Is It Wrong to Cheat on My Spouse?
I’m not fulfilled at home, so I’m helping my marriage by having an affair.
This is a Q1 violation if you consider your marriage vow binding or if "helping your marriage" is just a thinly veiled excuse to have an affair.
This is a Q2 violation if you would not want your spouse to have an affair for similar reasons.
In this case, I am defining "having an affair" as engaging in a sexual or romantic relationship outside of your marriage without the consent of your partner.*
So, what if you are in a situation in which there is extreme marital tension because you are not sexually or emotionally fulfilled? It might be tempting to say that an extramarital affair would relieve this tension and therefore save your marriage. But if you are correct about this, wouldn’t your spouse agree? If not, then is it possible that either your reasoning is wrong or that your spouse places a higher value on your marriage vow than you do? If either of these is the case, then having an affair significantly risks ending your marriage, and that works against your stated goal of saving your marriage.
What if you feel that you would want your spouse to have an affair in a similar circumstance just so long as the affair was kept secret? If you really feel that way, then you may not be not violating Q2 — unless your spouse does not share this feeling. If you would want your spouse to have a secret affair in your position, but your spouse would not want you to have a secret affair in your position, then you may still be violating Q2 by having an affair. Why? Because you probably would not want your spouse to do something you consider hurtful and immoral, even if your spouse thought it was beneficial and moral.
The problem does not end there. By having an affair you are involving your spouse in something that your spouse did not volunteer to be involved in. If you catch a social disease, spend money on the extramarital relationship, strain your marriage with lies, become the subject of gossip, or risk having a child out of wedlock, you are impacting your spouse’s life in a way that you might not want your life impacted if roles were reversed.
And, getting down to basics, your marriage vow is an implicit promise of fidelity from which you can only be morally released by mutual consent or extreme circumstances. If you think less than mutual consent is necessary to break the promise, then what other, promises are you willing to say your spouse can break without telling you? If you think that a strong desire to have an affair is sufficiently extreme to void you vow, what other circumstances are you willing to say are sufficiently extreme?
Which of the following would you consider sufficient cause for having an extramarital affair?
- Your spouse’s airplane crashed at sea a year ago and no bodies or survivors were found.
- Your spouse walked out on you and has been gone without word for more than a year.
- Your spouse walked out on you and has been gone without word for most of the week.
- You know your spouse is having an extramarital affair.
- You’re pretty sure your spouse is having an extramarital affair.
- Your spouse admits having had an extramarital affair years ago.
- You realize that you’ve been lying to yourself about your sexual orientation (or your sexual needs have otherwise changed).
- Your spouse is in a coma.
- Your spouse is in a vegetative state and on life support and has no chance of regaining consciousness but may live for years.
- You’re visiting another country, there’s zero chance your spouse would find out, the person next to you in the bar is totally hot, and you’re sure a fling would spice up your sex life at home.
*If you and your spouse agree that relationships outside marriage are necessary for fulfillment, then you are not having an affair — you have an open marriage.
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.