The very term ‘lifelong extramarital affairs’ could be rather intriguing. When it comes to extramarital affairs, aren’t we more prone to believing it as something that fizzles out as sporadically as it starts? Extramarital affairs – be it an emotional affair or a physical one – starts from a person’s need to find something that is not fulfilled in the marriage.
There is usually a pattern with 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.
It’s quite natural to wonder, “Can extramarital affairs be true love?” Well, there’s no one simple formula to determine the fate of every affair. However, to find your answer, you have to dig into the reasons that an affair started in the first place. Sometimes, a marriage can create a huge space between two people. Lack of appreciation from one’s spouse may compel them to reach out to a new mate to feel loved and attractive again. Sexual incompatibility is another powerful force driving people toward infidelity.
When an affair stems from a space of physical dissatisfaction, chances are it will meet its inevitable end with the spark slowly dying between the lovers. It’s only a matter of time before they realize a few fleeting moments of excitement are not worth giving up the bond they share with their spouse. That being said, if a person has entirely grown out of the marriage or fallen out of love with their partner, returning from an extramarital affair may not be an option for them.
When an affair survives the test of time, the consequences of extramarital affairs could be a divorce and remarriage. Some extramarital affairs transcend all the supposed timelines and last a lifetime. How does that happen? Why do some affairs last for years? Is it possible to sustain healthy long-term affairs when both parties are married?
Let’s deduce this 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.
Reasons why some affairs last for years
Why do some affairs last for years? What is the building block of such relationships especially for those long-term affairs when both parties are married? Well, you cannot deny the fact that an affair is like a breath of fresh air in the monotony of an age-old marriage. It’s more liberating, while a marriage becomes equivalent to duties and responsibilities. If you look into long-term affairs statistics, you will find out that the majority of the women get involved in extramarital affairs in search of emotional intimacy while for men, it’s an urge for physical adventures.
As an outsider, you and I can think that the lovers should come clean to their respective spouses and legally end the marriage to free them from the misery. But the real world doesn’t always run in black-and-white terms. There are socio-economic pressures and a person’s conscience coming in between their marriage and affair. A wholesome married life gives them a sense of stability to fall back on if the long-term affair ever fizzles out or one partner takes a step back from the relationship. So, sailing on two boats is the only choice left for many people out there.
Living under the same roof and dealing with a narcissistic spouse might result in successful extramarital affairs for obvious reasons. When the marriage is tearing a person into pieces (be it through verbal or physical abuse), the affair offers them a safe space to heal, helps them remain sane, and provides the dose of love and affection that is lacking in their relationship with their spouse. If these partnerships take shape into lifelong affairs over time, will it surprise you?
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. As a matter of fact, sometimes these affairs happen when both parties are married.
One of such famous successful extramarital affairs was that of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles which ultimately led to his divorce from Princess Diana. Charles married Camilla in 2005. While affairs that last over 5 years are rare and happy accidents, their relationship culminated in marriage despite the ups and downs and constant media hounding. 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 apart 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 falling head over heels in love with one another, cannot make the decision to walk out and get married by hurting their children and spouses.
Sometimes they are so entrenched and settled in their respective family lives that uprooting their families for the affair to culminate doesn’t seem to be a responsible choice. In a way, it paves the way for long-term affairs between two besotted souls who stand against the adversities to find a balance between the moral obligations of marriage and the emotional need of their hearts.
Shivanya shares one such example of lifelong extramarital 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 their bond.
“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. They 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
“Can extramarital affairs be true love?” you may ask. Of course, they can. The affairs turn into love, that is why they last 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 fully well he was married.
Tracy didn’t want to divorce his wife Louise because he was a Catholic. Hepburn mentioned in her autobiography that she was totally smitten by Tracy. Theirs was one of the most famous lifelong extramarital affairs in Hollywood but Tracy kept it a secret from his wife.
Their relationship could be termed as one of the most successful extramarital affairs as the couple displayed the 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 long-term 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 the woman 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 a 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
An extramarital affair would not have legal recognition, but since two people are in the relationship because they are in love, the bond is sometimes 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 that for my father in his last days, what Mr. Patrick did.”
Can extramarital affairs be true love? Gina’s experience makes the picture quite clear, doesn’t it? Now, whenever you find yourself questioning “Why do some affairs last for years?”, think of it this way: Just because these lifelong extramarital affairs are not socially accepted, doesn’t mean they lack the sense of responsibility and affection that two people share with each other in a happy marriage.
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 affairs that last over 5 years inevitably 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 cord isn’t easy.
Long-term affairs statistics state that 47% of the participants in a survey confessed their infidelity within a week, 26% within a month, and 25.7% after six months or longer. Out of these, 47% of people revealed their affair due to guilt while 23% of them got caught by their partners.
Lifelong extramarital affairs become a constant bone of contention between spouses. If it continues, 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 gets really hard for them to function socially.
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 connected over some shared issues or interests, and love bloomed. 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 a long battle over the divorce and couldn’t settle his wife’s demands for property share. It started having an impact on my friend’s relationship with the man as 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 it 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? Is it only when the affair partners get married eventually that you call it a success? Or if they can carry on a lifelong affair, we label 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
Lifelong extramarital affairs come with emotional bonding, love, and inevitable expectations. So, a married person has to maintain two relationships which 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 and lack attachment with their spouse, 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 with 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. 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 long-term affairs, things can become complicated and get mentally taxing.
8. A lifelong extramarital affair can become complicated
An extramarital affair, no matter how short it is, can complicate your life. And the longer it goes on, the more complications could develop. 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 your affair, continue with the lies and deceit, and at the same time try to rebuild trust with your spouse, the situation gets horribly complicated – doesn’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 cheater’s guilt and end your marriage in all probability. If it’s an affair where both parties are married, there are chances of adult children interfering as well. On the whole, the scenario could become extremely complicated in the long run.
When there is an understanding between you and your lover that you are in it for the long haul, they would naturally have some expectations and demands that have to be met, and so will your spouse. Shivanya says that in most lifelong extramarital affairs, couples can gain a fresh perspective with counseling 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, while his sexual urges were 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 of 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 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 pertinent in the dynamic and disruptive times we’re living in. Shivanya concludes with these thoughts, “Monogamy has become an outdated concept, temptation is in 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 and 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 polyamorous and love more than one person at the same time.
Affairs start when two people feel an attraction toward 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 social boundaries to be with each other.