Advice: Cheated on by a pious Muslim man

Advice: Cheated on by a pious Muslim man January 24, 2013

Dear Love InshAllah:

My husband is cheating on me. I found out because he wasn’t logged out of his Facebook account – I saw messages between him and a non-Muslim co-worker of his in which he’s trying to break things off (I’ve met this woman a few times at his office gatherings). We have a 2 year old son and have been trying for a second baby.  I never ever imagined that I would be in this situation. My husband is a practicing Muslim (prays, fasts, doesn’t drink) and was a virgin when we got married – no one would ever believe me if I told them he cheated on me.  I’m so angry but also humiliated and embarrassed. I have no idea what to do.

Signed,

Cheated on by a pious Muslim man

Ms. Sunshine replies:

 

 

Your world has just been turned upside down. You trusted, made yourself vulnerable, and now you’re probably questioning so much of what you thought you knew. The more people you’ve consulted, and advice you’ve sought, the more voices in your head, competing for your attention.

This is a confusing time.

First, you must take care of yourself. If your husband has been this careless with your heart, you cannot trust that has been careful with your body. Contact your doctor, Planned Parenthood, or any other facilities that offer low-cost healthcare.  Schedule a test for sexually transmitted infections. Let your husband know that there will be no sex unless and until he does the same.

If you and your spouse decide to try and heal this rift, you will need help. While friends, in-laws, and sheikhs may be well meaning, they are not always the best choice for help in navigating the bumpy terrain of infidelity. A neutral third party, preferably a licensed counselor, can be an invaluable guide through the anger, insecurity, fear, hurt and myriad other emotions that are a natural part of the healing process.

Marriage is a sacred bond, a contract before God and trusted witnesses. The decision to void that contract should not be taken lightly. But the Qur’an makes it clear that marriage should be a source of comfort and support, not misery. Marriages can recover from infidelity, but the road is long and difficult. It requires painful honesty, extraordinary mercy, and a lot of hard work. You’re not a failure, a bad parent or an inferior Muslim if you can’t do it.

If you decide that there is no way to fix what’s been broken, then you need to consider the easiest path out of this marriage. I highly recommend Stuart Webb’s “The Collaborative way to Divorce.” It’s unlikely that a book can substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer, but the advice can help keep you thinking clearly about the best possible outcome for all involved. Allah (swt) advises us the end of a marriage should be kind and respectful. Thinking of divorce as a collaborative, rather than an antagonistic process can go a long way to ensuring that kind and respectful ideal.

Shy Desi Boy replies:

The first woman I loved cheated on me. I was in my early twenties and it felt exactly like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where the villain rips someone’s heart out. Many years have passed and I won’t lie: it does not get better. It just gets different.

So I am not going to quote a hadith about how what happens makes us all stronger or better because it sucks to be cheated on and all I learned from the experience was, well, how much it sucks. Which is to say this, Cheated on by a pious Muslim man: I am very sorry this happened to you. It is beyond awful. I know because it happened to me.

When I was younger and I learned that Hugh Grant cheated on the sublimely beautiful Elizabeth Hurley, I wondered: what was he thinking? Because back then I thought cheating could be understood in rational terms—if your partner looks like Hurley why would you cheat?  That is such a male understanding of cheating and sadly it is one that I bought into.

But now I no longer think that way. It is unfair to the woman because it tends to shift the blame on to her—what was her shortcoming? If Hurley is attractive, why would Grant do this?

Now I believe the focus should be squarely and solely on the cheater. Cheating is about the cheater—in this case it is his deficiency, not yours, and please do not think that you are at all responsible for his dishonesty.

What your husband did is awful and I believe you should confront him. He will say that you should not have been looking at his Facebook account but that is no defense. I accept that there should be privacy in marriage but when there is doubt, I do believe a spouse should feel the space in a relationship to speak out.

I have also learned that there is no “cheating type” or conversely no “faithful type.” I have seen a man happily in love—with a great sex life, or so he tells me—cheat on his gorgeous wife. I have known a friend go for repeated trips to hajj and only to learn later that she was cheating on her husband.

Let’s look at three scenarios. I have a friend who left her husband after he cheated on her. She is now happy again with an amazing partner who I adore. I have another friend who left her husband and she has not found love again. When we hang out, she always wonders if she could have reconciled, if she could have forgiven him for his transgression.

Another friend of mine is now living as a single mother after her husband cheated on her and she is the happiest I have ever seen her. One couple I know—where it was the wife who cheated on the husband—have worked out their differences through extensive therapy and now have a young child.

In many ways I think we need to expand our definition of infidelity. Indeed perhaps the worst form is when you become physically intimate with another person. But I have seen all sorts of transgressions in relationships. What if your partner is constantly chatting with a person online, sharing a forming of emotional intimacy that you do not experience with your partner? What if your partner is sexually faithful but is a compulsive flirt, which makes you feel just as small as if he had slept with another woman?

How then to move forward? Regardless of what you chose, I strongly believe that professional therapy—for both of you—is important. If there is one thing I wish I could tell my 20 year old self, it is this: your heart is much more fragile than you think. Maybe therapy would have helped me back then—I certainly needed it.

Because I am not so sure I have ever recovered from being cheated on. And because of that, I have not allowed myself to give or to receive the love I know I can. That is my failing–not the woman who cheated on me.

I wish you the best, Cheated on by a pious Muslim man, and wishing that whatever happens, your heart remains open to receive the love that you deserve.

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