Would You Stay With A Cheating Spouse?

Saturday morning my three men were cuddled in my bed (as they are every single morning of our lives), and I came downstairs quickly to make myself a cup of coffee. I opened our front door in my cozy bathrobe and slippers and brought in the newspaper (as I do every morning), and took a quick glance to see if anything looked interesting. I then came across a headline that caught my attention. It was an article from The London Daily Telegraph.

It read: Sad state of affairs? Best to turn the other cheek. An extramarital relationship can end in divorce, but forgiving may be less painful. Women’s radar tells them when their partner is having an affair, but “there’s this unspoken agreement” not to find out, French psychologist Maryse Vaillant says.

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The article went on as such,

“French psychologist Maryse Vaillant insists cheating on your spouse can sometimes be for the best, so long as the security of the family unit is not endangered.

“A lot of men respect, love and admire their wife and she is indispensable, but they feel the need for little flings to fulfill their life as a man,” she says.

“They don’t much bother with feelings in affairs; they keep them for their wives. For a lot of men, it is easy to make this separation.”

Vaillant believes women’s radar tells them when their partner is having an affair, but says “there’s this unspoken agreement: The husband does everything to respect his wife and make sure she doesn’t find out, and she does everything she cannot to know anything.”  –Allison Pearson

I then took to Facebook and Twitter to get your thoughts on this. Some of you even weighed in via email.


One email in particular:

Hi Erica, I’ve been following you for a while. I enjoy your postings. This newspaper article about affairs has compelled me to write to you. My husband (high school sweetheart) had an affair for four years. I found out about it right when it was ending. It practically killed me. No one can understand the pain of it (it’s excruciating) until you’ve been through it. I know because I was one who “thought” I understood. I walked with my sister and my best friend through THEIR husbands’ infidelities. I empathized as best I could and truly thought I understood. No way. When this sucker punch of infidelity hit me, it was beyond devastating. Here I am, almost 2 years out from discovery day… and I am moving forward, but I have a deep pain in my heart and am forever changed. Articles like this one play down the collateral damage. They further abuse the abused. Poor guy can’t control himself, women should understand. This is garbage. I tried to reconcile (my husband now wants me and our family back -3 kids). I cannot reconcile with someone who could abuse me like this. An affair is abuse. I hope you will look into this before writing on the subject. I stumbled upon a blog about 8 mos ago and she seems to be the only one who has hit the nail on the head about cheating. Chumplady.com saved my life and I have since passed it on to others dealing with the aftermath. There is no excuse for infidelity.”

I first want to thank Mrs. X for writing such a profound letter.

I will only leave you with a few thoughts on this topic and then will turn the mic over to you.

It Rolls Off The Tongue…

Wear and tear takes its toll on a marriage. I get this. Believe me, I do. I’ve been with my husband since I’m 19 years old. But we say, “Joe Schmo is cheating on his wife,” like we say, “Jane Doe is an alcoholic.” We say these things, like they are no big deal. They roll off the tongue, like it’s a common, no biggie kinda thing. Like “Honey, I’m just going to 7-Eleven to get milk.” And while cheating on your partner and alcoholism may be very prevalent, it is one of the worst acts of betrayal, in my opinion. Cheating is dirty, deceptive and it would absolutely slay me. My mother, a women’s therapist for over 30 years, maintains couples CAN survive infidelity, but both parties have to be committed to working. I know how common it is, I see it all over my community, and I understand how it can happen, but I can’t accept that it’s not the dirtiest, most disgusting thing one can do to their partner.

China Vs. The Secret

Let me clarify my header. I do believe I would have two different reactions, actually no, not reactions, but ACTIONS depending on the affair my husband would have. I am speaking my truth today, so please no attacking. If my husband went to China on a business trip, and in a rare weak moment, had a drink at the bar, f&cked slipped up, had a one night stand, and came home and told me about it, I would be more inclined to forgive, seek therapy and try and move past it. And I’m not saying I would even be able to move past it, but stay with me here. If, on the other hand, I found out he was having an ongoing affair, lying to me about his whereabouts night after night, for lengthy periods of time, I couldn’t do it. I really don’t think I could. For me, China Vs. The Secret would be different. Both betrayals, and while I do believe my reactions would be the same, my actions might be different. Again, I can only speculate.

That Said, I Would Probably Stay To Work It Out

I have so much invested in our marriage and children, I’ve gotta say, I would probably stay and try to work it out regardless of how it happened. I would be lovesick without my husband, and would fight like hell to keep our family together. But man, I would remain forever haunted (and nauseous) by the thought of my husband in bed with another woman. I would.

