What Has To Happen In A Marriage In Order To Justify An Affair?

By: Katie Lersch:  It’s not unusual to hear from people who are wondering if there is any way to look at a marriage and cite the shape of the marriage as justification for an affair.  Sometimes, it is the cheating spouse who is looking for this justification.  And sometimes, it is the faithful spouse wondering if there is any possible justification for their spouse’s cheating.  Because often, the cheating spouse will try to make the faithful spouse feel as if they had some contributing part in the affair.

For example, from the cheating spouse, you might hear: “I am not going to say that it is not wrong to cheat.  I know that it is.  But I also think that there are times where it might be at least somewhat justified.  Since my wife had kids, she has completely changed.  She is not interested in anything but topics that relate to toddlers.  As soon as I get home, I am greeted by a wife that talks in a babyish tone about nothing but parenting topics.  I love my kids, but it gets old.  Then she rarely wants to have sex.  And when we do, it’s not great. I would never leave my wife.  I would never dessert my family.  But she almost gave me no choice but to have my needs met elsewhere.  When I tell her this, she gets extremely furious.  She acts like I should not dare to offer up any justification for cheating on her.  I know that I was wrong to cheat.  But I was never going to leave my family.  And I felt like she almost gave me no choice.  I wish that someone would see my point.”

And if you were to hear from the wife in that situation, she would probably say something like: “my husband is trying to justify himself for cheating by essentially blaming me for his actions. He is saying that our marriage had turned cold and that I only paid attention to our kids and not him.  He said that I was only a mother and not a wife.  He said that he would never leave me, as though that’s supposed to make it better.  He acts as if since his intention was never to leave our family, I should just welcome him back into the fold.  But I can not bring myself to do this.  Because I do not buy his justifications.  I am not going to tell you that our marriage was unbelievable or even great.  But you don’t see me going outside of my marriage.  I get tired of being around toddlers, too.  But I would never feel justified in going outside of my marriage, even though I could.  Is there ever any situation in a marriage where an affair could be justified?”

Honestly, I am probably the wrong person to ask.  As someone who has been through an affair and because the correspondence that I get outlines the painful and sometimes devastating aftermath an affair, I have a very hard time ever finding any justification. I certainly don’t deny that there are plenty of challenged marriages in the world.  I could even see wanting to cheat or being tempted to do so.  But in those cases, I think that you should tell your spouse what is happening and make adjustments rather than just cheating. I think the difference is that you might be tempted, but you stop short of cheating on your spouse.

I do know that there are situations where people have open marriages and both people are in agreement that theirs will not be a faithful marriage.  I could not have this type of marriage personally.  But if both people are at peace and happy with this decision, at least no one is being dishonest and is going behind the other person’s back.

But when you do go behind your spouse’s back, you are being secretive and you are betraying the very person to whom you always promised to be true.  To me, that is cheating both your spouse and yourself.  And if I’m being honest, my answer about cheating being justified is that it’s justified only if you and your spouse are actually not married anymore.  Sometimes, when married people tell me that they’ve met the perfect person that they just have to have, then my inclination is that it’s not the right thing to do until you’ve left your marriage.  Most of the time, they aren’t willing to do that.  They aren’t willing to leave their marriage and THEN pursue the other person.  Because the person isn’t so “perfect” after all.  They want to keep the marriage, but they want to have the other person also.

Frankly, I just can’t see any justification in that.  I think that in order to keep your integrity, you need to approach your spouse when your marriage isn’t satisfactory.  Just being unhappy in your marriage shouldn’t give you permission or justification to cheat.  Honestly, many married people do not want to end their marriages because they aren’t technically THAT unhappy.  They want to have the other relationship to feel better about themselves or about their situations, but not many are willing to leave their families.  Instead, they are willing to put their family at risk, and then they hope that no one finds out.  And I just can’t see any justification for that.  Your children didn’t ask for that.  Your spouse didn’t ask for that.  At least give your spouse the chance to try to improve the situation before you take such a risk where your family is concerned.

I know that this may seem harsh or that I may seem a bit heavy-handed.  But I have seen and felt the devastation that an affair causes. And when it was all over, my husband wanted his family back.  So what was the point anyway?  Why all that devastation when he ultimately wanted to stay?  It seems like such a waste and I can’t see any justification in it. Yes, we reconciled and recovered. Things are great now.  But still, it was painful at the time and it was unnecessary.  You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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