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How do you feel about a spouse leaving or cheating on their partner when they are diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness?

By Expert HERWriter March 3, 2018 - 12:00am
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sick spouse cheating

I would love to hear what you think about spouses who pull away, cheat and/or divorce their partner because of a serious or terminal illness …. Or if they’ve become disfigured.

Has this happened to someone you know?

It’s a subject that needs to be discussed.

I have very strong feelings on this subject and will blog on this topic in the next few days. But, would love to hear what your views.

Best in health,


BTW, here is another great thread on sick spouse you can follow on EmpowHER.

Add a Comment38 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I'm the 65 year old who wrote the email above. Just went to my oncologist yesterday worried that he would tell me I didn't have much longer. He said they could not find a trace of cancer in my blood and that I'm in the beginning of remission. I couldn't believe it. I might have a future. He said if I keep up my positive life style and continure to work in charity to help others, I just might be cured. He said it does happen. Poo-poo on my exhusband. Maybe I can find someone else to share the rest of my life with. I doubt my exhusband will hold that marriage together. It's all about money.

December 10, 2011 - 11:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am 65 and my now ex husband is 71. In 2009 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. He was with me when this happened. Exactly four months later he announced he was separating. We were divorced eight months later and he married a 40 year old woman immediately. As far as I knew we were happy. He said he wasn't happy. I never act like I've got a serious illness. I'm into to 1-3 hours a day of walking. I feel fabulous. I'm in chemo but do not let it bother me. It is the less of my worries. We live in a small town and I constantly see my ex husband and his new wife. I always smile and try to be pleasant. I do miss my ex husband but ask myself how I can when he is a slim ball for leaving me. I have no family in the area I live but do not want to sell my house and move from this beautiful place. I have tried counseling and do take a 10 mg. medication for depression. I would love to find someone to share my life with but don't know if that is possible. What kind of a woman marries a man much older man than her and knows he left his ex wife who is terminally ill? I know I will just have to do the best I can on my own.

November 20, 2011 - 6:59pm
EmpowHER Guest

May you and someone you know be Blessed and continue to be a fighter to find the inner strength to press on.
I've been married for thirty+ yrs. Then five yrs. ago I had experienced a closed head injury. Many difficulties followed. My husband could not deal with my head injury. He commented that he didn't know me anymore and that it was like I was opened up and the real me was taken away and replaced with a stranger. I suppose if there was a crutch or cast he'd been more receptable. Well he cursed me out and made it impossible to be near him and to live in our home or work together. I didn't know this side of him. I began to fear him. I would avoid being in his presense out of fear. I needed to take care of me and my injuries. He began seeing other women. First locally then via the internet. Which has been ongoing for several yrs. now. Dec. 2010, five yrs. after my injury he's been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. That hasn't stopped him from contact with the other women. It has made him re-evaluate his life with me. I love him. I want him to be well. I feel for his life change. I had loved ones dianosed with cancer. It's not a death sentence by any chance. As much as I feel very depressed and
alone since my injury I know he too feels the same since his diagnoses. Why does bad things happen to good people?!

August 26, 2011 - 1:51am
EmpowHER Guest

My husband has progressive MS and we separated 14 months ago.

He's had MS since 1995. I never thought I would leave an ill spouse, but our marriage had always been difficult. He was abusive (verbally and sometimes physically for many many years). I actually left him previously (2005) but came back because I was afraid to be alone ( we are married over 35 years) and I felt very guilty about leaving him with a progressive illness.

But so much happened over the years I found I could not get to a peaceful place being married to him. The MS was I suppose the straw that broke everything, as I saw myself as caregiver to a man who I felt never really loved me -- in so far as we had had a sexless marriage for 25 years, he never would talk about us, and never wanted kids. I was full of resentment over the way he treated me in the past and even though he had stopped the worst abuse several years ago, there was no emotional conection. I begged him many times to go to counselling but he refused, often telling me that there was nothing he could do for me and that I should go if I couldn't be happy in the marriage because he needed a partner who could be "up" about things.

Finally I when I was feeling suicidal everyday I went to my mothers and told him I couldn't do this anymore. He promptly hung up on me and did not communicate with me for a year.

Since March of this year I have been going over to see him occasionally. He treats me cordially but there is no real love there -- at least none I can sense. He says I betrayed him by leaving and that he never thought this would happen to him. He lives alone in our house because he refuses to hire help, except for grocery deliveries and gardening, snow shovelling etc. I know he falls sometimes and that he is having more and difficult managing, but he doesn't discuss reconciling with me and I don't want to go back to a marriage to someone who really has no deep feelings for me and hasn't even asked me if there was a way we could fix things.

