My mother has been practicing family law for over 45 years. Whenever I come across some of her divorce cases, I can’t help but wonder “Why do cheating husbands stay married?” Sure, it’s not an easy decision to end a marriage. But there must be some pretty strong reasons that make it difficult for men to leave marriages even when they’re really unhappy in it.
Understanding why men cheat in the first place is crucial to decode why cheaters stay in relationships. Statistics show that men are more likely to cheat than women. According to the General Social Survey, “twenty percent of men cheat compared to 13 percent of women.” But it is a common misconception that men cheat just because they are bored or lack self-control. After all, people don’t wake up one day and go, “Today seems like a good day to cheat on my spouse.” There are complex dynamics that contribute to this behavior.
Men often tend to internalize their emotions. Even if they need it, they don’t know how to ask for appreciation. This can lead to a deep sense of unfulfillment which is often the reason why men have mistresses. Experts say cheating is most often the choice of a person who is fed up with life in general or their marriage in particular and has little connection with their partner. When someone is feeling miserable on a daily basis, cheating can sound like a tempting change of pace. For some, cheating automatically means the end of the relationship. But the actual likelihood that you will be able to end the relationship depends on various factors. Sometimes, cheating is not the final nail.
To better understand why cheaters stay in relationships and why do cheating husbands stay married, we turned to emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss.
9 Reasons Cheating Husbands Stay Married
James – a colleague of mine – was married to his wife for 20 years. They had a daughter together. He had been cheating on her for the last 10 years. One day, he woke up with a sudden, unbearable sense of guilt. He told his wife about his infidelity and how he had been cheating with the same woman for years. She was furious and asked him why he stayed married if he had been cheating on her for so long. To his own surprise, James didn’t know the answer.
When it comes to cheating husbands, there are a lot of misconceptions. Some people might say that the husband is just a coward and doesn’t have the guts to end the marriage. Others believe that the wife is too forgiving. The reality, however, is rarely so simplified. Every man and every marriage is different, so there can be no easy answers to the question “Why do cheating husbands stay married?”
However, the various reasons why cheating men stay married often stem from a combination of guilt, fear, and attachment to the spouse. Take a look at the list of reasons compiled below that may explain why cheating couples stay together.
1. Why do cheating husbands stay married? Fear of loneliness
A lot of cheaters are restless souls with a constant need for outside acceptance. Cheating scratches their itch for being desired that may be missing from the everyday humdrum of real love. But when it comes to making a choice, they are overwhelmed by the fear of abandonment. They are scared that if they lose their wife and family, they will eventually be left all alone. This fear of loneliness is often enough to keep cheating husbands to stay married.
Pooja elaborates, “Family and marriage are often the longest-lasting aspects of one’s life. And men know that a divorce will take away both. Their marriage gives them a sense of security against the inherent loneliness of a man’s life.”
2. Why do cheating husbands stay married? Shame and guilt
Most men are incapable of dealing with the emotional drama and mental turmoil that comes with a divorce. A lot of them would rather stay in a dysfunctional marriage than have to deal with the fallout. They know things will get messy and ugly and they just don’t want to face the accompanying shame and guilt.
Pooja narrates a similar case, “I came across this person who had cheated on his wife with multiple women. He came from a family that had never seen a divorce. His mother had threatened to cut him off from his entire family if he left his wife. So despite confessing the infidelity, he could never bring himself to file for a divorce.”
3. Financial restitution
This one’s a no-brainer. Nobody wants to give away half their stuff to anyone, let alone to their ex-wife. Paying alimony and child support after divorce can be a considerable blow to any person’s financials. No wonder some cheaters prefer to stay in relationships rather than divorce and pay up.
Related Reading: How To Deal With A Cheating Husband – 13 Tips
4. They are too attached to the spouse
It’s usually the women shown as yearning for the missing romance in the marriage. We often forget that men need it too. When men have mistresses, it’s not always about replacing their wives. It is often to replace themselves with their younger selves.
Husbands often cheat because they are fed up with what they have become. This does not mean they don’t love their wives anymore. When the question of divorce arises, the cheating husbands find themselves too deeply attached to their wives to let them go. Why do cheating husbands stay married? It’s simple. They don’t want to let go of their true love.
