Please note that this is a guest post by attorney Jessica Ressler. 

Staying in a Marriage for the Kids
Is staying in a marriage for the kids the right thing to do?

When you caught your spouse cheating did you initially want to still stay with him or her? If the situation was grave, you may have thought, no way. You were ready to file the divorce papers and break the knot right away. However, the case becomes different when you have children. These little angels should not suffer the consequences of a broken family because of their parents’ wrongful actions and decisions. In this article, we will try to answer this ethical issue taking different perspectives and considerations about staying in a marriage for the kids.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Staying in a Marriage For the Kids

Children seeing you often fighting verbally or physically with your spouse will not bring any good into your family. Sociologists say that kids who are younger than three years old would often think that they are the ones at fault when their parents fight. Hence they struggle emotionally, and this affects them in their interaction with other people even as they grow up.

Accordingly, another disadvantage is that their performance in academics tends to suffer. Also, it’s noted that children who come from a family that has gone awry have more possibilities of dropping out of school. The discontinuance of their studies will affect their career and ultimately their way of life.

On the other hand, when you’re separated, you have to manage good post-separation parenting. Help yourself by attending co-parent counseling, professional mediation, and collaborative divorce workshops and seminars with your children. Settle the child custody policies and follow the guidelines by your country’s laws. It’s common that the children will have to choose whom they want to live with after the divorce.

Discuss how their time will be divided between the both of you. Know your visitation rights as well. Learn about the laws present to ensure the best interests of your children in legal terms. Consider that everyone in the family will have to make difficult adjustments and preferences. Amidst these, you must keep interaction alive to boost everyone’s mental and physical well-being in spite of the adversity.

Effects on Children

As mentioned, when you live unhappily under one same roof, everyone will only be uncomfortable with the arrangement. Children will be harmed psychologically when you’re fighting. So it may be better for you to split up with your spouse rather than chasing each other around with a bread knife or throwing plates at each other’s faces.

Sure, children will be disturbed when they know their parents are separated. But the negative effect of this will be outweighed when they are properly taken care of. Divorced parents can be just as capable as married parents. You can be like a normal parent—nurturing, loving and giving.


Once upon a time, you were both in love and both have succumbed to the whiles. You had your foundation of friendship. If you have the time, spend it going down memory lane and rekindle your feelings back. Start talking and dating like you used to, until you become intimate. Get counseling advise if you have to. Profess your love and promise never to go the wrong road. Repair what needs to be repaired in your relationship, and be totally honest about everything.

If all else fails, maybe it is fate that tells you to overhaul your personal life. Give your marriage life a break and come right back when you’re ready. Finally, if you decide to end your marriage with your spouse, explain things nicely to your kids. Maybe somewhere down the line, they will understand and take your experience as a lesson. Your story may just serve as a moral for them to realize that marriage isn’t really a walk in the park. So they will be careful when it’s their time.

Bottom line is that if things are going hopeless in your marriage, don’t stay in it because of the kids. It hurts them rather than help them.

Let us know your thoughts…Do you think staying in a marriage for the kids is the right thing to do?


Author Bio

Jessica Ressler is 100% dedicated to the areas of matrimonial and family law. She appears in Supreme Court and Family Court in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Rockland, Long Island, Putnam and Orange Counties.



    28 replies to "Would You Stay with a Cheating Spouse for the Sake of Your Children?"

    • rachel

      My soon to be ex said that he would stay until my youngest graduated high school June 2014, so he could be invited to the graduation party!?!?

      • livingonafence

        OMG – that’s pathetic! I can’t imagine why he’s a soon to be ex!! 🙂

    • Battleborn

      The children are a part of the equation that often are placed in the middle of the affair. I know this will sound bad, but most of us have decided to stay with our cheating spouses to work things out, so why would staying because of the children be any different? Financially many cannot part ways even though they want to.

      This is a very difficult question to answer until you are put in that position.

