There are many schools of thought regarding extramarital affairs. In some circles, affairs are not talked about but are generally accepted as a part of real-life situations, without a lot of moral judgment or disdain. In some circles, an affair is an ultimate betrayal, as warrants a swift and emphatic removal from someone's life. In others, affairs are painful but accepted, and couples try to move forward in health and forgiveness. No matter the cultural paradigm in real life or personal belief system, certain themes tend to emerge when someone has an affair, many of them transcending age, years of marriage, background, gender, and race.
The Affair Recovery Process Can Be Difficult
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Source: rawpixel.com How Do You Define An Affair?
An affair is commonly referred to as an intense emotional and romantic relationship with someone other than your partner or spouse. On a general note, most affairs do not last for a long period (though there are exceptions to this) and usually happen between two people who are not maritally committed to each other. Affairs may range along a continuum, from emotional affairs to serial affairs, or romantic love affairs, and even long-term affairs which may span for years or even an entire lifetime. The emotional investment of the affair partners depends on what type of affair it is, and the duration of the affair may also depend on several factors. Things aren’t always fixed and a seemingly meaningless affair may transform into a romantic love affair, or an emotional affair may grow to become a long-term affair.
All the types of affairs are very personal for everyone, and usually bring with them many kinds of emotions- both the good and the bad. The length of extramarital affairs varies- about 50% may last between the period of one month to a year affair, long term affairs may last for about 15months or more, and about 30% of affairs last about two years and beyond. It could be that at some point, one (or both) of the affair partners may find that the affair has become more trouble than it is really worth it, and then break it up. In some instances, the affair is somehow discovered by the betrayed spouse, and this may bring a halt to the affair .
Why Does The Distinction Matter?
The distinction between cheating and an affair is usually a matter of the brevity with which it is treated. Some believe that the bonds of marriage are more sacred than a committed partnership, and that stepping outside of marriage is far more egregious than cheating on someone you are dating because it can come along with a tremendous amount of shame and guilt.
This is not always the case, however, particularly among couples that do not prioritize the contract of marriage. If marriage is not seen as a normal progression of a relationship, there is no real distinction between cheating in a relationship and cheating in a marriage. In these cases, the term "affair" can apply to a dating relationship, and the aftermath can be as overwhelming, painful, and devastating as it would be in a traditional marriage.
How Do Affairs End?
Affairs usually end in one of three ways: divorce and remarriage, divorce and relationship loss, or the recommitment to the relationship that was betrayed. Each of these resolutions of an affair has its own pros and cons, and each of them has a unique set of circumstances surrounding why they occurred, and how the involved parties reacted and responded.
1) Divorce And Remarriage
For some, an affair indicates the start of a new relationship and a new life. In these instances, an emotional connection is usually a factor, and the spouse who cheated leaves their spouse for their new affair partner. Affairs that end in this way might set a cycle in motion that involves more affairs, subsequent divorce, and subsequent remarriage, but the resulting relationship might also prove to last; no two situations are the same.
2) Divorce And Relationship Loss
Some affairs end in both the loss of one's spouse and the loss of whatever relationship prompted infidelity. In some cases, this comes as a result of all parties being made aware of one another: some people who step outside of their commitments do so without informing their new partner of their marriage or long-term relationship status and suffer the consequences when their new flame discovers the lie.
3) Marital Recommitment
In some cases, an affair prompts a revival of marriage and encourages each partner to invest more time, effort, and energy in their relationship. Couples in crisis can absolutely overcome the pain and betrayal that follows an affair. The road to recovery can take literal years and is very often not linear in its resolution. This means that recovering marriages might experience periods of separation, followed by reunions, with additional separations and reunions in between.
Although there are certainly cases where both partners work hard to resolve their issues on their own, getting back together and working on your relationship in the wake of an affair usually involves the help of a therapist or marriage counselor . There are many painful, frustrating, and difficult interactions on the healing journey and many of these are best completed with the help of a mediating third party.
Why Do People Have Affairs?
Because affairs never occur without plenty of pain, heartache, and betrayal, it begs the question: why do people cheat? Why bring so much pain to yourself, your former partner, and your current partner? The exact reasons for engaging in affairs are varied and diverse, but there are often a few common reasons given. These include:
1) Relationship Dissatisfaction
The most common reason given for having an affair is experiencing dissatisfaction in your current relationship. People who are unhappy in their current love lives often believe they will find happiness elsewhere. They chase that rabbit hole to the inevitable conclusion of an affair. The result is rarely (if ever) effective in improving satisfaction, but is frequently used as a temporary solution to what they are feeling.
2) Perpetuating Unhealthy Habits
For some, an affair is a simple (if unfortunate) manifestation of long-standing issues with intimacy, communication, and commitment. For these people, monogamous relationships might feel as though they are steel traps-traps that must be shaken off in any way possible. This could be due to unhealthy relationship examples in youth (a parent who constantly dates, but never seems willing or able to commit, for instance), a traumatic dating history that was never addressed, or a simple fear of rejection. When infidelity occurs in these relationships, it is often wholly unrelated to the relationship itself, or the partner involved, but is based almost entirely on unresolved trauma, pain, and maladaptive coping.
