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Love and desire are hard to let go of, no matter what their form. To end an affair is no less messy than getting a divorce, except perhaps you don’t need to pay exorbitant legal fees. But the emotional cost of ending an affair with a married man or woman, or to end an affair and still be friends, can be a difficult and tricky journey.
How to end an affair with someone you love is always going to be a question without easy answers. However, a little expert insight could be helpful to smoothen the way. We asked intimacy and relationship coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT, etc), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, for inputs on how to end an affair without falling apart yourself.
Why Is It So Hard To End An Affair With Someone You Love
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“Any addiction which gives pleasure is difficult to quit,” Shivanya explains. “There is a direct correlation between degrees of pleasure and difficulty of ending that addiction. One should be aware of the pain of ending an affair with someone you love, right from the start. Any activity which is started without keeping the end in mind is detritus.”
She adds, “It’s an emotional conflict for both parties involved in the extramarital affair, regardless of whether they came together for physical or emotional needs. An affair is an exciting adrenal rush which two parties may have missed for long and therefore to end an affair would be to deprive themselves of their pleasures.
“For the partner who engaged in the affair, guilt also plays a part when they want to end an affair and move on to save the marriage. They could fear humiliation and accusations from both their spouse and their lover.”
Related Reading: Do Affairs That Break Up A Marriage Last
How To End An Affair And Save Your Marriage
There are various types of affairs and ending them depends on the length and depth of the involvement. There are short-term affairs and affairs that last more than a year. Affairs when both parties are married, and those where only one party is married. There are even affairs where neither party is married, but one of both are in committed, long-term relationships.
What your relationship with them is outside the affair would also factor in. For instance, to end an affair with a coworker is different than ending an affair with a narcissist you don’t work with. To end an affair with your boss would take different measures than to end an affair with your best friend.
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Shivanya recommends asking yourself the following tough questions before embarking on the journey to end an affair and save your marriage.
- Do you love your partner?
- Do you regret your actions?
- Have you ended the affair in your mind already?
- Are you willing to understand what led to your cheating and change your thoughts and actions?
- Are you willing to understand what your partner may have contributed to the situation and are you willing to forgive her/him?
- Are you willing to invest and sacrifice for the sake of your marriage?
Related Reading: How To Forgive Your Cheating Partner, And Should You
“If your response to all, or at least most of these questions is in the affirmative, then there is a good chance you can end the affair and that your marriage can be saved. Keep in mind that the only way forward is to forgive, forget and move on,” Shivanya says.
“The goal is to restore the love and commitment in your relationship so that both of you will want to invest in it. Not giving up on love is a lengthy process when trust has been broken. It takes time and a lot of effort to restore it” she warns.
Some affairs last for years, others may be shorter, but ending an affair is always going to be a painful, arduous process.
With Shivanya’s help, we’ve rounded up 10 steps you can take to make it a little less messy, or at least that helps you cope with the mess a little better. If you’re trying to end a long-term or short-term affair, here are some ways in which you can do so.
1. Make a firm decision that it’s over
Whether you’re ending an affair with a married man or trying to end an affair with a coworker, the first step to saying it’s over needs to happen in your own mind. Like all first steps, this is the hardest. You’ll be torn between absolute cutting off and wanting to end an affair and still be friends. Maybe you’re ending an affair with a narcissist and really don’t want to deal with their moods and emotional immaturity.
Or you’re trying to end an affair with your boss and wondering if it’ll affect your way up the promotion ladder. Even worse, maybe you’re trying to end an affair with your best friend and you’re terrified of losing them forever. Admitting and accepting that an affair is over in your own mind is going to take a lot of work, but you need to be absolutely sure because that’s the premise you’ll be working from to end an affair for good.
2. Have the conversation with your lover
Breakups are never fun, no matter how illicit the romance was. Also, remember that just because your affair isn’t seen as ‘legitimate’ by the outside world doesn’t mean a breakup is going to be easy.
“I was ending an affair with a married man, and it’s the toughest breakup I’ve ever had,” says Emily. “We genuinely cared about each other and wanted very much to be together. But he couldn’t leave his kids. We talked, we cried, and then promised to stay out of each other’s lives out of love and respect.”
If you’re ending an affair with a narcissist, you might need to stand very firm in your decision, since they’re prone to not accept things that don’t go their way. Also, some affairs last for years, and those will be especially tough to get out of since you’ve probably built an emotional connect. Be sure, be firm and be kind.
