Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

31 Reasons to Stop an Affair: Part 1

31 Reasons to Stop an Affair: A Three Part Series

Part 1: Reasons 1-10
Part 2: Reasons 11-20

Harboring Hope registration opens at 12:00 PM Central Time (USA) today. Space is limited.
Harboring Hope is our online, anonymous course for betrayed partners. You can get your life back. It often sells out within a few hours.
View Harboring Hope Registration Status

Several years ago, I had a client named Harry, who had achieved six months of sobriety from cocaine. After a year of meeting with him, he entered my office and announced that this was the day he was going to use. I first met Harry after his wife had coerced him into entering treatment by threatening divorce. The first six months of treatment were frustrating for Harry as he discovered his powerlessness. It was particularly difficult for Harry to surrender his pride; desperation finally persuaded him to let go and take a new approach. At first, this new life was filled with excitement and hope, but the days grew more difficult with the passage of time. Even after Harry completed his work, he still felt undone. He felt pretty sure that no matter how much he changed, he'd never be good enough. Discouragement began to creep in, and his old feelings of hopelessness returned. Harry decided he was finished with abstinence. He was tired of trying to do the right thing and of always pleasing others. Now, it was his turn.

I drew a simple matrix on the board and asked Harry what his motivations were for wanting to use cocaine. He quickly replied, "To be free, to be with friends, because it was fun, to feel better, and because I'm tired of doing the right thing; I want to let loose." When I asked the disadvantages of using, the only deterrent he could think of was increased conflict with his wife. When I queried the advantages of not using, he stated an improved relationship with his wife, but he couldn't identify any others. When asked the disadvantages of not using, he replied, "A dull life, increased boredom, missing my friends, missing being high, and feeling trapped."

My only reply to his list was that it looked like he was going to use today, and if it were my list, I'd do the same. Puzzled, he asked why I wasn't trying to stop him. I began to ask some important questions, "Did he really want to be talked out of following through with his desires? Can someone be talked out of something they have already decided to do?" The answer is yes, but the solution to Harry's dilemma had nothing to do with deciding whether or not to use again. He had great reasons for both choices. We know right from wrong, but at times seem incapable of making good choices. We often spend hours wrestling with the dilemma of what to do in certain situations. We struggle with the battle between conflicting desires within ourselves, with thoughts such as, "Is this who I am or isn't it?" and "Maybe I should stop or maybe not," and, "I know this is wrong, but I don't think I can ever be happy if I have to give it up," and finally, "Is life worth living without this?"

In reality, individuals trapped in affairs, or sexual addictions, are ambivalent about their actions. Part of them wants to leave the marriage, while the other part feels badly about leaving. These two sides effectively cancel each other out. It's not a matter of not caring; instead, it is a matter of caring a great deal about two mutually exclusive things. Harry's problem wasn't a lack of cocaine, but rather a loss of vision. He was focused on the wrong thing. Harry either lost sight of what had motivated him to quit in the first place, or he never established solid reasons for not using. I reminded him of his original motivations, which were just as valid as they had been on the day he entered recovery. It was just in that particular moment that his emotions were overriding both his good judgment, as well as his ability to recall his motivations. When trapped in the two-pronged dilemma of the "want to's" and the "ought to's," there has to be a majority of motivators on one side or the other if you are ever going to break free. Our dark side will always be capable of providing plenty of reasons for the "want to's," but it's difficult in the heat of emotion to think of reasons we know are good and right.

My goal in this series is to provide a list of sound reasons for ending these destructive behaviors. Once consumed by the emotions of an affair or sexual addiction, your ability to identify positive motivators will naturally be impaired. Here are a number of items that have been helpful for my clients throughout the years. As you wrestle with what to do, you'll find it helpful to keep these, as well as other personal motivators, available for review at those times when emotions are in danger of overriding reason. You may want to write some of them down and keep them handy.

The 31 Reasons: 1-10

1. Your baggage never gets lost in transit—it always shows up at your new destination.

This fact is sad, but true. The myth that the grass is always greener on the other side is just that—a myth. The belief that a geographic fix will cure your misery is only an indication of deluded victim-thinking. Your mate isn't your problem. Rather, your mate reveals the problems in you. If you eliminate your mate, all you've done is temporarily remove the spotlight illuminating your own defects of character. Once in a new long-term relationship, the light will once again shine on your weaknesses. Why choose a solution that doesn't address the problem? That is the same as putting gas in your car, when the engine is out of oil. The action doesn't address the problem. Why don't you start by trying to discover what is driving your life, as well as why you keep making harmful and destructive choices? There is a solution, but it's not in an affair.

2. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto."

