I can’t tell you how many times I have read this on blogs, on message boards, or heard it in real life. People, whether married or single, who are in affairs, but don’t know how to end it. Why, you might say? Isn’t it like any other relationship? You just END it!
In an affair, frequently, emotions and passion are overwhelming and the attachment runs very deep. It’s like an addiction to many, and many addictions are hard to kick. There is dependency. Needs are being met and it’s hard to walk away from them. Even when you know it’s wrong. You might be with a person who is your “everything” and makes you feel so alive, so good, appreciated, loved, and desired. It’s just hard to break the bonds, even with the obvious dangers of it all.
I think there’s a factor here that makes it harder to leave an affair than most relationships: Fear. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Will the Affair Partner take it gracefully and with understanding? Will they withdraw and let you get on with your life? Mine certainly did not, as you know if you’ve read my blog. I knew she wouldn’t go quietly and maturely. And lot of married people in affairs have a lot to lose. Maybe your ex-Affair Partner threatens to make a stink, tell your spouse, your friends, your family and your boss. Maybe your Affair Partner will use termination as an excuse to really mess up your life.
Or you worry that your spouse is going to find out anyway and will never be able to forgive you and you will end up divorced anyway. So why let go of someone who seems to love, appreciate and “get” you? You fear making the wrong decision.
And there is fear that “skulking back” to your marriage after an affair won’t work either. The reasons you had the affair are likely still present — an unloving spouse who fails to appreciate you or pays little or not attention to you or your critical emotional needs (this is true in many cases, but not all). You fear that you won’t be any happier than you were before the affair and probably LESS so. You are likely to fall into another affair and the cycle repeats.
So fear of the unknown about how to get out of this horrific situation that you probably never intended to involve yourself in in the first place becomes paralyzing. How do I get out of this unscathed?? Am I making the right decision for me and my future?
So how DOES one get out of an affair? Well there is no one answer, but in general, from what I’ve read, you must do it -very carefully. But firmly. And courageously.
What could you say? Well, every situation is different. You wouldn’t need to say much to end a one-night stand. But let’s assume that this is like most affairs — it lasted for a while. It was intensely emotional and maybe physical too. This person is attached to you. So what then? Be firm. Be clear, but be honest.
“I’m sorry, but I can no longer do this. I have come to realize how wrong this is for me and how I’ve totally compromised my own values and betrayed my spouse. I’m very very sorry, but I cannot continue seeing you or having contact with you in any way that I can avoid. I care about you, and we had some great times together, but, for me, I made a horribly bad choice in being a part of this and now it has to end. I hope you can understand and respect my decision.”
That might be how you do it, but there are 11 things to keep in mind before you say this to your affair partner. Critical things you need to consider before you end your affair and how (and how not) to end your affair:
1. Admit to yourself that what you are doing is wrong! And take 100% responsibility for your decisions and actions. You can’t blame on the Affair Partner and you can’t blame it on your spouse, even if your marriage is crap. YOU chose to do it and it IS 100% the wrong reaction to a bad marriage. Acknowledge it to yourself. Firmly. As is the case with other bad behaviors that need to be corrected, you have to confess to yourself that the behavior is unacceptable and must stop. If you don’t have this as a basis, you won’t be strong enough to end the affair, and you will likely fall into another one, even if you do. But I think this is a necessary first step. It’s not just that an affair is dangerous to your life, your family, and maybe even your job, it is morally wrong and reprehensible. Admit this to yourself as a first step. You have to have a strong inner resolve as a first step to free yourself from something that is more akin to a chemical addiction than simply a “bad decision.”
2. Don’t do the “Slow Fade-Out”: It’s a terrible idea to end an affair by just no longer responding to them and disappear. Or changing your number. Or blocking their emails without warning. Or worse, to just pick fights with them hoping they will dump you. Or doing the slow pullout — withdrawing your attention to them in increments until they figure out that you are leaving and forcing them to speak up. Or just with one short, unfeeling text message or email. It’s cowardly and wrong. If you cared enough about them to sleep with them, certainly you can show enough respect to tell them it’s over and why. If you pull cowardly stunts like these, you might enrage them. Don’t make an enemy when you don’t have to.
3. Anticipate all of the possible reactions from Affair Partner so that you will be prepared with a response in all situations. Especially if you think they are going to try and “out” you to your spouse, friends, family, or job. You have to prepare yourself for all contingencies.
Keep all the evidence, but in a safe place you don’t need to visit: By all means, do NOT get rid of your Affair Partner’s emails and photos — they might be evidence you will need for a Restraining Order, or to stop them from trying to ruin your life! Carefully keep a record of all of their contacts after you terminate things too! Keep recordings of phone messages. All emails. Any verbal threats they make to you.
I would caution you however to keep these items out of an email address you use regularly or can be found on your phone. Create a free email account somewhere — at yahoo.com, hotmail.com, inbox.com or others and forward all this evidence there. Not only will this ensure that you don’t obsess over your lost lover by seeing their old emails and photos constantly, but it will protect you in case your spouse accidently or on purpose finds their way into your usual email. I’m not saying they don’t have a right to the truth, but sometimes the rawness and details in old emails between you and your lover will likely send your spouse in reverse, into a rage, and turn the clock all the way back to D-Day. You don’t want to trigger your spouse unnecessarily. They should already know enough about the affair if you are in recovery and it’s time to stop talking details.
