I’ve been reading a lot of information on affairs. Mostly because, well, I’m scared. I don’t know where my future is going. It can help to find out the statistics on how these situations have resolved themselves in the past. Not that every scenario or even this scenario will fit neatly into a type, but there can at least be hope or truth found.
What I’m finding mostly is that the data is lacking. The statistics are broad, and have wide margins of error. Even the most basic number, what percentage of marriages have affairs, ranges between 25 and 75 percent. A 50% swing in the range is so broad as to be almost useless – except to say “it happens”. I’m not sure how to get better data out of this. People are inherently fallible, and will hide their mistakes from interviewers. If many of their situations are like mine then they will be loath to admit it’s happening to themselves let alone a stranger. They are not that kind of person. Neither am I.
Then of course you have to ask, what is an affair? Is it purely about the sex? Is it any emotional connection with another? Is there a sliding scale? How do you know? I will tell you that I know at this point I’ve had an affair, but I could not tell you when it started. It was slow and gradual. There were many points along the way where, had it stopped, I’m not sure if it would’ve been classified as an affair. Even then I wouldn’t have recognized it until I was looking backward.
There are so many things though that I want to know. Generally about how they end. Is there any hope for me in either direction? How frequently do marriages rebound? How frequently, of those that end, do the two in the affair become a couple? Are they successful 5 or 10 years later? What are the age ranges of the people involved? Are there children? How do the children adjust? What other mitigating factors might be involved, such as length of time of the affair or length of friendship before the affair?
There are just so many questions, and it seems so few studies and answers. Instead I find myself getting responses from people stating that these things “never end well”, but with no real data to back it up. It’s mostly anecdotal or from broadly gathered or inferred statistics. I know the commentors don’t mean any harm. They are really trying to help, and I appreciate them immensely. It’s hard for me to really trust the advice of broad statements and no data.
Instead we rely mostly on our values or general societal assumptions. “Affairs are wrong. End it now. It won’t be good if you don’t.” We all can safely say that is the right answer at a high level. “Your children will suffer. Fix your marriage for them.” Yes that also makes a lot of sense. But how badly would they suffer? Would they not suffer from living their lives within a failing marriage too? What are the stats on that? What if four happy and healthy parents are better than two? What about at different income levels? We have no data on that. On nearly any of it at a granular level
This reminds me of a statistic someone told me about their pregnancy. They were told very confidently by their doctor that they needed to be induced because if they went any longer the risk of something bad doubled. Doesn’t matter what it was, I don’t want to debate that. Doubled, is the keyword here. The risk went from 0.01% to 0.02%. In fact that is doubling, but when you see the numbers then you realize that the risk is still so close to zero that there was actually no reason to be concerned. Most people don’t ask for the numbers. We follow the story.
I actually have an example of a close older family member who was having an affair for years. He was caught and kicked out of his house. He ended up living with his mistress and they eventually married. He’s really happy now. His children are coming around to her. It’s obvious when you look back at how unhappy he was, but in fact the affair led to marriage and happiness.
All this to say, I’m very unsure of my future. I don’t know what the right answer is. It is frustrating how little is known about this situation, and how strong everyone’s opinions are. Some days I think it might be better to be caught. Then I could just deal with it out in the open. Most of me however feels I should stop the affair and deal with my marriage first. I guess that is what I will do until further notice.