      • Paula

        I always thought “staying for the children” was the biggest load of codswallop out. Until it happened to me. Whilst I stayed for other reasons, of course, their wellbeing was at the very top of my list, alongside my own. Because my partner and myself get on really well, there was no open fighting for them to witness, if there had been, I would have left immediately. We talked to them honestly when it became necessary, and the lines of communication are open and healthy. It seems ridiculous even to myself, but I probably have stayed, at least partially, for them, as they are happy in their school, we are more financially viable together than apart, and the youngest only has a few more years left until she heads off to uni. Sad, but true, and not something I am overly proud of. Who knows if we will make it past that day, for now, we survive, and there appears little damage to them.

        • Doug

          “Codswallop”??? 😉 That’s my new favorite word!

    • Sara K

      I look at it differently: staying with the spouse for the sake of the children – to start. In the beginning when you are hurt and angry, the kids may be all the reason you have for working at it. But, if that remains your ONLY reason after time, then you are doing everyone a disservice. You are not allowing yourself a chance at happiness, you are showing your children an example of an unfulfilling life.

      On the other hand, if you hang in there and are able to work things through you both can show your kids that marriage is something you stay in for the long haul and work hard to make good and that you value yourselves enough to create happiness again in your lives.

    • Dave

      When I caught my wife at the OM’s house, I knew what happened despite her denials. It was terrible and traumatic, and our son was with me when I caught her. Plus, he was witness to the many fights and arguments that followed.

      I’m ashamed to admit that I stayed with her then, not for my son or for me, but in spite of my wife and her lover. There was no way in hell that man was going to have her or she have him; and I refused to even consider letting him be in my son’s life, which is exactly what he wanted. He wanted a life and family with my wife, and he thought he could be a better husband and father (figure) than me. I wasn’t going to let him have them without a fight.

      Unfortunately, in the middle of all that was my son. I admit that when I caught her, my son probably suffered the most. Despite the fact neither my wife nor I went through counseling at that time, at least we were able to fight it out and somewhat deal with what happened. My son on the other hand was only 7 and he had no control over anything and was emotionally incapable of handling any of it.

      His relationship with my wife, his mother, was never the same after that day. He pulled away from her and has never been close since. At that time, none of us were in therapy and he never got help, but I think he needed it more than me and my wife. That was 14 years ago.

      This year when my wife finally confessed to her two affairs, my son who is now 21 finally started to deal with all of the pain her affairs and our fights caused. This time though, he wasn’t the only child affected since we had another son born after her affairs. He is 11 now. Even though the actual affairs happened before he was born, he is now in the middle of this as I’ve tried to navigate the pain and shock of years of lies and her betrayal. He is very empathetic and feels every emotion that both his mother and I give off, so this time around, he is in counselling too.

      As for this time, after her confession, I initially did stay for my youngest son because I knew that my wife could’t make it on her own…but I also stayed because I still loved her. Despite everything she did, including the years of lies and denials, she has been a good wife and mother and we have had some good times together.

      Now it is 11 months post DDay, and I have forgiven her. At this point, I’m no longer staying and trying to work it out for my children. I’m staying because this is where I want to be. It doesn’t mean it will work out and I know that we aren’t out of the woods yet. But this time, my reasons for staying are for good reasons and not bad ones, and this time, we are all getting the help we should have gotten a long time ago while dealing with problems that were festering just under the surface.

      • Dave

        I want to comment that my 21-year old, who witnessed the affair, the betrayal, the fights, etc when he was 7, has not been able to stay in a healthy and stable relationship. Of all the regrets I have, the biggest is that his mother and I didn’t set aside our own problems and get him help. We are now trying to play catch up, but I’m honestly worried that his entire outlook on relationships is very broken. That is why we are taking steps to ensure our 11-year old, who has been a witness to our problems this year, is getting counselling. We are trying to help him navigate all of this, no matter what happens with our marriage.

      • Phiona

        Oh oh my are one man in a billion! you truly loved her.she is so lucky to have you. But inspite of all that, have you considered the permanent trauma on the kids.In their marriages it will definately recycle and their children and grand children will experience the same.

    • Recovering

      No. I would not, and could not stay if it was just for the children. The home would become a battle ground and it wouldn’t be good for anyone.

