What percentage of extramarital affairs work out OK?

When I say “work out OK”, I mean that over the long run the positives outweigh the negatives.

Typically that would mean that it doesn’t wreck the participant’s marriage (unless that person was planning to end the marriage anyway), relationship with children and other family members, social standing, finances etc.

ISTM that over the long term, keeping an extramarital affair secret is extremely tough. There’s ample opportunities for the current spouse to find out about it, whether it’s unexplained absences and other changes in behavior, evidence in the form of text messages and emails etc., or other people observing things and passing on the info.

But beyond all that, ISTM that most extramarital relationships break up eventually. A pretty high percentage of marital relationships break up eventually, and the percentage of extramarital relationships that break up has to be a lot higher, what with the clandestine nature, the stress involved, and the relative weakness of the connection. And the thing is when relationships of any sort break up there are frequently hard feelings involved. And at that point, one or another party just might be inclined to spill the goods on the other (or possibly to blackmail them), or at a minimum to be careless about it.

In sum, ISTM that the chances of being exposed eventually are pretty high, and unless a person is in a position where such exposure will not negatively affect them, there’s a pretty good chance going in that it will not end well.

Of course, there’s always the fact that the ones which do end well are the ones you’re least likely to hear about. Nonetheless, my guess is that the ones which don’t work out OK are the vast majority.

Not sure what your actual definition of “work out OK” is - 100% of all relationships end eventually, if nothing else when one or all people involved dies, so if your definition of a relationship that doesn’t work out is one that ends, then the answer is ‘all of them, in all cases’. Does an affair that does damage but doesn’t end the marriage count, like Bill Clinton’s famous fun times? Also it’s not clear what counts as an “extramarital affair” - does someone deciding to one-off bang a hot partner when they’re away at a conference count, or does it need to be sustained or local? Does a marriage with tacit approval for extramarital affairs count, like what people often associate with the French? What about explicit approval, where the parties agree to an open relationship (though maybe one that’s secret to outsiders)?

You really need to define exactly what affairs you’re talking about and what consitutes working out OK. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people have one-off affairs of opportunity (or possibly a series of them) while they’re away from home and never get caught, for example, but I don’t know if that would count.

I would say zero. Healthy relationships are not built on deceit. If you feel the need to lie to your spouse, partner, etc. and step out on them, then you should be honest and just end the relationship with them. Monogamy isn’t for everyone, and those people shouldn’t enter into a marriage, monogamous relationship, then.

Come on, people, I thought he was fairly clear.

Presuming that “other family members” doesn’t include the betrayed partner, I’d say that a ‘successful extramarital affair’ is one that doesn’t drive the betrayed partner to divorce you and doesn’t result in her badmouthing you to others in a significant enough way to turn them against you. In other words the partner remains either unaware or quiet. The fact that you’re treating them like shit isn’t a disqualifying factor - it’s a perk!

I agree with you that almost all affairs fall apart eventually, whether they are discovered or not. The thrill of a new relationship ends eventually for all of us, and after you lose that thrill, trying to sneak around with an affair is a lot of work.
If you are smart, you will make sure that you don’t have an affair with someone who could destroy you professionally or humiliate you in your social circle - but of course there are a lot of stupid people in the world, so it happens anyway.
I believe statistically that it is fairly common that betrayed spouses do forgive the cheater after the affair is exposed. It’s definitely not inevitable that the marriage ends with discovery of an affair. However, I don’t think it is necessarily a GOOD thing if people in these situations stay married.

It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of people who cheat in a marriage are doing so because they are deeply unhappy with their marriage but have decided for some reason that they can’t leave (like being afraid they won’t get to see their kids if they divorce, or being afraid the spouse will take all the money if they divorce), so it’s not really a case where just because they didn’t get a divorce they are actually HAPPY together.

Personally, I think our society has it all wrong when we think that staying married at all costs is somehow a noble goal. When I hear about a couple who has been married 30, 40, 50+ years, I don’t automatically think of that as any sort of accomplishment. It IS impressive if I know the couple is actually happy together, but it seems to me like quite frequently these long-term married couples AREN’T happy together. They just don’t see leaving as a viable option for one reason or another.
Since Facebook came around and I started to notice how many people love to pretend like their marriage is perfect even while it is actually in shambles, I am VERY SKEPTICAL about how many couples out there are actually happy.

All of this is covered by the first sentence of the OP.

I’m not sure if it’s so much “stupid” as it is that the natural course of events is that many of these affairs arise between people with shared social or professional circles.

But even if it doesn’t, there’s a potential for long term hurt feelings and lack of trust.

Also, a lot of people who are alone are even more unhappy, and there’s no guarantee that if you leave your marriage you’ll find someone better.

People tend to take for granted things that they already have, and try to get a situation where they have all that plus some more. But that’s not always available. Nobody is perfect and no marriage is perfect, but it’s very possible to have a marriage where your spouse has issues that irritate you (and vice versa) but you can still be happy overall if you appreciate that in aggregate and compared to the likely alternatives you’re still better off with this person as your spouse. If you’re measuring your own marriage against some perfect storybook lifetime love story, then you’re unlikely to be happy about it.

So, P-F, how long have you considered seeing another woman?

Your personalization suggests something about your own history, I would guess.

If you would share your own story here, you might make a substantive contribution to the thread.

Yeah, that’s going to be the difficulty in gathering any kind of meaningful measurements on the subject - except maybe for cases of mistaken parentage that lie undiscovered until much later in the life of the offspring.

My gut feeling is that probably the ‘success’ rate of extramarital affairs is probably way below 50% - and is probably too low for people to comfortably bet on if the same odds were offered against a different stake and prize.

Yep, it amazes me that some people don’t think marriage is viable because, in their opinion, a lot of married people are unhappy. They fail to see that a lot of single people are also unhappy. The more realistic view, IMHO, is that a lot of people are unhappy, for a myriad of reasons, and being married or single won’t necessarily fix that.

I know of a case where the wife had an affair, divorced her husband and married the new guy. However it seems to be going well because they share the kids just fine, and now the ex husband has someone new.

Basically he came to realize she wasnt happy in the relationship and he was ok with that because he wasnt happy with it either. So in effect the affair and later divorce came as a kind of relief. Now both are free to go on with their lives and have moved on to other people.

So does that sound like a “worked out OK”?

I think a vast majority of long-running affairs get found out, or the spurned spouse is willfully turning a blind eye. In either case I don’t think it “turns out okay.” Something is wrong in the marriage for that to happen.

One-and-done moments of weakness where you learn your lesson and never do it again probably don’t get caught that often and “turn out okay”. I don’t know of any statistics on solitary one night stands though.

70% of marriages affected by affairs do not end in divorce. I still don’t think that’s “turning out ok”, it takes a heavy toll even if they stay together (and, I would argue, there are some cases where they shouldn’t stay together when they did).

I know it happens, but the stories of “the affair was the best thing that every happened to our marriage!” are completely baffling to me. But, it does happen, I suppose, I bet that is quite rare.