Can Your Marriage Be A Good One Even When Your Spouse Cheats Or Has An Affair?

By Katie Lersch: This is a question that spouses rarely agree upon.  It’s very common for one spouse to have one view of the marriage while the other has a very different view.  Sometimes, the spouses keep their opinions to themselves until infidelity rears it’s ugly head and the marriage it literally pulled apart and examined from every angle.  And, it’s usually at this point that it becomes fairly obvious that, while two people are living within the same marriage, those same two people can experience it very differently.

I recently heard from a wife who said: “my husband confessed to cheating on me for three weeks. He insists that it wasn’t an affair because it was all about sex only. He says he didn’t mean for it to happen and now it’s over.  He’s very reluctant to talk about the details behind it.  I want to know what was so wrong in our marriage to make him risk every thing.  He insists that there was nothing wrong with me or our marriage.  In fact, he insists that our marriage was a good one.  I have to admit that I thought the same thing.  But I don’t think it’s possible to have a good marriage if someone cheats.  I think that, by definition alone, once infidelity occurs, you have a bad marriage automatically.  My husband says this is ridiculous.  Who is right?”

How Infidelity Can And Does Happen Within Good Marriages: Quite frankly, both people have valid points and both can be right within their own point of reference.  On an almost daily basis, I have someone contact me on my blog and insist that they have no idea why they cheated or had an affair when they had a very good life, marriage, and spouse.   I believe most of them to be sincere.  And I believe that in some cases, your marriage doesn’t have as much to do with the infidelity as you might think.  Many people cheat as a reaction to personal struggles that are outside of their marriage.  They are reacting to a lack of confidence, a personal crises, or a way to find some relief from a struggle that doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else but them.

With that said, it’s also possible to be in denial.  Sometimes, when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a little undeserved resentment toward their spouse not being able to help them in their crisis.  The reaction to that resentment can be passive aggressive behavior which leads to an affair and quite often, this happens without the unfaithful person realizing that it is happening.

A Marriage Can Be Good To One Spouse But Not The Other: Sometimes, I have cheating spouses insist that their marriage is still a good one and they believe that they can prove to their spouse if just given a chance.  My reaction is often something like “how good would your marriage be to you if you knew your spouse had been unfaithful?”  Because, just using myself as an example, I thought my marriage was good until I found out about the affair.  But once I did, everything changed.  Everything seemed as if it were a lie.  And so, while my husband would insist that nothing really had changed for him since he had loved me all along, things had definitely changed for me and I could no longer look at my marriage as “good” since it had been damaged by infidelity.  This didn’t mean that I could never see it as good again, because I eventually did.

But it is so important to understand that there are two people and two perceptions within a marriage.  What you consider to be good and fulfilling might be seen and experienced in a completely different way by your spouse (especially after you have cheated.)

Some people disagree with me on this, though. I sometimes hear from couples who have been married for a very long, but freely admit that the marriage is an “open” one, meaning one or both of the spouses see other people on the side.  Often, every one knows about every one else.  (This is often a man with a long term mistress, but it can also be the wife who is unfaithful.)  And they will usually insist that every one is happy.  The man might tell me that he has been happily married for 25 years and that his wife is absolutely fine with the mistress.  He will ask me what the problem is when every one is content and no one is getting hurt?

And it can be hard to argue with this point.  But I often suspect that the wife probably isn’t as happy as he believes.  And to me, a marriage can only be defined as “good” if it is indeed good for both people.  How good can it be for you if you know that your spouse isn’t faithful?  This is only my opinion and I admit that my opinion is partially formed by being a wife who was cheated on.

The bottom line to me is that infidelity isn’t always a definite sign that your marriage was completely awful or fatally flawed.  People can and do cheat when they are happily married, but they are reacting to their own personal struggles. However, with that said, you must understand that once the cheating happens, the marriage is damaged and must be repaired.  There is usually no going back to the way things were, even if the marriage truly was a good one. It is so important to identify what possibly went wrong and then to fix it, especially if you want your marriage to be good once again.

I do believe that our marriage was a reasonably good one before my husband’s affair.  However, once he crossed the line, it was no longer good for me. We had to work very hard at repairing our marriage and we were eventually successful and are still together today.  If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at


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