I don’t know…. All I DO know, is, it’s a BIG DEAL. And it bothers me when people make it a small deal. When people make it like it’s no big deal.

It’s why I thank my mother and father for raising me with good self esteem and it’s why we should raise our daughters with good self esteem. So she can stand on her own two feet without a man– if ever need-be. So if ever she finds herself in a marriage where her hubby is parking his penis in another woman’s garage, she has options.

Options are always a good thing, I think. Don’t you?


Today, the ‘on the fence’ question: Would you stay with a cheating spouse? Would you throw the towel in on your marriage if your husband had an affair and asked for forgiveness? Do you think the type of betrayal makes a difference? Do you think marriage can survive infidelity? As always, feel free to comment anonymously. 

(And I would like to stress, you can replace man with woman, and woman with man throughout this article. I’m very aware of reverse situations).


  1. I would not throw my family away (we have 4 kids) over a one night stand. I agree with you that the type of affair matters but the betrayal is the same. It would be nearly impossible but I think I would try and work it out regardless of the kind of affair he had.

  2. Cheating is not negotiable! There are no passes for a one time error of a drunkin stupor. Something is broken if he needs to be that loose with someone else!
    We take vows to be with our spouses for good and bad. Work on the bad if you’re having issues.
    If one can’t be open and honest to get the help together then that’s part of the issue.
    I would leave the relationship.

  3. New reader here. Fantastic post Erica. I admire your honesty. I am not sure how I would react but I admit you did make me think.

  4. Well, that is a HEAVY topic. Since day one I have always told my husband that “divorce” is not in my vocabulary. Whatever the issue, we will work at it. Except cheating. I have a zero tolerance policy, regardless of the circumstance. I know myself and I could never come back from that point of betrayal and the depths of hurt that would ensue.

  5. I was really “on the fence” about responding to this one, but decided to go for it.

    To my knowledge, my hubby has never cheated on me; however, like other responders wrote, it would depend on the level of infidelity. For example, a dear family member of mine finally divorced her husband after years of his infidelity. In her husband’s case, these weren’t flings; these were affairs that went so far as renting homes together, making plans to divorce their spouses for each other, and etc. In those situations my family member should have divorced immediately after the first case of infidelity.

    That said, if the infidelity was the result of loneliness on my spouse’s part from my emotional neglect, I think I would have to accept some of the blame. If my spouse was not looking to leave me, but was trying to fill a void he had previously attempted to express to me, I would seek counseling and try to learn to meet those needs he was looking to fulfill elsewhere.

    No doubt all affairs are painful for the women who are being cheated on. But I don’t believe that all affairs have to be fatal to a marriage.

  6. June 2004, I have been married 6 years, I have two little boys. One is almost 3 and the other one is almost 1. I have a five bedrooms, 3 bathrooms house with a huge backyard and a pool. I work from home to be with the boys as much as I can and also because I love my husband and want to help him anyway I can.

    June 2004 is my life defining moment, the moment where I realised that I was a fool. My life, as I knew it was a fraud. My husband did not love me, he did not even like me. He had no respect for me. That is how I felt in June 2004 when I first suspected that my husband had one too many affairs. I had no proof, just some hints. When I confronted him, he did not confirmed the affairs but his gesture were enough to make me believe that something was wrong. Believe it or not, I took full responsibility and decided that I would be a better wife. After all, there are always two sides in a story and since I would not get his side, I decided to take action.

    I had always been an independent women and there was no way that I would be a doormat. Although I wanted to get a divorce, I knew that it would be very hard to raise the kids on my own since I was making very little money. I decided to stay in the marriage but made some changes. I went back to work full time so that I could save enough money to get a divorce in case my husband was really cheating on me. I had doubts but no proof. Intuition is a powerful tool, one that can be deadly or liberating.

    In my case, the unknown was deadly. I became a zombie, I completely shut down so that I will not feel the pain. I could not look at myself in the mirror. In my mind, I was just a prostitute. I was staying with a men who did not love me just so I would have a roof over my head.

    My husband resented me for going back to work full time and for hiring a nanny. He kept telling me that a normal women did not need a nanny. He kept telling me that a normal women cook, clean and take care of the kids. I stayed calm, learned to breathe through my nose and kept going. As the days went by, I became more and more detached. It’s call surviving. You stop feeling the pain and you just live one day at the time.

