You could forgive your cheating spouse

Adultery: What Should the Betrayed Spouse Do?

In previous posts I have discussed the ethical issues the potential adulterer (including the possibility of divorce as an alternative) as well as his or her lover and how his or her spouse should judge repeated cheating. But one thing that I haven't discussed, but that has been a regular question in the comments (which continue to be gratifying and constructive), is what a person should do after discovering they've been betrayed.

A couple of things before we start: To simplify the language, I will first refer to the cheater as "he" and the betrayed spouse as "she". If you want to switch genders, just hold your computer up to a mirror. (Admit it, you're almost there, right?) Also, I want to take kids out of the equation. I don't do this because children are irrelevant - on the contrary - but because I believe they are if they exist most important consideration.

The troubled wife should take her children (and all other obligations) as she sees fit and then take care of herself - and that's what I want to focus on. (The point of this post from an ethics perspective is that while most ethical systems are very clear about what Not to do, they are often less clear about what you are doing should do, especially for yourself.)

It will help differentiate between two cases. In the first case, whether to be with the other woman or not, the fraudulent spouse leaves the marriage, and the woman (now ex-wife) has to deal with the consequences. In the second case, he stays in the marriage and the woman has to consider her options both inside and outside the marriage. I will discuss the second case first, because if the woman leaves her husband, she will be in a similar place as the woman who is being left by her husband, so we can discuss them together at the end.

If the husband does not leave his wife but stays in the marriage (and presumably ends the affair if it was ongoing when it was discovered), the wife must decide whether to stay in the marriage. Since her husband broke the "forsaken" portion of the high promise, in a sense she is under no obligation to continue the marriage (since he has already broken it). Still, she can't feel that way; In my previous post on divorce and adultery, I argued that divorce may not be the "honorable" option from the perspective of the potential cheater if they value the commitment or the relationship itself.

Of course, this also applies to the confused spouse. If she values ​​the relationship very much - the "for better or for worse" part of the vows - she may choose to remain married to the adulterer. Your job then is to try to cope with or overcome adultery. We will see that this is a common problem in all of the cases we have considered, except in this case she has to do it while married to the man who cheated on her what I can only imagine is reconciliation with adultery make therapy more difficult and difficult).

If the woman feels that the marriage has been ruined, irreparably damaged, or if she just doesn't feel like staying with a man who has betrayed her trust, she can leave her husband - surely few would give her that choice ( absent children, remember). When she leaves, she is in the same place as the woman whose husband she is leaving, except for one important difference: the first wife thing to leave while the second was left. To be left behind by the man who cheated on her only serves to exacerbate the crime, including any harm to her self-respect (already damaged by the affair). But if the woman goes on her own, she has taken possession of the situation; She no longer lets the man control her relationship and takes responsibility for her own life.

But whichever spouse left first, the scammer has to deal with the aftermath, and I don't think there is a best way to do it (although some of my fellow bloggers, especially those who are therapists, may disagree). . Some may have to face the memory (and maybe even their ex-husband) directly in an attempt to secure a closure; Some may need to forget about the experience and leave it behind. and some may need to forgive as well as forget. The general point is that she has to do what is best for her; Your only obligation at this point (excluding children) is to yourself.

Not only in this common sense is this in line with almost every ethics school. Most versions of the virtue ethic stress stress leading a good, fulfilling life in action, which includes taking care of yourself and others. The Kantian ethics (a variant of deontology) emphasizes the duties of oneself in addition to duties to others, especially the duties of self-respect and development. And utilitarianism, which asks everyone to maximize their overall wellbeing, includes the person himself. It is not selfish (in a negative sense) to take care of yourself; It is only selfish if you ignore other commitments to it.

So these ethical schools agree, wonderful - but what do they say about it? do? That's the problem; Nobody is very clear on this point. But I see that as a strength, not a weakness. While moral prohibitions are inherently strict - don't kill, don't steal, etc. - moral "encouragements" are more general - help others and yourself. It's easy to say what Not to do, but much harder to say what to do it instead.

And that's because what to do depends on what it's best for you: to your needs, your goals, your desires, your strengths and your mistakes. If you need to forget, do what you need to do to put the experience behind you: connect with friends, meet new people, join a group, start or revisit a hobby, and so on. If you need to forgive, forgive You (maybe) the help of a friend or therapist - or this post). If you are moving to a new city and need to start a new life, do so. Nobody knows what works better for you than you (maybe with the help of family, friends, or a therapist), let alone general moral philosophers able to offer. And that has been a constant theme in all of my posts on ethics: it cannot provide fixed answers, but provides a framework for you to use your judgment to find answers that correspond to your own moral character and integrity.

So if you have been scammed and you assume you are taking care of those who are dependent on you (like children, elderly relatives, etc.), your main obligation is to yourselfand I can't tell you how to do that (I just hope you do!). The only specific advice I would offer is to learn from the experience. In any case, don't linger, think, or beat yourself up. But after some time has passed and some of the pain has healed, take a moment to think for yourself or with the help of a friend, and see what you can take from the past to make your future better and come out of which a better person.