No one grows up hoping to get married and then have an affair.
We all want the happily-ever-after kind of romance we see in the movies.
But life happens, and all the stress and fights and pain that comes along with it.
For those who end up in affairs, they don’t always know how they got to that point; only that they’re there, and it’s now their reality.
But if affairs are so morally reprehensible, why are there affairs that last for years?
How can people live with themselves, knowing that for years they’ve been lying to and betraying the one person they’re supposed to love until death do they part?
To understand why some affairs last for years — and even some for a lifetime — read on below:
1) Both partners already have a “full” life on the side
Most affairs last anywhere from a few weeks to a year; it isn’t common for an affair to last any longer.
But affairs that do last for years tend to have a shared factor: the affair isn’t between one married person and one single person, but rather between two married people.
When an affair sparks up between two married individuals, there’s no confusion or drama.
Both parties know what they want — some excitement and adventure on the side, nothing more.
They’re happy and satisfied with the life they’ve built and established with their partner, even if they aren’t totally content with the company of their partner any longer.
They probably have a home, a career, a family with kids, and the last thing they want to do is upend all that just because of some hot fling.
In affairs where one person is married and the other isn’t, there are always questions in the back of both minds:
- Are they still happy being the “other woman” or “other man”?
- Do they not want anything more with this relationship or any other relationship?
- Do they get jealous of the married person’s other partner?
But marriage on both sides erases the need to ask any of those questions, which is why they tend to last for so long.
2) Some people are naturally polyamorous
Affairs can be mentally stressful for both individuals involved.
You will always be slightly worried that someone who knows you will see you out with another woman or man, making it hard to fully enjoy the moment with the other person you’re with.
And no matter how bad your marriage might be, you always feel a tinge of guilt whenever you find yourself enjoying your time with this other person too much.
After all, there was a time when you felt that way with your husband or wife.
But for some people, those feelings of guilt or stress never truly arise.
Because in their heart, they don’t actually feel like they’re doing anything wrong.
Marriage feels wrong to them — the social construct of staying emotionally and sexually committed to one person for the rest of your life.
So they never truly feel guilty for something they feel is natural for them to do, and a small part of them wants to be found out so that it can all come out in the open for good.
3) The affair can become a full-time escape from the marriage
We marry someone because we love them and want to spend our life with them.
But who knows if you’ll still feel that way a year down the line, seven years down the line?
Marriage also comes with all the real-world responsibilities of being an adult, building a family, paying your taxes and bills, dealing with a thousand different little things.
You might love your husband or wife and never want to hurt them, but the unfortunate reality is you might have associated your spouse with all the real-world stressors that make you want to pull your hair out.
This is when affairs become more about coping with your life and less about trying to scratch a sexual urge.
Once the affair starts satisfying a greater need, something more than just sex, it becomes more difficult to let go of it.
4) Some people won’t stop until they’re caught
Then there are those who know full well that the affair is wrong, but they love that part of it.
They take delight in the fact that they’re betraying their spouse, and this could be for a number of reasons:
- They’re taking revenge on the spouse for something they did (maybe the spouse cheated on them in the past)
- They don’t feel like they’re being heard enough in the relationship
- Or they’re simply inherently malicious and enjoy that they’re betraying and lying to the one person who is supposed to be closest to them.
For these people, the excitement is less about going on dates and sleeping with someone new; the excitement is about the act of cheating and sneaking around behind their spouse’s back.
And when this is the case, they know that the only thing that will stop them is when their partner eventually finds out.
It’s a kind of self-destructiveness, but one they take on willingly.
5) The other partner is happy to live in denial
It’s nearly impossible to hide all evidence of an affair that goes on for years.
Unless your spouse lives on the other side of the world or pays no attention to you at all, then they’ll notice at some point or another that something is up.
They’ll realize that your schedule doesn’t make sense, or that you’re not where you’re supposed to be, or that you have a certain smell on you whenever you come home late.
Whatever it is, they’re bound to realize something.
The cheater might think that they’re being deviously clever, hiding an affair for so many years, but the reality could be that the betrayed partner has known for quite some time now.
But instead of saying anything about it, maybe they decided that it’s better to live in denial than confront the issue head-on.
Perhaps they’re waiting for the children to grow up and move out of the house.
Or maybe they have self-esteem issues and they’re willing to accept another man or woman in their partner’s life, as long as it means they get to keep their current life.
6) Affairs can feel freeing, while marriage can feel binding
The problem with marriage is that we often let the social expectations of what it should be drown out what we want it to be.
When two people come together and fall in love, there is nothing else to think about: it’s just them and their feelings for one another.
It’s pure, simple, and innocent.
But once they become engaged and married, things change.
Now families become involved (parents asking when you’re planning to have kids), the people you hang out with start to change because of your partner.
The greater social expectations and implications start to weigh on both of you — what does it mean to be a good husband, wife, father, mother?
You slowly start to lose yourself and become a parent, or a spouse, or a “we”.
The original love stops seeming like such a big deal with everything else now built around it.
It can get to the point where an affair or a series of affairs becomes the only way for that person to feel free again.
Because the truth is no one wants to feel bound or imprisoned, no matter how much they love the person they’re with.
7) An affair can eventually feel like a bad habit
The human brain can get addicted to anything.
Give yourself the right chemical reward response after experiencing an event or action, and that can slowly become part of your regular needs.
And this includes a long-term affair, even if you aren’t feeling it anymore.
Even if a person doesn’t want to be in an affair anymore, they might not have the capability to stop doing it.
Any relationship can be binding, even one that was built on a shoddy, cheating foundation.
When you spend years dating and sleeping with someone, it’s inevitable for you to build some kind of bond with that person, whether it’s love or something a little less than love.
And many people lack the confrontational skills to get out of any kind of relationship.
This means they’d rather stick to the affair’s regular schedule instead of ending it and committing again to their spouse.
8) Long-term lack of communication and openness between married partners
At the end of the day with most long-term affairs, the biggest issue preventing the cheating spouse from opening up and being honest with their partner is that they feel that they can’t.
As marriages become older and mature, it can start to feel less like you married the love of your life, and more like you became a husband or wife living with a spouse.
This happens when partners refuse to honestly and openly communicate.
Without this communication, it gives off the feeling that you’re stuck, that nothing will change; because how can it change if your partner isn’t willing to hear your thoughts and your feedback?
But your partner hasn’t done anything too bad to you, and you don’t want to go through the chaos of getting a divorce and splitting your lives.
At this point, for many, it can seem like the only easier option to improve their life is by finding another person who doesn’t come with all the baggage that you and your spouse share.
So communicate. Talk. Hear each other out, always. Don’t assume you know everything about your partner just because you’ve been together for a decade.
People change, thoughts change, and you should always be patient and understanding of your partner’s needs.
If you’d like to learn about how to create a long-lasting, loving marriage, then check out these articles:
- How to save your marriage alone (11 no bullsh*t steps)
- “My marriage is falling apart.” – Here are 15 ways to save it
- How to fix a broken marriage: 7 no bullsh*t steps
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
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