Would you rather have 80% of a good thing, or 20%?

Most reasonable people want to have as much of a good thing as they can get, which is why marriage infidelity doesn’t make sense. And yet, your marriage may be subject to destruction because your spouse is looking outside of the marriage in a misguided attempt to gain the 20% he or she feels is missing.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the idea of an 80/20 ratio as it relates to cheating, and some of the emotional trials a cheater faces once they realize they’ve risked 80% for a lousy 20%.

If you suspect your spouse is contemplating an affair, share this post with them immediately. If your spouse has already had an affair, maybe this could serve as a starting point to discuss the problems in your marriage. Read on…

Marriage: An All-Encompassing Partnership

If you’ve been the victim of your husband’s or wife’s marriage infidelity, odds are high that your first question was, “Why?” You feel that you’d already given your spouse everything you possibly had to give, and wonder what more you could have possibly given.

It’s a rare relationship that supplies 100% of each individual’s needs, 100% of the time. Think of your friendships: these relationships don’t begin to have the pressure and expectations placed on them that a marriage does—not by a long shot. Most friendships are fun and games: going golfing, out for a meal, shopping. Not much drudgery there.

But a marriage is a true partnership that is far-reaching and all-encompassing. It’s a relationship with a lot of heavy lifting in addition to the fun. Here are just some of the expectations your relationship with your spouse may carry:

  • Sex and intimacy—despite your mood
  • Household management (cleaning/chores, bill paying, cooking, shopping)
  • Child-rearing
  • Family relations (in-laws, elderly parent care)
  • Social planning
  • Emotional support

In addition to the various expectations within the marriage, you may also have a job that carries a lot of expectations and responsibilities. Life can be a constant juggle, and it’s quite the feat for you to be able to give 100% in all areas, all of the time.

And yet, many couples take their marriage for granted, and all of the expectations that go along with it. Maybe you have an elderly parent that needs more time and attention right now, in addition to children’s needs and also managing your career. Your spouse may feel a sense of neglect, that they’re being placed last on the list. Meanwhile, you feel you’re giving everything you have to handle what’s in front of you, so at the moment, your marriage may not be able to receive 100%.

There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to how you juggle your time and responsibilities, but not prioritizing your marriage will have an effect on the relationship. This does not mean it can be used as an excuse for marriage infidelity to resolve the issue.

But maintaining your marriage plus all of the responsibilities that go with it means there must be some negotiation with your spouse. Communication is necessary so both spouses don’t lose sight of how much they have right there in their marriage—that 80%–and not be tempted to blow the missing 20% out of proportion and risk their marriage to gain it.

The 80/20 ratio isn’t scientific—it’s to illustrate the point that marriages, as far as relationships go, have a lot more going on than just the pursuit of fun. For those who feel neglected or miss having fun and search to fulfill this need by cheating, that “fun” really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when the affair comes to light.

Many cheaters realize too late that they should have worked on that 20% they felt was missing with their spouse, because now they’ve caused a painful rift and regret their rash decision—and the possible loss of 80% of a good thing, thanks to marriage infidelity.

In exchange for attempting to fulfill a couple of needs, most cheaters will experience emotional trials as a result of their actions:

Cheater’s Emotion 1: Guilt

Whether a cheater’s spouse knows of the affair or not, the cheater will likely feel guilty. Regardless of how the cheater may try to justify their actions in their minds: “Well, he/she wasn’t giving me the attention I need,” the cheater knows that what he or she is doing is wrong. If it wasn’t wrong, why hide it?

The cheater knows they are betraying their spouse’s trust, and that is not a good feeling for anyone with a conscience and a heart.

Cheater’s Emotion 2: Shame

Shame is different than guilt in that, you are committing an act that would be embarrassing for others to learn about. The cheater knows they will be judged for their actions by their spouse, their family, and everyone else in their social environment.

Again, it’s why cheaters go to lengths to hide their actions: the cheating spouse knows they are doing something wrong, and they are ashamed of their actions.

Cheater’s Emotion 3: Fear

Cheaters know they are risking everything: the life they’ve built with a spouse, the respect and standing they have in their family. On some deep level, a cheater knows they are “risking it all,” or, that 80%. Also, a cheater may fear that, through their actions, they are no longer in control of their own life, or their ability to control their actions in the future.

Cheating is a heavy emotional burden—extremely painful for the victim, and a source of angst and self-recrimination for the cheater. To risk so much for so little gain, it makes sense to work on the issues within the marriage rather than throw a relationship away for what looked to be the answer to your problems.

I would like to hear from you about the idea of the 80/20 ratio and if it matches your experience…

How does your marriage differ in expectations from all of the other relationships in your life?

When it comes to handling marriage responsibilities, how does the one-on-one relationship with your spouse get prioritized? Or does it?

If you’ve felt you were missing that “20%” in your marriage, what did you do to work through that feeling?

Have either you or your spouse cheated, or thought of cheating, because there was one area in the marriage in which you didn’t feel 100% fulfilled? Was an affair worth it in the end?

Please share your thoughts and experiences on this difficult topic by leaving a comment below.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

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