Can a Relationship That Starts Out as an Affair Succeed?


Some couples are blessed with eternal happiness and an amazing relationship that gets stronger day by day, year by year. But others are just not so lucky, for any of hundreds of possible reasons.

Even though their relationship can start out great, they slowly start arguing and often grow apart until they’re downright miserable being together. Counseling can frequently help them mend their differences, but sometimes even that fails. Yet they stay together in an unhappy relationship because no one wants to think about break up and divorce; because to many, that means they’ve failed.

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Often times, these unhappy people meet other unhappy people in a similar situation, and start an extramarital relationship, a.k.a. an affair. And no, it’s not always just about sex. Many times, an affair serves to fill an empty emotional void.

This new relationship can seem stronger and happier than the current marriage either partner is trying to escape. But, with the extreme stress and social pressure they’ll both face, can a relationship that starts out as an affair succeed and end up as a happy, long term relationship?

Today’s question is from a lady in Australia facing this very real issue.

Dear Dan and Jennifer,

OK, I’ll prepare myself for an onslaught of hatred…. it’ll just mirror reality anyway. Two years ago I fell in love with a married man and the feelings were mutual. He had not loved his wife for many years – he had been feeling depressed and decided that was “his lot” in life.

We have tried a few times over the past two years to end things with each other, but we can’t. We feel – maybe as every affair couple does – that we are meant to be together. He has decided he cannot keep living a lie, and is making the first moves to move out. No, he is not going to tell her about me because it would make things even harder than they already will be (they have a 10 year old daughter). He has told her that he does not love her and wants to leave. She is resisting that, and is trying to do whatever she can to encourage him to stay. But he’s determined to leave, and eventually we will make our relationship public.

My question is, knowing that the statistics are poor for couples who get together as a result of an affair, what are the pitfalls we should be aware of, and how do we get through them. We want to be together forever. We know this is not ideal. But can you please offer some advice?

— Ria in Australia


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