I recently heard from a wife who theorized that her husband had deliberately planned and then had an affair as a way to end his marriage. She felt that his cheating was his passive aggressive way to obtain a divorce because he was too cowardly to ask for one in any other way. She asked, in part: "do some men cheat because they want a divorce? I suspect that my husband is guilty of this. Our marriage had been struggling for a while and I'd repeatedly asked him to go to counseling or to help me improve our marriage but I got no cooperation from him. I even asked him if he wanted a separation or a divorce but he never gave me an honest answer. A few months later, he cheated and didn't make much of an effort to hide it from me. It's almost as if he wanted to be caught. And since he knows that infidelity is unacceptable to me and grounds for divorce, I think that his cheating was part of a plan to end the marriage. The weird thing is, now that the affair is out in the open, I'm not sure if I want a divorce. But I offered him one anyway and he resisted this. He said that he just wants to wait and see what happens. So this leaves me with a lot of questions. Did he cheat because he knew I would divorce him? And if so, why isn't he jumping at the chance to divorce me when I'm offering him this chance?"
These were all very heavy questions that I wasn't going to be able to directly answer. And when the wife confronted her husband about this issue, he completely denied it. He told his wife that her theory just didn't make any sense. Why would he need to cheat to end his marriage when he could simply ask his wife for a divorce if he wanted one? Why would he involve another person and hurt other people if all he had to do was file divorce papers to end his marriage? The wife couldn't answer these questions and neither could I.
However, I do have some insights into this as I dialog with many people on both sides of the issue.
Some Husbands Do Cheat As A Reaction To Issues Within Their Marriage Or As A Way To Get Their Wife's Attention. But Not Every One Who Cheats Or Has An Affair Wants To End Their Marriage: It's not out of the question for a man to use an affair to help him facilitate a divorce or to bring about the end of his marriage. Many people assume that when people cheat or have affairs, they always do so in secret and hope that their spouse will never find out. This isn't true for every one. It's very common to hear men say that they were almost hoping to get caught because, for whatever reason, they were trying to get their spouse's attention or to get a very dramatic reaction.
The reasons for this vary. Sometimes, they are angry with their wife. Sometimes, they feel undeserving of her. Other times, they are dealing with their own personal issues. However, this doesn't mean that all men who cheat are hoping for a divorce (although some are.) Some hope that the cheating will make their wife see that he wants more of her time, appreciation, or affection.
Others have more negative motivations and use the cheating as a "pay back" for some perceived slight or as a way to show his wife that others can appreciate him or find him attractive, even if she doesn't. (Of course, this isn't at all fair, but this is what some men will tell you.) However, the wife in this situation didn't feel that any of these things rang true for her. She felt pretty sure that her husband's infidelity was meant to be the first step in her husband divorcing her.
What If Your Husband Initially Cheated As A Way To End The Marriage, But He Isn't Pursuing A Divorce Now?: The wife in this situation just couldn't understand why the husband was hesitating to divorce her when she was all but filing the papers herself. Everything was out in the open and the wife was offering him a relatively quick and drama free divorce. She couldn't understand his hesitation to take her up on this.
People change their minds all of the time. A decision that was made in haste and out of negative emotions doesn't usually turn out to be the right decision and people sometimes realize this before it is too late. I've dialogued with men in this situation and many will tell you that once they saw the pain on their wife's face, the cheating and the aftermath of it suddenly became very "real" to them. And it's sometimes at this point that they realize that they really don't want to hurt their wife or end their relationship with her. Is it fair for them to aggressively cheat and then to change their mind about their marriage? No, it's not. But this is what sometimes happens.
You can usually tell whether your husband hopes or intends for the cheating to end the marriage by how he acts once everything is out in the open. Some men will push for a divorce right away and others will stop short of this and will show some hesitation at ending the marriage. Sometimes, a man's intentions change once they see your reaction or get a taste of life without you. Of course, whether you are open to saving the marriage has to be up to you. Part of this process is asking yourself if you can address and then fix the issues that led to his making a choice to cheat in the first place. Some couples are willing and able to do this and some aren't.
So, to answer the question posed, yes some men do cheat because they want a divorce, but many do not. And some initially have this intention out of haste or anger but end up changing their minds later and very much regretting their actions.
I know that you are likely going through a very difficult time, but you sometimes do have a choice as to whether your marriage ends. Although it appeared that my husband's affair was going to mean the end of our marriage, we eventually pulled it together and worked things out. In fact, although I never would've believed this two years ago, after some struggles, my marriage is stronger than ever after my husband's affair. It took a lot of work, and I had to play the game to win, but it was worth it. Because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is in tact. I no longer worry my husband will cheat again. If it helps, you can read more about that very personal story and what worked for me and what didn't at http://surviving-the-affair.com