With the news breaking that Khloe and Tristan have split again due to his rumoured infidelity, and the ensuing news outlet outrage at his behaviour and her willingness to take him back in the past, I remember the feelings all too well.
The moment I discovered that my partner was having an affair was devastating; my world and a relationship I held so dearly shattered right there. But as I realised, Khloe probably doesn’t want our outrage or our sympathy.
Society pushes a narrative of the victim and the ‘wronged woman’, with expectations that we should walk out the door, running as fast as we can. And in one sense, that’s exactly what I felt I should do. I did leave home initially to get my thoughts together. He could stay home and take responsibility for our family, while I took the space away to understand how I felt.
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In this situation, I realised you never know how you’re going to react until it actually happens to you. If you’d asked me before if I’d have stayed, it would have been a firm ‘no’. Even he admitted, he thought I’d kick him out. But in reality, it was way more complicated and messy than just walking out and starting over. We shared a life, children, family, a home, finances, a long history, and a future that I still wanted.
When I really investigated my own feelings – without any of the social expectations – I realised I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to try and figure it out. We were still partners, there was still so much of our relationship that was good, that I valued and felt it worth a shot at salvaging.
When I really investigated my own feelings – without any of the social expectations – I realised I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to try and figure it out
So I made my decision to stay and he made it clear he wanted to, if I would give him the chance. Not everyone gets that chance – often an affair means the relationship is irretrievable for either or both parties. And a friend has shared with me that it can be equally as devastating not to have the chance.
I figured I’d have to go through a healing process and it may actually be better to do this together, rather than alone, and without also wreaking havoc on our family life. I needed to have time and space to deal with it myself and together with my partner in privacy, before having to answer to the emotional needs from our young children, or for that matter, our friends.
It took me a while to share my story, and I needed time to process my feelings away from the (often unconscious) judgement and pity that came with the ‘affair’ conversation. Suddenly, I felt as though it was fair game for people to question whether I had been a good wife or if I could ‘keep my man happy’. This was usually more perceived than actually expressed, but sometimes when I confided in people, I could almost hear them thinking aloud: ‘I’d never let that happen to my marriage’, or ‘How did she not know he was sleeping with someone else?’. People’s expressions often say far more than they realise.
I needed a judgement-free space to unravel how I really felt. Something many people in the public eye like Khloe aren’t often afforded.
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There can be a real sense of shame admitting you’ve been betrayed and cheated on. It feels like your whole worth is in question, and I suspect that’s why it’s not often spoken about openly. I had very few frames of reference to draw on; on how to be the woman that stayed instead of left. I often found myself wondering how high profile women like Victoria Beckham or Beyonce, who are rumoured to have had partners who cheated, managed it while under the glare of the world’s media.
One thing I was adamant about, I wasn’t willing to get sucked down the shame path. While our relationship was not perfect, I knew I had been a good partner, wife, mother. Therapy or trauma counselling (it is recognised as being akin to trauma) and reading relationship counsellor and author Esther Perel’s books and podcasts helped me to see my own part in events that led to our relationship breakdown.
But it also helped me understand it was less to do with what was wrong with us and more to do with him – his issues, needs and mental health that led to his decisions. I have had to learn to live with the consequences, but he has had to own them as his choices. Just as I could own my choice to stay.
I had very few frames of reference to draw on; on how to be the woman that stayed instead of left
I can’t deny the impact was devastating. The betrayal and levels of intimacy he shared with someone elsewhere hurts deeply still and re-establishing trust is a whole other story, but I learnt quickly not to let myself get sucked into the victim or judgement narrative. You have to create your own narrative and discover if there’s still a shared one for you to believe in together.
It has been a tough road and I have to admit I no longer believe in forever, but our relationship has benefitted in some ways as a result of this experience. We’re more honest about feelings and emotions, and more considerate and open about our individual needs within the relationship. When I asked him if he wanted to read this article first, he said no – because it’s my truth to speak.
Above all, I learnt that you can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s relationship. Everyone has different lines they agree on and points at which these are crossed. We will probably never know why Khloe has taken Tristan back or why he may have cheated, but I know one thing for sure: I ain’t going to be judging from the sidelines. I just wish her well with her own choices.