Both Of My Parents Were Cheaters But That Doesn't Mean I'm One

vintage couple

They never divorced and I can't help but wonder "what if" they'd split up and moved on.

My mother and father met and married in 1961, theirs being the second union for both of those beautiful souls. Daddy apparently wasn't ready to settle down, because he continued his string of dalliances with women—and potentially men, too, as my mother always hinted and one of Daddy's friends seemed to confirm after her death—well into at least the first decade of their marriage.

As far as I know, Mommy seemed to give it the college try in the beginning. My grandmother told me of one instance when Mommy begged Daddy to just stay at home and celebrate some sort of occasion with the family. But those clubs and taverns were beckoning him, so he left anyway, having a night out on the town with his nephew, a man who was close in age and just as handsome as Daddy.

Eventually, by the time my mother found a love letter written from another woman to my father a good seven years into their marriage—a saucy, hurtful letter that read, "Ambrose, I didn't know you could make love like that"—Mommy probably let something in her heart give up on her husband.

She stayed in the marriage despite the adultery because Mommy didn't want to be known as a woman twice divorced. She did look for her own extracurricular activities to fill the void.

She Cheated On Him Too

I first became aware of my mother's adulterous liaisons when my older sister and I sat in the swanky Mark V car of one of her secretarial service clients. Somewhere inside as a young girl, I realized he was probably more than a business contact. Visits with Mommy and another ex-boyfriend gave me clues as well, but I didn't truly understand what was going on in her life until I transitioned from that of a daughter, to more of a confidante in my 20s.

Even though Daddy gave his life to Christ in the early 1980s, changed his cheating ways, and stayed home more afterward, something had been seared in Mommy's heart. She continued seeing other guys until her death at age 68 in 1999.

To Divorce, Or Not To Divorce? That Is The Question.

My parents never got divorced, probably for a variety of reasons. To think about it, divorce does entail lots of splitting of assets, lawyers, paperwork and feelings that some long-term married folks just don't want to face. I don't blame people for wanting to stick it out, even if it is only for the sake of the children.

On the other hand, part of me can't help but wonder what life would've been like if Mommy had truly forgiven Daddy for his discretions, and given the marriage one more try at fidelity. Or, if she couldn't find it in her heart to forgive, had made peace, gotten divorced and moved on.

No human being can truly tell you when it's time to leave a marriage or when it's time to give it one more try and stay; either way, integrity is key. If a union can't exist with fidelity and honesty, it's time for a change—whatever that looks like.

By the grace of God, I've been happily married for nearly 17 years and counting. When it comes to issuing happy anniversary quotes to my husband (or from him spoken to me in love), I'm grateful to say that plenty of them can be spoken in a heartfelt and truthful manner.