Should I Stay or Should I Go? Man Thinking of Separating Wants to Know

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

I wrote a blog post awhile back called “The Two Hardest Decisions You’ll Ever Make,” and received this e-mail a few days ago in response. I truly feel for this man who is thinking of separating, because it really is a tormenting decision to have to make.


 A few months ago I found out my wife was cheating on me and now I’ve been left with the decision to stay or go. She says she has broken it off with the man she was with but at the same rate I do not know because it was someone she works with.

 To make matters worse we have a 3 year old (soon to be 4) daughter. We’ve been married almost 10 years and I find myself struggling to make a commitment one way or the other. I feel like I am standing at the fork in the road but instead of seeing two roads I see two cliffs. Both are scary and both are undefined.

 I know if I stay with my wife, I know what to expect but at the same rate I don’t like what she’s done and how she treats me. If I get divorced, there is the unknown of going off on my own. But that isn’t the worst of it in my mind. The worst is how my daughter fairs through all of this. If we stay together and she sees us constantly fighting she is going to grow up thinking that is normal and treat who ever she meets the same way thinking that is the right thing to do. If we get divorced then it’ll be who’s staying with today and where is she going to school?

 If it were just deciding for myself I would have left not long after I found out about my wife’s infidelity. Only because we had drifted so far apart that the cheating is a complete deal breaker. Going off and being alone doesn’t scare me. But the uncertainties for my daughter and myself.   That scares me…


 First of all, I am so sorry you are facing such a tough time. I’m sure it is gut-wrenchingly painful.

You’ve obviously e-mailed me for advice and you are probably asking friends and family what to do, as well. The sad thing is, no one, not even an experienced therapist can tell you what the right decision is.

That said, it might make you feel better to know that whatever decision you make will be the right one. But, only if you take the steps and do the work to make the life for yourself the one you really want.

If you stay:

 If you stay with your wife, the two of you really need to get help to repair the damage of the bad path your marriage has gone down. Here’s the thing about cheating. If your wife wants the marriage to work out, and she is making a commitment not to cheat (in other words, she isn’t continuing the relationship with her coworker) then you have two choices: forgive her and move on or leave.

I know a man whose wife cheated and he just couldn’t get past it. He tried for months to forgive and trust her and just could not get there. I also know someone whose marriage survived cheating. But, it took a lot of work, patience and courage by the person who got cheated on to forgive, forget and trust. It also took a lot of reassurance from the cheater, along with patience.

I have to be honest, I’m not sure I could take back my spouse if he cheated. But that’s just the way I feel. I’m not saying it’s wrong to forgive and forget.

There’s also different kinds of cheating. If someone cheats and is in love, that’s a lot bigger of a deal than someone who slept with someone one time and regretted it immediately.

In your case, there’s also the fact that they work together. If I was your wife and I wanted you back, I would offer to look for a new job. That said, I have no idea what kind of job she has and if that’s even an option. Then again, maybe it’s a great job that can’t be replicated at any other firm. It would just be hard knowing she is going into the office everyday and seeing that person.

However, the bottom line is, you either trust her or you don’t. You probably don’t right now, but do you think you could ever get there? It would involve a lot of therapy and open communication between the two of you. And, it would involve her sincerity of proving she wants the marriage to work, along with your forgiveness. If you hold a grudge, your marriage has a zero chance of working out.

If you leave:

The unknown is very very scary. But, I will never forget when I was separated, a friend of mine (a guy friend) said, “If you stay, you know what you are going to get. If you leave, you don’t know. The question is, which is more appealing? The known or the unknown?”

Being alone can feel isolating and hopeless, and you might feel like you might never meet anyone or feel like a family again. That’s the risk you are taking.

But, I believe that when people make good choices, like focusing on their children and their job and enjoying each day, and having faith, and taking care of their physical selves, their discipline, integrity and faith in themselves pays off in the future.

Mr. or Ms. Right sometimes takes a long time to show up, but I’m a firm believer that they do always arrive.

Your daughter:

Regarding your little girl, you asked which decision will hurt her less. My answer is, either decision can either help or hurt her depending how you and your wife handle things.

If you end up separating and divorcing and things get really really bad between you two, and your daughter is stressed by the bad relationship you have, that will hurt her. If you continue to try to work things out, you have to make a conscious choice not to fight in front of her and show each other kindness and respect. That is how she will grow up with love in her heart and choose a good partner.

Think of it this way. Whatever man she ends up with, have the relationship with your wife that you want her to have with her husband. Does that make sense? And if you divorce, have a kind, respectful relationship without badmouthing her. Kids learn from their parents, married or divorced.

Hope that helps!

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

4 Responses to “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Man Thinking of Separating Wants to Know”

  1. Terry Gaspard

    Hi Jackie,

    Excellent blog offering sound advice. Helping the gentleman focus on having a respectful relationship with his wife -whether or not they separate is the way to go! This is the main factor that determine a daughter’s adjustment after divorce.

    I look forward to your posts and hope you decide to send me an article for soon!

    My Best,


  2. Lynn

    Painfully honest advice. If you take care of yourself in a healthy way (as Jackie described) and be present in your daughters life she will most likely follow in your footsteps and use the tools you give her. That is the best outcome possible. I agree with Jackie, no matter if you stay or go be the man you want her to marry. Ultimately the choice of how she lives is up to her.

  3. Zeph

    Some good things here for sure. For the man writing, this is tremendously tough stuff. Perhaps it would be helpful to shift away from the understandably overwhelming “decision” of whether to stay or to go; instead choose to focus on the implicit commitment as parents you and your wife made to your daughter when you decided to have a child. What does that commitment look like to you and can you use it to help guide your actions?

    Picture your daughter’s emotional life and the role you and your wife are playing in it in a few years. It turns out that the ideal vision of that has many common components regardless of what you decide about separation: you want both you and her mother to be playing a great positive role in your daughter’s life and you want you and her mother to be working thoughtfully together to guide your daughter. Ideally, you want there to be no tension between parents so that your daughter can be comfortable amidst you two. It is rather well established that a crucial factor in children’s long term health is whether or not children see their parents as working together as parents.

    So regardless of whether you two stay together or separate, if you want to honor your commitment to your daughter, you’ll have to eventually move past the infidelity (and the distance that you said already existed), and be able to honestly appreciate each other’s part in the joint project of raising your daughter.

    For some, realizing this is freeing. Deciding on whether you stay in the marriage or leave it can wait. However, embarking on improving things for your kids doesn’t have to wait (and shouldn’t) till you sort all these things out. Working with your wife on improving the co-parenting can and should start now and will reap the kinds of positive progress that will make you feel good about a really significant portion of the larger context. If you’d like to talk more about your situation, you can contact me through my website at .

    Good luck.

  4. Cheryl

    This resonates with me, I am recently separated with divorce around the corner. We have a twelve year old son who is my primary concern in all of this and I feel like I’ve failed him. Taking the perspective of modeling a healthy relationship is what I need to focus on moving forward, I’m realizing that remaining married would not be healthy. I am confident that my husband has been emotionally involved with his coworker and I would not be able to trust him again. Not looking forward to the next few months, but am feeling more confident about the future and setting a good example for my kiddo.


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