Infidelity has fueled the narratives of some of our most cherished novels:
Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, even The Great Gatsby. While these stories are celebrated, cheating still remains one of the last great taboos. As a society we stigmatize infidelity, leaving those who experience (or commit!) these intimate betrayals with a sense of shame and isolation. So for those feeling alone in the wake of an affair, we at Bustle have a suggestion: Pick up a book.
Stories about cheating can provide the compassion of shared experience. Empathizing with a character in a novel who has been cheated on can validate your feelings if your partner has been unfaithful. Recognizing your own emotions in the pages of a candid memoir can help you better understand your impulse to cheat. An introspective self-help guide can empower you to move forward. And it’s not just limited to the classics. Plenty of modern works will grant you the tools you seek for reconciliation, self-love, and understanding. Below are
15 recent books about complicated affairs of the heart that range in genre, but will help you grapple with infidelity in all of its forms. We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1
Richard Haddon needs to prove to his wife that he is still the same man she once loved. Told against a dreamy European backdrop, this novel is a love story told in reverse about a successful British painter — and failed monogamist's — disastrous attempts to rebuild his family and his marriage after his affair is exposed.
British-Nigerian writer Chidera Eggerue is a champion of body positivity, self-love, and female empowerment. No matter if you are reeling from a betrayal, a stale connection, or a one-sided romance, this how-to for women who date men throws traditional dating advice out the window. Eggerue intends to equip her readers with the tools to redistribute power in their romantic lives and make radical change within, without centering men as the ultimate goal.
This debut graphic novel from comic book artist Christine Norrie is a tale of modern romance and familiar heartbreak. Norrie illustrates the hectic lives of New York City couple Marc and Janey, who fall apart when Janey is pushed into the arms of another.
Annabelle and Grant McKay have been married for 28 years, and for most of their marriage, Annabelle has been in love with another man. When Grant first finds out about Annabelle’s affair, the couple swears to forget it and move on — but for Annabelle, it hasn’t been that easy. Plagued by the what-ifs of another life, it’s getting harder for her to ignore the growing distance between her and Grant. After a chance encounter with her old lover, Annabelle must choose between her loyal husband and the one that got away.
5 New York Times bestselling author Glennon Doyle's life came completely undone when her husband revealed that he was addicted to pornography and sex with strangers. But Doyle's unraveling ultimately became a necessary journey of recovery, healing, and self-discovery. In this honest memoir, Doyle tells more than a story of the betrayal — she offers an opportunity for readers to truly embrace the courage of love by confronting their pain. She also encourages readers to claim the love that exists for them in their own lives. 6
In 1985, psychotherapist and marriage expert Ann Pearlman wrote
Keep The Home Fires Burning, a book that sung the praises of sexual monogamy. A few years later, Pearlman discovered that her husband of 25 years was having an affair. In this heart-wrenching memoir, Pearlman excavates the true stories of the intergenerational infidelity that scarred the marriages of her mother, grandmother, and her own. 7
“My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” This notorious opening line introduces the tale of James Witherspoon, a man living a double life: two wives, two daughters, two families… one public and one secret. When James’ daughters meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows the true relationship they share. Told from each woman's perspective, this novel is about the collision of lives that are connected by a single thread, a twice-married man, and the secrets kept by individuals, families, and entire communities.
Zoe Dalton is technically a newlywed. She got married only a month ago, but instead of enjoying her honeymoon phase, she’s returning her wedding gifts. When Zoe discovers her husband is sleeping with someone else, she never would have expected it to be someone close to her — and she never would have expected it to be one of her three sisters. Suddenly, Zoe finds herself on a rocky quest for the truth and an introspective mission to redefine “happy ever after.”
Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist who has spent the majority of her career investigating the balance between intimacy and independence in human relationships. In
The State of Affairs, Perel implores readers to face the discomfort of talking about affairs and analyze how — and why — they are embedded in our culture. Perel does the work of undoing the taboo of infidelity, treating the event of an affair as an opportunity to study the complicated heart and explore modern love. 10
Iconic activist, author, and playwright Pearl Cleage's memoir is assembled from 18 years’ worth of journal entries and framed as the pieces of her life she longed to share with her daughter. The stories she includes weave together a tale of awakenings: Cleage’s political and self-awakenings in Atlanta, her creative awakening as a multi-hyphenate, and her sexual awakening through numerous love affairs that defied the boundaries of marriage. Cleage’s memoir invites readers to learn alongside her, uncensored and generously honest.
Set in South London in 2008, two couples stand on the threshold of change in their personal and family lives — change that threatens to fracture the lives they have built. What does it mean to be loyal to someone if you do not know who you are, if you who you are is fading, if who you are is evolving? Diana Evans uses characters Michael, Melissa, Damian, and Stephanie to carefully sift through the reasons why we stray from the things — and people — we know, and how change can act as an agent of growth
and destruction. 12
When head midwife Frazer teams up with social worker Cora to execute a passion project in her hospital, it is a professional match made in heaven. Cora is married to Frazer’s boss, and gladly uses Frazer’s project as a welcome distraction from her struggling marriage. The two women work closely together and grow closer with each meeting, until it happens: They fall for each other. Frazer and Cora call it a fling, but fall deeper and deeper into a connection more powerful than any they’ve known before… and much harder to walk away from.
Tracy Schorn offers up a fresh take on infidelity with this self-help guide that features satirical cartoons and no-nonsense advice. Schorn flips the script of the traditional breakup book, addressing the cheated-on and ignoring the cheaters by sharing lessons on disarming your fears, avoiding taking unnecessary blame, and protecting your heart before bouncing back.
Eric Jerome Dickey is renowned for his contributions to the genre of contemporary African-American lit. This ensemble novel features a dynamic, complicated cast of characters who are all, for lack of a better word, cheaters. Dickey's story is a revolving door of unrequited love, temptation, and desire with the intertwining stories of folks just like you and me — complicated people who contain multitudes and yearn for love.
Natalie is a New York City art student struggling to make ends meet. At the suggestion of a friend, she searches online for a sugar daddy — a wealthy, older man who offers financial support in return for romantic companionship — and finds Gabe, a corporate attorney in his fifties. Although initially hesitant to the arrangement, Natalie becomes enthralled by Gabe and soon wants to be more than just his sugar baby. Gabe, however, has no intention of leaving his family, and ends the arrangement before things get messy. But it’s too late. Their arrangement quickly spirals into a helix of lies, obsession, and something much darker.