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Refusing to Stop an Affair After It Is Revealed

A risky but purposeful behavior.

Studies indicate that 70% of all Americans have an affair least once during their marriage. Approximately 20% of males report that they have engaged in extramarital sex compared to 13% for females (Wang, 2018). Ironically, research also indicates that over 90% think infidelity is immoral (Zuckerman, 2020).

According to research, 52.1% who cheated came clean to their partner while 47.9% admitted to a friend. And approximately 47.7% told their partner within a week while 26.6% told within a month and 25.7% told within 6 months (Health Testing Centers, 2021). Of these, 54% broke up immediately and 15.6% remained together. Statistics also show that once discovered, affairs usually run their course between 6-24 months (Taibbi, 2020). But too often an unfaithful partner will continue to see or contact their lover after the affair has been discovered (Macleod, 2021).

Considered perhaps one of the most egregious acts of infidelity is when a partner admits to having an affair but openly refuses to stop—a form of nonconsensual nonmonogamy (Levine, Herbenick, Martinez, Fu, & Dodge, 2018). Listed below are some of the reasons for this dynamic. From here on I will refer to the cheating partner as the affairing partner, their primary partner or spouse as partner, and the outside individual as the lover.

1. Rage: Continuing an affair after it is revealed may be a form of expressing rage towards a partner. It is a creative but brutal way to retaliate.

2. Sadomasochism: Holding onto the lover can be perceived as sadistic and putting up with it masochistic.

3. Love: If the affairing partner “feels” in love, he/she may not want to give up their lover. Some people hope that with time, the partner will leave, or give in and allow the lover to join in a triangle.

4. Insurance: If the affairing partner is using the lover as a bargaining chip in the primary relationship, he/she may want to hold onto this person to gain leverage.

5. Competitiveness: Some affairing partners keep lovers as way to inflate their concept of being a man or woman. If the affairing partner is insecure about his/her gender identity, keeping the lover may serve to bolster their ego.

6. Intimacy: To some people, a lover can serve as a buffer to intimacy. Any time a fixed triangle is in place intimacy may be averted.

7. Commitment: Keeping a lover usually leaves the primary relationship on edge. It is as if the affairing partner needs an escape hatch.

8. Collusion: If the partner cannot set limits with the affairing partner and the lover, it may because he/she is enabling this behavior. The partner may not feel as if they deserve to be special, or they too may fear intimacy or commitment.

9. Specific Purpose: In some cases, the lover may serve a specific purpose to the affairing partner such as financially or physically helping in a way that the partner cannot.

10. Too Close to Call: Some people have trouble making up their minds. That is, because both partner and lover are equally valuable, the affairing partner may not be able to choose without suffering an intolerable loss.

As painful as this process seems, it has meaning. At least one of the three parties involved: Affairing partner, partner, or lover, must decide what to do about the triangle. Whether there is agreement to end the primary relationship, open it, or to end the affair, something will need to be done, and the sooner the better. If left unresolved, this dynamic will cause undue stress on all parties. I have even seen it cause or exacerbate serious health problems, especially in the partner who is being cheated on.


Health Testing Centers (2021). Admitting to cheating: Exploring how honest people are about their infidelity.

Levine, E.C., Herbenick, D., Martinez, O., Fu, T.C., & Dodge, B. (2018). Open relationships, nonconsensual nonmonogamy, and monogamy among U.S. adults: Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47, 1439-1450. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1181178-7

Macleod, D. (2021 February 28). When an unfaithful spouse refuses to end their affair. Retrieved from

Taibbi, R. (2020, February 16). 6 reasons why affairs eventually fall apart. Retrieved from…

Wang, W. (2018, January 10). Institute for Family Studies. Who cheats more? The demographics of infidelity in America. Retrieved from…

Zuckerman, A. (2020, May 29). 50 cheating statistics: 2020/20201 demographics, reasons & who cheats more. Retrieved from

More from Stephen J. Betchen D.S.W.
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