For How Long Can An Affair Go On?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from wives whose husbands are still actively having an affair. And they are trying to determine what type of situation they might be facing. For whatever reason, the husband is reluctant to break off the affair or to let the woman go. So, the wife wants to know for how long this might go on.

A common comment in this situation is something like: “I recently found out that my husband is having an affair with a woman who he was engaged to in high school. This was a relationship that was over decades ago, but apparently they have decided to pick up where they left off. One of my friends happens to be friend of the other woman. My friend found out about the affair and told me. When I confronted my husband, he told me that he had never lost feelings for this woman and that he still has those same feelings. He didn’t offer to end it then and he is still not offering to end it. She lives in another state. They mostly communicate by phone and text, although they have spent a handful of weekends together when my husband told me he was traveling for work. Our mutual friend says that if I just give it time, the affair will fizzle out because they just can’t be together and in the same state enough to build a true relationship. I wish that I could believe this, but I’m not sure that I do. My husband has said that he won’t abandon me and that he’s not going to make any decisions immediately. But I can’t help but worry that he will move to be with her or vice versa. And I get so depressed wondering how long this is going to last. For how long do most affairs last?”

I actually tried to research this topic and most of what I found indicated a range of two to four years, as an average. These statistics came from authors who had written books about affairs. I’m sure that these authors did their research and I don’t really feel qualified to disagree with them. I’m not a therapist or expert by any means. But I do have to say that the couples or folks who comment on my blog mention affairs that are generally shorter than this. Sure, I’ll occasionally hear about a long term affair. But most of the time, in these instances, every one knows about every one else and sort of accepts it. This scenario sort of becomes a situation where the wife knows about the mistress and begrudgingly accepts it so it just goes on and on. The wife in above scenario did not want this type of arrangement. So I would suspect that this won’t be the case here. But of course, I can’t say for sure.

Things That Can Influence The Longevity Of An Affair: Sometimes, the length of the affair depends on the type of help that the couple is able to obtain. A very good counselor can often be very persuasive in getting the cheating spouse to see the damage of these actions, but will also make it seem that the spouse himself chose to end it.

Another consideration is the motivation of the other woman. It’s not yet clear if she wants a long term relationship. Because it’s not only the husband who can end the affair. The other woman could decide that the relationship isn’t working for her or that it’s not right and end it at any time also.

Even if you know every variable, and even if you think that you’re clear on the motivations of both the husband and the other woman, it’s very hard to predict the future. There are so many unknowns when you are talking about human behavior and emotions. There are also circumstances that could happen to end the relationship that no one saw coming. One or both of the people could have to relocate.  The attraction could fizzle out. Or one of them can decide that it’s just too much work.

Some wives will give their husband’s an ultimatum and will tell him that if he doesn’t break it off at once, he faces a separation or divorce. This isn’t always the best call because I often see men either refuse to break it off or claim that they have broken it off and then continue the relationship behind every one’s back. Or, he could end it but then mope around because he misses her or he feels that he wasn’t allowed to make his own decision.

And although I don’t necessarily agree with the 2 – 4 year statistic, I do concede that some affairs last for awhile. With that said, an affair has a lot going against it. This is a relationship born in secrecy and shame. It can’t be healthy by it’s very nature. Yes, some people will be stubborn and will try very hard to make it work. But statistically, affairs don’t stand a very good chance of succeeding for the long term. The question is how long it will take the participants of the affair to figure that out.

That’s why I can’t tell you how long the affair might last. In some ways, that is controlled by the husband and the other woman. You can try to influence this of course, but some of it is out of your control. What you can control, however, are your own actions. I often encourage wives to focus on their own well being outside of the affair. In other words, he will do what he is going to do, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pick yourself up individually and get what you need to move yourself forward. If you’d like to read more about my own healing process, please feel free to check out my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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