A Look At Affairs When Both Parties Are Married

affairs when both parties are married

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

There are many different kinds of affairs. They include one-night stands, flings, emotional affairs, affairs that never go beyond some flirty texting and/or talking, affairs where one person is married, and affairs when both parties are married.


The first thing I want to say is that having affair is a horrible thing to do, but having an affair does not make someone a horrible person.I have learned over the years not to judge without having all the facts. That said, having an affair, especially affairs when both parties are married always always hurts someone, and for that, I wish more people would think more and take more accountability if they decide to cheat.

I can’t count the number of people who have an affair and then don’t have the self-awareness to say, “Hmm…I hurt my spouse deeply and now I owe him or her an apology.” Instead, they think, ‘The marriage was over anyhow’ or ‘I didn’t really think he or she would even care. He/She never even looks at me anyhow’ or the worst one, ‘It just happened. What can I say?’


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Say you’re sorry! No matter how ugly the divorce is, sit down and tell the spouse you cheated on that you are sorry you hurt them in that way. You don’t have to say you are sorry you cheated (especially if you aren’t) but imagine how much good you would do to just apologize for the pain, for the embarrassment, for turning your spouse’s life upside down–even if there are feelings of resentment for lots and lots of other things.


The idea for this article came from a guy who wrote to me that he got divorced because he had an affair. The woman he had the affair with was also married and both couples have children.


The guy wrote that his affair was exposed when the woman’s husband found out. So, basically they got caught. He ended up getting divorced—I think both he and his wife wanted that, but the woman’s husband begged her to try to work it out. Since then, she has gone back to the affair once– for a couple weeks and subsequently broke it off again. Now this guy wants to know if he should wait for her.


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Here are my thoughts. The woman’s husband found out about the affair initially. What that says to me is that the couple was not willing to come forward and end their marriages. Maybe not enough time had gone by and one or both weren’t ready. Or, maybe they just weren’t sure how to do it, or couldn’t get up the courage to do it. Or maybe this woman never had an intention of getting divorced.


After the couple was caught, the guy and his wife proceeded with the divorce. To me, that means he wasn’t happy in the marriage regardless of the affair.

People who are happy in their marriages don’t cheat. No matter what. They don’t have to. They don’t want to. Their needs are being met.

Not the case with this guy.

As far as the woman giving her marriage another try, that says a lot, too. She has now gone back to the husband twice. She has chosen the husband over the affair twice. She seems extremely confused. Therapy would be a good option for her.


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My gut says that the woman’s marriage will ultimately end, not necessarily for the guy she had the affair with (although that could happen) but because you don’t walk away twice if you really want the marriage to work. Just my opinion.


As for the guy, I truly don’t think he had the affair because he fell madly in love with this woman, but rather that he was lonely in some way and his needs were not being met in his marriage. He used the affair to try to get happy, when obviously something is making him unhappy, which could have something to do with his marriage or it could be other factors.


I think this guy owes it to himself to really take some time to think and not really focus on whether or not the woman comes back. He needs to let her figure out her life and what she really wants and time has to go by for both of them to do that. I know that isn’t easy.


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But, I think he would be making a big mistake if he continues the affair. I think that it will only hurt him for two reasons: one because the woman is cheating still and won’t leave the husband, but also he is contributing to the pain the husband had and will have more of once he finds out the cheating is going on again. The guy needs to take the attitude that he deserves more in a romantic relationship than a woman with a husband and kids who is going behind her family’s back.


As I said at the beginning of this article, I don’t think people who have affairs when both parties are married are bad people. Rather they are confused people who made a bad choice in handling a not-so-ideal marriage situation.

People who have affairs  when both parties are married are so wrapped up in the excitement, the energy, the sparks and the feeling of being so happy and fulfilled, that their mind is clouded. Often times, they are so in it, that they can’t see the hurt they are causing someone they promised to love forever or they rationalize that this is the best thing right now.


I can speak firsthand about being cheated on. Not in my marriage, but in a very serious long-term relationship several years ago. It is the worst feeling in the world. It makes you feel dirty –not just because you think you might now have an STD, but just kind of gross to think that the guy who you get naked with and are so vulnerable with went behind your back and got naked and vulnerable with someone else.



