Affair Help: Do Affairs Save Marriages?

There are many articles that are similar to yesterday’s post Affairs Can Save a Marriage: Myth or Mendacity? that are extolling the virtues of having an affair and its positive effect on a relationship.

Providing some balance of reality, in the face of the deluge of articles all ready to buy into the ‘shocking new theory’, can feel like an uphill struggle. I wrote yesterday that I was likely to comment further, and comment further I will.

The Assertions

Ashley Madison

Whilst it is easy to dismiss Noel Biderman’s perspective that discreet affairs save marriages, simply because he is in the infidelity business and it supports his business model for his infidelity sites and his book, it is becoming an increasingly postulated idea.  People seem to be buying into it though. This is an excerpt from an interview with Biderman:

Biderman believes discreet affairs frequently SAVE marriages.

He added: “It’s a bold statement but I believe this reduction of divorces over the past decade is partly due to the amount of successful affairs that have been taking place.

“The perfect affair has two key ingredients — meeting someone and not getting caught.“I would venture to say that infidelity sites like our own have greatly increased the number of successful affairs and as a result the number of people who have stayed within their marriage.”

A recent survey revealed that 88 per cent of men and 91 per cent of women who have an affair claim to do so in order to save their marriage.

Whilst I don’t doubt the results of the survey cited, it would be absurd to simply accept the responses from this membership as either objective, ethical, or entirely honest with themselves or others. This is a community of people who are deliberate in their attempts to cheat while benefiting from the security, finances, family, and lifestyle that their relationship provides. They are so deliberate about it, that they pay for it.

These excuses, rationalizations and justifications are nothing more than moral licensing, “I am betraying my relationship for its greater good“.

It would be more accurate to say, I am betraying my relationship because I want to have sex with someone else, and do it secretly so I don’t lose my home, my spouse, or my lifestyle. I tell myself it’s for the greater good so I don’t have to face what this says about who I am.

The Books

Authors like sociologist Catherine Hakim support the idea of ‘Playfairs’ and argue that the Geisha traditions support the idea that affairs are not damaging, on the proviso that they are not ever discovered.

Mira Kirshenbaum, author of When Good People Have Affairs, similarly supports that an affair should never be confessed, but that an affair could help a marriage.

Even Anne Bercht’s book “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” makes the suggestion in the title that an affair is a good thing. All of this is a marketing ploy. Anne Bercht explains her process in choosing the title for her book, and it was marketing strategy that settled on the title.

Behind the Tag-Lines

The infidelity industry is thriving and profitable, whether you intend to cash in by cornering a niche market like Biderman, charge fees for couples’ therapy, or profit from sharing your own insights and support from your personal experiences.

I’ve said it before and make no apology for repeating it: Affairs. Don’t. Save. Marriages. I offer you that insight, completely free.

Let’s be brutal here and remove all the warm and fuzzy words: Once an affair has hit your relationship, what it once was is already dead. There is no “saving” it.

If you choose to remain part of the couple, there is only one thing that is available to you and that is to develop a new, different relationship. What was once your relationship is no more. A new relationship has to replace the old. Trying to resuscitate the idealized or nostalgic notion of what the old relationship was is a fool’s errand.

Affairs lead to better marriages like heart attacks lead to healthier lifestyles. They can be great motivators for change, if you survive the damage. But they are best avoided, since neither survival or positive change are guaranteed outcomes.

~ Tim Tedder

People Save Relationships, Not Affairs

In the context of this post, I prefer the term ‘People Renegotiate Relationships‘. In order for a couple to successfully survive and continue as a couple following infidelity, it requires a great deal of resilience, strength, compromise, and effort.

From the betrayed partner’s perspective, the affair ripped through their view and understanding of what their relationship was like a tsunami, leaving mass devastation behind. After a tsunami, you don’t ‘save’ what is already destroyed - you rebuild. That’s exactly what has to happen in the relationship for the couple to survive.

Both parties get to evaluate what went wrong, why one (or both) chose to go outside the relationship, what changes need to be made in the interpersonal dynamic, what personal changes are necessary to address whatever internal issues are contributing to the choice to have an affair. Often couples seek help from relationship counselors or their religious leaders.

Both parties undergo personal change, and there is often more independence, less ‘coupledom’, and (without a doubt) a total negation of the concept of unconditional trust. The balance of power shifts and settles. What results is not the same relationship. That relationship most certainly has not been ‘saved’.

Risky Business

Rational thought and honest evaluation of the truth of affair justifications aside, the divorce rates resulting from infidelity should be sufficient to illustrate that as a strategy, having an affair to ‘save your relationship’ is a risky bet.

It doesn’t take a genius mathematician to understand that with long odds comes high risk. Figures approximate that roughly 50% of marriages end due to adultery. Clearly this is not an absolute number, and it by nature discounts the number of non-marital relationships that end due to infidelity.

The assertion that affairs save marriages seems to discount a major obstacle to that theory - that of the betrayed partner.

Not all betrayed partners are rushing to counseling, forums, support groups, or church to find the answer to how they can ‘save their relationship’. There is a whole slew of people who, whilst devastated, simply consider an affair as a marker for the end of the relationship.

*Gasp*, *shock* Not every cheater is a prize to be fought for. Not everyone wants their marriage or relationship back. The discovery of an affair for many is the reason to leave, without a backwards glance.

Not all betrayed partners are the stereotypical caricature of the pathetic neediness of a cuckold clinging to their relationship, begging, grasping, and pleading for a second chance. Some, *gasp*, don’t buy into the justifications, some don’t subscribe to the idea of forgiveness, *shock*, and some actually see that their cheating partner is flawed.

People stay in relationships for their own reasons. Betrayed partners often stay because it suits their own personal position and goals, whilst maintaining their understanding of the reality their partner’s affair brought to the relationship. It would be both inaccurate and foolish to suggest otherwise.

Betrayed partners have 50% of the say in whether a relationship continues. 50% of marriages end in divorce due to an affair.

If you choose to continue to believe that ‘affairs save marriages’, at least acknowledge that half the time, you’re dead wrong.


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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