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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

When the Affair is the Beginning


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An affair is not an uncommon start to a new relationship. What begins as an illicit dalliance becomes legitimized as marriages are ended and secrets are brought into the open. Affairs bring out strong emotions. For those (like myself) who have been betrayed, we are angry and devastated. For those experiencing the intensity of forbidden lust or love, they may feel the excitement of the newness, the guilt of the deception and the fear of being caught.

But sometimes it’s best to step back from the emotion and cast a rational eye on a situation. What really are the chances of a relationship that starts with an affair going the distance? What are some of the particular challenges that face relationships that begin with infidelity? So let’s set the emotion aside for a moment and examine issues that occur when an affair is the beginning:

Togetherness Negotiation is Delayed

One of the trickiest areas for a relationship to navigate is the expectations for the amount of time the couple will spend together and the amount of time that will be spent apart. In infidelity, like with a long-distance relationship, this negotiation is delayed due to external pressures limiting the time spent together. As a result, although the affair may have continued for some time, there may be incompatibility in this basic area.

An Unrealistic Picture of Sexual Chemistry is Developed

There is a connection between fear, novelty and sexual excitement. Affairs are risky, a new partner is unfamiliar and  the result can be sexually explosive. But when the newness is gone and the excitement has faded? You may find that the reason that your paramour isn’t really the reason for your newfound sexual awakening.

It’s Difficult to Trust a Liar

If your partner is married, you enter into the relationship knowing that he or she is able to maintain a life of deception. If you’re cheating, your lover knows the same about you. That’s a heavy load to carry. Building trust is always difficult and it becomes an even greater struggle when you know they are not always honest. After all, if he or she will cheat with you, who is to say they won’t cheat on you?

Lack of Support From Friends and Family

Recent research suggests that the strongest marriages begin with an inexpensive wedding filled with lots of guests. That’s because the community around the relationship helps to buttress the marriage, providing additional strength and support. But when the relationship is one born from infidelity, the support will be later and most likely, lesser.

The Relationship Timeline is Influenced by Outside Forces

The affair is artificially kept in the infancy of a relationship, unable to fully mature due to the limitations of secrecy. It may move too slowly at times only to be artificially accelerated when circumstances allow. Forward progress may be delayed while one or both partners attempt to extricate themselves from their marriage. The affair does not have the freedom to evolve on its own timeline; it is squeezed by the pressures which surround it.

Energy is Divided

It takes energy to build a new relationship. Lots of energy. And when some of that attention is still turned to a marriage, it leaves the new relationship starved for care and primed for the pursuer-distancer dance. When the affair partner is present, he or she is primary. Yet, due to the presence of another family, out of sight is often out of mind. And it’s difficult to build a future with someone who is still entrenched in their past.


It’s not impossible for a long-term, happy relationship to emerge from infidelity.

But it’s also not easy.


No relationship is a fairy tale.

No partner is perfect.

Every romance takes effort.

And running away doesn’t solve anything.

After all, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.







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9 thoughts on “When the Affair is the Beginning

  1. Interesting post, it does make one think and it really hits home as I was the one betrayed …but if her relationship doesn’t work out for the long term oh well it’s not my circus and not my monkeys. As I have moved on to something wonderful.

  2. “And it’s difficult to build a future with someone who is still entrenched in their past.” Nice. I enjoyed reading this very much.

    I suppose a corollary is that in any new relationship, no matter how hard we try, we still bring baggage from that which has past. The challenge is to keep it from manifesting into something that impacts the immediate and beyond.

  3. This is very true. My ex-wife let her relationship with the family slip. I believe she married the guy she was having an affair with, but I can’t see it working out. But who knows, maybe it will. Is it bad for my sake I hope it does?

    This is true even for those aren’t in a relationship too. When you’re trying to figure out which person you want to go out with on a dating site it is difficult to maintain enough focus for any one of them. Its good to try and get past it quickly.

  4. Good point, doesn’t make any of it easier, on either side of the situation. Divorce, I have learned, is one of the absolute worst things in the human existence. There are many many things that are far worse of course, but divorce is such a common place thing now that most seem to think that in marriage there is always an out, no matter what you feel or believe, there is always a way to give up if one so chooses to. I personally didn’t look at marriage that way, it was forever to me, no matter what, I never thought of there being an out either than death, even then I feel that’s not always an ending either. But, you cannot make another person feel or do something they do not want to, the option of giving up was always there for them, so they never really gave it their all. Just speaking from experience and the thoughts sparked from your post, great points! A damn shitty situation no which way you look at it, thankfully though, life does go on. Thanks for sharing! Have a great day!

  5. Surprised at this article Lisa, any relationship borne out of an affair is no good- would never entertain engaging with anyone married or extracting themselves from a marriage – dead/ dying or otherwise – too many red flags

    1. I am by no means endorsing infidelity. Been subjected to it and know the pain all too well. But I am often asked, both by those who have been left for another and by those doing doing the leaving, if the relationship that started with an affair will last. And some do. I know people who have been happily married to their former affair partner for 20 years. It doesn’t excuse the hurt that resulted from the beginning, but it does reflect more than a fling. And of course, many more that begin this way crash and burn.

      One thing that’s come out of all of this for me is that I try not to engage in black and white thinking. For example, in my first marriage, I would say, “I would never cheat.” In my second marriage, I say,”I never want to cheat and what do I need to do to make sure that happens?” I never have been unfaithful, but the second statement acknowledges that it could happen if I make poor choices. It emphasizes that those decisions start well before any physical contact or emotional intimacy has occurred. “Never” provides some false confidence that may ignore some of the precursors.

      Which brings me to your point that people that have been cheated on wouldn’t become the other man or woman. I don’t get it, but I see it happen. Usually with a hearty dose of rationalization why their situation is different and the spouse isn’t being hurt by this. Basically, they haven’t learned when they should have.

      Sorry for rambling:) Enjoy your Friday!

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