5. Why do cheating husbands stay married? For the children’s welfare
This is by far the most prevalent reason why cheating couples stay together. When it comes to marriages and divorces, children are a game-changer. Relationships between two people are all about meeting each other’s needs and desires. The couple need not worry about anything except their bond with each other. But when children come into the picture, the equation changes completely. Because now the couple has someone they love more than themselves, their partner, and pretty much anything else.
Although children are often the biggest consideration for the mother – a major reason why cheating wives stay married – the fathers are just as accountable. So irrespective of how does a cheating husband feel about his wife, if he believes his children cannot cope with a divorce at the time, he may choose to stay married.
6. They think they can change!
Pooja says, “Well, it’s not very uncommon for people to have moments of weakness. They have these relationships outside marriage during an emotionally rough patch. Later their conscience kicks in and they want to make amends. Some choose to confess while some go into denial.”
The latter kind often convince themselves that it was only a one-time thing and would never happen again. They plan on being even more committed to their wife in the future, becoming a better husband, and hopefully, not going down the same road again. Why do cheating husbands stay married? Because they hope to become the men they want to be.
7. They think they can get away with it
Some men believe they can keep their affairs hidden from the world, or at least from their wife, till the very end. These husbands don’t feel any guilt pangs when cheating on their wives. Nor does their conscience make them suffer enough for them to consider coming clean. It’s quite simple with this type of cheating husband: what the wife doesn’t know, cannot hurt her. So why change things when they are running smoothly? They fail to realize that most affairs are discovered sooner or later.
8. There are no repercussions for him
A Rutgers University study states that 56% of cheating husbands are happy in their marriages. They’re content with the existing state of affairs and have no desire to change. Despite finding themselves in bed with other women, they never find themselves in hot water with their wives.
Pooja says, “Even today, a lot of men are married into privilege. That is to say, they believe that their wife will bear with them even if they are caught cheating. Since there are no consequences of adultery per se, they want to maintain the status quo of marriage while having multiple affairs on the side.”
Related Reading: 5 Women Reveal Why They Have Forgiven Their Cheating Husbands
9. Why do cheating husbands stay married? They enjoy the double life
Pooja says, “This is more like eating their cake and having it too. Some people just enjoy the thrill of committing adultery and playing the ideal husband for the wife. They get a kick out of leading a double life. Often, cheaters stay in relationships because it gives them a sense of control to have women depend on them inside as well as outside their domestic life.”
Now that we have discussed why do cheating husbands stay married, the question remains, what should the wives do? Sometimes divorce is the only option left. Sometimes the relationship can be saved. While infidelity can provoke a divorce, a marriage can become stronger when the couple decides to mend the relationship. Many couples continue to work on their marriage after the cheating partner comes clean.
Couples’ therapy can help rebuild trust, improve communication and intimacy, and create a shared vision for the future. Beyond irreversible incompatibility, physical or emotional abuse, therapists say that couples have a good chance of overcoming the trauma of infidelity. With professional counseling and mutual willingness to save the marriage, you can avoid the painful trauma of divorce. Maybe adultery counseling works, maybe it doesn’t, but few people regret going into therapy. Connect with our panel of experts and find out for yourself.
For a lot of women, the suspecting phase of adultery is the worst part. Finding out their instincts were correct gives them a sense of balance and sometimes allows them to accept the situation. Also, women tend to be self-critical and often blame themselves for their husband’s infidelity. In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, most husbands wield greater emotional and financial power in traditional marriages, which sometimes force the wives to stay with unfaithful husbands.
“How does a cheating husband feel about his wife?” is a question that haunts most women after finding out about their spouse’s adultery. Sure, the initial reaction is shock, betrayal, and anger. But once some time passes, most women wonder if their husbands ever loved them. To be honest, this can go either way. The husband might be in love with the wife and still end up cheating in the heat of the moment. Or he might have simply fallen out of love with her before committing the act. It all depends on the state of marriage and the husband’s mental space.
In most cases, yes, cheaters regret cheating. Or more accurately, they regret having hurt their partner and family. But there are cases, where the husband might be a serial adulterer who has engaged in multiple affairs outside marriage. With such people, cheating is almost second nature. They are either incapable of feeling remorse or have gotten so used to it that they just don’t care anymore. The trick is to figure out the type of person you are dealing with in cases of cheating.