Facing an adulterer poses ethical dilemmas for the loyal partner. First of all, there’s the initial action of judging the act of cheating as to whether or not it can be justified (note: cheating can never be justified, no matter how you look at it). There’s also the issue of facing the spouse and deciding on the alternatives, like getting a divorce and so on.
To make things simpler for this post, I am going to name the cheater as a “he” and the betrayed spouse as a “she”. This is not to say that men are proven to be bigger cheaters than women, but it’s just a way to make conveying the ideas that will be discussed in the article easier. The relationship that will be focused on in the article will be that of married couples.
So what should the betrayed spouse do?
Things to consider
First and foremost, the most important thing to consider in marriage on the rocks is the children, and I’ve often seen many a troubled couple stick together for the sake of the kids. Right then and there, the betrayed spouse will often feel the need to take the children first before she can move on to other obligations. At this point in time, she wants to take the children away from him because she’s expecting that he will be leaving her for the new paramour.
In cases where there are no children involved, what does the betrayed spouse often do? She now considers breaking it off, but she constantly battles between making the decision to do so and the decision to stay and save the marriage. However, she cannot really control the direction of the marriage on her own, as the cheating spouse also has a say in the marriage. In the end, he will be the crucial factor in the survival of the marriage.
Take a look at these two scenarios: one where the husband stays and one where the husband leaves. Both can happen with the same probability, depending on how he wants to approach in either saving face or the marriage. We can presume for both scenarios that the wife has plans on staying in the marriage. Supposing the first scenario happens and the husband stays with the wife, despite the affair and numerous times he has cheated on her. There’s nothing wrong with a cheater staying in the marriage. It’s even advisable for some therapists and counselors because it allows both parties to resolve their conflicts and start all over again.
However, if a husband decides to leave his wife for the other woman, then there’s really nothing anyone else can do. First of all, the husband has broken the FORSAKING ALL OTHERS part of the wedding vows. Thus, the wife may no longer feel obligated to stay in the marriage because he has already violated it, but she may not feel that way. Wives will often feel like they have to sacrifice because it’s the “honourable” thing to do to save the marriage. On top of that, they are putting the FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE part of the wedding vows as the highest principle that they could uphold to save the marriage.
The wife, though the husband has decided to stay, may feel that the marriage is already in ruins and damaged beyond repair. The trust between them has died in one fell swoop and then sometimes, she often regrets the decision of staying after a few months. Most of her peers would also look at her decision as something of a mistake because she could do better. This is not the case from the wife’s point of view because as I mentioned, she’s willing to uphold the principle of FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE.
So is the wife ethically obliged to distance or separate herself from her husband after she’s confirmed that he has cheated on her? Yes, there’s an ethical obligation but it may need not be fulfilled for now. Couples that have through the consequences of infidelity and made the decision to stick together will often seek professional help to deal with the issues and allow them to process their emotions better. In the event that the wife separates from the husband, she may also want to seek professional help so she can process the events that had transpired and she can come out a fully recovered woman.