I didn't tell very many people that my first husband cheated on me. Even now, years later, I don't talk about it much. It's so embarrassing, especially because I was cheated on when I was pregnant. It's not that I still think it was my fault that he cheated or that my pregnancy had anything to do with his infidelity, it's just that I know there are people out there who will blame me for his transgressions, and that's something I don't want to deal with. Ever.
For better or worse, people don't straight-up tell me the demise of my marriage was all my fault. Instead, whenever I read that some celebrity cheated on their pregnant partner, someone will question if the person who was cheated on was at least "a little bit to blame." People speculate about their sex life, criticize her pregnant body, or even say they don't blame him for cheating because of x, y, and z. It's unfair and devastating and, unfortunately, the misconceptions about women who've endured that kind of disloyalty don't stop there.
In my experience, most people tend to think of cheating in terms of sex — the cheater isn't getting enough sex from their partner so they "are forced" to get it somewhere else. This is all kinds of offensive, because no one forces someone to cheat, no one owes sex to literally anyone else, and interpersonal relationships are never that simple. In fact, I don't think cheating is about sex at all. For my ex, it was about women making him feel like the center of the universe. He believed I was way too wrapped up in being pregnant, parenting our toddler, and doing my job to treat him how he wanted to be treated: like a god.
To make matters worse, when you are cheated on while pregnant you feel so much guilt. I wondered if it happened because I was uncomfortable, moody, and didn't feel like having sex. Or maybe my partner didn't want to have sex with me because I was swollen, sweaty, vomiting, and "fat." As a pregnant woman I was already so vulnerable, and his infidelity only filled me with more self-doubt.
People think they get what it's like or know what they'd do in my pregnant shoes, but I think this is a horrible situation you can't adequately understand unless it has happened to you. And since I wouldn't wish being cheated on when you're pregnant on my worst enemy, I know so many people get things wrong about me and this situation, including the following:
It Wasn't My Fault
My first clue that he was unhappy was a Facebook messenger exchange I saw on accident. He told the woman that I wouldn't have sex with him, and she (a childless person, by the way) replied, "Poor baby. I thought pregnant women were horny all of the time. What's wrong with her?"
At the time I did think there was something wrong with me. I now know that it wasn't my fault, though. I couldn't control his actions. Besides, he never once talked to me about my libido or our sex life. How could I fix something I didn't know was broken?
When I found out that my husband had been sleeping with multiple women throughout my pregnancy, I wanted to throw up. I remember the day that my midwife asked me if I had unprotected sex with any new partners. I thought to myself, "What if I have an STD?" but I was and too embarrassed to ask her for a test, and too afraid it would be positive.
I Wished I Didn't Know
A little part of me wished I hadn't found out. I was so ashamed that my husband was lying to and cheating on me while I was pregnant with a baby we'd planned. I knew he'd cheated on me in the past, and I thought he'd changed, but I was wrong. And knowing made it worse, because I felt trapped and I thought I would fail at single parenthood. I later found out that being a single parent would be way easier than being married to him. I just wish I knew then what I know now.
I Didn't Owe Him Sex
I was so sick during my pregnancy that, for months, I threw up 10 or more times a day, couldn't keep food down, and was exhausted beyond belief. It made it hard to function, let alone want to have sex. But, even if I hadn't felt like garbage, people don't owe their partners sex. Ever. Not even when they are married, or when their partners are used to a more robust sex life.
Me not having sex with him didn't make it OK for him to have sex with other people.
I Didn't Hate Him Immediately
It's weird how people expect you to hate someone who cheats on you. I mean, I did... eventually. But my love for him wasn't built in a day, so it didn't go away in a day either. It's so hard to watch someone you love deliberately do something they know will hurt you, especially when they are also the father of your kids.
I'm Not Who He Said I Was
If you believe what he said about me, I was a stereotypical nagging wife who didn't treat him right and forced him to look for sex and love elsewhere. That wasn't true. At least, it wasn't from my perspective. My nagging was pretty much reserved for things like asking him to help when I really needed it, or wanting him to stop lying to me. I just wanted him to grow up, because we were parents and about to have another baby and I needed a partner. The thing about toxic people is that they try to taint your reputation and gaslight you and control the narrative.
I was cheated on and people thought I deserved it.
It Felt Way Worse Than When I Was Cheated On Before
I think because we'd planned our pregnancy, and I was seriously excited to have a second child with my husband, his cheating hit me that much harder than his previous discretions.
I was alone, pregnant, and scared. I had no idea what to do or how to go about doing it. My baby was coming no matter what I did, so I just tried to move forward.
Leaving Isn't Easy
When you tell people that your husband cheated on you, they almost always ask you if you are going to leave him, as if leaving is something you can just decide to do and make happen with a snap of your fingers. I can tell you, though, that leaving is a process; it's complex and it's never easy, especially when you have kids together. Eventually I did leave. It took some time, though, and was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.