The very term lifelong extramarital affairs could be rather intriguing. When it comes to extramarital affairs aren’t we more prone to believe it as something that fizzles out as sporadically as it starts. Extramarital affairs – be it an emotional affair or a physical affair – starts from a person’s need to find something that is not fulfilled in the marriage.
There is usually a pattern in which an affair begins and ends. Mostly it ends when it is discovered by a partner, when it becomes too much of a burden to maintain, or when the physical attachment wanes. There could be bizarre reasons too for an extramarital affair to end.
But in cases when an affair survives the test of time the consequences of extramarital affairs could be an end of the affair or it could be divorce and remarriage. Some extramarital affairs, however, transcend all these timelines and last a lifetime. How does that happen? Why do some affairs last for years? Let’s deduce with the help of relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT, etc), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, including extramarital affairs counseling.
9 Truths About Lifelong Extramarital Affairs
If we are talking about lifelong extramarital affairs here, then we have to see how different these are from the short-lived extramarital affairs we are used to seeing and reading about. Lifelong extramarital affairs are rare but they have always existed. Some affairs come out in the open and some don’t. Sometimes these affairs happen when both parties are married and when affairs turn into love it takes a completely different turn.
One such famous extramarital affair was that of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles that ultimately led to his divorce from Princess Diana. Charles married Camilla in 2005. Theirs was an affair, that despite the ups and downs and constant media hounding, culminated into marriage. In that case, it could be called a successful extramarital affair.
While not every long-term affair may trace the same trajectory, there are quite a few instances of such liaisons lasting years and turning into a source of great emotional and physical support for both partners involved. Explaining what sets long-term affairs when both parties are married from fleeting ones, Shivanya says, “It is hard to define the timeline for how long do affairs last. However, the one factor that separates a long-term affair from one that fizzles out quickly is a strong emotional connection between the two partners.
“If the affair is based solely on raw passion, no matter how compelling, it will die its own death sooner or later. Perhaps, if the affair comes to light, one of the partners or both may back out. Or when the thrill of the physical connection fades away, they may realize that it’s not worth the risk of putting their marriage in jeopardy.”
That gives us a broad understanding of why do some affairs last for years. For better clarity, let’s explore these 9 truths about lifelong extramarital affairs:
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1. Lifelong affairs often happen when both parties are married
Lifelong extramarital affairs usually happen between two people when they are already married. They are willing to continue in the affair for so long because they both have families and do not want to disrupt their family life. You might think why do some affairs last for years? This is mainly because two people, despite being much in love, cannot take a decision to walk out and get married by hurting their children or spouses.
Sometimes they are so entrenched and settled in their respective family lives that uprooting their families for the affair to culminate is not a decision they can take. So love is often sacrificed for the family.
Shivanya shares one such example of long-term affairs when both parties are married. “I counseled a couple where the wife had been having an affair with a younger man for the past 12 years because her husband was paralyzed, and a lot of her emotional and physical needs were unmet in the marriage. At the same time, she knew how much her husband needed her and didn’t want to forsake the marriage.
“The affair came to light when her grown-up children, aged 18 and 24, read chats between their mother and her partner. Of course, all hell broke loose. However, with counseling, the husband and the kids were able to gain acceptance of the fact that the relationship was based on mutual respect and love, and not just driven by lust, and slowly came around to the idea that the woman cared for and loved both the men in her life,” she says.
2. The affairs turn into love
Of course, it does. The affairs turn into love that is why it lasts so long. Take for instance the affair of Hollywood stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. A fiercely independent and vocal woman, Hepburn remained loyal to and madly in love with Spencer Tracy for 27 long years, knowing full well he was married.
Tracy didn’t want to divorce his wife Louise because he was a Catholic. Hepburn, who has mentioned in her autobiography that she had a selfish streak, that’s why she didn’t want children, was totally smitten by Tracy. Theirs was the most famous affair in Hollywood but Tracy kept it a secret from his wife.
Their relationship could be termed as a lifelong extramarital affair but one that had a kind of love that was rare. They were never seen in public and maintained separate residences. But when Tracy fell ill, Hepburn took a 5-year break from her career and looked after him till his demise in 1967. Shivanya describes the affair between Hepburn and Spencer as one sparked by a twin-flame connection.
