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Second Marriages From Affairs: Do they Actually Succeed?

Do second marriages from affairs work? You might wonder if it’s better to leave your wife, who you’re currently unhappy with, for your current paramour. After all, you’re happier with the latter—surely a second marriage with her will be better than the one you’re in now, right?

Unfortunately, that may not be the case. While you’re swept up in your feelings for your paramour, you got rose-colored glasses on, blinding you from the harsh reality of what’s to come. And it’s harsh indeed if the numbers are to be believed.

This article looks into what science knows about affairs, second marriages that stem from these affairs, their chances of success, and other bits you need to know before making a critical life decision.

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Successful Relationships from Affairs – Does it Work?

First off, affairs aren’t rare; they’re so commonplace that many apps and sites cater to hookups and the beginnings of affairs. The infamous Ashley Madison dating service comes to mind, with its controversial tagline: “Life is short, have an affair.” But then again, Ashley Madison is also a pretty decent general hookup app these days.

Despite their apparent popularity, do affairs really work out? Let’s take a look at some statistics on second marriages from affairs, starting with a rather depressing statistic about marriages in general:

15-23% of married individuals cheat on their partners

This 2016 study, which tested 561 women and 222 men in exclusive relationships, found that 15% of the ladies and 23% of the men had physical/sexual relations with people who weren’t their partners. It also found that the risk of cheating rose with the following factors:

  • A history of cheating in the past
  • A somewhat more positive attitude toward infidelity
  • Lower relationship satisfaction
  • Lower commitment
  • Higher quality of alternative partners

Now, among individuals who do leave their partners for their paramours, how many end up entering a second marriage? The number is actually quite low:

Only 3-5% of affairs lead to marriages

Getting married after being each other's affair partner

Surprisingly, very few affairs lead to marriage. According to divorcesource.com, only 3-5% of affairs get hitched, meaning most paramours stay unmarried or don’t last long enough to cross that bridge.

That said, let’s consider the affairs that do lead to marriages. How well do they work out? This leads us to our next finding:

There’s a 30% chance one of you will cheat on the other

This study further found that in second marriages from affairs, 30% of partners end up cheating again. That adds another layer of complexity to the whole issue, further lowering the chances of lasting happiness and success.

Is the second round of infidelity enough to break the second marriage? That’s where the findings of another study—one whose results are already well-established in the common consciousness—give some insight:

67% of second marriages fail

It’s common knowledge that 67% of all second marriages fail, up from 45-50% for first marriages.

Many studies have been conducted on this over the decades, and the number seems to hold up: The more weddings you go through, the lower your chances of success.

If we line up those stats with the previous one (that only 30% of affair partners end up cheating again), it would seem that most second marriages fail not because of infidelity but of other causes. Still, the numbers are not encouraging: In a second marriage, your chances of success are one in three.

In the next section, we’ll examine the reasons behind the depressing statistics on second marriages from affairs. You’ll better understand why they fail so often and what you can do about it.

Second Marriages from Affairs

Do successful marriages from affairs exist? They certainly do, although we know by this point in the article that the odds are very much against you. Psychologists and sociologists study the phenomenon of cheating incessantly, and the statistics aren’t improving. But why not?

This section will explore precisely why things look so dismal for marriages between affair partners. As it turns out, studies have also been made on this topic.

Reasons affair partners fail their marriage

A couple fighting

There are many reasons why affair partners don’t do so well, and any one of them can spell the doom of the new marriage. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • One or both partners may develop feelings of guilt for what the devastation they wreaked on their previous family. This can be surprising and distressing at the same time—enough to wreck the new marriage.
  • One affair partner may be in love not with the other but instead with feelings of romance. This is dangerous, as romance fades when the reality of relationships takes over. This can lead to feelings of “falling out of love,” leading to the urge to find a new relationship.
  • One of the partners may feel like the other isn’t doing their fair share to make the new marriage happen. Divorces are, after all, emotionally and financially draining, and if the less-involved partner seems like they took it for granted, it can lead to deep feelings of resentment.
  • Eventually, many affair partners start getting suspicious of each other. After all, they cheated in their previous relationships—will they cheat again in this one? This lack of trust erodes the already-fragile foundation on which the new marriage is founded.

The last one is especially telling. Is cheating really a product of the unique circumstances in each individual marriage? Or is it more a habit or predisposition to stray in one or both spouses? Let’s find out.

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

Apparently, cheating can be a habit. This MensHealth article talks about studies that indicate some people who cheat in their first relationship are three times more likely to cheat in their second relationship. This is in comparison to people who never cheated.

That said, it doesn’t automatically mean a one-time cheater will cheat again—after all, 70% don’t. And that means that while successful relationships from affairs do exist, it’s a more significant challenge this time.

What counts as cheating?

Also, in case you’re wondering: what counts as cheating, and what doesn’t? We wrote an article to answer that question. At the root, cheating is a betrayal of trust—that is, something that’s meant to be enjoyed only by committed partners gets enjoyed by only one of them and a third party.

This betrayal can come in many different forms because the things “meant to be enjoyed only by committed partners” can vary widely. For instance, some couples consider harmless flirting with third parties to be cheating, while others don’t.

What’s more, what counts as a “third party” can likewise vary between couples. For some, it’s only a third party if it’s a person—for others, objects like hobbies and toys also count.

It’s complicated, but our article sorts it all out. If you want to learn what really counts as cheating and what doesn’t, consider reading this article next.

Can you save your relationship after infidelity?

Getting therapy to save their marriage

Now that you know second marriages from affairs have low chances of success, you might think: Maybe it’s better to call it off and work on my current marriage, as wrecked as it might be at the moment.

But can you save your relationship after it’s been tainted by infidelity? We likewise wrote an article to answer this question. The short answer is “yes,” you can save the marriage—but it’ll be a rough road:

  • It requires courage to eschew the “socially-accepted” reason to just divorce and take the kids, and instead work on the marriage.
  • It requires both partners to make sacrifices to heal the wounds inflicted by infidelity. And that’s not easy, especially for the betrayed partner.
  • It requires difficult adjustments that must be made, such as apologizing, addressing the root causes, cutting the third party out of the picture, and accepting that things will be different moving forward.

Yes, it’s hard work. And yet the end result may be better than jumping headlong into a second marriage with your affair partner. Once infidelity has been exposed, it’s a matter of picking which war to fight.

Ultimately, the right decision is the one that’s best for you, your partner, your kids, and the values most important to you. What decision will you be able to live with decades into the future? Your answer to these questions should point you in the right direction.

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