It also makes you feel stupid that you didn’t see it, and mad at yourself for not seeing it. And, it makes you feel very embarrassed that other people probably knew.


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All those reasons go back to my saying that the cheater should apologize for the cheating, no matter what else and what other resentments are present in the relationship. Apologizing for cheating is showing your partner respect. It’s also something that makes a cheatee feel sane and/or validated, like you actually have a chance of letting go of the intense anger over the situation. That at least the cheater cared enough to acknowledge that the situation deeply hurt you.


The bottom line is, all affairs (including affairs when both parties are married) are complicated and they rarely end well. I’m not going to say that none of them work out, but for the most part they don’t, I think because the relationship began with lies and cheating and deceit and hurting others. And maybe the guilt gets to people, creating new resentment and of course, lack of self-love (which will ruin any romantic relationship.)

Additionally, how can you begin a new serious relationship when you aren’t out of an old one? Doesn’t it take months, sometimes longer to even figure out your role in why it didn’t work? Isn’t there something to be said for waiting until you work on yourself to get serious with someone else?


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I didn’t write this article to berate or judge people who have affairs when both partners are married, but maybe some of what I wrote will make them think a little bit. Almost always, everyone loses in an affair, whether it is a meaningless one-night stand or even a short emotional affair via Facebook messaging. Even if the affair turns into a love that you call “the love of my life,” it isn’t pretty. Why? Because what is supposed to be the beauty of true love will always have a stain on it with someone else’s pain.

Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    12 Responses to “A Look At Affairs When Both Parties Are Married”

    1. Keith

      Okay here goes…I’ve been married for 31yrs. My wife and I have two beautiful and now grown kids, f29 & m26. She runs her own business out of our home and has for 26yrs. She has always filed our personal taxes and her business taxes together. I know nothing about taxes other what can be entered on an EZ form. She told me years ago how many dependents to claim. I have recently figured out several things. 1) dependents for tax purposes are no longer viewed or work the same way with the filing of taxes. 2) she always told me to claim many (6 or more) dependents because she wanted my tax over-payment to be her refund as she would write off enough with her business to claim a loss. The refund for many years went towards credit cards but the balance never really went down. For a few years I never saw the $3-5k refund. (yes this one is partially, okay mostly, about money) She opened a separate bank account with the reason of it being a “Christmas fund” for the kids. I was the one paying the bills. Her deposits to our account were always sporadic. Imagine paying bills when half of what you need to pay bills is never available on a regular basis. My deposits were direct deposit. Hers were in a drawer in the house for weeks at a time. One day I was at work and wanted to buy myself lunch. I went to the bank to get the lowest amount out of the ATM possible, $20. The account would be overdrawn if I followed through with my withdrawal. I didn’t eat that day. I also figured out she was depositing just enough to pay half the bills and sometimes less. After countless conversations asking her to make timely deposits, I was done. From that point on my direct deposits went to a bank account I opened separately. After that first deposit I took all the bills to her and told her because of her lack of insuring she made timely deposits, she could pay the bills. I told her I would make deposits to the joint account like she did, when I felt like making a deposit. Since I had paid the bills, I knew how much constituted half. I deposited more than half and still do. She uses my extra to pay on her credit cards of which I’m a co-applicant. I haven’t used her cards in 10 years. She still can’t stop charging. She still hasn’t filed taxes for 2015 or 2016. Needless to say we grew apart. We had a dog that passed away. We were discussing replacing with another large dog. I’m not a small dog person. She brought in a small dog that she had asked me about and I kept telling her that a small dog was not what we were discussing. She wanted it to sleep in the bed with us. I told her if she couldn’t sleep without it in our bed that she could sleep in another bedroom. She chose the dog over me. We haven’t slept together in 10 years. No sex or romance in 10 years. I was faithful until I couldn’t go on. I met a woman at work last year. She was in almost the same situation with sex as I, only 8 years without romance in her marriage. We were great together and had a lot of fun. Without making this story even longer, our affair ended. I do feel guilty about it. I have admitted to my parents and sister and her husband about my affair. My parents and sister know I haven’t been happy for years. I also told them I am filing for divorce. I WILL tell my wife and my kids of my affair after the divorce is final. I don’t want it to be the focus of my divorce as it is not the cause only the incident that made me realize the love, companionship and fun I have been missing from a loving and caring relationship. We did try therapy a few years ago for a separate issue involving our kids but when it was my turn to meet with the therapist alone, I caught him napping while I was telling MY story. I won’t try therapy again. I will eventually be okay. I will lose half of my retirement and my portion of equity in the house, roughly $155k, but to get away from the loneliness of being in a loveless, roommate of a marriage it will be worth it. Am I nuts here or is my whole situation nuts? I’ve allowed it to continue so long I could kick myself for not getting out earlier. Help me Jackie! What am I missing?

