Any tips for making a relationship out of an affair?
May 9, 2009 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Any tips for making a relationship out of an affair?

I was in a relationship and starting cheating with a close friend. My relationship ended, largely mutually, for a variety of reasons, including the affair. I have strong feelings for my friend and would like to make it work as a relationship. I have a lot of guilt about the infidelity, but that doesn't change my feelings for this person. I'm really scared that, in addition to it functioning as something of a rebound thing, there will be other issues arising from our involvement started. We started off with a pattern of secrecy, how to adjust to being public. We started off with lies, how to build trust? We started off trying to avoid getting involved and feeling guilty about it, how to not have guilt play a role in our interactions? We started off with heighten sense of emotion and drama, how to build a more realistic, healthy relationship? Is this possible? I don't want to believe that this is a lost cause.

(Also just a tip for people drawing closer to an affair... just breakup THEN start seeing the person. I wish I had.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do any family members or close friends know about the affair? If they do, be advised that starting up a relationship might be hard on them, and in consequence, they might be hard on you. You also might want to think about what to say when people start asking how long you've been together.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 8:13 PM on May 9, 2009

There's nothing easy about this situation, but it is not impossible.... memail me
posted by HuronBob at 8:15 PM on May 9, 2009

You might want to pull back for the moment and wait. Let the dust settle, stand back from it and really evaluate this. Relationships born from cheating almost never do well, in my experience. A lot of the time it's because one or even both partners will be thinking "if they'll cheat with you, they'll cheat on you". There's always exceptions, of course, but I really don't think you should be in any rush, especially considering the circumstances.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of the time it's because one or even both partners will be thinking "if they'll cheat with you, they'll cheat on you".

I think this is the most significant factor, and is basically what I came here to say. Both of you are currently untrustworthy. How do you plan to remedy this?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:41 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know a number of relationships that started as covert affairs, as well as three people who ended marrying "the other woman" and all sorts of other crazy-hookups that deepened into long-term relationships. Six months later, the origins are long-forgotten.

As for "can't trust each other", that seems absurd to me. You trusted this person tremendously, and you mutually maintained a high level of secrecy together. Clearly, you trust each other.

How you met/started doesn't matter. At all.

All that matters is what you do tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.
posted by rokusan at 8:58 PM on May 9, 2009 [14 favorites]

I agree with rokusan, but I want to offer a caution: don't make this relationship into more than it should be as a means of justifying the infidelity. It can be very tempting to define an affair as the world's most perfect love, just because the relationship came at a high cost and "finding true love" validates the decision. However, the infidelity may have occurred for many reasons that have nothing to do with the person, even if you were good friends first.
posted by carmicha at 9:27 PM on May 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

My marriage began...almost this way. Neither of us were cheating, but she had dated my best friend and roommate, he left her then regretted the decision and started trying to get her back, she and I wound up having sex after a night of drink and revelry. It was supposed to be a temporary thing, just two friends finding some shelter and comfort in each other until she moved a couple of states away. We kept it under wraps, lied about it, etc., because we told ourselves that it was temporary anyway. Then I had to go and fall in love with her. Now we've been married six years, have a son, and are working on another. Friend/roommate was best man at our wedding and is happily married.

I'll say this: your odds are not good. This is generally a bad way to start a relationship, not one I'd recommend. One thing that's very much in your favor is what worked in my case: we were friends first. Had been for a couple of years, in fact, so much of the normal early relationship bullshit didn't happen to us. I could tell her I needed to be alone for an evening without her freaking out, because she'd had two years of seeing my solitary moods strike, so she knew it wasn't code for "I'm sick of you/I'm fucking someone else/whatever." It made it easier that we already knew each other so well, so as to your trust question, it wasn't an issue for us. If it is for you, that's a bit of a red flag, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.

What also made it easy was knowing we were madly in love with one another, so much so that I knew I couldn't just let her move away. I had previously been engaged and in a long-distance relationship that ended badly (took me years to recover), and so I had no desire to get involved in another two-state dating scenario, but I couldn't let her drop, I had to know where it was leading. That was a good sign for me, knowing that I was willing to wade through that hell again, because it meant I really did mean it with her. On some level, I knew that first night that she was the one. Not because we fucked, but because afterward we sat up and talked until three in the morning and I found myself telling her things I'd never told anyone before.

