Should I Leave an Unhappy Marriage or Cheat?

Which option is worse?

I’m often asked why I so strongly encourage people to leave a marriage INSTEAD of cheating on their spouse. The question is usually something like, “why is leaving a marriage better when both options cause pain?”

There is no doubt that both paths hurt. But I contend that cheating hurts more people – and hurts more deeply – than ending the marriage.

I hope you’ll bear with me as I explain my position. 

Option One: Trinity has an affair

Let’s say a wife – we’ll call her Trinity – is unhappy in her marriage and decides to have an affair. Now Tim – her husband – probably doesn’t even know she’s unhappy until he catches her cheating.

She alone has destroyed Tim’s life plans and forced Tim has to start all over. Tim now questions his self-worth, finds it difficult to trust, and feels like a complete moron for not seeing the signs that are so obvious with the benefit of hindsight.

Even worse, Trinity has now taught her children – through her bad example – that at least in her mind, lying and cheating is better than keeping commitments and behaving like an adult.

She’ll never admit it, but Trinity has also hurt herself. Remember, her actions have also messed up her finances and future plans as well. She’ll also bear the guilt of what she’s done to Tim and her children for the rest of her life.

Option Two: Trinity tries to fix the marriage

On the other hand, if Trinity actually cared for Tim or cared about the example she set for her children, she would have an adult conversation with Tim to at least try to save their marriage.

By doing that, Trinity gives Tim a chance to help fulfill her needs and try to save the marriage.

After all that, even if the marriage doesn’t work out, the advantages of at least trying become VERY obvious:

  • Trinity AND Tim will be able to sleep at night knowing they had at least tried
  • Their children will see an example of adults trying to work through difficult situations
  • The children will learn what it means to be committed to a relationship
  • Odds are that the divorce will be amicable so they can file for divorce online (instead of paying for expensive attorneys)

So obviously both paths hurt. But it’s obvious that at least trying to save your marriage hurts A LOT less than just cheating.