Anyway, that’s what I did. All my evidence is parked at a yahoo mail account I do not use for any other purpose, nor have any need to routinely access. I keep it as evidence I may some day need against my ex-OW or as my “nuclear weapons” – information and photos I could use to really fuck up her life in retaliation for her doing the same to me first. I will never get rid of this stuff because it’s the only protection I have against her and her irrational behavior.
But most of all, be prepared that your Affair Partner is going to reveal the affair to your spouse. How will you deal with this moment? What will you say? What if they throw you out? I would make sure I had my “ducks in a row”, even though believe me you can’t know how you will react until you live through a “D-Day” with your spouse. If you have financial concerns, make sure your spouse can’t easily wipe out your bank accounts. Make sure you have a plan for if you have to leave your home, temporarily or otherwise.
You may be about to go through hell. IN STEREO. Try to anticipate the worst and you will more easily deal with whatever happens.
4. End the affair with your Affair Partner in person, if possible– Some say you must do it face to face. It’s not always possible, but if you can, I think it’s the best course of action. But not in public. Try to end it in private and in a way that appears respectful to the AP, if you can.
I could not. She lived 125 miles away and I was literally flying out on business the day after D-Day. My wife demanded that I end it on the spot. So I had to do it electronically. We chatted on Yahoo Messenger. It was the only way I could control the tone. I knew a phone call would not go over well. Not that it really mattered. The psycho was not going to accept my decision no matter how I did it.
5. Set a neutral tone for the breakup. Almost businesslike, really, and to the point. If you are too warm and familiar, they will try and use this against you. Your tone will make it clear that you are resolute in your decision. Don’t leave the door open, even a crack.
6. But that being said, try and soften the blow, if possible. Approach your partner patiently. Softening the disappointment is your goal. Remind them of some good times you had. Then calmly and with as little nastiness or blame as possible, tell them clearly why you are ending the affair. Neutral, calm, firm, but still ‘nice’. Remember, if your affair has been long, emotional and they are very attached to you, remember that you are probably devastating them. You are disappointing them and maybe shattering their dreams of being with you. Try and protect their ego as much as you can without leaving them hope that you are going to change your mind. Be firm, but remember you owe something to them too. Treat them as if you were in their shoes. Don’t unnecessarily hurt them or create an enemy you don’t need. Your life is about to become difficult enough.
7. Be very clear when actually breaking up. Leave no doubt in your lover’s mind that the affair is over. Tell them this is the last time you will be communicating in any way what so ever, if possible (I know in neighbor situations or work-related, this is going to be hard to do). Make sure they understand you are determined to end the relationship. If you can’t avoid seeing them, you will then have to set very strong boundaries to what your interactions will be at this point. (see below). If you have no reason to routinely see them, make sure they know that you will not be seeing them any longer and that they need to respect this.
Don’t answer many questions from your ex-lover about why you want to save your marriage or why you prefer to be with your spouse. You’ve made the decision and you really don’t have to explain yourself or justify your decision. As I said above, calmly and with care, explain to them your reasoning. Once. But do not engage them in followup discussions or questions. They will try to engage you in this debate to see if they can poke holes in your reasoning. They are looking for indications that you might change your mind or that the door is still left open.
Do not use language that in any way indicates that you might come back to them at some point, like “I’m going to TRY and save my marriage.” This will only encourage them and make them stalk and entice you, waiting for you to return. It might give them reason to try and sabotage your marital reconciliation. Personally, I violated this — I should not have used that language. It was a huge mistake when I terminated things with the ex-Other Woman. I learned the hard way. Don’t repeat my mistakes.
8. Being “friends” after is not possible or a good idea. You crossed a boundary that makes friendship impossible. And most Affair Partners will only use lip-service that you’re now “just friends’ to stay close to you, hoping to get clues that you might come back to them, or backslide into a sexual encounter, or worse, to try and undo your marital reconciliation. Friendship cannot happen. You must be clear. It’s over. ALL OF IT.
9. Set strong, irrevocable boundaries with them. Tell your ex that you will not be acknowledging them if you meet in public, if you work together let them know there will be no private conversations, no shared break times or any other connection outside of work related conversation. Tell them that any secret contacts will be ignored. No emails. No text messages. No phone calls. No Facebook postings. Nothing.
10. Actively avoid all contact with them. “No Contact” is not something passive. It’s something you have to actively employ as part of your separation from your lover. If you have to stop going to the same bar you used to frequent, do it. If it means dropping out of a club, group, activity or gym you both were part of it, do it. Change your email addresses. Block theirs. Block them on your phone or change your number. Block them on Facebook. Do whatever it takes.
11. Stay strong and resolute in your decision and direction. And most importantly, understand that you may feel conflicted about leaving your partner. That’s ok. It’s normal. You will have moments of weakness. Sadness. Longing. You WILL miss them, at least for a while. But you must stay strong. Fight these feelings. Remember the larger goal of recovering affection, love and respect for your spouse. STAY STRONG. Remind yourself of the terrible betrayal you did to your spouse, even if they don’t know. Ask yourself how you would feel if they had done it to you! Fight the urges. Enforce the boundaries with the Affair Partner rigidly. Do not backslide. Remind them that it’s over for a while if they try and contact you. Eventually, ignore them. Do what you must. But STAY AWAY FROM THEM ENTIRELY!
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