“Long-term affairs when both parties are married can also happen when twin flames cross paths with each other when they’re already married to other people. Even if they try, they find it very hard to break off their relationship. Such connections can turn into lifelong affairs,” she explains.
3. Benefits of extramarital affairs
We have the tendency to look down on extramarital affairs as something illegitimate, something that comes with more problems than bliss. But extramarital affairs that turn into love and last a lifetime do come with certain benefits. Partners in lasting extramarital affairs become each other’s support system.
Rory Lane (name changed) found out about her husband’s extramarital affair only after his death when he left a part of his fortune in his Will to a lady whose name she had never heard from him. When she went to her place she realized that it was she who had given him all the money that he needed to start his business 30 years back.
She used to be his high-school sweetheart but things didn’t work out between them till they met years later. When they met again he was struggling as a jobless family man and she was a successful career woman. Their affair remained discreet till his death but she was the pillar in his life. The benefits of an extramarital affair can extend to your marriage too by giving it a boost in the oddest ways.
Shivanya agrees, and adds, “A long-term affair is always rooted in a deep connection between both the partners, who despite not being married choose to stick by each other through thick and thin. They help each other in times of crisis and become a source of support and comfort. There is a genuine give and take of care and compassion. Therein lies the answer to why do some affairs last for years.”
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4. A lifelong extramarital affair can be stronger than a marriage
When it’s an extramarital affair it would not have legal recognition but since two people are in the relationship because they are in love, the bond is stronger than it is in a marriage. There are instances when partners in an extramarital affair have supported and sacrificed for each other in a way that married people would not be able to do.
Gina Jacobson (name changed) whose mother was in a long extramarital affair with a neighbor told us that when her father was diagnosed with cancer, it was Mr. Patrick who paid the bills and stayed up by his bedside when he would be in pain.
Gina said, “When we were teenagers we used to hate him for his intimacy with my mother. But as we left home to settle in other places, we would come back to see the three of them looking after each other and I often wondered how my father accepted it. But as children, we couldn’t do for my father in his last days, what Mr. Patrick did.”
Can extramarital affairs be true love? Gina’s experience explains that. Doesn’t it?
5. A long extramarital affair can cause extreme pain
How long do extramarital affairs usually last? If we look at the average timeframe of an extramarital affair it does not go beyond a year and usually ends within that. When it’s that short-lived no one actually gets to know about it. But when an affair lasts beyond a year and goes on to linger for years it’s inevitable it won’t remain discreet.
Most often the affair is discovered by a spouse and even growing children start getting a whiff of it and they develop a sense of resentment toward the parent who is involved in the affair. The situation becomes even more complex because invariably in the case of affairs that last more than a year, there is a strong emotional attachment between the partners and snapping the chord isn’t easy.
A long extramarital affair becomes a constant bone of contention between spouses. If they continue in the marriage it’s like living with another person in between them and this causes extreme pain and mental trauma. Children often face barbs and taunts in peer groups when their parent’s affair becomes known. It becomes really hard for them to function socially.
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6. Successful extramarital affairs are rare
There are rare cases when an extramarital affair results in a marriage. When there is no future, why do some affairs last for years? The chances of this happening are strongest when the affair partners are genuinely in love with each other. Perhaps, they connect over some shared issues or interests and love blooms. Or an old romantic connection that didn’t get its moment in the sun gets revived.
This love keeps the partners gravitating back to each other even when they know that the relationship may not have a future. A friend of mine was in an affair with a married man for more than five years. She was single but he was married, wealthy, and had a lot of property. He finally decided to divorce his wife.
But they got locked in such a long battle over the divorce and couldn’t settle his wife’s demands for property share, which started having an impact on my friend’s relationship with the man. He couldn’t cope with his divorce.
She told me, “Till we were having the affair everything was hunky-dory. He visited my house and we took vacations together. But when his divorce battle started he got so stressed out that after a point we realized that was the only thing we were talking about. I stopped looking forward to a life with him because it felt so troublesome. Eventually, we broke up.”
Not everyone can be like Prince Charles and Camilla. So how do we look at successful extramarital affairs then? If the affair partners can get married eventually is it a success or if they can carry on a lifelong affair do we look at it as successful?
In that case, a successful extramarital affair becomes a subjective term and can only be decided according to the way the affair partners look at it.