3. Confess to your partner
We did warn you that this doesn’t get any easier. Now that you’ve made up your mind to end an affair and talked to your ‘affair-partner’, it’s time to face your spouse or long-term partner. Be prepared for disbelief, denial, anger and tears. No one likes to be made a fool of by their partner, and this is not the time to make excuses or even give logical reasons. Say what you need to, and let them respond.
Related Reading: Confession Story: Emotional Cheating Vs Friendship
They, too, will need time to come to terms with this betrayal and figure out how they want to navigate it. Don’t go into too many details, but reiterate that you’re deeply sorry and that it’s definitely over. Once they know your remorse is real, it’ll hopefully be a little easier for them to come to terms with it.
4. Eliminate all contact with the person/s you cheated with
“Phone calls, social media, presents they gave you, anything associated with them needs to go. They cannot have a presence in your life,” says Shivanya. A physical cleanse preempts the emotional and psychological cleanse you’ll eventually need to do, so this is a good step to take.
“I think this was the hardest thing for me to do,” says Shannon. “I was involved with someone from work for over two years. To end an affair with a coworker, when I had to see him at work every day was terrible. I eventually asked to be moved to a different department so I really could cut all ties. Love in the workplace is never easy, as it is!”
It’s never going to be easy to do this. But if you’re thinking of how to end an affair with someone you love, every trace of their presence needs to be erased from your life. At least for the first few months, if not forever.
5. Start therapy to address the reasons you cheated
“Professional help is incredibly important once you’ve decided to end an affair,” Shivanya says. She points out that affairs start with deep-seated dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and always come from a place of lack. “It’s important to address what was missing in your marriage or long-term, committed relationship, to dig deep and find out what it was that led to you having an affair in the first place. What were you seeking?” she says.
She also recommends starting out with individual therapy without your partner. In other words, address and work on your own issues as a person outside of all your relationships first. You could reach out to Bonobology’s panel of counselors for help here.
“Your partner will need individual therapy too, before they can start to move on past the violation of their trust. Couples’ counseling is eventually needed but wait until your partner/spouse says they are ready,” she adds.
6. Learn to be honest about everything
Confessing to an affair will create trust issues even in the strongest of relationships. From here on, everything you say could sound suspicious to your partner. “Learn to be utterly and completely honest with your partner,” says Shivanya. Even white lies need to be put on the backburner because your partner is hurting and especially sensitive to being lied to right now.
“After I ended my year-long affair and told my wife, it was truly hard to build trust again,” says Richard. “Even if I mistakenly told her the keys were on the table and they weren’t, she saw it as a lie. It took a long time to rebuild our marriage, but honesty was a major part of it.”
7. Know that rebuilding takes time
Yes, you’ve confessed, yes, you’re truly sorry and are ready to put everything into gaining your partner’s trust again. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight, or even a few months from now. “You might have to sleep in the guestroom for a few days or weeks. As and when you get back to sex with your partner, it will need to happen at their speed, not yours. It may take a while for them to get back in the mood,” says Shivanya.
As we’ve said, there are all types of affairs, and some affairs last for years. But that also means you’ve been letting your marriage or committed relationship break slowly and surely during that time. Even if it feels repaired, it’s never going to be the same.
8. Allow all feelings
Whether it’s affairs that last more than a year, or a fling that lasted a few months, to end an affair is to try and let go of a part of yourself. Along with sorrow and loss, you’ll feel remorse, resentment, anger and confusion. Don’t judge yourself too much. Let the feelings come and process them as best as you can.
Don’t, whatever you do, fall into the trap of feeling immoral or like someone who deserves harsh punishment. Yes, you disrespected your relationship and broke your partner’s trust, and you will need to make amends. But self-flagellation doesn’t benefit anyone.
“Honestly, when I was ending my affair, I couldn’t help but think of the benefits of extramarital affairs,” says Kelly wryly. “I felt terrible, but I thought of how being the ‘other woman’ had meant I got the presents, the good sex and none of the hassle of being a wife.
“Also, I really liked the man I was involved with so I actually wanted to end an affair and still be friends. But I knew I couldn’t do that to my husband, and he couldn’t do that to his wife.” Affairs when both parties are married can bring about especially complex feelings. Be patient with them and with yourself, talk to a professional and work your way through the benefits of counseling.
