John and Mary Bob and Alice

John and Mary are in their 60s, they have been married for over 30 years, second marriage for both of them.
Their children are all adults and living their own lives.
John is retired, in extremely poor health. He’s diabetic, over weight, has heart and circulation issues. He is a grumpy old man who sits in front of the TV all day and does nothing to improve his health.
Mary is a young 60s, still running her own business and has an active social life.
She’s lonely in her marriage though and intimacy ended a long time ago.

Bob and Alice are also in their 60s, married for over 40 years. Their children are grown and long out of the house.
Bob still runs his own business and is active in community affairs.
Bob and Alice exist in the same house. Thy have nothing in common, she has never worked, they sleep in separate rooms and truth be told the reason he hasn’t retired yet is because it gets him out of the house which makes both of them happy. Alice is a grumpy old woman who sits in front of the TV all day and bitches about her miserable life.
Bob is lonely in his marriage and intimacy ended a long time ago.

Bob and Mary grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools. They have run into each other through out the years and would catch up on what is going on.
Lately they have been running into each other a lot.
They are friendly with each other and enjoy talking and hanging out together and eventually they each bring up their unhappy marriages. One thing led to another and
affair ensued.

Despite their guilt, they both are the happiest they have been in years.
Neither plans on divorcing, discretion is a priority, they both are maintaining their marital responsibilities.

Even though I think cheating is wrong, I don’t know that it’s always so black and white. Here are two vibrant, active, happy people stuck in miserable marriages with partners that are unwilling and/or unable to change.
Is what they are doing really so wrong?

Why are these people still married to the spouses they hate?

Consider the possibilities.

Possibility: If they legitimized their relationship by divorcing their slug spouses, they would eventually find out as the glow of forbidden love faded that each had brought their own negative issues to another relationship.

Is this a hypothetical?

As always, my advice is MYOB.

I think that cheating is wrong just about all the time. But in this example, I don’t see it as being so bad. Often people try to justify their cheating by exaggerating or bending the truth, but if this is a fair representation of the two marriages, and I was in one of the marriages, I would be tempted to go for it.

I am going to assume that the OP is a hypothetical situation. However, I am going to give the answer/advice I have given real people who have asked me whether they are justified in engaging in cheating.

I’m going to assume you and your spouse exchanged the standard vows couples usually exchange during marriage ceremonies. AIUI, one of those vows is to be faithful (i.e., sexual exclusivity).

The act of exchanging marriage vows means one essentially enters into a contract with the spouse. The conditions of a contract can be amended after-the-fact as long as all parties to the contract agree to the amendment(s).

If you no longer feel you can be (or want to be) faithful to your spouse, ask him or her to agree to amend the vow prohibiting dating outside the marriage. If your partner agrees, Mazel Tov and have fun. If he or she does not agree, you will have to decide whether to honor the vow you made or end the relationship.

If you respect your spouse, you will not humiliate him or her by running around behind his or her back. If you do not respect your spouse, end the marriage. Why stay tied to someone whom you do not respect?
TL;DR: don’t sneak around. Be upfront about your wants.

JMHO & thanks for reading it.

My bolding.


Having an affair is not maintaining their marital responsibilities; it is disregarding their marital responsibilities.

I also have to point out that the other two spouses are not maintaining their responsibilities as well by tuning out the needs of their spouses as well which increases the chances of having an affair possible (but it is NOT an excuse for having an affair).

The lazier spouses are not to blame for the affair, but they are to blame for not maintaining their marital responsibilities either.

Bob and Mary aren’t just having sex. They are seeking emotional intimacy outside of their marriage. That’s a double whammy. I feel a great deal of sympathy for both of them, but there’s a long list of options before then, and if both of them really do have spouses who refuse to have sex, refuse to share their emotional lives, and refuse to recognize that they are needed, divorce is the main one.

If discretion is a priority, it doesn’t even matter if they’re having sex. All those lunches and dinners and socializing are going to tip off everyone else that something’s going on.

