I get a good deal of correspondence from wives who are hoping that their husband’s affair fails miserably. These wives are typically looking for statistics that are going to give them reassurance that the affair is ultimately going to end and go up in flames.
Someone might ask: “my friends are telling me that affairs never last and that my husband’s affair is eventually going to end without my needing to do a lot about it. They say that I am wasting a lot of energy worrying because the odds are in my favor. In truth, I don’t know a lot of people who have cheated. And the one couple that I do know who met each other when having an affair actually ended up leaving their spouses and getting married. Admittedly, they have a rocky marriage and trust is always an issue between them. But their relationship is still going. So is it true that most affairs don’t last? And if so, why?”
The Numbers: It is absolutely true that most affairs do not last. Statistically speaking, only between 3 and 5 percent of affairs end in marriage. This is quite low. And when you consider that 75% of second marriages fail, you get a sense of how unlikely it is that even if an affair couple marries, they will have a life-long relationship. I’d suspect that the divorce rate for couples whose relationship started as an affair would be higher than the 75% divorce rate of second marriages.
Why? For the same reasons that affairs in general don’t last. I will list some of these reasons below.
The Relationship Is Based On Secrecy, A Lack Of Integrity, And Lies: Any time your relationship is based on negative, shameful things like secrecy and lies, this does not give it a very good foundation. In truth, neither person likely feels very proud of this background. There is shame and guilt from the very beginning. While other couples will proudly reminisce about meeting in church or on a blind date, the cheating couple have to reminisce about how they pretty much started their relationship in a closet while lying to others. This is not the best way to begin. Not only that, but often this couple’s friends and family members are secretly hoping that they fail because they do not approve of how the relationship started.
If He’ll Do It With You, He’ll Do It To You: This is probably the biggest obstacle that these couples face. They struggle with trust. And this is understandable because each person has already shown themselves to be capable of cheating and leaving their spouse for the cheating partner. Now that the cheating parter has become the spouse, what is to stop the cheating from happening with someone new? Of course, every one wants to believe that they are so special that they are soul mates who will never need or want to cheat again. Statistically speaking though, this is usually not true.
The Dynamic Of The Relationship Changes: Remember when I said that the people in the cheating relationship believe that they are special? Well, in a sense they are sort of right. It is hard for a marriage to compete with an affair – at least on one level – because it’s a fantasy that is not rooted in reality. The affair partner isn’t having to pick up anyone’s dirty socks. And the woman in the affair just wants to focus on the positive – she doesn’t nag or exhibit any real expectations, especially at first. Theoretically, it is all about fun.
But when they are in a long term relationship or married, this changes. Suddenly, she does have to pick up his dirty socks. She seems him the bathroom cutting his nose hairs and burping at the dinning room table. He sees her dying her hair and plucking her eyebrows. That’s not as attractive as seeing her only when she’s only at her best.
In short, the monotony of a marriage suddenly replaces the excitement of the affair. And it’s not nearly as exciting and magical. This can leave both people feeling very let down and disappointed that they traded in their old life and hurt so many people when they are now pretty much living their old life with someone new and still having a new set of complications.
In Hindsight, The Affair Did Not Make Everything Better: People often assume that the affair is going to fix all of their problems or insecurities. This just isn’t possible as you have to do this for yourself. So that is another set of disappointments that soon become apparent.
In short, an affair rarely lives up to the promise it starts with. Once it has to exist in reality, it changes. Plus, it often starts with so much against it that is nearly impossible to keep the momentum going.
So I would agree with your friends that the odds are definitely in your favor – simply because the odds and statistics tell us that most affairs are not lasting and do not end in marriage. However, I don’t think that this is a reason to just sit back and do nothing for your own healing. There is plenty that you can do for yourself to move yourself forward regardless of what your husband is doing at the time. I think that it’s important that you don’t just wait around for him to come to a decision or realization. Self help or counseling can mean that you move forward regardless of what he decides. And this doesn’t mean that you’re moving away from your marriage necessarily. It just means that you are strengthening yourself so that when there is a resolution, you are ready.