Standing for Your Marriage
Strictly speaking, Standing is a specific term used to describe one spouse’s intent to stay married despite the other spouse’s action and intent to leave. It’s a term typically used in Christian marital teachings where the marriage is held sacrosanct, the cheater is characterized as lost and/or broken, and the faithful spouse’s constancy is a measure of their grace, faith, and rectitude.
Unsurprisingly, the term is alive and kicking in devout Christian infidelity support communities. The term Standing has also, though, been somewhat appropriated by the non-devout, the quasi-religious, and even some secular infidelity support communities, where it has been re-purposed to include a range of hope filled ‘fighting’ for the marriage responses, up to and including extreme Standing.
Six Degrees of Standing
The line between Standing and reconciliation has always been blurry, because the reconciliation apologist community tends to conflate ‘not divorced’ with ‘reconciled’. As a result, ‘reconciled’ has become almost synonymous with ‘not divorced’; IHG uses the terms ‘successful reconciliation’ and ‘divorce avoidance’ to differentiate the two.
It’s interesting, though, how many people vehemently object to a suggestion that they are Standing, while simultaneously clinging to their marriage despite ongoing issues with both the cheater and the marital dynamic. There is more than one way to Stand, and the various degrees of Standing are commonplace, despite the denials. The examples in this article are real denials of Standing, made to us directly.
1st Degree: immediate response
People are understandably frozen in shock in the immediate aftermath of discovery, and swing from denial to fear to outrage. The pain of discovery is difficult enough to deal with, and the added weight of considering the implications for the future in either divorce or reconciliation can be overwhelming.
Typical responses tend to be:
- It’s just a hunch, I don’t know for sure.
- I don’t know what I want.
- I’m confused and scared.
- I’m so shocked I can’t think clearly.
- I can’t afford to divorce them.
2nd Degree: their affair is my fault
One of the tools in the Magical Reconciliation Pixie’s toolbox is self-blame. If the cause of an affair was the Pixie’s own faults, then the fix to the whole mess is within the Pixie’s own power and control. Launching a Fix-It campaign of growth, self-correction, and change allows Pixies to feel active and pivotal in affair repair and prevention.
- We had a dead bedroom.
- I didn’t meet their needs.
- I didn’t communicate well.
- I spent too much time with the kids/working.
- I wasn’t a good spouse.
3rd Degree: excusing infidelity
Excuses, justifications, and rationalizations are not the sole domain of the cheater. Faithful spouses researching how to get through infidelity are bombarded with popular hypotheses for why infidelity is the result of compromised mental health, wonky thinking, a lack of empathy, and broken childhoods, rather than assholery. It’s disturbing how many prefer the narrative of their cheater’s mental illness and/or brokenness, rather than accepting that they were simply being an asshole.
3rd Degree Standers: I’m not Standing because
- it wasn’t really an affair – they didn’t have sex.
- there’s no evidence they are/were actually cheating.
- they’re not really a cheater – they’re broken/in the fog/mentally ill/confused.
- an affair doesn’t define a person.
- they haven’t had sex with someone else for days/weeks/months.
- as long as you’re not actively cheating then you’re not a cheater.
4th Degree: hear me roar
Standers often struggle to reconcile their self-view with their inaction. Rather than using that dissonance as motivation to act, the most typical response is to eclipse any negative self-view with bravado about empowerment and self-focused strength. That bravado is fully intended to reinforce a self-view of being an optimistic, independent, non-Stander deserving praise and commendation for guts and backbone.
4th Degree Standers: I’m not Standing,
- I’m enforcing my boundaries.
- I am standing up for myself and telling it like it is.
- I’m focusing on me, and doing me, regardless of what they do.
- because I demanded and got a really great post-nup.
- because if it ever happens again I’ll divorce them and it will get ugly.
- I’m actually secure enough and love them enough to forgive them for their mistake.
- because I’m moving forward and it’s down to them to keep up.
- but reconciliation takes strength, courage, and vulnerability.
- but I’m just not letting that Tuesday win.
- I’m trusting my gut.
5th Degree: the Divorce Avoidance Plan
The bravado in the 4th Degree is typically coupled with virtuous assertions about fighting for marriage, and defensive posturing about what constitutes Standing, the definition of ‘successful reconciliation’, what constitutes change, and what is a realistic timeline for changed conduct. In IHG’s experience, the Divorce Avoidance Plan (DAP) is the most common ‘reconciliation’ Standing response.
DAP-Standers: I’m not Standing,
- I’m reconciling.
- I’m just not giving up yet.