I know you’re trying to come up with a hypothetical situation where cheating is acceptable, maybe even encouraged, there really aren’t any where divorce is not an option. It doesn’t carry the stigma it used to, not even among the elderly.

Being dishonest is wrong. Mary Bob should be honest and talk to their spouses. If that results in them divorcing, then so be it.

It’s cheaper to keep her.

It’s a composite of several couples I know.
So sort of hypothetical and sort of real.

None of these people hate their spouses.
Divorce is not option for various reasons not limited to finances, family, etc.
Dividing assets after 40 years of marriage may not be good for anybody.

I am MYOB because I would not get involved in any of the situations and I’m not going to rat anybody out.

I’m looking for opinions on whether it’s always wrong to cheat.

People age at different rates.
The vows say for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

What happens when one spouse is in a nursing home with alzheimers and the other is still healthy and active?
What if one half has given up on life and the other is still going strong?
What if one has a prolonged illness, the other cares for them, changing diapers, spoon feeding? Is it wrong for them to want adult companionship?

I knew one couple where the dying husband knew his wife was ‘going out’ and all he asked was that she didn’t bring it home and didn’t put it in his face.
I’ve known caregivers who felt the outside relationship was the only thing that kept them going.
Then again I know another woman who considered it an ‘honor and a blessing’ to care for her husband.

I’m just asking if it’s always morally wrong to cheat.

IMHO, yes.

Yup, pretty much.

If the spouse with Alzheimer’s is still competent to have this kind of discussion, then you have it, and come to an agreement, or divorce. If not, then I’d say that, sadly, your spouse is, for all intents and purposes, dead, and it’s no longer possible to cheat on them, whether you divorce them or not.

Then discuss, and come to an agreement, or divorce.

Not wrong at all, and perfectly natural. So discuss, and come to an agreement, or divorce.

So they discussed it and came to an agreement. That’s not cheating.

And that’s wonderful for them, as long as they did it with their spouses’ consent, or their spouses could no longer consent. Then, it wouldn’t be cheating.

And that’s wonderful for her. But it’s entirely possible to feel that way and still want someone else’s companionship. And if you discuss it, and come to an agreement, or divorce, then it’s not cheating.

I’m inclined to think so, yes.

They may, however, have divorce thrust upon them if their spouses find out.

I would say that some people would still consider it cheating even if one spouse is too incompetent to agree or is still breathing even if, as you say for all intents and purposes they are dead.

I’m sure. And if they feel that way, then they should do the honorable thing and divorce them.

Then they need to be honest with their spouses.

In those cases? Yes, I think it’s wrong. “In sickness and in health”. One’s healthy, one’s sick. That’s not honoring one’s vows. It’s not wrong to want adult companionship, but at the same time, if you can’t stick through it when times are bad, you need to do the honest thing and get a divorce. Marriage isn’t supposed to be about all the happy stuff – it’s about the bad too. It’s not supposed to be easy. In most cases, I’d say you owe it to your spouse to stick it out, or at least be honest and get a divorce.

In that case, it sounds like it bothered him, but he agreed to it.

Having an outside relationship, when both parties agree with it, no. Cheating, as in, screwing around on your spouse when you know it would hurt them yes.

Stuck, my big fat ass. They’re in these marriages because they CHOOSE to stay. Trying to justify staying because it would be messy, or expensive, or otherwise inconvenient to divorce simply means they’ve decided their money and convenience is more important to them than their integrity.

And yes, it really is that black and white. Cheating is wrong. Full stop. You wanna renegotiate your marriage contract, go nuts. But that’s not cheating.

All things considered, it would be a shame for them to NOT be together intimately. I would not call it cheating or having an affair. I’d call it a healthy relationship. But what of morality? If morality doesn’t serve the purpose of the people involved, and serves only to make them miserable, then it’s not a morality anyone should subscribe to.