Are there any circumstances, ever, when being unfaithful to your spouse or committed partner can ‘save’ your relationship?

The answer is emphatically, “No.”

      Abe Kass    Abe Kass MA, RSW, RMFT, CCHT is a member in good standing with the following professional organizations. This is your "proof" of his competency as a marriage and family therapist, social worker and clinical hypnotherapist.

Editor:  Nadeem Noor

  • If your partner has let himself or herself go and is no longer attractive to you, 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 more than 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 likely understand that I know of no justification whatsoever for cheating on your spouse or significant other. None.

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.

Please note, importantly, that this is not a moral judgment. It’s a wholly practical recommendation based on counseling thousands of couples during my career and seeing firsthand that the fantasy-like promise of infidelity is never matched by the reality.

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

In my practice and in writing this column, my goal is to find a way 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.

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.

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 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 that is devoid of infidelity can be mediocre and survive. Good or bad, it can carry on. Time, effort and the mediation of a relationship counselor can often revive what seems in the moment to be a dead-end partnership.

Not so a relationship that is rocked by an affair. When infidelity has destroyed trust, security, confidence, and optimism – replacing it with fear, anger, suspicion, and feelings of revenge – the “common” relationship will shatter.

From Bad to Disastrous

Infidelity only throws gasoline on a relationship that is already under stress or inflamed. 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.

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.

Again, speaking practically, not morally, a husband who cheats on his wife – or vice versa – is not going to fair 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 kids are involved, the chances of creating a manageable co-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 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 endure 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 an affair aren’t cheaters, and need answer to no one but themselves.