9. Forgive yourself
Before you expect your partner or family to forgive you, or even expect forgiveness from the one you’re ending things with, forgive yourself. You’re not going to be able to move forward if you’re constantly beating yourself up.
An affair doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there are always reasons and desires and loneliness surrounding it. And we repeat, having an affair doesn’t need to color your whole life as a reprehensible being. As people, we’re complex, and often we end up hurting those we love with our choices.
Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean your remorse levels dip, or that you make less effort to rebuild your marriage. You just need some level of quiet certainty that you’ve forgiven yourself and are ready to move forward.
“There are several realistic reasons to end an affair,” says Shivanya. “There’s finances, family (kids), and love.
“For instance, living in two households instead of just one, basically doubles your housing costs. Many people just can’t afford that, especially in a single-income home. Not to mention the cost of an actual divorce, should you take that path. Remember, in a divorce, it’s only the lawyers who win,” she adds.
“Kids may survive a divorce but the impact of a broken family may last a lifetime. The strain on the family, custody time or even custody battles, can be difficult. As long as the parents are not constantly battling or providing an unsafe environment, it is generally better for them to stay together.
Ultimately, do you still love each other? Certainly, it may not seem like it at the moment, and it might take months or even a year or two before you can straighten things out. But if you both truly still have love for each other and want to make it work, you can,” she says.
“If it sounds hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s a long process. But you can repair your marriage, if you can let the past go without too much guilt or resentment. It’s going to take a lot of faith and courage to repair your broken trust, but it’s not impossible. Work your way towards a new intimacy, take time to heal your and your partner’s wounds, and love will do the rest,” she concludes.
How do affairs usually end?
Affairs can end when one or both parties realize they want to give their marriage/long-term relationship another chance. They can also end if one or both of the long-term partners find out about the affair. Once a decision is made to end the affair, it’s up to the people involved how they want to do it – remain friends, cut off contact entirely etc.
Why is ending an affair so hard?
An affair, especially one that’s lasted many years, is tough to end because you’ve built up an emotional connect and maybe even fallen in love with each other. Maybe you’ve found what was lacking in your marriage and it’s fulfilled you in wonderful ways.
What do you say at the end of an affair?
There’s no script that can tell you what to say when you want to end an affair. You can be straightforward and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to do this anymore.” Either way, it’s important to be firm, and be kind when ending an affair.
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- Have realistic expectations.
- Know who you're hurting.
- Draft what you want to say.
- End your affair.
- Don't give in to a “closure” meet.
- Pinpoint your desires to prevent future affairs.
- Identify alternate sources of excitement.
- Tell your partner.
Affairs usually end in one of three ways: divorce and remarriage, divorce and relationship loss, or the recommitment to the relationship that was betrayed. Each of these resolutions to an affair has its own pros and cons.What do you say to end an affair? ›
I love my family deeply and I will no longer do anything to risk their happiness. I will not be contacting you further and I ask that you do the same. I do not want to see you or hear from you. Please respect my decision to end our relationship and have no further communication.Why is it so hard to end an affair? ›
First, affairs are often a replication waiting to happen. And second, affairs are often forged with the same magnetic power that a marriage is, often rendering the affair as hard to break as a marriage. Thus, ending an affair, especially if it is long-term, may resemble a divorce.What does a married man want in an affair? ›
Willard Harvey, in his book His Needs/Her Needs, states the five top needs of men in marriage. Those five needs are admiration, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, sexual fulfillment and domestic support. The need that is often most neglected and that I want to focus on here is the need for admiration.How long do affairs typically last? ›
Look up the length of affairs on Google and apart from one-or-two-night stands, the consensus is that most run their course in six months to two years.Where do affairs happen the most? ›
- The workplace. The workplace is where most affairs begin. ...
- The gym. ...
- Social media. ...
- Bonding over a shared commitment to a common cause and seeing a person being selfless can quickly stir up the ingredients for an affair.
- Surprisingly, church is a very common place to begin an affair.
If you're considering staying after infidelity, it's probably because you still love your partner and you want to be with them. And this is perfectly okay! There's nothing wrong with you. You may share life events, children, memories, special moments, etc.How do you know when an affair is over? ›
- 01 of 05. You Have Access to Their Phone. This may feel authoritarian for you and invasive for them. ...