    2. Chris

      Interesting read and I understand where you are coming from. Curious on your thoughts of my situation.

      My married affair partner (AP) has the full support and encouragement of her husband to have a friend that helps with her sexual needs. She shares with her husband where she is going when we spend the night together.

      As for me, my wife has some medical issues that make sex not possible. We had some rather heated conversations that resulted in her telling me to find a friend for that. She made it very clear that (in her opinion) men have been doing this for years and that I should discreetly take care of my business.

      For both my AP & me we take care of each other’s needs. I would prefer to be more transparent with my wife but based on questions not asked it is clear to me she doesn’t want to know about all of my unaccounted time. While the rest of my marriage is good the lack of sex was a problem that had me counting the days until my youngest was off to college. My AP and our time together has saved my marriage.

      it is not clear to me who is getting hurt in this affair. My AP and her husband discuss it directly and they are both the happier for it. I am clearly happy with the situation and not having to leave my wife and family to have a sex life. And my wife appears happier in our relationship and clearly does not miss the friction from my expectation of wifely duties.

      So if both our spouses told us to do it does that make it not an affair or just an affair without cheating? We are a year into it without guilt and appear to be an exception to the rule.



      • Jackie Pilossoph

        Such a unique situation! Seems to be working for everyone so why not? But, let me ask you this. Why did you choose to comment about it on the site? Do you have some guilt? issues with it? It’s OK if you do or if you don’t. I am not judging you at all, but could you be judging yourself? I think the key to keeping this all going and everyone happy is to just keep being transparent and open and honest and make sure no one is hurting from this. I wish you all the best. The bottom line is, we all just want to be happy, and if this is working, then that’s good.

      • John

        Interesting. I’ve had similar “arrangement” but in the long run, it did not work out. I wanted my affair partner to commit to divorcing her husband (I wanted out of my marriage) but AP would not commit and I did not want to up and divorce my wife and left in the cold, so to speak.
        In addition, I was in love with my AP but for her the relationship was purely sexual. After in that arrangement for many years (10+) I was burned out and grossly unhappy.

    3. Kris

      I have been with my husband for about 15 years now and married 9 . Shortly after we got married he started having ed problems and he never got any help or wanted to. I stayed loyal to him and we had a lot of distractions and we were just roommates in my opinion. Now that I have been waiting I walked in on him playing with himself and not even asking me if I was interested since he said that he had tried on 4 separate occasions but I turned him down and I have no recollection of one time he was wanting me to. We have been having problems for years now I have moved out and I guess I was starting a emotional relationship with a friend without knowing it was that and he messaged me 3 days after he kicked his spouse out and was asking how I am and we just texted and he was wanting to give me a recliner so I went over there and I knew it was not really about the recliner and I spent the night and we had sex. The next day he had to go to work out of town and came back the following week and we spent another night at and then he cooked us dinner on Sunday and I only spent a night but we just spent the last weekend together couple hours on Thursday night and he spent the night with me Friday night and then we got back together Saturday night and I spent the night with him. He is talking to his spouse and figuring out that issue and I have been talking to my husband and we have said that we are going to be just friends with each other for now and I have no idea what I want but I am not attracted to my husband sexual anymore and I am not sure if I should continue with the divorce or not.

