time to wait before divorce

The decision needs to be based on thoughtful assessment rather than emotional reaction.


Based on the results of a survey of 1,083 people whose spouses had affairs


How long after discovery was there a decision as to whether to stay married or get a divorce?*

56% – Less than 3 months

30% – Three months to a year

14% – More than a year


The fact that most respondents (56%) made a decision about the fate of the marriage in less than 3 months after discovery reflects the tendency to feel pressure to quickly decide what to do.

However, most people are so overcome with emotion during the first few months that any decision reached during that time is unlikely to be based on clear, rational thinking.

If at all possible, it’s better to remain open to either possibility (rebuilding the marriage or divorcing) until after spending time and effort getting more clarity about the prospects for the future of the relationship.

The bottom line is that the decision is best made based on the prospects for the future rather than being based on what happened in the past.

Any life crisis (and an affair certainly qualifies as a crisis) “changes the world as we’ve known it.” And it takes time to envision the world based on the new reality—and even more time to reach some understanding of what has happened and what to do about it.

Even if there is a decision to get a divorce at some future time (after investing a lot of effort in determining whether the marriage can be rebuilt), this does not mean that a decision to divorce should have been made earlier. That’s because it’s not just what decision is made—but how well you can live with the decision.

Those who divorce only after investing lots of time and energy into determining the possibilities for rebuilding the marriage are likely to be able to live with their decision, knowing they did all they could. But those who decide to get out too quickly tend to second-guess themselves and wonder “what if…” or “should I have…”—so they have more difficulty living with their decision.

Even if the final decision is the same, the process used to reach the decision makes a significant difference.

What was the decision? *

54% – To stay married

19% – To get a divorce

27% – Still undecided


Most people DO stay married.

There has long been an assumption that most marriages end when an affair is discovered. That assumption is related to the fact that the secrecy surrounding this issue leads us to only hear about affairs in those marriages that end. When couples stay together, they may never share the information about the affair, leaving the general public to falsely assume that most marriages end when there is an affair. This assumption is further strengthened by the fact that most people will say, “if my spouse ever had an affair, I’d get out.” But any such comment is meaningless, since nobody knows what they would do unless/until it actually happens to them. At that point, there are many factors, both emotional and practical, that come into consideration.

Every couple needs 3rd party help after an affair. If you cannot see a counselor face-to-face, try our online affair recovery course.


1. Peggy Vaughan  www.dearpeggy.com