- 02 of 05. You Are Both Honest. ...
- 03 of 05. They Validate Your Feelings. ...
- 04 of 05. The Marital Issues Are Addressed. ...
- 05 of 05. You Can Forgive.
- You think about them almost every time. ...
- You compare them with your partner. ...
- You want to spend more time with them. ...
- You begin to become more conscious of your looks. ...
- You are not close to your partner as before. ...
- You feel that the other person understands you more.
“Like any relationship, the amount of time it takes to 'get over' an affair varies,” Mohamedali explains. However, in some instances, the time it takes for emotions to subside is longer than the affair itself. “It usually takes six months to one year to emotionally bounce back,” Ghanbari says.What is the best revenge for a cheating narcissist? ›
- Criticize them.
- Take authority away from them.
- Say “no.”
- Go “no contact.”
- Expose their behavior in public.
- Succeed in areas they want to dominate.
- Make them jealous.
- Trick them into doing you a favor.
- Recognize you're dealing with a narcissist.
- Understand the behaviors they use to manipulate or control you.
- Create boundaries for yourself.
- Express those boundaries in advance.
- Share when your boundaries have been crossed.
- Don't be afraid to have open conversations in front of others.
Not all narcissists cheat, but rates of infidelity are higher among them. Unlike conventional cheaters, narcissistic cheaters can feel greater self-entitlement, impulsivity, suffer from control issues, and experience a lack of empathy and remorse.How long of an affair is too long? ›
An affair will last as long as it suits its purpose, and no longer. Some affairs last only a couple hours, while others can last a lifetime. Most affairs come to light one way or another, which can cut them short or – if the cheated spouse agrees to let the cheater continue for reasons of their own – extend them.What is considered a long term affair? ›
A long-term affair is one that can last for years. Consider this: About 50% of affairs will last between a month and a year, but a long-term affair? Those historically last about 15 months, with about 30% lasting two or more years.What does an affair mean to a man? ›
An affair is an act of infidelity within a committed romantic relationship. It's most commonly considered a type of cheating that involves intense, passionate emotional or physical attachment. Rarely is the term "affair" applied to a one-time event.What an affair does to a man? ›
Infidelity can have lasting impacts on partners and children the couple may have. Grief, brain changes, behaviors down the road, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, chronic stress, and depression can result. Some families have been able to move past infidelity with time and therapy.Why would a married man pursue another woman? ›
The Reasons Behind Pursuing Other Women
Not Getting Your Needs Met in Your Relationship Often, men seek out the affections of other women when they're not getting their needs met at home. They aren't feeling appreciated, or validated, by their wife or girlfriend.
In fact, the study, which looked at data from the General Social Survey in the U.S., found that 20 per cent of married people over the age of 55 have engaged in extramarital sex, while only 14 per cent of couples under 55 are said to have cheated. Those in their 50s and 60s, however, were the most likely to cheat.
Yes, it is possible for someone to fall in love with an affair partner, although it can be a complicated and emotionally fraught experience. These relationships have trust issues due to how they began. In order to make the relationships work, the couple needs to work diligently at trust.What percentage of affairs stay together? ›
How Many Couples Stay Together After an Affair? In one study, researchers found that with instances of secret infidelity, only about 20% of couples were still married after 5 years. However, for couples who revealed infidelity, that percentage jumped to 57%.Who is prone to affairs? ›
Research in the field of infidelity reveals that there are three distinct personality types correlated with a higher likelihood of cheating: sociopaths, narcissists, and lonely hearts.What time of day do most affairs happen? ›
* Think affairs happen during the evening, you'd be wrong. Married people are typically home with each other at night, if that suddenly changed it would raise too many red flags. The majority of married people will conduct their affairs in the morning, before work.What starts affairs? ›
Affairs usually begin with an attraction to someone you know fairly well, someone you spend time with each week — your friends and co-workers.Do people really recover from affairs? ›
Experts say it's possible for couples to go on to have a happy relationship after infidelity, provided they're willing to put in the work. “The couple can survive and grow after an affair,” says Coleman. “They have to—otherwise the relationship will never be gratifying.”Do people come back after affairs? ›
“Couples do and can stay together after an affair, but it takes a lot of work to repair broken trust.” Klow says most couples don't recover when one cheats but “those that do can emerge stronger from having gone through the process of recovering from the affair.” It takes time, however.Do affairs make people happier? ›
“Findings indicate that while affairs do tend to make respondents happy, a number of factors influence perception of life satisfaction during an affair, including a belief that an outside partner is required to remain in a primary partnership, a desire to remain in the primary partnership, at least biweekly sexual ...What triggers after an affair? ›
Things that can trigger flashbacks include spending time with your partner who cheated, romantic sounds, love stories, not hearing from your partner and sometimes they can just come out of the blue when you least expect it. Being betrayed by a loved one can often be traumatic.What are the stages after an affair is revealed? ›
By working through the 3 stages of affair recovery—atonement, attunement, and attachment, couples can find healing from infidelity. If you're in a marriage where there's been infidelity, marriage counseling is going to be an important part of your healing process.