    It did not take long for my husband to find a new fling. Her nickname was flying tutu. That time, I had proof, I actually talk to flying tutu and she confirmed that something was going on. In a way, I am grateful to flying tutu. She did not sleep with my husband but she made me understand that he was ready to cheat on me and that it was just a matter of time before he found the girl who will sleep with him. It did not take long before he found a new girl willing to stay overnight in his hotel room. The room paid for with the family money. The money I was hoping will be put towards our kids’ education funds. The funny thing though is that at that point, I did not care anymore, I was just waiting for the right moment where I would have enough money to get a divorce.
    I finally divorce. That was 7 years ago, when my kids were 3 and 5 years old which means that I live in hell for over 2 years. When I finally found the strength to divorce, I rented a 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom apartment with no backyard and no pool. I became a single working mom. Travelling was not an option anymore neither was fine dining and expensive clothes. There was however one thing that I got from my divorce; something priceless: My dignity and self-respect.
    I managed to move on when I discovered the serenity prayer:
    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.
    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.
    That prayer, was given to me by an angel who crossed my path.

    Now, the million dollar question: Did I forgive my ex- husband? Yes, Completely.
    Forgiving is the only choice you have if you want to move on. It does not mean however that I regret getting a divorce. Getting a divorce was the best thing for me and my child. I am raising two boys and I want them to respect women. I want them to know that cheating on a girlfriend or a wife is wrong and that there is a great risk that they will lose the person they love if they do cheat on them. I also want them to know that it is ok to stop loving someone and that break up do happens. Over the years, I realised that even if my ex-husband had not cheated on me, we would have divorced anyway.

    I have been single for the past 7 years. I am enjoying life and I am very happy. I recently move in a big house with my boys. Travelling is now an option so is fine dining and expensive clothes. I never stopped moving forward and I have no intention to stop. Maybe one day, I will meet someone and it will feel right. One thing will never change thought, I will never stay in a relationship with someone who think that cheating is ok.

    1. Cathy,
      You are very brave not only for leaving, but for forgiving.
      I think your situation is similar to my family member’s case. Her husband was a fraud from the beginning, too. My guess is that those men never really considered their behavior wrong since their hearts were never in the right place to begin with.
      ((((( hugs )))) to you!

      1. Thank you Pamela,

        His heart was not in the right place but I realised that I never questionned his reasons for marrying me either and if I had, we would have break up before the weeding. That being said, we have two wonderful children and we are committed to them. We are raising them as co-parents and it is working very well. The lesson I learned is to never be afraid of questionning and marry only the one that is with you for the right reason.

        Hugs to you too

  7. Thanks for your post, Erica…love your blog. Cheating is the lowest thing a man or woman can do to their spouse and obviously their problems probably existed long before the act took place. We teach our children to always tell the truth and treat others with respect, and the same should go for our spousal relations. If I found out my spouse cheated on me, my gut says I’d kick him to the curb, but my heart would be terribly conflicted. Marriage is work, plain and simple, and while it’s easy to call it quits, I know I’d want to get to the bottom of the issue and go from there. This would not only be for my child’s sake, but for my own sanity.

  8. How very French! This psychologist, Maryse Vaillant comes from a country where their former Prime Minister had a child out of wedlock, and nobody thought anything of it. I don’t think that letting men off the hook for infidelity, however, is particularly chic.

    1. I don’t know anything about the French, but I also don’t think this has anything to do with being chic. It’s a matter of commitment being taken seriously. Sometimes a cheating spouse isn’t uncommitted, he/she is desperate, confused, angry, or simply hurting. Does it mean the act of cheating is okay? No.

      I really think there is a difference between serial cheating and incidental cheating. Neither is good behavior, but the motives are probably much different. And the marriage for the latter is probably fixable.

  9. I could not and would not lower my self-respect to stay with a cheater; a partner that selfishly put himself ahead of our relationship and who stole family time away from our children under the pretense of working. With two young children, I put my heart and soul in forgiveness, but he continued to cheat. After weekly joint and single sessions, (ten MONTHS of counselling and thousands of dollars in fees), he would not accept responsibility for his actions and that we would have to work together to rebuild the trust in our eleven year relationship. I was devastated, lonely and scared.

    Ten years ago, I left with my 3 yr old and 4 month old baby and haven’t looked backed. Ironically, he has stepped out of our children’s lives and has absolutely no contact (his choice) with his two wonderful sons. I wonder how important our family really was in the first place?

    I believe trust is like a rope; it is strong until it is cut and then it will never be the same no matter how tight you tie it together again.