- I’m trying.
- we love each other and we’re healing, together.
- but I am staying for the kids.
- but people have to start somewhere, and you’re just cynical.
- but I do want to be able to leave saying I did everything I could.
- but change takes time … a really, really, really long time.
- It might look like Standing but it’s not – I’m in the relationship while I wait to observe change.
- I’m not Standing; Standing is a grey area.
- I’m not Standing; define “successful reconciliation”.
- I’m not Standing; define Standing.
- I am Standing because I’m a moral person who made vows, but it’s conditional – if they cheat again, I’m filing.
6th Degree: extreme Standing
30 Shades of Standing
(Okay, I’ve listed 40 Shades, but who’s counting? 😉 )
Though your own approach may not be the 6th Degree extreme Standing where you fight a divorce, refuse to accept a cheater’s choice to leave, and refuse to consider yourself single even after a divorce, it’s clear that there are different degrees of inaction, justified by different shades of the same thinking. The original concept of Standing has been broadened by the infidelity community to encompass the various shades of the reconciliation apologist position of ‘fighting to save a marriage’ – including the 5th Degree DAP-Stand.
Even the less extreme degrees of Standing are essentially just different versions of the same ‘save the marriage’ tolerance of cheater-think and cheater-conduct, excused or justified as reconciliation. The broader and more popular approach of the DAP-Stand really boils down to acceptance of an unchanged cheater.
Standers (of any degree) find the phrase, “tolerating affair behavior”, outrageous and offensive, and I understand why – people don’t choose to be cheated on, they do disapprove of their cheater’s conduct, and they don’t want to be disrespected or put at risk. To be clear: I am not using ‘tolerate’ as a veiled synonym for ‘sanction’. Nonetheless, if we look at the different shades of DAP-Standing, what they all have in common is the faithful spouse’s unwillingness to walk away, regardless of:
- the cheater’s continued cheater-conduct,
- the cheater’s continuing cheater-think (unchanged world-view and mindset),
- continuing dishonesty, manipulation, contact with the affair partner, sidewinding, and disregard for the faithful spouse’s emotional or physical well-being etc., and
- the cheater’s loss-avoidance strategy.
To reconcile without Standing first requires the cheater’s demonstrated and measurable change, and the faithful spouse making their continuation in the relationship contingent on first seeing evidence of that change. It’s the difference between:
- remaining in a marriage and enduring the dysfunction while supposedly awaiting change (until that dysfunction is no longer viable/tolerable/acceptable), vs
- exiting the dysfunction first, watching for actual evidence of genuine change and then, based on one’s observations, evaluating if remaining married to the cheater is viable/healthy/acceptable.
Despite assertions from many DAP-Standers that their presence in the marriage is contingent on seeing real and enduring change in the cheater, it is our experience that a DAP is rarely -if ever- terminated by the faithful partner due to the cheater’s continued assholery. DAPs tend only to terminate when the cheater leaves, or when another affair is discovered (and even then, many DAP-Standers continue to Stand despite serial cheating). Either way, it’s Standing.
Be Intolerant and Stand Down
Standing, in its various degrees, is now so widely accommodated and supported that is has become the standard approach of the marital recovery industry. This approach distills down to prioritizing the marriage and valuing its benefits above the downsides of remaining with an unchanged cheater. Moreover, it is normalizing the tolerance of dysfunction and mutating it to mean forgiveness and fighting to save your marriage. It’s from this model that we see the continuation of abuse, and the myriad of ‘false reconciliation’ and multiple D-Days from serial cheating.
There are dedicated 6th Degree niche support resources for infidelity out there, and there are also many resources for the various degrees of reconciliation apologist forms of Standing. IHG is not one of those resources.
If people choose the traditional route of enduring dysfunction by Standing in a DAP, that is a clear choice. When you choose it, you connote your acceptance of it and your decision to tolerate it, even if you don’t like it. Choosing to Stand is also a choice to tolerate the potential harm and the
IHG does not endorse any degree of Standing as an acceptable approach to infidelity because we’ve witnessed the very real damage and harm it causes. Our position against Standing, though, is not a call for divorce, or a stance against reconciliation. It is a call for faithful spouses to Stand Down and be INtolerant of cheater-think, and cheater-conduct. We encourage faithful spouses to be firm in their INtolerance of dysfunction, mistreatment, and continued dishonesty and disrespect. Don’t allow yourself to be further manipulated by a cheater’s loss avoidance strategy that is fully intended to keep you secured and under control, for their agenda and benefit, not yours.