Staying Together For The Kids With A Spouse Who Is A Repeat Or Serial Cheater: Should You?

By: Katie Lersch:  I suspect that many wives who choose to stay after an affair are at least somewhat influenced by the impact that a divorce would have on their children.  I know that this was the case for me and many friends, acquaintances, and people who I hear from on my blog.   When you have kids, you not only have to think about what breaking up your marriage might do to you, but you also have to think about what it might do to them.  These thoughts cause many women who might have otherwise considered leaving to consider giving their husband a chance to prove that he can make this up to them and become a faithful, worthwhile husband.  For many of these women, the gamble does pay off and they are able to save their marriage, preserve their families, and move on with their lives.  If you check in with many of them five years down the road, many are content and will tell you that they are glad that they stuck it out.  However, this isn’t the case with everyone.  Some wives have husbands who cheat more than once.  For some, this becomes repetitive cheating.  And then once again, these wives have to consider their children.  And they wonder if they are better off continuing to stay for the kids or if they should just cut their losses.

Someone might tell you something like this: “I feel really stupid to say this, but years ago, when my husband promised that he would never cheat again, I believed him.  I always thought that if a man ever cheated on me, I would leave immediately.  However, that man was my husband and I had two wonderful children with him.  I asked him to leave the house after I first found out that he was cheating.  My kids were so upset when he was gone.  So when he begged me to take him back, I considered it because I saw how this was tearing my kids apart.  He promised me that he would work on himself and would never cheat again.  Well unfortunately, I recently found out that he has cheated for the second time.  Once again, he is begging me not to leave.  And this time, he is upping the ante by telling me that he will go to the counselor of my choice.  But I am skeptical.  I don’t want to keep going through this.  I don’t want to be one of those women who stays no  matter what her husband does.  My children are older now so maybe they could handle a separation or a divorce more easily.  But they are still children and I know that having divorced parents affects children.  I don’t want for my decisions to have a negative impact on my children.  At the same time, I don’t want my kids to be in a household that deteriorates.  I am not sure what to do.  Should I stay?”

You have to be the one to answer that question.  I can share my thought process on a similar situation and try to offer some insights, but no one can make that decision but you.   I did stay with my husband after infidelity and my kids had a lot to do with this initially.  However, I may not have been as open to this if I did not believe that my husband was sincere.  Of course, I had worries and doubts, so I made absolutely sure that we worked on ourselves individually and as a couple.  We did some counseling and it was helpful, but I do believe the work we did outside of counseling was just as important.   I think it is a combined effort much of the time.  I do not regret staying because my husband made good on his promises and our home life is now a stable, positive one for my kids.

Yes, research does show that living in a loving, two-parent household is best for children.  However, experts seem to agree that living in a negative household is not great for kids, either.  So that is going to be an important question moving forward: Do you and your spouse have the desire and the ability to really work exhaustively this time so that the environment is a positive one?  By that I mean that I would absolutely go to counseling this time.  I would absolutely make my spouse do individual counseling as well because he was not able to be successful on his own the last time.   People “repeat cheat” because they never addressed the issues that contributed to them cheating the first time.  Until they do that, they will be vulnerable to repeating the same behavior – which is cheating.  And until you know that he has done the work, you’re always going to worry that he will cheat again, which can’t be great for your home and family life.

I realize that there are no guarantees.  Some men cheat again even with counseling and with good intentions.  But having both of these things increases the chances that he will remove the vulnerabilities and not have the need to cheat.  I can’t promise that he won’t cheat again.  And I can’t make this decision for you.   But if you suspect that he didn’t address his issues the first time, you might have better results if you tried that this time.  And a counselor could help you to ensure that the environment at home is a stable and happy one regardless of what happens with your marriage.   That is ultimately what children need – an environment where they know that they are safe and loved.  Sometimes a marriage is the best place for that environment and other times, it is not.  It really just comes down to whether your husband can or will be rehabilitated and won’t keep repeating the same pattern.

I do not regret taking my husband back, but that is probably because he showed himself to be trustworthy.  That is why my best suggestion right now is to make absolutely sure that your husband really gets to the heart of his issues so that he can be rehabilitated and become trustworthy.  You both deserve that.  I do not regret staying and keeping my family together.  But trust is also very important to me.  You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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