When a second marriage starts as an affair, is it possible to predict how it will turn out?
The answer is yes, we can, predict what most likely will be happening in the relationship about two years after the couple marries.
Why? Because the high, excited, close feelings during the affair are fueled by fires that are destined to flame out. What are these fires?
The Three Fires of an Affair
First, newness. Newness is exciting in many areas of life. A new house, a new car, a new job, a new toy, a new dress. A new person to have sex with. A new person to talk to, who generally listens closely because they’ve never talked intimately with that person before.
Second, the forbidden. An affair is forbidden territory according to our societal, religious and legal standards. The forbidden is a stimulant. And the thrill of getting away with it adds to it.
The third fire, if it’s the man who is married, is the knowledge by his affair partner that this is a man who makes commitments and sticks with them (to an extent). He stepped up and proposed to a woman and then followed through and married her. He has a family with her. He has a home with her. This is a worthy man.
Yes, his affair partner may think, why is he with me right now and not his wife? Well, it’s just that his wife has changed. She hasn’t grown along with him. She doesn’t want to have sex anymore.
Why Affairs Die
Why will these blazing fires die out?
Newness gets old with the passage of time. In a relationship generally two years is the end of newness. At that point the relationship is old hat. No stimulation from newness.
Once the affair relationship becomes public, either because of an intentional announcement or because of accidental discovery, it is not forbidden anymore. It is open, it is not a secret. No stimulation from the forbidden.
And once the man says he’s leaving his wife, he’s not worthy anymore. He is a man who will break his vows, end his commitments and throw loyalty to the side.
A Weak Foundation
Eventually these elements will conspire to end the marriage. Either one or both partners will find stimulation somewhere else. Or an outside factor, like financial problems, will bring it down. In a marriage built on a stronger foundation these problems might be weathered through. But an affair is a weak foundation because of the secrecy, guilt and lies that accompany it. Deceptively, it seems incredibly strong at the beginning and in the first two years of marriage because this very secrecy, forbidden nature and magical thinking form a bond between the new husband and wife. But a slight ill wind can blow it down.
There is another aspect to a relationship that starts as an affair that is a predictor to how the marriage will turn out.
Differences Between an Affair and Marriage
The second the couple marries the nature of the relationship changes.
This change-upon-marriage happens in relationships that don’t start as an affair. But because of the heightened nature of the setting and the emotions in an affair when the man and the woman first meet, the change-upon-marriage is more dramatic when it starts as an affair.
The man and the woman are almost always unequal when the affair starts. In the workplace, the most common place for a man and a woman to meet, it is the man who is the manager and the woman who is the salesperson. The man is the doctor, the woman is the nurse. The man is used to giving orders, the woman, if she wants to keep her job, is used to following them.
This is an encouragement to the start of an affair because men love to be admired and the woman will often sincerely or insincerely admire the accomplishments of the man.
It is also a fact that women generally seek to ‘marry up’. So this unequal status where the man is higher and the woman is lower is also an encouragement to the start of an affair.
Then they marry. It may take some time or it may be quicker than overnight that the woman doesn’t want to be an underling anymore. She wants to be on an equal footing. Naturally, this is in our culture and for most of America it is the ‘right’ way.
If she speaks up this can ruin the equilibrium of the relationship as unbalanced as it may be.
Thus from the start of the affair to the marriage of the couple and beyond, newness, being forbidden, worthiness and inequality are all going in the wrong direction in terms of the strength of the second marriage.