Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are.
How true. And how difficult to remember when you're the wife of a man who cheated. Even though it's your husband who made the choice, society judges the wife harshly.
Let's be honest: Society judges pretty much ALL of us harshly. But when we're reeling from the emotional devastation of betrayal, we're so much more vulnerable to that judgement.
It's important to recognize that we judge family members for another's actions as a way of self-defence. Consider the parents I know of a teenage heroin addict. The father is a psycho-analyst, the mother, a nutritionist. They provided their daughter with a stable home, two parents who neither smoked or dranked and describe themselves as happily married. And yet they struggled for years against the shame they felt around their daughter's choices. Of course they weren't perfect parents – none of us are. But society tends to want to blame as a way of saying, "well, of course that happened to them because they did X, Y or Z. But it won't happen to me..."
Were any of us guilty of that? I know I was. I would hear of another's infidelity. And though I may not have spoken the words aloud, I would draw conclusions based on what I thought I knew: the wife seemed miserable, the husband was charming. The wife was unattractive, the husband had kept himself in shape. What did I really know? Nothing. I knew nothing about the dynamics of their marriage. And yet...I thought that I was "safe" because I kept myself in shape. I enjoyed my life. I did everything I could to be...perfect, as if perfection is a shield against pain.
We all know now that we can't control another's choices.
And society at large has likely learned that the hard way, too.
And yet, we continue to judge.
It's critical to not judge yourself. You did NOT cause your spouse to cheat. He made a choice – one out of many different options (seek counselling, take up a hobby, talk to you, ask for a divorce...) – that was HIS choice alone.
You no doubt made mistakes in your marriage. We all have. None of us is perfect.
But we don't deserve to be judged – by ourselves and by others – for a choice that belongs to someone else.