Exploring The Potential Risks And Benefits Of An Affair

Updated August 15, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Many people consider having an affair if they aren’t happy with their spouses. However, it can be an impulsive decision made without truly considering the consequences. Read on to explore the potential risks and benefits of an extramarital affair and how therapy can support you whether you stay in the marriage or not. 

Do Affairs Ever Work, Or Are They A Risky Waste Of Time?

Before you decide to have an affair, examine the issue from all sides and determine whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks and what you stand to lose. 

Cheating rarely ends well. Only 5% to 7% of affairs result in a marriage—and roughly 75% of the unions that started as affairs end as divorces.  

Evaluate Why You Want An Affair

Are You Wondering If An Affair Is Worth The Risk?

Take some time to think about why you want an affair. Examine what your marriage lacks that you think cheating may provide. 

  • Your sexual needs aren’t being met because your partner either has a physical problem, doesn’t care about your pleasure, you’re no longer sexually compatible, or another reason. 
  • There’s no emotional intimacy with your spouse, and you want a connection with someone.
  • It’s a temporary lapse in judgment with a friend or acquaintance.
  • You have low self-esteem and need to be wanted.
  • You’re not committed to the marriage.
  • You’ve connected with someone else.
  • You cheated in the past.
  • You’re already disengaged from your relationship.
  • You want to hurt your spouse.
  • You’ve agreed to alternative sexual lifestyles, such as swinging, polyamory, or another relationship paradigm. 

Common Affair Types

  • Lust

One of the most common types of affairs, lust is the focus of your connection with someone else, and it is mostly or entirely about sex. Usually involves intense feelings, but it is the fastest affair to fizzle and fade. 

  • Revenge

This type of affair is rooted in anger and resentment toward your partner. You have sex with someone else to hurt your spouse and may take steps to ensure they know about it. 

  • Cyber

Often kept secret, this type of affair may have emotional or sexual components or a combination of the two. Even with no physical contact, studies show cyber affairs can have devastating effects on a relationship

  • Emotional

A non-sexual affair is where you develop an intimate emotional connection with someone else, giving them attention you would typically give to your spouse. 

  • Family

Developing an emotional or sexual affair with someone connected to your family structure, such as a husband cheating with his sister-in-law. 

  • “It’s Not Really An Affair”

This type of affair tends to be one-sided, with one partner offering and seeking an emotional and physical relationship while the other generally only wants sex. One partner may think the other will leave their spouse, but it never seems to happen. 

  • Mind/Body

While many affairs are about a sexual or emotional connection, this type involves both and is generally the most damaging to marriages. 

How Often Do People Cheat?

You Can’t Count On Sneaking Around Forever

No matter how sneaky or careful you think you're being, your partner will probably notice a change in your behavior—and you never know when someone will see you with your affair partner and mention it to your spouse. If you have an affair, prepare for the fallout if your secret gets out. 

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What Are The Potential Benefits Of An Affair?

While you may experience some benefits from an affair, consider that they are likely to be temporary, and if (or when) your affair is discovered, you’re likely to go from one extreme to the other. 

Boosting Your Confidence

If you’ve been feeling decreased self-esteem and your partner isn’t showing you the interest you want, an affair may meet that need. When someone other than your spouse shows a sexual or romantic interest in you, it can boost your confidence and make you feel sexy and desirable.

Changes Your Perspective About Your Marriage

Experiencing sex and potentially a relationship with someone else after years of marriage can give you the perspective to reshape your view on the bond you share with your spouse and possibly some ideas on how to fix the problems between you. 

If Discovered, It Can Force A Conversation That Reveals Your Relationship Issues

While having an affair hardly seems beneficial, it can force a difficult conversation about your marriage that allows both partners to honestly express their feelings, whether they want to fix things, and how that could be accomplished. 

Your Sexual Needs Are Met

If your partner can’t or won’t meet your sexual needs, but you still love them and want to remain married, you may seek sexual relief with a physical affair that doesn’t involve emotions. While your needs may be met with an affair, consider how it will affect your life if they find out and how your spouse would react to that justification.

What Are The Potential Downsides To An Affair?

Many people find that having an affair was one of the worst mistakes they ever made and say it wasn't worth it in any way. Before you cheat on your partner, consider how it could negatively affect your life. 

You Will Likely Hurt Your Spouse

Whether or not it’s your intention, your spouse will likely be devastated and heartbroken to discover that you’ve had or even want an affair. In addition to their emotional pain, you may break their trust in you and throw your family into chaos. You can't take back some wounds, even if they heal. Even if your partner forgives, they won't forget. 

You May Get Divorced, Affecting Your Children Greatly 

Many affairs result in a divorce. If you and your spouse share children, they could be hurt by the separation, and they may be angry when they learn you were unfaithful to their other parent. You should be prepared to face adverse reactions from your family when they find out about the affair. About half of relationships end after the discovery of one partner's infidelity.

It Could Damage Your Reputation

Depending on how widely the news of your affair spreads, it could damage your personal or professional reputation. Before you start having an affair, take the time to consider how you’d feel if everyone you know found out about it—because that is always a possibility. 

Are You Wondering If An Affair Is Worth The Risk?

You Could End Up Alone

If it doesn’t work out with your affair, and you can’t salvage the relationship with your spouse, you could end up alone, with your life in shambles around you, and likely a lot of people upset with you. 

Living A Secret Double Life Is Exhausting

Unless you plan on parading your activities in front of your spouse, having an affair means adding an entire person to your life and keeping it secret from the one you're married to. Your spouse will likely notice changes in your behavior and reactions to them. Living with the threat of someone you know spotting you at the wrong moment or a single call or text bringing your world crashing down around you can be exhausting, stressful, and harmful to your mental and physical health—Not to mention the troubles you’ll face if pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections become an issue. 

Most Affairs Don’t End With Happily Ever After

The vast majority of affairs don’t result in a happy marriage and growing old together. While the spark of connection can feel intense and demanding, consider that it may not mean forever and evaluate whether it’s worth the risk. 

What Does Infidelity Do To A Marriage?

  • Trust Issues
  • Insecurity
  • Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder
  • Tension in Family Dynamic
  • Stages of Grief
  • Changes to Neurochemistry
  • Mental Health Conditions Like Depression and Anxiety

How Therapy Can Help Couples Heal After An Affair

If you’re unhappy with your marriage and considering an affair, wondering how to tell your partner you slept with someone else, or have fallen in love with a person who isn’t your partner, consider working with a licensed relationship therapist online through a virtual therapy platform like Regain. Therapy can help you identify the underlying issues that make you want to cheat, develop healthy and practical ways to address the problems in your marriage, or provide support as you decide how to tell your spouse that it’s over. 

The American Psychological Association is researching how well psychotherapy works through various methods. Studies show that therapy is equally effective in person and online, whether you’re looking for individual or couples therapy. Many patients said virtual treatments are more cost-effective, have shorter wait times, and offer a much more extensive network of licensed mental healthcare providers. 


Many people feel unsatisfied with their spouses and weigh the pros and cons of having an extramarital affair. The information provided in this article may offer insight into some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of cheating on your partner and how therapy can support you through repairing your marriage or managing your divorce. 

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