Are there any circumstances when being unfaithful can save your marriage or committed relationship?
The answer is emphatically, No.
- If your partner has let himself or herself become unattractive, does that justify infidelity? No.
- If your partner no longer sleeps in the same bed with you and pushes off all efforts at intimacy, does that justify infidelity? No.
- If you are thinking about a divorce — because you’re unhappy in your marriage or relationship — but want to stay together 'for the kids,' does that justify infidelity? No.
- If a prominent web service, with over 50 million global members, promises complete discretion and encourages you to 'find your moment' outside of your committed relationship, does that justify infidelity? No.
By now, you probably understand that there is no justification for cheating on your spouse or significant other. None.
The video '11 Reasons Why People Cheat on Their Partner', will give you an understanding of why your partner may have cheated, but it is not a justification.
Ashley Madison, a company that promotes infidelity, boasts, "Life is short, have an affair." Ashley Madison claims cheating on your partner good for your marriage. They are lying to you.
I can say, truthfully, that I’ve never witnessed or even known of a circumstance where a spouse or partner cheated to 'save the relationship,' and it worked out as expected. Never.
This is not a moral judgment. It’s a practical recommendation based on counseling thousands of couples during my career and seeing firsthand that the reality does not match the 'fantasy like promise' of infidelity.
I would liken my observation to physicians who discourage their patients from smoking—not because smoking is evil or immoral— but because it isn’t healthy, under any circumstance.
A Practical Recommendation When Surviving Infidelity
In my practice and in writing this column, my goal is to keep couples together in the aftermath of infidelity. That is doable, and many times I’ve helped couples emerge from the maelstrom of betrayal stronger, more deeply committed to one another, and more deeply in love.
When dealing with infidelity I tell my clients that as much as I fight to preserve and restore infidelity-shattered relationships — because marriage and committed partnerships are worth saving — I would always advise individuals who are in a failed relationship to get a divorce rather than turn to infidelity.
Let me repeat that— then I’ll explain exactly why: It’s always better to get a divorce (or breakup) than it is to cheat on your spouse or committed partner.
A marriage or relationship can be mediocre and survive if there is no infidelity. Good or bad, it can carry on. Time, effort and the mediation of a relationship counselor can often revive a relationship and make it warm and loving again.
A relationship that is shattered by an affair. When infidelity has destroyed trust, security, confidence, and optimism—replacing it with fear, anger, suspicion, and feelings of revenge—requires intensive effort and help from a trained professional to carry on after the affair has ended. When dealing with infidelity and its aftermath, this is a FACT of life.
From Bad to Disastrous
Infidelity only throws gasoline on a relationship that is already under stress. If a child is conceived from the affair, the stress level increases and complicates the situation even more. Can any rational person really conclude that if he or she is already at odds with his or her partner, cheating on that partner will improve matters? Not on this planet. When faced with getting over an affair there are a whole new set of problems!
If a couple is headed inextricably down a path towards a breakup, infidelity will only make the heartbreak of separation worse.
In the vast, vast majority of cases, infidelity is ultimately discovered and rapidly propels a relationship from one that is already troubled to one that is plain disastrous. Now, besides no sex, no communication, arguing... the couples has to contend with surviving infidelity and finding practical solutions to getting over an affair.
Again, speaking practically, not morally, a husband who cheats on his wife — or vice versa — is not going to fare particularly well when it comes to a divorce settlement. (Despite a popular web service that reassures cheaters that there are 'millions of people just like you,' American courts still frown on adultery.)
After the divorce, when children are involved, the chances of creating a manageable cooperating parenting relationship worsen dramatically if infidelity was one of the factors that contributed to the falling out.
As for the kids, if the original relationship produced any, never underestimate the difference in their level of animosity toward a parent who both divorced and cheated on their mother (or father), compared to how kids might relate post-divorce to a parent who couldn’t work it out with mom, but was never unfaithful to her.
Achieving a ‘good divorce’ is much harder done than said, but the quality of a cheater’s post-divorce relationship with his or her ex will undoubtedly be much worse than in those instances when the couple could not reconcile but managed to avoid an infidelity-fueled breakup.
For the Kids’ Sake
As for those parents who feel a responsibility to remain in a broken marriage for the kids’ sake, I respect the desire to put the needs of your children first. Cheating, however, is not about the kids — and is not good for them.
The rationalization, “I’ll stay in this marriage until the kids are older. Meanwhile, I’ll have an affair or periodic flings on the side to satisfy my sexual and emotional needs,” is not really about the kids.
Kids never benefit when mom or dad are skulking around outside of the home, romancing a new partner, and investing attention, emotions, time, and money outside of the family. It may seem like a good idea in concept, but the price the kids are certain to pay is far greater than when their parents get an amicable divorce, then build a post-divorce relationship with the children.
Divorced couples go through plenty of pain. But that pain eases with time and both partners stand an excellent chance of forging new, more fulfilling relationships.
The wounds caused by infidelity, however, may last a lifetime, making it hard — often for both partners — to move on with their lives.
Rather than betray your spouse or partner in a misguided effort to stay together, be adult about it, and get a divorce. Divorced men and women who subsequently have a new relationship aren’t cheaters and need answer to only themselves... they don't have to deal with getting over an affair besides losing their family.
Learn how to Survive Infidelity with my best self-help books, available on Amazon.
Most often the assistance of a relationship professional who specializes in infidelity is required to help you survive infidelity. Below are sources where you can find qualified therapists.