Lemonade, sweet or sour; Black couples staying married after cheating

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The world has been quenching its thirst with Beyoncé’s latest release in the form of the visual album Lemonade. The scenes are arresting and introspective. The main narrative of the album is centered around infidelity. Many speculate that Beyoncé is speaking of her father Mathew Knowles and her husband Jay Z’s encounters and how she was affected by them. After viewers watch Beyoncé go through the stages of her experience, the end result is her celebrating her life with her family intact.

Divorcesaloon.com reports the divorce rate among Black couples to be at 70%. This number is sobering and speaks to a situation that adds to so much despair in our community. On the bright side, 30% of these couples manage to stay married. You can easily point out the examples of Bill and Camille Cosby, or Kobe and Vanessa Bryant to see that it really is possible, even after infidelity.

Marriage is a journey that will test your values, mind and tolerance. Infidelity is an issue that visits the lives of many marriages. Most times than not it adds to the long list of reasons people get divorced. On the flip side of that reality, many people remain married despite infidelity. I was curious as to how a married couple could move past cheating. Fortunately, I found a couple who was bold enough to share their experience with me.

Due to the sensitive nature of this subject, the married couple asked to remain anonymous. This couple has been married with children for nine years. Check out the interview below.

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I know this is a very private journey for you. Who was unfaithful in your marriage?
Wife: Both of us.

What did you or your partner think when you were made aware of the infidelity?
Husband: I was hurt, confused, thoughtful and reflective.
Wife: I felt betrayed, confused, damaged, insecure, unsure and angry. It made us both look at the past, present, and future through a different lens: Was it/is it all a lie? What now?

Did you initially want to leave the marriage? Why or why not?
Husband: That was debatable because I wondered if I was being a hypocrite and I knew there were other ways to get what we both wanted without hurting each other.

Wife: Not initially…I didn’t want to give up on the marriage without knowing I’d given it my all, but I also didn’t want to keep getting hurt. I “slow-walked” that decision for a while. I didn’t want to leave until after we’d decided to stay together and I wasn’t getting the kind of results I thought I should be getting.

Describe your emotions during the time you were healing.
Husband: I’m not healed yet, so the feelings are still the same as day one.
Wife: I think the decision to stay comes before the healing begins, so just because we decided to stay together doesn’t mean we’re completely healed: it just means we’ve committed to the individual and collective healing process. My personal healing process has been more about me setting boundaries and strengthening myself spiritually and emotionally. Focusing on how to be a better “me” helps me to be better for “us”. It also gives me the confidence to move forward: I can stay because I know (now) I’m strong enough to leave—I’m making a choice. We’re still in the healing process, but since I’ve had a little more experience than my husband processing these feelings, I’m probably further along the healing path than he is.

What made you decide that your marriage was worth saving?
Wife: The fact that we are best friends and we are really good together. I always believed we could do great things if we could just get our shit together. I felt like I’d just be leaving him to go out and find someone else just like him, with a few minor tweaks…it didn’t seem like it was worth the time, effort, trial and error. And of course, our kids are a HUGE factor…they don’t really know life any other way.
Husband: I never thought it wasn’t “worth it”; I knew my level of effort and desire had to change. Like anything, it takes time and effort—getting over the infidelity and maintaining and improving the marriage. It’s what you make it. You determine how much effort you’re willing to put in to make it happen.

Is the infidelity something you revisit in your mind often? 
Husband: Really? (laughs sarcastically) It’s not all day like in the beginning, it’s still every day.

Wife: Not as often, and certainly not in the same way, but it definitely rears its ugly head now and then and I have to actively get rid of those thoughts. I have to stay present, get out of my head/feelings/bad memories, and pay attention to what’s happening now, vs what happened then.

How was the trust regained?
Husband: It was really rocky at first. You have to make efforts, no matter how small you think they might be, even if it seems or feels contrived.
Wife: It takes time and consistent effort. I (as the “cheatee”) needed to see his effort (as the “cheater”) and it needed to come from him, not from me telling him what to do. I wanted to know: “What will you do if left to your own devices? What kind of decisions or changes will you make? Are you doing what you said you would do?” I’d say this is true for both of us, with us both having been unfaithful.

What advice would you give to those who wish to stay married after infidelity?
Husband: Get help identifying the underlying reasons for why it happened
Wife: Deal with your own shit—take responsibility for your baggage and hold each other accountable. Most importantly, be willing to forgive, change and move forward. You can’t keep holding someone’s indiscretions or mistakes over their heads if they’re truly remorseful and making efforts to change. Finally, figure out what works for YOU and take advice/opinions with a grain of salt: no one else can tell you what’s best for your marriage, so be careful who you share your marital problems with.

For information on marriage counseling: http://www.goodtherapy.org/marriage-counseling.html

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