If you want to know how long affairs last, we must first establish what kind of affair it is. There are 3 different types of affairs.
- One night stands
- Allowed affairs (swinging, wife-swapping)
- Relationship affairs (the most common one we deal with, also known as limerence)
Limerence occurs when a person enters into a long-lasting affair characterized by a relationship and feeling “completely in love” with their affair partner. Limerence is discussed in more detail in other articles on the site (open this one and this one in new tabs for more information).
QUESTION: I’ve heard that the only thing that will end limerence is time. Is that correct?
ANSWER: Limerence actually ends in one of three ways. Time is a factor but not the direct cause.
- The two wind up together. After that, the fear aspect that makes the passion so strong begins to weaken. (As long as they are not really together – one is still married or something – there is continued fear underlying the limerence.) Therefore, if both are no longer married and they are living together, limerence begins to fade, and with that, the level of intense emotion begins to fade. They begin to lose the “halo effect” and start noticing the other’s flaws. They also may well begin to blame the lover for the things they lost – access to children, respect from people they care about, their marriage, etc.
- One of them moves on and no longer reciprocates the affections of the other. In the short-term, that dramatically increases the limerence in the one being abandoned. In the longer term, it fades limerence away.
- One of the limerents moves into a limerent state with another person. These folks will move through several relationships over the years, believing that each is the thing they’ve been looking for, only to find that it isn’t and then moving on to someone else.
So what do you do if your spouse is in limerence with someone else?
Remember that people leave what they have only when they believe what they are moving to is better.
When your spouse comes out of limerence, s/he will no longer think that being with the LO is the best place to be. Where will s/he go?
If your spouse sees you as the better place, s/he will very likely try to rekindle things with you.
Therefore, we suggest you always work on the PIES of attraction, always be strong and confident, be as tough as you need to be without being heartless, and demonstrate in many ways that YOU are the best thing for them.
If your spouse is involved in an affair, then the Affair Toolkit can help you navigate
- Exactly what happened that led to the affair
- How to act to your spouse to get your spouse to come back
- How to react to your spouse during conflict about affair
- and How to Rescue Your Marriage from the Affair