    1. Cheater do not take responsibility. They have their own reason to cheat and they believe that cheating is the right thing to do under the circumstances. In fact, they usually blame their partner. Through my experience, I learned that the actions of my ex-husband did not matter. The only thing that matters was how I reacted. There are no right or wrong answers. You just have to follow your heart and be at peace with the decision we make.


  10. I went through this ordeal in 2001 when my x-husband went to Japan. While over there, he decided that he found someone else while I was busy taking care of his two kids. Of course, I wasn’t dumb when one day out of the blue he wanted a divorce. I knew what was going on, I knew he found someone over there. I forced him to come home and deal with this face to face instead of taking the easy way out. We tried to work it out but he decided he wanted to lie about everything that took place, I already knew what happened because I asked the other party involved. There was no denying what he did. Once I determined that he was not only cheating on me but a lying SOB, I said forget that. I then went and hired a lawyer. The lawyer served him and his jaw dropped. He knew I was serious at that moment. From that point forward, I didn’t look back and I started looking forward for the sake of my children. I am thankful I got out of that relationship, it was emotionally and verbally abusive. It took me a long time to forgive my x but I did because I knew it was a must to move forward with my own life and to let go of the bitterness that I held onto. I have since married a very loving man who took my older two kids under his wing. I don’t regret anything but I was a single mom for about 8 years and that was very hard. But I did survive it. 🙂

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  12. My spouse cheated on my with my 15yo neice.
    It was during the year where I admit there was alot of emotional neglect on both party. We had 2 kids at this time, and neither of us made each other a priority which made the distance grew wider and fights more frequent. Although living together, we were constantly on and off at that time.
    But the following year (after the affair) we decided to split up and he moved out. This of course lasted only a month.

    Anyway My neice had a councellor/therapist for a mum, she has also been through alot of counseling herself after her parents split due to infidelity.
    Its this ‘counseling’ nature of hers that first sparked a (at the beginning an innocent) relationship between my spouse and her. He started feeling comfortable in confiding in her with his battle with depression then eventually our problems, because of the way she talks to him, encouraging him to open up. He’s never been the type to talk about his feelings to anyone before as this is his ‘manly’ side.

    She admitted to me that during this time she felt the need to “fix” him due to his low self esteem and battle with depression, this made her feel better about herself as she has low self esteem also.
    Overtime it eventually grew into something they both crave for. Love & Attention.
    This affair lasted for a couple months before they both came to their senses and stopped.

    Fast forward two/three years, my relationship with my spouse grew and blossomed since that trialing time.. he sought help with his mental issues ad became a much better man. We thought we could overcome anything after wat we just been through.. right up until recently (DDAY) when I found out about the affair. Yea it hurt like nothing I ever felt before. As u all can imagine, I loved him with all my heart and soul and we both thought that we were souldmates prior to all this mess. He still does. Im not as certain as I was before.
    I ask myself everyday was this an honest mistake due to that rocky part of our relationship? Did he just briefly lost the plot due to his mental illness? I don’t know if I could honestly believe that.
    To my knowledge its a one off occurence, even though the WORSE type of an affair I could imagine. I do wonder if i should give him a chance for my kids sake? We have 3 together aged 6, 3, newborn. My kids think the world of their father and would tell me everyday how much they love mummy AND daddy. My daughter was most affected during our brief split.. wenever we get into a heated deep discussion she would always beg me not to send daddy away again. Of course this breaks my heart as we both promised her its never going to happen again.
    Im taking my time to make the final decision right now. I want to be at the very least, financially independent before I could go through with the official split. I want to make sure my kids would be ok with it too.

    Some days ill miss him like how you miss a loved one that just passed away.

    Other days I feel sick to my stomach about what he did with my teenage neice. She maybe young but she sure is beyond her years in maturity.. but when I was her age I KNEW right from wrong to THIS degree. Sure I made teenage mistakes, but this sort of act will NEVER cross my mind. I do realize that the blame is heavier on him as technically hes the ‘adult’.. but for as long I have known him, he has always been a kid at heart.. his immaturity is what most of our arguments has been about.. his lack of knowledge to know whats right and wrong in the ‘responsible’ adult world has been one of the major issues with us.

    It was only until after we had that brief split that following year he realized what was important and that he had alot growing up to do.
    Me too, I guess. I learnt to apreciate him more and all the efforts that he putd into the family.. something which I never acknowledge before.

    Its such shame that I’ve finally realised my wrong doings and he finally became the man who ive always wanted him to be (and that who HE WANTS to be as well) and now it may be too little too late.

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