some­where in the mid­dle, and feel­ing con­fused is per­fectly nor­mal,” she ex­plains. For Bongiwe*(31), the pres­sure to de­cide was an ex­tra weight in her life. “I was dev­as­tated when I found out about my hus­band’s mis­tress. I didn’t sus­pect any­thing; sud­denly, my world was in sham­bles. As if that wasn’t enough, my friends and fam­ily all wanted to know what I was go­ing to do. I felt un­der pres­sure and lonely. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that ei­ther way, I was be­ing judged. When I chose to stay,

I felt that some peo­ple lost re­spect for me be­cause they viewed me as weak.”


Mak­ing the de­ci­sion to stay in your re­la­tion­ship af­ter infidelity has re­ceived a bad rep­u­ta­tion on so­cial me­dia plat­forms. And, women who make this choice have been la­belled as

“Team bekezela” (Team pa­tience).

“In the past, women who left their re­la­tion­ships for cheat­ing were judged. Now, the op­po­site seems to be true. Both are wrong,” Irene says. So, should you choose to stay, the first thing to fo­cus on is heal­ing. “This is ma­jor trauma, and not one that can be neatly swept un­der the rug. Al­low your­self to be hurt and go through the process of griev­ing. Your part­ner needs to al­low you the space to do that; when some­one wants you to just get over, it’s a sign that you have even big­ger prob­lems,” she warns.

Bear in mind that griev­ing isn’t a quick or neat process, and it will re­quire both par­ties to make it work. The next step is to work on re-es­tab­lish­ing the trust. “This is where many cou­ples fall short,” Sheila says. “This process can take years. The per­son who cheated needs to be pa­tient when they are be­ing ques­tioned. Be­cause trust is fun­da­men­tally bro­ken, things can­not go back to how they used to be. A new re­la­tion­ship is essen­tially be­ing started, and it will be tougher than you think,” she ex­plains. Irene warns the ag­grieved party to be re­al­is­tic about their de­ci­sion to stay. “Just be­cause you have de­cided to stay doesn’t mean you get the right to act out and be abu­sive. You have to be will­ing to ac­tu­ally mend the re­la­tion­ship, oth­er­wise you will be do­ing more harm than good,” she says. Get­ting coun­selling and ex­er­cis­ing pa­tience will go a long way in re­build­ing trust and love. Be nur­tur­ing to each other, and put your re­la­tion­ship first so that you can heal and move for­ward. With the right tools, in­ten­tions and ac­tions, your re­la­tion­ship can be recre­ated, pos­si­bly even bet­ter than the one you had be­fore the cheat­ing.


Al­though leav­ing is not easy, it is an op­tion. “I have al­ways ad­mired peo­ple who know that stay­ing would in­ter­fere with who they are and how they feel about them­selves. Stay­ing only works if it doesn’t kill your sense of self,” Irene ex­plains. If you leave, you have the tough work of heal­ing with­out ac­cess to the per­son who be­trayed you be­ing present to an­swer your ques­tions. “When you leave, you might get back in the dat­ing pool af­ter heal­ing. And, that can be daunt­ing,” Sheila says. Refilwe* (39) has not been able to move on since she left her nine-year mar­riage. “I knew that I wouldn’t be able to love him af­ter his af­fair, so I chose to love my­self and leave. That was two years ago, and I am still not ready to date. My bag­gage and trust is­sues are very deep, so I have come to ac­cept that I might be by my­self for a long time. That is still bet­ter than stay­ing, but it is a lonely life,” she says. Un­like Refilwe, other peo­ple are able to move on to happy and solid re­la­tion­ships. “I ad­vise peo­ple to leave or stay for them­selves; never for the other per­son. That way, you can move for­ward in your truth,” Sheila says.

But, be aware that leav­ing doesn’t ab­solve you of the process of heal­ing. “It is im­por­tant to work on heal­ing and restor­ing what­ever the infidelity took away from you,” she adds. “Just mov­ing on isn’t a real solution be­cause you will bur­den all your re­la­tion­ships with any is­sues you do not deal with.”

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to love him af­ter his af­fair, so I chose to love my­self and leave.

The pain of infidelity doesn’t have to crush you, whether you stay or leave. Find­ing a way to pick up the pieces and mov­ing on with a life that you love is the big­gest cure to the pain that threat­ened to break you.

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