But I also agonize about the future. What will happen to him? How will I feel if he passes away , or had to go into assisted living? Will I be able to leave behind guilt and have any kind of a life?

It seems it's like "Sophie's Choice" -- no outcome that leaves me or him with any real happiness.

Maybe I will end of back with him in the end. Only ten or 20 more years to go -- maybe I can die first , and probably will.

July 11, 2011 - 2:21pm
EmpowHER Guest

What I think about spouse cheating on dying wife? What I think about spouse, unable to admit he cannot keep the promises made when death was an obvious reality? What I think about the affair partner taking a spouse of 33 years, lover for 40, away one emotion at a time? What I think about a spouse who allows his mistress full control of how he will deal with it, what he will prepare, what he will think, feel? What do I think about a mistress, after removing the spouse from the dying wife, forcing him to adhere to 'the no contact rule'? What do I think of how he now agrees & acts as a result of reward/punishments for even thinking about the spouse he abandoned?

As the wife left alone, her inheritance stripped bare, not allowed on the property of the business I co-own without having the police called after faint fake, then has false assault charges filed ...

You who condone, are on the fence and/or are giving the mistress the emotions, intimacy, comfort, touching that someone dying needs ... How DO you sleep at night? All he had to do was keep the promises he made for another year, probably less. Is not a lifetime of love worth that sacrifice? Can you not wait until he/she no longer has the pressures of dealing with death so that erectile dysfunction is no longer an issue? How can you send him/her from your bed to hers, your scent so overpowering, knowing he will share all that with dying spouse?

Again, I ask, HOW do you look at yourself in the mirror and like what you see? Does being obviously selfish to others make you proud?

In the end, all we are is what is left of our Integrity and Honor. When you purposely violate those two basic personality points, you begin the process of greed, disregard for how your actions affect others as long as you get yours ... the whole self absorption that is remarkably similar to those personalities who start wars, commit genocides ... Now there's how I hope people view me, you brag to your friends, flaunt your aberrations.

When we lose the ability of our conscious to maintain a healthy social persona, and do the right things without guilt, we lose what makes us human. I have grieved the life I am losing, hoping to die with dignity ... but now, my last wishes will be ashes ... I will die, but not of the stage 4 kidney cancer, but of a broken heart. Sounds like a 'no-biggie', everyone gets their heart broken. Get over it. But let me tell you ... the cancer pain I manage with chemicals, but for the broken heart there is no pain management.

And, my last thought will be of what will happen to him when the reality of what he has done overwhelms the needs of his 'little brain' ... believe it or not, knowing that my memory will be the cause of future years of guilt, anxiety, remorse ... I feel no better than those of you who who, like the woman who took just because she could ... who thought taking away the love of my life was perfectly fine ... this won't bother you in the least, but for me ... my life becomes meaningless, my death trivial at most.

Have fun.

June 19, 2011 - 3:47am

i am a 49 year old man with both a wife and 17 year old daughter who live with MS. My daughter thank god is in a 5 year remission at this time and is healthy but my wife on the other hand has been progressively getting worse and is now wheelchair bound and relies on me for just about evrything. It has been hard on all of us and when i really think about it ...i am the lucky one. My wife lives with terrible symptoms that no medication can surpress but she struggles on like a real trouper. My daughter on the other hand has to watch and see what her fate may be in years to comeor maybe tomorow she could wake up blind or paralized on one side who knows...... She seems resilient ...i hope so. life sucks...Then there is me...i cook ,clean,shop,caregive,worry our lives, our money, how will we cope. I seem to be able to pick myself up when i need to but i do have my days when i wish i was somewhere else. But i have told myself i cant leave...my wife needs me and what kind of father would i be to my daughter , what if she gets sick, would she think i would leave her. I and my wife have discussed this sometimes and we think that maybe we suffer so that she stays well. Its a terrible tradeoff (catch 22) but that is the way it is

May 18, 2011 - 10:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am a man, who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am married to my high school sweetheart. Our parents were in the Navy so we were seperated when her father was re-assigned to the other side of the world. I was too young to go with her and live there. We wrote each other for years, and kept in touch for almost 10 years after we were seperated and became each other's confidantes' with each others' new relationships. Eventually we lost touch, and then reunited after 26 years. We had a 3 year, magical courtship, resulting in marriage. We can actually read each other's minds (I wouldn't believe it if it didn't happen to me). We can complete each other's sentences, and the list goes on and on. We drip passion, every day towards each other. I have about 10 years in front of me, and the end will be especially horrible (I have non-smoking caused emphysema). My wife is still relatively young, and even if I do say so myself, absolutely beautiful. I love her so much, I don't want to put her through having to watch me die. Is it wrong of me to want to divorce her? I feel terrible, but want her to salvage as much of a decent life with a healthy man, as she can. We aren't rich, but we are secure, and I want her to have it all. I simply want the best possible life for her, and she can't stomach my even asking, or discussing this with her. I feel more or less like a cat, in that I want to go off alone far from family and friends to die, and she just doesn't understand my reasoning.

