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« The Final Week of Oprah: Day Two | Main | The Final Week of Oprah: Day One »

Stand On Your Own, Not By Your Man: A Response

Identity hidden to protect the guilty.

My first love cheated on me. Repeatedly.

And I went back to him. Repeatedly.

He was my first real boyfriend and had followed me from high school to college. (Mind you, he did not attend the college - just moved to the same town.) I was head over heels in love with him, as only a teenager can be. I truly believed I was going to marry him. Then, I found a love note in his apartment from a sorority sister — not just any sorority sister but a close friend who had taken me under her wing and showered me with affection.

It is a betrayal that still stings eleven years later.

I believed at the time I could end their relationship. I made him call her in front of me and tell her it was over. I checked his email and followed up on every story he told me. He continued to see her and continued to lie. I knew he was lying but I remember vividly calling my mother from his apartment and crying that I just could not make myself leave.

We weren't married and didn't have children. We'd only been together for two years. I can't even begin to imagine the pain Maria Shriver feels. Arnold's betrayal makes my boyfriend's seem like a little white lie, but I do remember the self-doubt and crippling confusion.

If everything I believed about this person I loved and trusted is wrong, how can I ever trust myself about anything—including whether I should stay or whether I should leave?

Eventually, a very wise friend (who I ended up marrying) advised me that I was trying to reason with idiots and idiots don't understand reason. This was not about me. Their betrayal had everything to do with them and their issues and very little to do with me. And I finally realized nothing I could do would end their relationship (they are now married) or save mine.

It was one of the hardest lessons of my life and one I still carry with me. I married a man I truly don't believe would ever cheat on me. HOWEVER, I am not a fool. My husband loves me but he is not perfect, nor is he above basic human psychology. I've seen Love Actually, even the best husbands aren't impervious to a flirty, determined young woman. However, I would not be as kind as Emma Thompson. I wouldn't say I'm zero tolerance but I would add I take the upkeep of my marriage very seriously and the presence of any new women in my husband's life even more seriously. (In other words, stay away from my husband or I will cut you.)

Not that I'm saying that's what happened in Maria and Arnold's case or any other celebrity marriage. None of us really know a marriage - except our own. And even then, when a lie makes everything you once believed was real suddenly seem fake, you can't really count on anything ... including the belief that Tammy Wynette was full of shit all these years.

- Sarah Stewart Holland

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