- Your Partner Doesn't Apologize. ...
- Your Partner Refuses to Discuss the Infidelity. ...
- You Are Tired of the Relationship. ...
- They Lie Consistently. ...
- They Continue to See the Person They Cheated With. ...
- They Minimize Your Feelings. ...
- They Try to Defend Their Decisions.
It causes heartbreak and devastation, loneliness, feelings of betrayal, and confusion to one or both spouses in a marriage. Some marriages break after an affair. Others survive, become stronger and more intimate.Does an affair involve feelings? ›
An emotional affair involves having non-sexual emotional intimacy with someone who is not the individual's romantic partner. Someone having an emotional affair may hide it from their partner or even use deception to keep the relationship a secret. An emotional affair generally starts innocently enough as a friendship.How often do affair partners talk? ›
Interestingly, when it comes to the frequency of contacting, 47 per cent said they are in touch with the person they are cheating with one or two times a day, while 42 per cent contact their spouse once or twice daily also.What is an affair fog? ›
“Affair fog” is a term that describes an unfaithful partner's state of mind that promotes and sustains these changes while consumed with an affair. The committed relationship is conceptualized in negative terms while the affair is viewed with euphoria, positivity, or protectiveness.How do you know when your affair is over? ›
- You come up with more reasons to avoid spending time together. ...
- You have started to doubt more than you used to trust. ...
- Resentment arises and it isn't worked on. ...
- Your goals don't align and there is no compromise. ...
- You experience a constant lack of consistency. ...
- Your secret is out.
- Denial. ...
- Anger. ...
- Bargaining. ...
- Depression. ...
- Acceptance. ...
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) ...
- Final thought.
Look up the length of affairs on Google and apart from one-or-two-night stands, the consensus is that most run their course in six months to two years.How does an affair change your brain? ›
How does being cheated on effect the brain? Love, insofar as being a factory for releasing dopamine and triggering feelings of euphoria, can feel addictive to your brain. So the rejection caused by infidelity can cause several changes in the brain pathways similar to withdrawal in substance use disorder.Do you ever fully get over an affair? ›
Experts say it's possible for couples to go on to have a happy relationship after infidelity, provided they're willing to put in the work. “The couple can survive and grow after an affair,” says Coleman. “They have to—otherwise the relationship will never be gratifying.”
Affair recovery is the process of healing a relationship mentally, emotionally, and physically after it has experienced infidelity. Affair recovery usually takes anywhere from six months to two years and is often a painful process yet a possible one for couples who possess humility, compassion, and tenacity.Can an affair end well? ›
Cheating rarely ends well. Only 5% to 7% of affairs result in a marriage—and roughly 75% of the unions that started as affairs end as divorces.What are the three critical stages of affair recovery? ›
By working through the 3 stages of affair recovery—atonement, attunement, and attachment, couples can find healing from infidelity. If you're in a marriage where there's been infidelity, marriage counseling is going to be an important part of your healing process.When should you call it quits after an affair? ›
If your partner continues to see the person with whom they cheated, it can be really hard to heal and move forward together. This can be a sign that they don't consider your feelings and the impact the affair had on you. If that is the case, it's a good reason to walk away and know your worth.What type of love is an affair? ›
An affair is an act of infidelity within a committed romantic relationship. It's most commonly considered a type of cheating that involves intense, passionate emotional or physical attachment. Rarely is the term "affair" applied to a one-time event.What is one sided love affair? ›
Unrequited love or one-sided love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such by the beloved. The beloved may not be aware of the admirer's deep and pure affection, or may consciously reject it. Merriam-Webster defines unrequited as "not reciprocated or returned in kind".