If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering “How long do affairs last after divorce?” or “Do affairs that end in marriage stand a chance?”
Maybe you’ve heard some of the reasons why affairs never last, but you’ve met a couple that might be an exception to that rule.
So, what is it about most affairs that dooms them from the beginning?
It helps to know why people cheat in the first place. Knowing what could be a trigger for you might help you protect yourself and your marriage.
Read on to learn nine things you need to know about affairs and why they end.
Why Do People Cheat in Relationships?
What the affair leads to and how long it lasts has a lot to do with the reasons why it started in the first place.
Here are the most common triggers:
- Fear of conflict with your spouse. You crave harmony so much, you avoid working through your relationship problems and pretend all is well when it’s not.
- Fear of feeling vulnerable. You argue and put up walls between you and your spouse, which causes loneliness, which leads us to the next trigger.
- Feeling alone, misunderstood, or unappreciated. Your marriage went from hot ‘n’ heavy to boring, lonely, or frustrating. You miss that feeling of connection.
- Addiction to romance. You miss the romance of being “in love.” So, when someone interesting comes along and is obviously into you, the curiosity is mutual.
- Addiction to sex. Sex is your drug, and you want more of it than you get in your marriage. So, when you find willing partners, it’s hard to say no.
- Feeling a need to escape. Your marriage is hopeless, and you want to forget its hold on you. You’re just not sure a divorce is the best way to make your life better.
What percentage of affairs end in divorce?
According to WebMD, the “in love” stage of an affair lasts 6 to 18 months, on average.
And around 75% of the marriages that start as affairs end in divorce. Considering only 5 to 7% of affair relationships lead to marriage, that’s a grim statistic for couples hoping their affairs will last forever.
But maybe you’re not even worried about the percentage of affairs that last. You’re having fun and getting what your marriage doesn’t give you. So, as long as no one finds out….
Chances are, though, someone will. You’ll get sloppy, or they’ll get curious. Or both.
It’s just a matter of time.
Do Affairs That Break Up a Marriage Last? 10 Things You Need to Know
Here are nine things you need to know about why most affair relationships fail when the marriage is over.
1. Affairs are like hothouse flowers.
Beautiful things can grow in that climate-controlled environment. But once you take your delicate flower out into the real world, it dies.
Because It was never meant to withstand the climate of a real relationship. It was meant to be kept in secret for you to enjoy behind closed doors.
Ask yourself how you’d react if your fling asked if you could go out somewhere and “be seen together.” If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s over,” it was never meant to be real.
Affairs looks better where the sunlight can’t touch them.
2. No marriage means nothing to escape from.
Chances are, your affair was never about “finding the one.” It was about escaping the painful reality of your marriage.
Maybe your spouse is fine with the way things are, but you’re not. Or maybe you’re both miserable. But you think the right thing to do is to keep working at it and stay together — maybe for the kids’ sake or maybe just because you can’t afford to live on your own.
So, you start an affair as a way to secretly live in a different “reality” — at least part-time.
But then the marriage ends, and you no longer have to escape it. You’re free! So, why hang onto someone who only made your misery a teensy bit more tolerable?
3. The thrill doesn’t last.
Part of the reason for the affair was the thrill of that sudden connection and secret passion between you. You know what you’re doing is wrong, but it makes you feel alive again.
It’s exciting. What a rush! Why can’t relationships always be like this?
The short answer? Thrills don’t last. And that’s a good thing. If you were on an emotional high all the time, you’d burn out.
4. You won’t always be “in love.”
Just a little while ago, you thought you were “so in love.” You couldn’t wait to be alone with them again. Now that everyone knows about it, you feel like a terrible person. And the one you were cheating with is a painful reminder of that.
Or maybe no one has found out, yet, but looking at them doesn’t give you butterflies anymore. You’re ready for a change. You want to feel “in love” again.
And maybe you’re wondering if it’s possible to rekindle the passion in your marriage.
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5. Sometimes, it’s all about the sex.
Sometimes, the only reason for the affair is mutual lust. Maybe it’s a one-night stand. Or maybe you hook up now and then when you’re both in the mood.
