Is It Really An Affair If You Are Married In Name Only?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who are desperately trying to come up with legitimate reasons to explain away having an affair.

Sometimes, this request comes from the “other woman” or the “other man” in an affair. Quite understandably, no one wants to be seen as a home wrecker and no one wants to think that they ruined a decent and loving marriage.

You might hear a comment like: “I knew that the man with whom I’ve been having an affair is married. But I also know that their marriage is dead. I know that they don’t ever have sex and I know that his wife doesn’t love him and takes him for granted. I know that he has repeatedly asked her for a divorce, which she refuses. Honestly, their marriage is in name only. That’s not to say that I don’t feel guilty for having a relationship with a married man, but I don’t really see this as a full blown affair. I truly don’t. Because I firmly believe that their marriage is in name only. Is it still an affair when the marriage is only a formality at this point?”

I’ll tell you my opinion on this a little later, but before I do, I’d like to state that sometimes, this concern comes from the cheating spouse. Often, they feel a bit justified in their cheating because the marriage isn’t completely satisfying and they no longer feel involved or engaged with the marriage.

You might hear something like: “my wife and I haven’t really been in love for the past five years. We still occasionally have sex, but it isn’t meaningful for either of us. It’s certainly not good or exciting sex. My wife probably knows that I’m only staying in the marriage because of my kids and because of money. It’s not a real marriage. And that’s why I feel that what I’m doing isn’t really cheating. I truly love the other woman. I’d like to create a future with her. So is cheating really so horrible if your marriage is dead and there’s nothing left?”

Before I answer, I have to tell you that I’m only giving you the opinion of a non objective wife who has been cheated on. So to be fair, if you’re looking for justification for cheating, you’re not going to find it in this article. I’m not trying to imply that people who cheat are awful people or that they purposely set out to destroy marriages or to hurt other people. Because I truly don’t believe this in most cases.

However, with this said, I don’t think that it is ever OK to cheat or have an affair. I understand that your marriage may be awful and not fulfilling. I understand that you may feel as if there is truly nothing left. I get that you might feel as if the other person is your soul mate or the perfect fit for you and that this opportunity may not ever come around again.

But here’s something that you may not know or may not have considered. Almost always, if you were to ask the faithful spouse if she felt betrayed, even considering the state of her marriage, she would say yes. She wouldn’t tell you that she felt her marriage was dead. She would be more likely to tell you that she knew it had problems but she didn’t expect for her husband to cheat on her. And, there are two versions of every marriage. Quite often, the faithful spouse doesn’t see things in the same way as the cheating spouse.

And that’s one reason that I don’t ever see any justification for cheating within a marriage. If things are so awful in your marriage, then as I see it you have a couple of choices. You can fix your marriage. Or, you can leave it. But once you step outside of it and have a relationship with someone else, that is cheating. And it is wrong. I think that you can even tell your spouse that you have temptations and that your marriage needs immediate attention. This may hurt your spouse. But being honest in this way offers so much more integrity then going behind your spouse’s back and cheating on them.

I’d like to make another point if you’re the other person in the relationship, you are having a relationship with someone who is married, and you are reading this article. I am not saying this to be hurtful, but it is so very common for the married person to indicate that their marriage isn’t active when this depiction isn’t completely accurate. Of course they are going to say this in order to make the act of cheating easier for both of you. If a married man was to tell you that his wife annoys him sometimes but they just went on a weekend away two weeks ago and had sex and have been trying to restore their marriage, would you still want to cheat? Probably not. Which is why a married person will often paint a not so flattering portrait of their marriage in order to make the process easier for the both of you, even if the picture they are painting is not reality.

Sometimes though, the marriage spouse is telling you the truth. His marriage is no longer passionate or fulfilling. But this is an issue that he likely needs to work out before he begins a relationship with someone else. Otherwise, he’s cheating every one involved.

So my answer to this question would be that is cheating or an affair anytime a married person has sex with someone other than his spouse. It’s really just that simple for me. But this is only my opinion and I understand that some may disagree.

I was honest when I said that I wasn’t very objective.  But when you’ve been cheated on, you tend to see first hand the damage that this can do.  If it helps, you can read more on my blog at

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