    4. Lynn C.

      Hi, I’m just kinda curious, wondering if anyone else has this situation.
      I’ve known my husband since I was 18. We were friends and coworkers for a very long time. I introduced him to his second wife, love his first wife dearly (why wouldn’t I ? She’s the mother of my stepchildren?). After 25 years of friendship and failed relationships, we decided to get married. Mostly because I wanted a baby. It has been lovely, a few struggles, but we are never, ever going to leave each other. Sex was not very consistent (although we did have our son!!!). Once our son was born 21 years ago, my husband became a “germaphobe”. You think about that. Even when he holds my hand, he uses hand sanitizer afterwards. We are both professional business people, he retired 2 years ago. I’m a bit younger and still work. My office is at home. I took care of his mom, his aunt who moved in with us ( I had 8 hours notice- really) in 2007. sorry. Got off track.
      Anyway. About 2 years ago, I started loosing weight from a diet and life change decision. I’m now 58 and look 15 years younger. I asked, NO begged my husband if he wanted to have sex with me. We get along perfectly in every other way. I will never ever leave him.
      So. I’ve been in a relationship with my best friend for the past 4 months, I don’t feel guilty at all, I think our spouses know but they just don’t care. My husband actually is glad when my “friend” wants to take me somewhere (“can you take me to get the Van back from the dealership?”).
      Ugh. If I HAVE to.. Maybe ~~~~’ can take you.
      His wife is fairly the same way. It’s like they know, but they don’t care. And we were lonely- but we aren’t going to leave our spouses.
      I don’t know. This just can’t be normal.
      I keep thinking that it won’t end well, but I’m not so sure. This is crazy. But 2 sexless marriages ( oh, and I like her).
      Neither of us want to leave our marriages ( did I mention we’re neighbors?)
      I really don’t know why I’m typing all of this. It’s crazy. We aren’t in love, but we see each other nearly every day, we are creative people and I help him with designs in his studio.
      After all this history with our spouses…plus our new one year friendship (3 1/2 months fooling around) our spouses are happy that we are finally nice to them.
      Has this ever happened before?
      Oh, and before you wonder ” what will happen when they find out” – we already think the wife knows and doesn’t mind ( really!?).
      I’m kinda certain mine knows. Not sure he’d care. My son is the one I worry about. But he’s 21 now.
      I don’t know. But before this all happened, I was stuck in Groundhog Day.
      Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest for a moment.

    5. Sara

      Lynn C, I don’t think its that thy don’t care, they actually do but do not know WHAT to do and may feel like they are on the losing end, so they give in, comply for the same of harmony. I was there in that situation for many years. My husband had an affair partner for many years. She was also married. I loved my husband immensely but me alone was not enough for him, It was purely sexual the affair but at one point he was madly in love with her. They knew each other for years and i knew her well too. It pained my heart immensely. We talked. We argued. Eventually, i realize he was going to keep seeing his affair partner no matter what. I once incidentally came across his love letters to her… almost begging her to leave her husband. She basically told him to wait til the time is.was right. I was hurt in a way that I could not explain BUT he thought I was okay with i t. I was never.
      After several years for the sake of my sanity and health, I filed for a divorce. He did not want me to go. which i thought was odd. After 2 years of our divorcing, his affair partner moved on with her life and broke it off.. Well, she found someone else to satisfy her sexual urges. I really do not know!!!! My husband recently told me he regretted it and asked if there is every a space in my heart… I could never go there ever again.
      I was burnt out. I was deceived. I gave up and gave in and he saw it as me being okay. To all you who wrote, don’t ever think for a moment that the other spouse is okay with thiese type of affair – usually we just don’t know what to do and our silence is seen as an acceptance. I wish you all the best,

    6. Deanna Kunkel

      Ok I’m going to take exception with your comment that people cheat because something is missing in the marriage and their needs aren’t being met. The reality is people cheat because they lack character, integrity, and are selfish. I’m really tired of people blaming the marriage or blaming the spouse for the behavior of the person who is cheating. You need to read more research on this, I recommend Dr Weiss before you start excusing cheating as a problem in the marriage. Yes their is a problem in the marriage and one partners needs most assuredly are not being met. The problem is the cheater and their selfishness and the person being cheated on isn’t getting their needs for honestly, faithfulness, and a partner they can trust being met. Usually you are spot on with your columns but you really missed the mark here.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I agree with you! I should have put in the article that a cheater is taking the cowardly and selfish way out. Trust me, I am not sticking up for cheaters. You have a great point!