This type of affair is the quickest to fizzle. It can last as little as an hour, or drag on for months. But sex is all you really want from each other.
Or it’s all you’re likely to get.
If the affair wrecks the marriage, though, the cheater has no reason to hold onto their affair, let alone marry the person they were cheating with.
6. Once the affair serves its purpose, there’s no reason to hang on.
Some affairs are about punishing the spouse for his/her lack of attention or appreciation. And if you’ve been cheated on, you might be tempted to cheat right back.
But once the marriage is over, the revenge affair loses its purpose.
Now, you’re left with someone whose sole purpose in your life was to show your spouse how it feels to be on the receiving end of bad behavior. And you’re kind of over it.
7. Emotional affairs are just gap-fillers.
Maybe you were tempted to have an affair with someone, because they make you feel wanted and sexy. They filled an emotional need that your marriage did not.
So, you kept spending time together, but you kept it platonic. The only sex that happened was in your heads. And you kept that secret, too.
But if you both wanted a romantic relationship badly enough to break up a marriage (or two), you would have by now. You love what you have with this person, but it’s not worth going through the trauma of divorce.
8. Serial cheaters are a thing.
If the one you’re cheating with is a serial cheater, they don’t see you as someone they’d leave their spouse for. They never started the affair thinking it would become a long-term relationship.
You’re just the newest shiny thing. But they make you feel like you’re the only one that ever mattered — at least until they get what they want from you.
Then, when they find a new shiny thing (or they get bored), they end it.
9. The affair wasn’t an accident.
You didn’t “fall into” an affair or “end up” in bed together. You both made a choice. And until you both take responsibility for the affair, you’re unlikely to form a healthy and lasting relationship.
Relationships that last are based on mature love, which values responsibility. If one of you can’t own up to your mistakes, you’ll always be blaming someone or something else when things go wrong.
The “poor me” attitude isn’t a good look on anyone. And it’ll kill any attraction between you and the one you’re cheating with.
10. Connections don’t erase consequences.
If the affair is rooted in a mind-body connection, and you feel like soulmates, the marriage is probably toast. These affairs are most likely to result in a second marriage.
But the strength of your connection to each other doesn’t erase the consequences for those affected by the divorce. And children and other relatives are likely to see the new step-parent as an intruder or “homewrecker.”
This is where the joy of being “in love” meets the pain you’ve caused other people.
Do affairs ever work?
Bleak statistics aside, some marriages that begin as affairs do last for years or even decades. Their success usually stems from the fact that the affair relationship was much healthier than the original marriage.
Maybe it started out as a platonic friendship but became something more.
For example, if your spouse is physically or emotionally abusive, you might start an affair with someone who isn’t and who deeply cares about you. That affair may then lead to the break-up of your toxic marriage and the beginning of a good one.
It doesn’t mean the second marriage will be easy. But it’s a step in a better direction.
It’s possible for an affair to be the prelude to a marriage that works. But it’s far from the norm. Marriage is hard enough when it starts between two people who are available and fully committed to each other.
And if you’ve cheated once, it’s easier to justify doing it again when the passion cools.
How Do Affairs Usually End?
Whatever your relationship has going for or against it, affairs usually end in one of the following ways:
- Someone gets suspicious and uncovers the truth.
- One of you gets sloppy and leaves evidence.
- One of you breaks up the marriage to commit to the other person.
- One of you cheats with someone else, and the other cheater finds out.
- One of you ends the affair to recommit to your marriage.
Only a tiny percentage of affair relationships even end up at the altar. And most of those marriages eventually end in divorce or separation.
Because most affairs don’t begin with long-term thinking. It’s all about what you can get from each other in the present and in secret.
Once the secret is out, the present gets a lot more complicated.
Now that you know the statistics, what will you do?
The problem with any relationship that begins with cheating is that one or both of you will always wonder if it’ll end the same way.
The phrase “Once a cheater, always a cheater” didn’t come out of nowhere. There’s a reason the answer to “How long do affairs last after separation?” is a grim one.
It’s never too early to think about your own marriage and be honest about what could make you more vulnerable to temptation. Maybe it already has.
Then think of what you can do to help yourself make better choices.