January 14, 2011 - 2:35pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

Anon - Thanks for your candid, honest comments and sharing your story. While there is no way that I could say that I understand completely what you are feeling right now, I can say that as a leukemia patient I know that my perspective on many things has changed greatly since diagnosis and that it is often very different from that of healthy people. It makes sense to me that your wife doesn't understand your reasoning.

If you don't mind a suggestion, I think the two of you would benefit from some couples counseling where a trained, neutral third party could help ensure that you are communicating well with each other and ensuring that both of you have the opportunity, in a safe environment, to process the changes that have affected both of your lives since your diagnosis. You have more than the clinical elements of your medical condition to deal with, and if your journey is like that of most patients there's going to be less attention and support for your emotional needs than for the medical needs. I've found this is especially true for male patients. Ten years is a very long time, and assuming you love your wife as much as you say then before closing off all of your options and taking major steps like divorce I would honor that relationship by getting appropriate professional help to deal with the life-changing circumstances that both of you are in and tackling this situation together.
Take care,

January 14, 2011 - 4:25pm


I want to agree with Pat. I'm so sorry that your friend reacted off the cuff to your confiding in her. That must have been so hard for you to hear after you have kept this in for such a long time.

You've done nothing wrong. You are living this life day to day. And now you are considering the future, for each of you. There's nothing to feel shameful or guilty about. We do make vows, "in sickness and in health," and breaking those vows is incredibly difficult. But you are also thinking of your children, which is vital. They need a healthy environment in which to thrive. You are trying to balance all of these things in your thinking, as well as self-care.

I think that a two-year plan is a fabulous starting point. I think that by taking that time to plan and analyze, you will probably learn things that surprise you about how you feel. They might be positive or negative. But once we start really focusing on something in a different way, solutions also seem to come to us in a different way.

Did you read the thread Pat linked to, from those who have had to leave or consider leaving a sick spouse? Wonderful, sensitive people have shared their experiences there, and I think you'd feel not so all alone.

Thinking of you with all the best.

June 23, 2010 - 10:05am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi timeforme - It was good to hear from you again, and it's clear you've really been giving your situation a lot of thought. It's unfortunate that your friend made what sounds like a snap judgment of your careful, considered thinking, and, worse, that she blurted it out. She hasn't walked in your shoes, and never can. Sometimes we women forget that real friendship is about unconditional support, through good times and bad, and it's about helping friends in their time of need and not about what we think WE would do or our own life situation. You have multiple lives to consider, and sticking it out "to the end" may not be what is truly in the best interests of you and your children. You are the only one who can make the determination and you are ultimately the only one who will be living with it. Trust me, as someone who has had friends in your exact situation, you will know when you are ready to make your decision.

In the meantime, I like your two-year approach. When I have a major challenge ahead of me and look at the larger picture it can be so overwhelming as to be paralyzing. I've found that by taking the challenge in manageable, smaller segments I am better able to realistically figure out what needs to be done, the timeline, the costs, etc. without the burden of a lot of worry about things that may or may not happen in the future.

Here's something else to think about. If you were in a different situation - let's say you had a husband who was a sex addict and was cheating on you - and you were having to deal with that and plan for a future divorce, well, you know that you would "lose friends" over that even though the situation that caused the divorce was not caused by you and was out of your control. The "friends" that you would lose, in the long run, may not have actually been "friends" in the first place but people in your social circle. I don't know you, and I don't know your friends and am not passing judgment on anyone. I've just observed a lot of human behavior over the years, and women often get hung up in worrying about taking actions due to worrying about what others think when those others are often very fickle. Yes, you may lose friends. Yes, you may end up basically starting a whole new life. You may also gain new friends and have a wonderful, different life. But speculation isn't going to be nearly as helpful as what you're actually doing - using your two-year plan to establish a foundation for your future and to clarify what you need to do. You're on the right path and don't let anyone else tell you anything different!

June 22, 2010 - 5:41pm
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