    7. Lola

      well I feel guilt 100% not against my ex funnily enough but against my affair partners. I was coming out of a marriage , my ex had been cheating and we both had agreed we were at the end, but were waiting until he was able to move out and I started seeing someone who I worked with, I was 31, he was 49 so big difference, my kids were 9 & 11 and his were adults, one of whom I also worked with. I had been with my ex since 18 and didn’t know any different and how other men could be, this man seemed to me the perfect gentleman , oh my he had the car, the houses, the money and worked away from home A LOT (including valentines day night, my birthday , etc etc) we spoke when we could, we messaged a lot and we both told each other we loved each other, but yet throughout the whole year we were ‘together’ he never said he would leave his wife, I was already out of my relationship and I would cry to him and tell him I wanted to be with him, but he blamed his age and said I wouldn’t want him, although I felt I really would. It went on and on with me being there and making myself available whenever he could get away and waiting for a whole year for every single moment I could hear from him, I can honestly say looking back I was an idiot! I would be jealous of his wife, he would go away on romantic holidays with her and I would be waiting for a text-he once took me for a night to Reading holiday inn! lucky old me I thought. Id cry every time our time was up and would feel so lonely and in love and sick and hopeful and would break it off with him, only to message him back a day or so later and say I was sorry. in this whole time I never once felt sorry for his family or wife, I was selfish and self absorbed and it was only when I met someone while out one day and I felt a strange connection that I finally thought this is over and I wanted to see what this was I felt for the other man who luck would have it was single. The affair partner made me feel awful about this even though I was honest and would tell me I was being selfish and he missed me etc, but I am very lucky that over the coming weeks the connection with the single man became a lot more and I started to realise I could feel this way if not more about someone else and so never went back. we now don’t speak as I tried meeting up with him after at his request but when it became clear to him I wouldn’t go back there, he become disinterested. Now I feel the guilt everyday all the time, I am now in a relationship and have been for two years with mr single and I love him to pieces proper love, but I am always going to be looking over his shoulder and I have trust issues as I know what people including me are capable of. Recently a friend of mine came to me and told me she was having an affair and I nearly screamed at her, but I am hopeful after some discussions she is going to end things because no good can come of it, I know that now and feel ashamed and sorry and have never regretted something more in my life, the only person I have hurt I think is myself and I have lost a whole year of life because of it, honestly throughout that year no one or nothing else mattered but him. my advice to anyone who is thinking of having an affair or is in one now just stop it, either leave the other person, make them leave the other person or walk away, nothing is worth the pain or the aftermath.

    8. Terry

      We had problems in our marriage over the years,but we stayed together,we left the uk to move to Spain,for her Arthiritis problem,and to gig our music duo and myself solo,she still had her job p/t.we had a tough 5 months selling and moving out and buying this place whilst still doing our jobs,gigs and busy life.
      We got here to lots of red tape,language problem,and simply transitioning to a new life.
      Within 3& 1/2 months,she started an affair,he dumped her 3/4 times,I actually started seeing someone,but now for financial reasons,we are cohabiting,I cooled off my relationship,she says it’s over,and wants to live as a single person,but would jump if he ever wanted. Her back,I’m sure she has MLC as all the signs are there.a friend at the weekend spotted a lovey dovey post her AP put up,with his G/F he was cheating on to see my Wife !! I was told by our friend my wife was crestfallen,given a choice,I would sooner we our relationship another chance,as the upheaval and heartache as far as I’m concerned,just wasn’t worth throwing away a 24 year old relationship,our home our assets our music al life,I certainly have learned from all this in the past year,and certainly wouldn’t make the same mistakes again,but she isn’t at that point yet,don’t know if she ever will.

    9. Shaun Peterson

      I really hate the “my needs weren’t being met” argument, because it implies the faithful spouse consciously chose to not meet their needs. What in reality usually happens is the cheating partner isn’t even communicating their needs or doesn’t even realize they had those needs until they cheated. Affairs make a marriage bad. Bad marriages don’t create affairs. It’s just not true on any level.


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