Permission To Cheat But Suffering From Guilt

The lies we tell to save our spouse’s heart

Photo by Kevin Jesus Horacio on Unsplash

“Why don’t you discuss it with your spouse and get their permission?”

It’s a good question, and some couples have that discussion, but it doesn’t make cheating easier. A recent question sent from a lady in distress brought up a unique problem couples facing medical issues have.

Letting the healthy spouse find physical love in the arms of another isn’t an easy decision. It’s recognition of what the ill partner isn’t providing, but that in itself can have detrimental effects on the sick partner’s wellbeing.

I’ve written about guilt before but not this situation. Her question brings up the more fundamental issue of balancing the needs of both partners, in a situation where there are no good choices and everyone’s lost something.

I’ve changed details to hide her identity.

Her story in her own words

I am wondering if you ever write on the topic of marriages that aren’t exactly open, but on the other hand, are to a certain degree?

I had permission to go out and “take care of that” elsewhere, as my husband couldn’t perform in the bedroom. I think part of why I feel like it is cheating is because I’m sure he sees it like that, even though he tolerates it because I demand that he does.

But I have a high libido and always have. One of our wedding “presents” was a threesome, so we started out in a highly sexual relationship. But over time, he developed erectile dysfunction, and now he can’t perform in the bedroom. Not even with medication. We still sleep in the same bed, and I still hug and kiss him.

When I go out, he never knows details, and I straight-up lie about where I’ll be when I’m going to meet someone because I don’t want to rub it in his face that I feel the need to do it. The inability to perform has messed with what little ego he had in the first place; he’s even cried over it.

When we made the agreement, he got really upset and said he was afraid I’d meet someone and leave him. I am upfront with all my hookups-it is just that, a hookup, and I’m not emotionally available for any kind of relationship besides FWB. I really don’t want anyone else. But I want to have sex, and I know I become a crazy & mean woman when I go without for long periods, so it’s come down to this arrangement for us. I went without for eight years before we made the agreement. We’ve been together 17.

But he is naturally a person with no self-confidence and is in treatment for depression, so I always feel like I have to walk on eggshells. He’s finally made a lot of progress, and I don’t want to mess that up.

I do have some guilt from it, clearly not enough to stop doing it, but I think part of my guilt is just because I lie to hide that I am going out, and I don’t like lying.

Her question

She asked — how would you deal with this sort of oddball situation? Have you heard of something like this before? Is there anything that can help with his feelings and coping if he decides he wants to talk about it? All I can really do is

remind him I won’t leave him and continue lying about where I’m going and what I’ll be doing.

What would you do?

What would I do?

Her question raises some concerns that people living with an ill or injured partner face about sexual fulfillment. The biggest is that the challenges don’t end once you get permission to step out of the marriage for sex.

Permission doesn’t mean the spouse is good with the idea of an outside relationship, but that they recognize they cannot fill their partner’s physical needs. As she said, he’d feel betrayed knowing she was with someone else.

Giving permission doesn’t mean they want the details, and knowing them could jeopardize their health. They deserve respect for their mature recognition of the problem and offering a solution, but they need gentle treatment.

In the case above, lying to him about the details is the best way to respectfully manage his emotions. Not knowing she’s taken up his offer protects him.

Another example

I chat with a woman whose husband is crippled from the waist down. He agreed to let her see other men but had difficulty with his decision.

What he didn’t know was that she was already seeing men. She was grateful and told him so, because like the lady above, she’s highly sexual and hadn’t had her needs met for a decade.

A week after offering, he came home drunk and angry. He told her it had only been a test to see how she’d react and said she’d failed. He accused her of being a whore and slut, only to apologize the next morning when he sobered up.

That happened twice in the space of a few weeks.

Knowing him, she knew she could never tell him, and his response was proof of it. She has been cheating for more than two years now, but when he asks her if she’s met anyone, she says no. He’s suspected her on a couple of occasions but left it.

“When would I have the time?” She tells him and uses a good friend to cover for her.

For women in these circumstances, keeping quiet is doing the right thing. But how do you deal with the guilt? I think putting the situation into perspective helps.

Consider a wider perspective

When you stand back and acknowledge you’re protecting your spouse’s health, it casts a different light on why you lie. Many long-term illnesses are accompanied by depression as a co-morbidity. The added stress of an affair in the open wouldn’t help either partner. The sick partner would suffer emotionally and that makes caring for them more difficult.

The other issue is many healthy spouses in this situation have gone without sex for a number of years. The definition of a sexless marriage is ten times or less a year. In many relationships with a sick spouse, the healthy partner often gets none over periods of many years. I went nine.

The emotional toll that sexual isolation takes is difficult to describe and extraordinarily difficult to bear. Over time it can lead to depression. Relieving the stress that is sexual isolation can make caring for a sick partner easier.

The least bad choice is the best

And suffering from guilt is the less difficult trade-off when protecting each partners’ health and wellbeing. There are no wins in this situation, but lying will stop making things worse.

There is little joy in living with an ill spouse, and the loss of sex is only one of many miseries. If you feel guilt lying despite having permission to cheat, my thought is you’ll feel guilty if they know you are. Telling them can cause a loss of trust between you because you’ll never be able to step out the door again without raising suspicion.

My advice is to make peace with the guilt, and keep your cheating to yourself whether you have permission or not. It is the least bad of the many bad outcomes you’ll likely face.

No good will come from telling a spouse you’ve taken them up on their offer.

This is my perspective as a spouse who cheats without permission —Leaving No Trace of the Affair Will Save His Heart
I owe it to my

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© Teresa J. Conway, 2020

By Teresa J Conway on .

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Exported from Medium on April 8, 2021.

Author of How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress, several short stories, I'm active on Medium @teresajconway where I sometimes share my blog posts.

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