Adjusting to being public? Tell everyone, deal with the OMGs and get it over with. Do not drag it out. It will be unpleasant. My friend's family turned to shit on us for a while, for understandable reasons. My friend's friends hated my goddamn guts for a while, and I didn't blame them. I hated my goddamn guts for a while. But my real friends understood and immediately supported us. It was hard and weird for a while, but before long it was as if we'd always been a pair.

That and the guilt will go away with honest and clean living. Out yourselves about your relationship, be apologetic about your lies but unapologetic about your feelings for your SO.

Take. Things. Slowly.

The best relationships are built on talking, and that goes double for those that begin with high emotion and drama. Our long distance thing was a godsend, because with the exception of 1 - 2 weekends per month, phone calls and IM were all we had for a relationship. We had to talk, whether we wanted to or not. We had 14 months of mostly talking. You need that too, say a half hour a day, eyeball to eyeball, just talking about whatever. Not sitting on the couch murmuring things to another during commercials, but facing each other over a dinner table or a coffee table and discussing whatever -- your day, your fears, your fantasies, your hatred of Biggie Smalls, whatever. If you can sustain that, you're doing very well.

I wish you well with this. It's an uphill road but hardly a Sisyphean one. Your odds are not good, but honestly not much worse than the average relationship. At bottom, as long as you're honest with each other and open your mouths every day to do something in the service of your relationship other than just inserting your partner's genitals, then you've got a damn good chance.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:32 PM on May 9, 2009 [9 favorites]

Well, look at John and Cindy McCain and his Wife or Rudy and Julie Guiliani. Those relationships started as affairs. Heh.

So obviously it's possible.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 PM on May 9, 2009

My partner and I began our relationship this way six years ago. Well, almost. We were only romantically involved for a few days before ending things with our then-partners. But a lot of the issues were the same.

I felt guilty for a long time. It eventually faded when I realized that, whether had I cheated or not, my previous relationship would have been doomed anyway, and should have ended long before.

As far as fidelity was concerned, we realized through a long and luckily pretty painless process that an open relationship would be better for us.

I can't assuage your fears that this is a rebound or that your the drama of the situation will artificially intensify emotions. That might happen. Just keep in mind that although your previous relationship isn't far gone, this new relationship is new - don't spend all your time together resorting old baggage, take your time to let this relationship follow its own course.
posted by mai at 1:48 AM on May 10, 2009

A lot of the time it's because one or even both partners will be thinking "if they'll cheat with you, they'll cheat on you."


But, also this:

Well, look at John and Cindy McCain and his Wife or Rudy and Judith Guiliani. Those relationships started as affairs. Heh.

So obviously it's possible.

Good luck. You will need it.

And I mean that in the nicest way.
posted by jgirl at 6:44 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

As tempting as it might be to rush into each other's arms, I recommend taking a break in an effort to give yourselves a fighting chance. Agree to spend the next couple of months smoothing over the wounds of the dissolution of your current relationships, managing the fallout, and getting your head back together.

Then start dating. You'll not only be coming to each other from a clean slate, but you'll also have one hell of a lot more legitimacy as a couple to friends and family.
posted by agentwills at 7:48 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of people have relationships that started this way. A small percentage will admit it.

Stop beating yourself up and treat it as a new, fresh, no-baggage relationship going forward. That's your best chance for success anyway.
posted by rokusan at 8:55 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Both of you are currently untrustworthy. How do you plan to remedy this?

This bears repeating, because it's so inane.

Trying to inflict guilt is not the way to answer this question.
posted by Zambrano at 8:57 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't buy the whole "rebound" thing or the "taking it slow" thing. It's unnatural. If you want to spend time together, do it. Life is short.

I suspect a very large number of relationships start this way. You don't really have to come clean with everyone about it. Most people will consider it your business. Just date, and after a bit, date in public. Some people will figure it out. Some won't. Most won't care all that much.

Most of us don't like cheaters, but most of us make an exception when the cheating turns into the real thing. Then, I think, most of us consider it a bumpy transition.

Just so you don't ask people to take sides, and you don't rub people's noses in it, I think you'll be okay.
posted by musofire at 9:29 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

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