Do Relationships From Affairs Really Last?


    7 Min Read


    Most of us would like a happy 'how did you meet' story for our relationship. Something like love at first sight, eyes meeting as you each reach for the same napkin, or a mutual love for Alpacas that brought you together.

    But when your relationship begins as an affair the story can feel tainted. In fact, the whole relationship can feel as though it exists under a cloud. Which begs the question - Do relationships from affairs last?


    All relationships face challenges. But when your relationship begins as an affair there are many additional hurdles.

    This can put a great deal of strain on a couple and lead to problems that the majority of people in relationships don’t have to face.

    So, whether a relationship from an affair lasts is dependent on many things and requires considerations that are outside of the norm.

    The Foundation Of A Relationship From An Affair

    Affairs start differently than most long-term, healthy relationships. They’re generally born out of dissatisfaction with one or both partner’s current relationship.


    Part of the appeal is that they’re forbidden, illicit, and overly romanticized.

    The other woman or man is seen as ideal, intriguing, and possibly mysterious. And they represent all the things that the person cheating feels their relationship with their spouse or partner is missing. Often it’s the lack of intimacy and/or absence of romance that are blamed initially.

    An affair addresses unfulfilled needs for a person - things that their current relationship isn’t providing.

    Those needs may be,

    • Emotional

    • Sexual

    • Spiritual

    or just a desire for fun.

    Whatever those unfulfilled needs may be, an affair offers an escape from the reality of the daily grind and responsibilities.

    This is where the problems begin.

    Whether it’s an emotional affair or a sexual one, relationships that start as affairs are not built on a strong and honest foundation. They are built on fantasy, deceit, and a desire to escape.

    For this reason, the partners involved in an affair don’t typically see one another clearly, or really even know each other very well until they have made the life altering decision to take things from affair to full-scale relationship.

    Once they do there are often unpleasant discoveries about compatibility, personal habits, even morality and belief systems.

    Add to that the fact that affairs don’t offer solutions to the problems a current relationship is facing.


    So, if two people make the decision to leave their respective relationships (or one person as the case may be) and take the affair to a more permanent and public stage, they will have only compounded the problems they were facing initially.

    The complications of leaving one relationship for another, especially if the initial relationship is a marriage, are tremendous.

    Divorcing may seem ideal in a daydream, but the reality is quite painful, particularly if there are children involved.

    So, the reality of a lasting relationship from an affair is far from certain. They just aren’t likely to have the right kind of foundation to sustain a healthy and happy relationship long-term.

    Family Acceptance Of The Affair And Resulting Relationship

    If, against the odds, a relationship from an affair has a strong enough foundation to create a happy relationship, there are still other issues that will be faced.

    One of the biggest is the acceptance by family and friends of the new situation.

    Cheating spouses are not generally well thought of.

    Even if the current relationship is fraught with issues, cheating on a marriage rarely receives understanding and approval from those close to the cheater. People may sympathize with the upset caused by a dysfunctional marriage, but no one would (or should) claim that having an affair is the answer to the problem.

    There’s also often a general disdain for a person who engages in a relationship with married person.

    They’re viewed as a homewrecker and with low moral standards. It’s a poor choice no matter how you slice it. And a choice likely made for the wrong reasons, like the appeal of someone who isn’t really available partly because it allows someone to avoid a true commitment and the responsibility of loving someone fully.


    So, if you’ve been having an affair that turns into a relationship it’s almost certain that acceptance of the two of you as a couple will be a challenge.

    In fact, there may be outright hostility directed at one or both of you. This kind of pushback and rejection can be very stressful on a relationship, which is another strike against a relationship from an affair lasting.

    Trust And Affairs – A Relationship Based On An Oxymoron

    Trust is one of the cornerstones of a strong relationship. Without trust there will always be problems.

    And from the moment a person makes a choice – yes, a choice – to have an affair they’ve shown they can’t be trusted.

    Claiming, “It just happened,” or “I didn’t mean to” doesn’t hold water, nor does blaming your partner and accusing them of pushing you into it. Those things are really just ways of avoiding taking responsibility for a choice made.

    Making the choice to break a commitment to someone else automatically brings trustworthiness into question.

