Extramarital and emotional affairs: how common are they in marriage?

Published: September 15, 2021
Updated: May 23, 2022
vector art of a woman leaving her husband

For people who opt to try for monogamy, it can sometimes be the case that things don’t work out and extramarital affairs just work their way into the relationship. There can be many reasons for why someone might look for a casual affair, but how common are they?

In this article we’ll discuss the different kinds of affairs that exist and what you should know about them, as well as how common affairs are and why people sometimes cheat on their partner. We’ll also give advice on what you can do if your partner has cheated on you.

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Different types of affairs

It is an unfortunate reality that people cheat when they claim to be in a committed relationship. But not all affairs are physical in nature in the first place, and can be complicated to sometimes address or even be aware of. Here are some different types

vector art of couple fighting

Possible reasons for cheating

There are sadly many reasons for why a partner might cheat, whether it is the first time or the 20th. Reasons include domestic violence and looking for comfort or relief in someone else’s arms, a way to build up self-esteem, or looking for thrills that aren’t in one’s love life. 

Even poor communication can create problems in a marriage, and often do. For you’re own well-being, and for the well-being of your relationship, make sure you first evaluate how your communication skills are between the two of you. 

Other reasons can be that an old flame re-enters your partners’ life, or a co-worker makes a move on your partner. Friends may also become sexual partners and it can also just happen unexpectedly at parties, bars, or clubs. 

The core is usually trouble between you and your partner that encourages them to look for physical or emotional bonding outside of your relationship. It may be because you deliberately pushed them away, or you have ignored them and their needs. 

Or, they did it deliberately and gave in to thrill-seeking and looking for sex at the first opportunity. Sometimes, people can betray another’s trust without any provocation. 

There is no one reason why someone cheats. Your situation may be similar to others but we cannot tell you the exact reason without knowing your relationship and the history you two have, much less who is involved. 

The best way to really find out the true reason for your partner cheating in your situation is to ask them directly. Communication is key, and being honest and open about what is going on is the best way to facilitate communication.  

vector art of couple during a fight while phone vibrates

How common are affairs in marriages?

According to the New York Times, about 15% of married women cheat on their spouse whereas 25% of married men cheat. This data correlates to the number of users who look for affair dating opportunities online, which tends to lean toward men being the larger user base.

Of course, not all affairs lead to divorce, and sometime these affairs can last for quite a while until either the partner feels guilty or they are found out. 

Affairs don’t always have to last long, and sometimes something good can come from the whole debacle, although it is a tough road to travel. A relationship can sometimes fix the problems that led to the affair in the first place when it is brought out and dealt with. 

Why women cheat more nowadays than in the past

Married women are now more than before involved in affairs thanks to their growing online presence, taking many of the positions men had in the workforce, and as they become more willing to step away from relationships that aren’t working for them. 

Older women especially can be involved in relationships, with young men dating them as a way to satisfy their libido while also getting something in return, be it something material, cash, or even career opportunities. 

Make no mistake though, this isn’t to say that women cheat more than men. Rather, it just means that they are currently cheating more than they used to be in the past. 

How to deal with a cheating partner having an extramarital relationship

One of the options that married people, or people in serious relationships, have is to try couples therapy. This is assuming that both couples are aware of the cheating, for example if someone was dating a married man and he decided to end it and confess to his wife. 

Married couples can also try to work through their issues together without couples therapy, but having a professional lend their expertise is the wiser move. It’s also good for both peoples’ mental health to proceed at a pace that isn’t trying to rush or force happiness

The alternative is obviously a break up of some sorts between you and your partner, unless you are okay with them having an affair with someone on the side as a sort of mistress. If you aren’t and the both of you don’t want to improve or change the situation, then divorce it is. 

That’s really the truth of it: either you stay together and make your relationship work again, or you don’t and you split up. 

Should you confess about cheating?

Yes, you should. If you are worried that your spouse or partner might break up with you, then it’s a fair thing to be worried about. There’s a good reason why you might hold off on confessing, either out of guilt, shame, or fear about what might happen. 

However, the answer remains the same. You owe it to yourself and to your partner to be honest with them about your affair partner and the nature of your affair. 

Conflict avoidance isn’t going to get you anywhere and it’s just going to make the pain all the worse when you actually do confess. Confessing is also the first step toward healing your relationship with your partner, no matter how painful it is. 

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Affairs in marriage FAQ

Whether you or your spouse are cheaters isn’t always clear, and requires examination with an honest and unbiased opinion. There may be a plethora of questions going through your head about your partners’ actions and what you should do. 

We feel that the truth for cheating is fairly straightforward: bring up the affair and discuss it, and discuss underlying reasons with both of you being open and honest. Then either take the necessary steps to keep your relationship going or break up, if it’s what is best. 

Nevertheless, we have provided you some answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about affairs in marriage here. 

Should I leave my primary relationship for the person I’m cheating with?

Sometimes, couples stay together after it has been found out that one of them was cheating and the relationship improves. Other times, the affair works out as a better relationship. There’s no one answer for this as it depends on your own personal situation. 
Unless you are in a situation where your spouse is abusing you physically or psychologically, we think that you at least owe them a chance to work things out before leaving them for your affair partner. However, everyone’s situation is different and so requires a different response. 

What needs to be done to fix a relationship after cheating occurs?

The prevalence of poor communication is one of the primary underlying issues that pushes a partner to cheat. It isn’t the only reason someone may cheat on their spouse, but it is often a core issue that needs to be addressed before tackling other problems. 
Improve your communication with your partner with honest and open dialogue first to take the first steps toward fixing your relationship.

How can I prevent an affair from happening?

As we have mentioned, work on maintaining a strong communication with your partner. Be interested in them and see that they are interested in you and your own life. Be honest about problems, no matter how small or big, and be willing to work out your issues. 
Pay attention to them and see that they do to you as well, and make an effort to keep the romance alive between the two of you. 
You can’t always stop an affair from happening, but if you see the warning signs these steps can help to at least put you two in the best possible situation to prevent it from coming to be.