7. It is mentally stressful
A lifelong extramarital affair comes with emotional bonding, love and inevitable expectations. In that case, a married person has to constantly maintain two relationships and that becomes really stressful after a point in time.
Do they have to constantly do a balancing act? If they are in love with someone else that means they lack that attachment with their spouse. So how do they conduct themselves physically and mentally with their spouse? Do they sleep in separate bedrooms or keep practicing mercy sex?
If they are continuing in the marriage and not walking out of it with their affair partner there must be some compulsions – that could be the children, not wanting to hurt their spouse or not wanting to break up the family.
So in that case how do they divide time between their affair partner and their family? When an affair is short-lived these factors don’t come into play but in the case of a long-term affair, things can become complicated and get really mentally taxing.
8. A lifelong extramarital affair can become complicated
As such an extramarital affair, no matter how short it is, can complicate your life. And the longer it goes on, the more complications could grow. For starters, it’s very hard to keep a long affair hidden no matter how hard you try. It’s inevitable a spouse would find out, and then, you have to tell your affair partner that it’s over.
But if you carry on with you continue with lies and deceit and at the same time try to rebuild trust with your spouse. Horribly complicated – isn’t it? On the other hand, if you want to stay honest and let them know that you want to continue the affair then, you have to deal with the pain of feeling cheated.
On the one hand, in a long relationship with an affair partner when there is an understanding that you are in it for the long haul then they would have expectations and demands that have to be met. If it’s an affair where both parties are married then there are chances of adult children interfering in the affair. On the whole, the scenario stands at becoming extremely complicated in the long run.
Shivanya says with counseling couples can gain fresh perspective and find a way to uncomplicate this equation. “A woman had come to me seeking counseling because her husband was having an affair with a coworker for over 5 years. Even though she was angry and hurting, through counseling she was able to see that her lack of interest in sex made her husband feel rejected, besides his sexual urges not being met.
“As a result, he had found solace in a coworker who was going through a divorce, and the two developed a strong emotional and physical connection. Neither of them wanted to give up on the marriage but their sexual needs were still not in sync. At the same time, the husband cared for both his wife and affair partner.
“With counseling, the wife gained acceptance for her husband’s affair, and they found a way to stay together by redefining the dynamics of their marriage, going from a traditional, monogamous union to an open relationship,” she explains.
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9. There could be a feeling of being stuck
A successful lifelong extramarital affair can be about having a great sex life and emotional bonding that transforms into love. You also deal with all the complications and the stress just to be together.
But sometimes people in such affairs get into a position where they might feel stuck. Just because a long time has passed they feel a certain obligation to carry on the affair but in their heart, they might want a way out because they are tired of dealing with the questions from the spouse.
The affair could become like a habit that they cannot do without or they are in it because they cannot imagine their affair partner with someone else. But in reality, they feel trapped and stuck and they are often left with the feeling that they lost too much to continue the affair. That’s not a good thing though.
Lifelong extramarital affairs have their pros and cons but we laid bare 9 truths about it that you must know. This becomes even more impertinent in the dynamic and disruptive times we’re living in. Shivanya concludes with these thoughts, “Monogamy has become an outdated concept, temptation is on our palms. Resetting expectations is the need of the hour. Expect your partner to be honest with you. Transparency is the new form of loyalty.” Accepting that makes dealing with transgressions easier, be it in the form of a long-term affair or a one-night stand.
It is rare but some extramarital affairs can last a lifetime. The extramarital affair of Hollywood stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy lasted for 27 years till Tracy died in 1967.
It is not possible to sustain long-term affairs if there is no love or emotional bonding that we also call emotional infidelity. People do fall in love when they are in long-term affairs.
When it comes to long-term affairs there is not only love and bonding there is also a sense of belonging, a habit of being together. The affair becomes a part and parcel of their life, something without which they feel a sense of emptiness. That’s why it’s so hard to end it.
Society was polygamous at one time but gradually to make things more organized and to make inheritance of property easier monogamy was advocated. But basically, human beings can be polygamous and love two people at the same time.
Affairs start when two people feel an attraction towards each other when they feel that the other person will be able to fulfill what is lacking in the marriage and when they are ready to cross the social boundaries to be with each other.