Whether it is an addiction to sex, alcohol, or drugs, infidelity can be a common companion to addictive behaviors and disorders. Just as someone who is suffering from substance abuse must engage novelty to achieve the same high they experienced the first time they indulged in drug use, someone who struggles with addiction might use the rush of endorphins and other hormones that comes with a new relationship as a means of achieving natural highs, and staving off predictability and letdown.
4) Poor Communication Skills
While it might seem silly to suggest that poor communication skills can cause an affair, it bears weight. Communication lays the foundation for a healthy relationship, and the lack of communication can lead to a decreased social function, increased relationship dissatisfaction, and a decreased ability to express your wants and needs. If you are unable to communicate that you are upset, feeling dissatisfied, or feeling as though you want to step outside of your relationship, you may be more likely to indulge these impulses.
How Affairs End
The exact trajectory of an affair differs from couple to couple, and situation to situation. What does not change, however, is the damage that affairs do. Any betrayal by an intimate partner comes with immense pain and trauma and can cause the development of mood disorders and a host of other issues, ranging from difficulty trusting others, to actual medical conditions. Whether an affair ends in divorce and remarriage, divorce and a breakup, or reconciliation, all of the parties involved will experience loss and pain, and most will experience the regret of some form.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Affairs
Do relationships from affairs last?
According to a 2017 study , relationships that started due to mate poaching are generally less satisfied, less committed, and less invested in their relationships when compared to people whose relationships started when they were both single. People in relationships that started with mate poaching also tend to be more interested in pursuing other relationship options, in other words, they’re likely to cheat again.
How long do extramarital affairs usually last?
The longevity of an affair can depend on varying factors. A short-term affair could be anything from a one-night stand to an occasional hookup. A long affair or long-term affair where there’s a serious relationship with a married woman or man could last anywhere from six months to two years, at which point the couple will probably be discovered.
How do affairs usually end?
Almost all affairs are discovered at one point or another. At that point, the married couple will face a choice together. They will either decide to end the marriage and deal with subsequent issues of alimony, divorce, and child support, or they will decide to stay together. Contrary to popular belief, most married couples stay together after one has an affair. Some couples even use it as a wake-up call to deal with greater problems in the relationship and use it as an opportunity to bring passion back to their union. Other people choose to divorce and perhaps the affair becomes a relationship. However, relationships that started with cheating are statistically less likely to be successful than relationships that started in other circumstances, and one of the reasons for this is that these affairs are built on infatuation, secrecy, and deception, and so do not have what it takes to stand when it comes to face to face with real-life challenges. In fact, only 3-5% of relationships that started as affairs lead to marriage.
What percentage of affairs end in divorce?
It’s possible to save your marriage after an affair. In fact, the majority of married couples will stay together after an affair. Fewer than 25% of married men and women will leave their marriage for a partner they met while having an affair. So, a married woman or man is not likely to leave their marriage for a lover. This could be due to people not wanting to deal with legal issues like alimony, child support, and the justice system, or it could be because the affair was a wake-up call, which they used to bring more togetherness and intimacy into their own relationship. Couples can recover after infidelity affairs or marital affairs, so if you’re wondering if that’s possible for a personal romantic relationship of yours where marital affairs have been present, know that it is possible if both you and your spouse are dedicated and invested in healing your trust and the relationship overall.
Are affairs real love?
This is a complex question that will significantly depend on your personal situation. Can people find love outside of marriage? Yes. But, in terms of statistics, do affairs usually lead to happy and satisfying relationships? No, not usually. Couples who started as cheating then later came together, whether they were couple friends, best friends, coworkers, or in-laws, tend to be more unhappy in their relationships as opposed to people who both started single. It may feel good at the beginning; you both love to spend time together in each other’s company. However, these affairs rarely last, especially when tested with real-life challenges. Also, someone who cheated in their marriage or relationship is about three times more likely to cheat again in later relationships. For that reason, it is best to seek out available partners, because if they are cheating in their relationship, then they might be using you for reasons other than genuine love.
What percentage of marriages survive affairs?
More than half of marriages survive affairs. Many couples even report feeling stronger and more in love after surviving an affair, but it takes a lot of work and some deep forgiveness. There are a lot of things that could complicate the way that a relationship recovers from an affair; for example, if the affair partner is many years younger, there could be a particular sense of betrayal, hurt, confusion, and even a sense of inadequacy for the betrayed spouse. The same can be true for those who find out about long-term affairs.
It is certainly possible that affairs start and end multiple times. For that reason, it is a good idea to talk to a professional about your situation and seek out advice.
As the betrayed spouse, you need to give yourself time, grieve but don’t allow yourself to dwell in there for too long. Be sincere about how you feel, open up about how you feel to your friends and family, and seek the right help. Understanding the how and the why of the affair will also go a long way to help you in your healing process. Whether you decide to continue with the marriage or get separated, you need to forgive yourself and also forgive your partner- this is an integral part of your healing process. For the unfaithful spouse, you need to seek help and work towards fixing your marriage. If you think your marriage is worth fighting for and your partner decides to move past what has happened and rebuild your marriage, then you need to seek marriage counseling; talk to a marriage and family therapist like those at ReGain to help you through the healing process and work with you on building a strong and lasting marriage.