      I do admit, however, that the idea of leaving and being a single mom (because I would take the kids) scared the heck out of me. He was the major breadwinner, and I knew that the kids and I would be poverty level, and I didn’t want that for them. Ultimately, however, that fear subsided as the shock wore off and the daily battles began. Until things calmed down and my husband was fully clean of the OW’s crap, the house was like it would’ve been had I stayed just for the kids. In fact, the night I found out about the cheating, I flat out told him that if he wanted this marriage it had to be cause he wanted ME and not because of our children. I wasn’t going to raise them like that, nor was I willing to live in hell and give up my life because of what HE did! Staying for them would’ve been like giving him a free pass to keep seeing the whore and be married and to keep pretending! Maybe it’s selfish, but a family is not one of convenience – not in my book, and not after what I went through with my own parents!! Plus, not that I have a crystal ball or anything, but I wasn’t about to hang out and get older and older while my kids grew just to be TOTALLY alone once they left the nest! If he wanted to stay, it couldn’t be for the kids, and I wasn’t staying for the kids! Was my rule. My husband, when he had his head all messed up still, even said that the kids would be totally fine and that he’d be a fine parent alone…. well, the KIDS wouldn’t be fine, and YOU wouldn’t be fine as a single parent either, not with the traveling and such that he does! Reality.

      I stayed for my shot at love… I loved him… still love him. Hate what he did. Ever does it again, hate will replace love in a second and that will be it because it will be WHO he is instead of WHAT he did. We all deserve love in this life… well, all but the OW! I wish her only misery in her marriage, as is what she deserves!

    • exercisegrace

      My answer is a qualified yes. I would stay for the sake of the kids, but with a couple of caveats. One is, no more affairs. If my husband cheats again, I’m gone and he knows this. Second, I wouldn’t stay if we were fighting and generally making our home a stressful and emotionally abusive place for everyone to live in.

      Our marriage will never be what it once was. I am learning to accept that, and move towards healing and hopefully rebuilding something that will be just as good in a different way.

    • Hopeful

      No. At this point he cheated once and we worked our asses off to recover and heal. He would not be “blindly” walking into an EA due to self-denial and unhealed childhood BS. Next time would be in full awareness and after full acknowledgement of the pain it causes, so…

      no, if it happened again in any form, even relatively minor, I would be out.

    • ocanas

      I did stay so my youngest daughter would finish her HS without a major change in her life. At the same time we did not put any fights in front of the kids, so they are not in a living nightmare. But if within the next couple of years (D leaves for college in 2 yrs), my CW does not do what is required to keep this marriage, I’ll file for divorce. Maybe I stayed because my daughter is so close to go to college and maybe because I was not gonna give my wife the freedom to go with the OM that easy.

    • nessw

      There have been times when the kids have been the only thing stopping me from leaving. Not because I’m sure it’s all over but because I would prefer yo be apart from my husband until I got an unequivocal commitment. In the meantime I figure I must put them first as they are entirely innocent in this. The way out finances work it would be very difficult for me to leave financially too. I also thought staying for the kids was codsewallop (a common phrase in the uk!) But you know nothing till it’s happened yo you…..

    • CBB

      I don’t really know the main reason I stayed. I think because I couldn’t believe he could do this to me and that I loved him (it was -in his eyes – only a friendship that was crossing some emotional boundaries, not an affair??? ). If I would have been younger and without kids I would probably have run away as far as possible. I wouldn’t stay just for the kids and live a sad and disappointing life but running away wash’t going to free me immediately from the pain and what’s the point of filing for divorce being a wreck. So somehow DDay2 (as apparently it takes time to truly stop the affair) gave me this weird energy What did I have to lose : I decided I wasn’t going to beg him to stay, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of dumping me as a wreck not able to defend myself if everything came out (nobody knows!). And the kids would be going through hell either way in the next six months. So why take decisions without a clear mind. So I started to get my act together and tried to prepare my life as if I had to manage it alone. What’s the difference in filing for divorce now or after 6m. I was going to be prepared. This attitude gave me more strength to face the situation and I managed to stay calmer with the kids . They went through – arguing parents ,- a nervous mother barely keeping up and a depressed father without really knowing what was going on, (to small (age 4through 8) and to much secrets (the OW was a friend and co-worker)). But this really turned things around. We are working on this together now and making real progress. I just hope the kids feel that sometimes there are difficult times (even though they don’t understand) but it might be worth fighting to get through….

