Do cheats ever end well?

Make sure you read Friday's updates.

Dear Meredith,

I know this is not going to go over well with the readers, but here it goes:

I am having a purely sexual affair with a co-worker. We are both late 30s, in decade-long unhappy marriages. We do not report to one another. Neither of us wants a "real" relationship, and neither knows whether our marriages will work out. We have been sleeping together for around a year, probably about once a month. We are very discreet, do not go out in public together, and only get together on business trips.

Either one of us can walk away and decide to fully commit to our marriage (This is not the typical "will he ever leave his wife for me?" situation).

Alternately, if either one of us divorces and wants to start dating someone for real, it would also end our affair. We both have eyes wide open that this is a short-term fling and that we are in no way meant to be together.

Love Letters is generally filled with tales of woe from the cheated-upon -- hurting spouses, suspicious fiancés, etc. I am not trying to justify my behavior. I am not looking for people to condemn it, nor to tell me it is OK. Here are my questions:

Do you know of anyone who has had an affair that ended WELL? Has anyone had an affair and been able to salvage their marriage? Has anyone had a long-term "background" affair that didn't affect their marriage either way?

I guess I'm just looking for some insight as to how this might end...

– Am I kidding myself?, South Shore

To answer your first two questions, yes, many couples bounce back from affairs. Some couples come out stronger after dealing with a betrayal. It's possible, but it's certainly not a guarantee. It takes work, honesty, and the desire to stay together.

To answer your last question, no, you can't have an affair without it affecting your marriage. It's going to change your relationship even if you're the only one who knows about it.

You don't seem to want advice or to be scolded, AIKM, but … too bad. Here it goes:

If you're a Love Letters reader, you know that many of my letters come from people who are desperate to figure out whether their partners are cheating. These letter writers feel frantic and hopeless. They feel alone. How do you feel when you read their letters? Do you have empathy?

I won't make assumptions about your partner -- for all I know, your spouse is cheating too -- but I will say that for every month you continue this "background" affair, you're putting off the most important thing in your world: your unhappy marriage. Isn't it time to address your problems? Isn't it time to figure out what to do next?

If you can't stop cheating out of respect for your spouse, please stop for yourself. Because you're wasting your own time. You have questions to answer. This is no time to stall.

This affair is standing in the way of everyone's happiness. You will regret dragging this out. Stop kidding yourself and start dealing with reality.

Readers? Do affairs always end marriages? What can you tell this letter writer? What would the letter writer's partner say?

– Meredith