Making the decision of whether to stand by your man or hand him his walking papers can be fraught with anxiety. We asked Michele Owens-Patterson, a relationship therapist in New York City, for advice on how to work through the process as you consider these questions:
Has he truly been a partner, or was he just a lover? “The sex may be great, but if he falls flat on everything else—contributing to the household, caring for the kids, making you feel he’s got your back no matter what—then it may be time to let go.” You’re not in a relationship. You’re in a perpetual booty call.
Will I love myself more or less if I stay? “No relationship is worth feeling bad about yourself. If being with your mate makes you feel inadequate and worthless, or makes you question whether you’re good enough to be with him, then it’s probably a sign you should move on.”
Am I staying in this relationship because I fear I’ll never find another man? With all the statistics screaming at you that available Black men are in short supply, it would seem a reasonable reaction to want to hold on to the one you have—no matter how awful he may be—rather than be alone. “Ask yourself honestly if this is your motivation,” Owens-Patterson suggests. “If so, seek the support you need to face your fear of being alone and perhaps end the relationship.”
Did I play a role in his decision to cheat, and am I willing to change? “This is a hard one, because it takes self-reflection. Talk to your mate to find out if there was something you might have done to lead him to consider seeking solace in someone else’s arms. If you feel he has a legitimate claim and you’re willing to change, you’ve begun the healing process.”
Can I envision trusting him again? Has he been unreliable in other ways? “If he promises to get his finances together and doesn’t, or swears he’ll be a better father/worker/lover of God but consistently falls short, chances are he’s just not a trustworthy brother. His infidelity is just another example of that.”
Do we share a purpose (kids, a business, a cause) that’s greater than both of us? “Staying together for the sake of the kids, the mortgage or the business can be an incentive. But those reasons alone aren’t going to rescue the relationship. If the bitterness and lack of trust remain, you may need to walk away.”