    • Magdalene

      I stayed because my teenage daughter was going through hell because of our fighting and arguing. She was really in a sorry state and I couldn’t pull her though the mud anymore.
      It has been 1 year 5 days since D-Day and both my H and I are in counseling and doing progress. I have not forgiven nor forgotten what he has done. To add insult to injury, the OW is constantly in town (just mins away from where we live) for work at some pub (she is a singer but I prefer to call her a public slut who does not care less about hurting other people’s family). In the middle of all this are my two kids aged 13 and 9 who have witnessed every ugly part of our fights (pyhsically, emotional, etc) and I cannot bear to see them crying and cowering in fear whenever phone, vases, picture frames fly across the room. Most of it is done by me as my rage is so uncontrollable. I am still here and my girl has stated very clearly that she does not want to be living in two houses. So yes, I am staying for the sake of the kids as they are worth living for.

    • lily

      I’m in a difficult position. I know no one can tell me what to do. But I have no clue. Its been 8 months since D-Day, my youngest only 4 months, my older 2 children 5 and 7 years old. Once I found out, all sorts of other stuff came out. He told me I was a good mother, but not a good wife, I only kept him around for his paycheck (I have been a SAHM since my first was born), I didnt care about him at all, etc, etc, etc. The OW despite being of questionable charactor (no work ethic, lost custody of her own kids and could care less about having them back, sleeping with several other married men, etc etc) somehow was worth risking his family over. Initially, we decided to try, and after a few weeks of no effort on his part, he told me he didnt want our life anymore, so off he went, and after several pathetic attempts at begging him to at least give me a chance, for our babies, at the very least… nope. He didnt want i, he doesnt love me anymore. SO, 8 months later, I’ve picked myself up, and kept going. I have direction, figured out how to financially survive, got my home business up and running. I’m on my way, I feel really good! Ive also met a very nice man, who although we are only friends at the moment, I like him.
      NOW, hes miserable, misses all of us. He was going through something, (which I totally agree with cuz the man I married would never abandon his family or say such terrible things about anyone, let alone his best friend and wife) and that he wants to be and is working hard to be a better person. He loves me, knows he doesnt deserve a 2nd chance, but wants it now.

      What do I do? I want the family, the happy loving family that I will not ever have if I dont try. I feel like now Im being selfish.

      • Doug

        Hi Lily, Man this is a tough one. It certainly is ok to want all those things – the happy loving family, etc., but I think you really need to think long and hard before you take him back. (I’m sure you are or you wouldn’t be asking for advice 😉 )

        What you and your husband have gone though is a fairly common scenario. Some questions to consider…Do you really trust that he has changed? If he comes back you guys will have a ton of long hard work to do to fix things…Are you up for that? It sounds as though you have flourished without him, what does that tell you about you, him and your relationship? Also, divorce is such a major thing – for you, him and your kids…Have you considered the long term effects of that? Also, remember that you don’t have to just ‘take him back’ straight away. Figure out what your wants, needs and expectations are and take things slowly.

    • lily

      Forgot the direction of this post…. I want whats best for my kids which I think is our family all together. But, honestly, I’m enjoying my new found independance, both my financial independance and my freedom to date (I know this sounds terrible). I still care for my husband and feel that if we gave it some effort, we could be happy again. But I’m afraid to put myself out there again.

      Do I do it for my kids?

    • Carol

      I agree with Doug — there’s no harm in taking it very, very slowly. Maybe you might take small steps with your H without promising him anything — see if he’s willing to go to counseling, e.g., without moving back in yet. I tend to be a cautious person, and my instinct would be to test him — to see if he means it and if he can stick it out through some hard emotional work before I’d be comfortable recommitting. If he backs out, or doesn’t do the work, or finds reasons not to go to counseling, etc., then you’ll know what to do. Also, there’s no reason why you’d have to give up your financial independence even if the marriage were to be put back together. You can negotiate new terms for the marriage. Good luck to you; this is a hard call.