    If you’re trying to establish a healthy relationship on the back of demonstrated broken trust, it will be an uphill battle. There will always be the nagging worry that it could happen again.

    Even if you feel like the match made through the affair is the “one” and your “soulmate,” trustworthiness will be questioned, and suspicions will arise anytime problems and stress in the relationship occur.

    The likelihood of either partner ever really trusting the other is slim. They’ll always wonder if it could happen again.


    It’s also likely that a feeling of shame and embarrassment will follow the couple whose relationship began as an affair.

    Answering the question, “How did you meet?” will never be a comfortable one. Even if you spin it to hide the fact that your relationship started through an affair, the fact that it will always be uncomfortable to be honest about the way your relationship began can erode an already shaky foundation.

    This isn’t to say that relationships that begin as affairs have absolutely no chance of lasting, but they do have a very steep uphill battle.

    The truth is that most marriages that began as affairs will end up in divorce.

    Whether it’s the,

    • Trust issues

    • Stress of being shunned by family and friends

    • The fact that you never really knew the other person

    or all of those things, making a relationship that started through cheating work is really hard.

    If, however, you’re certain that your situation is different you need to have your eyes wide open for these issues.

    You’ll also need to make concerted efforts to maintain strong communication and be prepared and open to seeing a couples counselor when needed. The obstacles facing a couple trying to make a relationship from an affair last will almost certainly need professional guidance at some point.

    Dr. Kurt works with couples daily who have been impacted by affairs. He had this to say when asked if relationships from an affair can last,

    You may be reading this as the partner of someone who is having an affair and want to know if it will last. The truth is affairs typically don't last. They all begin at the wrong time and place, and for the wrong reasons. As this article describes, the problems just compound from there. How long it takes for one or both people to realize this and do something about it is a whole other thing though. The drug of fantasy and escape can be pretty intoxicating. However, all romances come back to earth at some point and with affairs it's usually a crash landing. A word of warning to those who are in an affair and wanting it to last - the trust element is always a huge obstacle to overcome and typically acts like an acid slowly eating away at the relationship. I've worked with people 20 years later who are still struggling with it. So, don't fool yourself into believing it's not that big of a deal or that your situation is different."

    Conversely, if you’re having an affair and considering whether to make the kind of life changes needed to make it a permanent relationship, it would be wise to press the pause button first.

    Ensuring that you're actually in the right place to be fully engaged emotionally, legally, and financially in a new relationship will give you a greater chance at success than trying to force a relationship from an affair to last.

    And you may just find that taking some time to focus on the relationship you’re trying to escape will bring back the things you thought were missing in the first place.

    What To Take Away

    No matter how a relationship begins there will be ups and downs over the years. When a relationship begins as an affair those ups and downs will be amplified significantly.

    Keeping a relationship that started as an affair strong and healthy can require and additional layer of work because one of the primary cornerstones – trust – is already weaker than it should be.


    But it’s not impossible.

    If your current relationship started as an affair or you’re considering taking an affair to the next level, there are some serious considerations to keep in mind:

    • Affairs often exist as idealized relationships. They’re not subject to the same daily grind and family stress as a regular relationship. This can make them seem like relationship utopia. They’re not. A relationship that begins as an affair will be subject to the same problems as any other relationship at some point.

    • Acceptance of a relationship that began via cheating will always be dicey. Family and friends may take sides or distance themselves altogether.

    • No matter how much you think you trust one another, the fact that your relationship began by being untrustworthy will always be there creating complications.

    • Affairs are a symptom of problems in a current relationship, but they don’t necessarily mean the love in that relationship is gone. It’s not uncommon for those having affairs to regret their decisions and want to feel the love for their original partner again – sometimes months or years down the road. This can mean the relationship from the affair is built on a house of cards and could come crashing down at any point.

    If you believe the relationship that began as an affair is one you’d like to make permanent, your best bet for success it to focus on your current relationship and end it properly. This means really looking to see if the love is gone and never coming back, or just buried.

    The reality is relationships from affairs don’t generally last for the long haul. The deck is already stacked against them, and most people in them have unrealistic expectations about the staying power of the relationship.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published June 18, 2020, and has been updated again with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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