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Cheating Spouses And How This Affects The Children

Updated on April 8, 2015
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Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.


When a spouse/partner cheats the other partner is left feeling a sense of insecurity, disappointment and even despair as their trust is broken. In most relationships including marriage, the relationship takes a turn for the worse and divorce seems like the only solution.

Forgiveness is never the first thing on the mind when one cheats. Anger and resentment are usually at the forefront of the victim’s mind.

Because cheating implies infidelity in a marriage or intimate relationship we often focus on just the adults involved and forget that the children make up a huge part of the family unit.

When a partner cheats it affects the entire family as the unit is sometimes split apart. Breakups, separations and divorce are not the only things that affect the children. It goes deeper than that.

Here are some example situations:

  • A child who heard a quarrel between two parents and finds out one has cheated. The child starts to feel that the offending parent does not love the other parent anymore. They expect a split at any moment and their behavior changes; sometimes they start to act out or they will play peacemaker between parents.
  • Children also tend to feel guilty when this happens as they feel that they did something wrong why one parent is cheating with someone else. They feel like they are losing that parent as well.
  • If a child sees you cheating there is another big issue to deal with. This child will harbor resentment about the cheating parent and sometimes blame the innocent one. They sometimes think that the other parent did something to make the other one cheat. Not only that but sometimes they will try to protect the other parent by keeping what they know a secret; at the same time being angry at them
  • They get insecure just like the adult, maybe even more so. They will lose faith and trust in you and your love for them.
  • Children go through the same, maybe even more intense emotions as the adults do.

If you have children in your relationship you should consider how your actions may affect them. Remember that divorce is not the only negative factor that can affect them but circumstances such as your infidelity as well.

Here are some tips in dealing with your child if they find out you or the other parent has cheated.

  1. If your child overhears you talking, sit them down and explain as best you can the situation now and what’s going to happen next.
  2. Explain to your child that they are not the reason for you or your spouse’s behavior.
  3. Reassure them that no matter what, no one will or can take their place and that your love for them cannot be replaced.
  4. Make them feel secure.
  5. Earn their trust again as they will stop trusting you.

The family unit is the strongest bond in the world. Cheating causes that bond to weaken as trust is broken. The children are vulnerable to broken trusts and we must, as adults, do everything we possibly can to ensure our family is secured.

If you made a mistake of cheating, fix it. If you have fallen in love with someone outside of your family fix that too. Ensure your child’s emotional security before you ensure yours. That is not to say you should stay in a loveless relationship, it means you should communicate with your child and ensure that they understand what’s happening.

Give them most of love and attentions. Make them feel safe even if you decide to split.


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    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 2 years ago from Jamaica

      I'm sorry to hear about your situation Billie, but glad everything worked out. Sometimes, separation is for the best. When someone cheats in a relationship they lose trust all around. It's hard o get back that trust and sometimes the situation gets so bad that it's best to just call it quits.

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 2 years ago from Newport Beach

      Cardisa, Definitely. There are, without a doubt, circumstances where children may fare worse if parents stay together. It DOES all depend on the situation. Hearfelt compassion to those who are experiencing this stress, no matter from which perspective. My daughter and I survived and after many years are on the way to thriving, hopefully. It takes work that I never thought I would have to do, but so does anything in life, and with all of the struggle comes gifts as well.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 2 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Billie. I partially agree with you about staying for the sake of the children. There have been many marriages where parents stay together for the sake of the kids and the children fare worse with emotional baggage because of it. It all depend on the situation and how well the children can deal with the separation or problems in the marriage.

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 2 years ago from Newport Beach

      Carolee, your article is a critically important article and approached from a unique and meaningful angle. Dr. Scott Halzman who wrote "The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity" has expressed the view, and I hope I'm representing it correctly, that infidelity can happen in happy marriages and depends a great deal on serendipity. The interview is at: and is very worthwhile.

      I think your inference is exactly correct - when a person in a marriage cheats, he or she is not only cheating on his or her spouse, he is cheating on the children. To recover from that fallout, just as in a nuclear fallout, requires years of recovering for the other spouse and for the children. There are never only two choices (to stay if you're unhappy or to leave). There is the third choice, to fix it. Soldiers fall on granades for the sake of their country. I don't see why we can't do as much for the sake of our children.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello Reality, Thank you so much for your addition. I don't have kids but I have seen the effects of relationships based on infidelity. Too often couples are caught up in their own emotions and problems that they overlook the children but we must remember that when we can change partners, the children cannot exchange parents. Thanks for the wonderful comment.

    • RealityTalk profile image

      RealityTalk 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is a very nice Hub, written with a lot of compassion for children and with understanding of the ill effects cheating has on children; children who become collateral damage in marriages of unfaithful spouse(s).

      My first marriage was an unhappy one and the only thing positive about it was its ending. I did not have any children in my first marriage however and so I never had to face explaining divorce to children.

      I am now on my second (oops, my wife says "my last") marriage and we have 3 children. We have been happily married for 20 years now. I would never cheat on my wife, because I love her, and for many of the reasons you set out. I believe many people fail to consider the feelings of their spouse and their children when they cheat. I am guessing their sexual attraction to someone new and unfamiliar overrides the feelings of betrayal, hurt and abandonment that can result from their cheating.

      The only advice I can add to the very good advice you have given is for couples to make sure they are a good match before they marry; and definitely before they have children. Don't rush into marriage or a family. A marriage should not be built on sexual attraction. I have heard many people say you have to be sexually attracted to someone first. I dispute that claim. I believe a close friendship is of the utmost importance. We all grow a little less attractive as we age and a little less sexually attracted to our partners. But we grow closer to our spouses as partners and friends. And our children need us as much as most of us needed our parents.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks Ruby. Have a great day.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a much needed article. Thank you for researching the unhappy event...

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Yes, Carol and in many cases, they need professional help. This is not something kids should have to deal with.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Very well written, but it seems if kids find this is a lasting impression and who they forgive or still deeply affects them.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks Rasta. In most cases, the parents figure that the less the kids know the better but it is not so.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      A very thoughtful hub. Very often children are not taken into consideration when issues such as cheating arise.