    • lily

      Thank you for your advice Carol and Doug. He is and has been in counseling ever since this all started. We would take it slow. Ive told him to continue with his counseling, prove to me that hes done with this woman, and make sure that he really wants this and its not just a delayed reaction, its all catching up with him, the holidays were hard, hes living with his parents, etc, etc. Before I even think of putting myself, or the kids, out there again. Then we would do marriage counseling together and then decide if/when he should move back in…. so, yes, very slow, mini baby steps.
      I will keep up my business however, I guess its not that I enjoy my new found financial independence, its that I enjoy not having to ask permission. The decisions right now are ultimately mine, and I like that.
      Anyhow, thanks again for the advice…. got some soul searching to do….

    • ocanas

      Lily, it’s really a difficult position, I heard once someone said to me “When a person shows you who they are, BELIEVE them” – he already showed you who he was, so keep that in mind. Also be aware that it will never ever be the same as before, so do not use the “memories of what was lost” as the reason of getting back. Don’t do it “FOR the children” – they will be with you the first 18 yrs only; but you will be with him a lot another 40 to 60 yrs – now that you know how to take care of yourself, don’t lose that! – wish you the best

    • Symac

      It might be early days for some, but trying to stay for the sake of my child isn’t working out. It’s been a little over two months since DDay and even though H seems to be doing all the right things (counseling, changed number, requested a transfer to another office in another town, given me passwords to email, Facebook, etc.) I can’t shake the feeling that he’s still hiding something. He acts devastated over the fact that I’ve made it clear I’m filing for divorce, but still insists his affairs were never physical. Of course, his job requires him to be out of town a lot, so the opportunity was plenty, and just his lies about everything make trusting him impossible. I’m so torn about breaking up my family and feel guilt when I see my toddler rush to the door every evening yelling “Daddy, Daddy” and getting a big hug, but the doubt and suspicion is driving me insane. I have phone records, texts, emails, even hotel itineraries which indicate the room was booked for two. How can he be in such denial? What does he gain by continuing to lie? I have tried to work this through, but I know I will be a worse mother if I stay. The anger and hurt isn’t always easy to hide and although my child is two, I know they know something’s wrong. What an utter mess!

    • Doc Doc

      And when this happens, you know for sure things are never going to be same….And for me, I am sure that I can never forgive her. Living with her seems impossible, but I find it equally impossible to divorce her, as I don’t want my kids to suffer for her sin….Still confused, what to do…But I feel bit more confident that I can stay for my kids, because now I know from this forum, that many have done that….And also, I think it’s wrong to punish her, because she begs me to forgive her..I hope I can do this, like all the good people in this forum, who could literally sacrifice their happiness and life, for the sake of kids

      • LiveFully

        My H betrayed me 15 years ago during the most difficult times of our relationship. Our marriage started off with happiness and respect just like other marriages. After I had my first and second sons, things started to drift apart. More financial and housework responsibilities which my husband were not willing to equally share or help out. My husband, at that time, was (and still is) a very traditional man who expected the wife to be home taking care of the kids and the house. As a man, he could just go and come home whenever he wanted. We both became very unhappy and withdrawn from each other. Being so busy and having to stay alone at night with two young sons when he was out drinking with friends, I decided to temporarily separated him. During our separation, I found out that he was having an affair with the woman that we were trying to help out when she first came to America. Although my husband has never admitted his betrayal, I decided to stay in the relationship because of the young kids. A few years later, I had another child, a girl. It has not been an easy path since the day I learned about the betrayal, but I am glad I have stayed for the sake of the kids. My kids are now 18, 15, and 11. They have never witnessed any verbal/physical fighting between us. The older sons have sensed something is going on, but I have always assured them that anything happened between my husband and me is not their faults. I can never love and respect my H the way I did before the betrayal. We are still too incompatible for each other. It is extremely difficult to live with someone who has different core values than you. However, I am lucky to have 3 healthy, good kids. I am proud of have been able to manage raising 3 kids on my own and my H in their lives just for them. Over the years, I have learned to endure, accept and adapt to his incompatibilities while trying to live a happy life with morals, integrity, pride and no regrets. Now, I can finally come to terms that my H is neither my life nor happiness!

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