For example, someone helping their spouse find someone else to make divorce easier

2 Answers 2


Something done with an ulterior motive perhaps fits what you mean.

Although it's not specifically about the morality of what is done (right/wrong), it's done with a, usually hidden, often selfish, real reason which differs from that which was professed.

He got his wife membership of the country club with the ulterior motive that she might meet someone else to ease the guilt he felt at planning a divorce.

  • Your example sentence sort of falls apart in the middle.
    – user888379
    Oct 8, 2019 at 14:59
  • @user888379 Thanks, I was editing on the fly as I wrote it and replaced the wrong word. Oct 8, 2019 at 15:27
  • I was hoping for a word or a phrase for doing something apparently good for inherently selfish reasons. Not speaking to motive but to action
    – Sara Ali
    Oct 9, 2019 at 16:02



Working or acting for your own advantage:

Politicians are seen as corrupt and self-serving.

  • This is too broad, 424, and includes doing obviously bad things. Sep 11, 2023 at 10:39
  • @EdwinAshworth Person 1: He is not really a bad man. He is even helping his spouse to find someone else. Person 2: And for all we know he did that for a self-serving reason, that is, to make their divorce easier. Following the OP's scenario, would that not fit the context?
    – user424874
    Sep 11, 2023 at 11:34
  • Many things would fit. OP asks for 'a word to describe doing "good" things for "bad" reasons'; self-serving is far broader than this, including all selfish acts / omissions (and 'bad' would obviously be ridiculously broad, while still true). I've got to interpret 'bad reasons' as immoral, selfish ones here, not 'injudicious' / 'unsound'. Sep 11, 2023 at 11:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.