Q. “How long does it take to end an affair?

A. Between one phone call and 25+ years.

Infidelity is most likely to occur in the first three years of marriage or in the last year of the marriage. Infidelity can be emotional, sexual and/or financial.

In my experience intimate relationships are affair ready at the most vulnerable times in the family life cycle, and also when one or both are depressed, feel dead inside or carry an unresolved bereavement. Over the honeymoon period, during assisted reproduction, following birth or death, from an empty nest and during career change, to name some.

Few extra marital affairs that go on to long term relationships last longer than five years. Long term affairs, however, can last decades. It is hard to accept but it is likely true that good people in good relationships have clandestine affairs and thereby turn the source of greatest good into a place of greatest treachery.
As one author put it:

We were living like roommates. We weren’t having sex. We barely communicated and if we did it turned into a war of words. He doesn’t appreciate me. She always criticizes me.” What I’ve observed is that most of these people display strong signs of feeling neglected before they cheat. They think, “I’m not in a real marriage anymore so the rules of marriage don’t apply to me.” And that’s how an otherwise moral person gives himself, or herself, permission to cheat. Laurie Puhn

However, a discovered affair can be the turning point. It can be a wake up call that doesn’t end up shooting the messenger. One that opens the heart to what is missing in both partners’ lives. An affair is rarely about leaving a relationship and often more about re-inventing or re-discovering oneself or a lost self. It often, as a result, is totally out of character in its profound abandonment of all the betrayed partner had relied on and held dear.

Most relationships recover from an affair provided the affair has ended and the couple have sought competent and pro-couple professional help at the sticking points in the recovery process.

In the drop down menus & sub menus in Resources above (Relationships, How to mend & How to end) are maps of the landscape of repairing couple trouble, with tips and tricks for getting there. They have helped many relationships re-attune to the process of repair. The ideas are well tried to the extent that many couples have dug there way out of a hell hole just by reading and dedicating themselves to follow the advice therein. This is also good preparation for couple therapy sessions.