When it comes to extramarital affairs or sexual addiction, this statement couldn't be truer. Dorothy's life was one of mediocrity. There was little to no color in her life at the homestead, and she felt constrained by hardships and by those who controlled her life. She believed that no one understood her. In frustration, she tried to leave, only to find herself directly in the path of an ominous tornado that sent her helplessly spinning into a strange new land of fantasy. Unlike her old life, this new life was painted with vibrant colors and was full of song. Furthermore, Dorothy was no longer alone. She found a strange troop of friends leading the way: a scarecrow that lacked brains, a tin man missing his heart, and a lion with no courage. This motley crew committed their lives to assisting young Dorothy and her dog, Toto, in her search for the Wizard of Oz. Interestingly, flying monkeys, wicked witches, and deception left Dorothy pining away for the very thing from which she had tried to run—home.

I wonder if the author of the Wizard of Oz might not have been writing about some foolish person trapped in an affair. How often do these indiscretions begin with feelings of mediocrity, or a desire to feel alive and understood–free from the constraints of life's responsibilities–and no longer alone? The ambivalence generated by life's circumstances and frustrations results in finding oneself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Catapulted into a strange new fantasyland, the individual is left to wrestle with what to do. Only then do they end up operating with a series of handicaps like Dorothy's team that had no brain, no heart, and no courage.

What do you decide to do when somebody has lost their brain? If you've ever observed someone in an affair, it is apparent they are operating a few cards short of a full deck. They lose the ability to make even the simplest decisions. I have seen successful men and women in extremely influential positions be transformed into inept and incompetent individuals who cannot make a rational decision. They become willing to jeopardize career, family, and future for this momentary pleasure. If the behavior of being "in love" were not socially acceptable, they would be certifiably insane. Instead, they are allowed to stumble through life like the emperor with no clothes. Everyone else can see they have no brain, that reason and common sense are gone, but often they are too polite to say anything.

The loss of heart is also apparent. There is an illusion that if one is in love, they are finally in touch with their heart. In reality, they've just lost what little heart they had. The selfish pursuits of personal gratification and self-glorification have nothing to do with heart; rather they are based on self-centeredness. The total lack of consideration of how the betrayer's actions will impact others is one of the most astounding aspects of an affair. Like the tin man, the person involved in an affair has no heart and no empathy. On the other hand, people with heart are actually able to feel the impact their actions have on those who are connected to them. They care about the pain they are inflicting upon those they love. The total lack of consideration of how the betrayer's actions will impact others is one of the most astounding aspects of an affair. The path out of this dark morass requires that they acquire a heart, not only to begin to experience awareness of the pain that's been inflicted, but also to learn how to truly love.

Finally, courage is certainly not a term used to describe those indulging in affairs. In fact, their betrayal seems to rob them of courage. Instead of exercising the necessary courage to acknowledge and own their feelings and actions, they hide behind a veil of secrecy—afraid of discovery and the consequences of their actions. Rather than having the courage to face the reality of the deficits in their marriage or address the issues resulting from their betrayal, they attempt to avoid conflict and hide their feelings and actions. Ironically, it is this lack of courage that keeps them hopelessly trapped in the life they claim to want to escape. The only way they can stay immobilized in this state is by the continued avoidance of life's realities. Instead, why not be honest and stand up and own what has been done? This simple solution creates immediate change as well as a loss of control. It requires courage to take personal responsibility for their life and actions. Frequently, those lacking the courage to stand up will hide behind the rationalization that they don't want to hurt their mate, claiming they are acting in their mate's best interest by keeping secrets. Instead, they are controlling and robbing their mate of the information necessary to take responsibility for their own life, to make informed decisions, and to address the issues in the marriage. It takes courage to be authentic in a marriage, but like the lion of Oz, courage is a trait that is often missing.

Interestingly, this trip to affair fantasyland usually culminates in a longing for home. Like Dorothy, they often realize that, "there's no place like home." But how do they return? It would be nice if they could click their heels together and repeat, "There's no place like home," but more is required. The journey back is more exciting, and ultimately more rewarding than the fantasyland, but it takes time and effort. It is, however, one's best hope for growth and happiness. Come back to reality. Rediscover your brain, heart and courage, and you'll find there truly is no place like home.

3. Emotional decisions are never our best decisions.

If you don't believe that emotional decisions are never our best decisions, consider the times you've made an emotional buying decision. How many of those decisions have been your best? If you're like me, the majority of those choices have been serious mistakes because when lost in emotions, we lose the ability to be rational. Who can deny the power of the emotions experienced in an affair or sexual addiction? I have seen wise, grown men who I greatly respect do things that are totally insane. In fact, in society, we make excuses for those who are "in love" and label their insane behavior as "romantic," when in reality, family and fortune are being sacrificed for this make believe "true love." Interestingly enough, we laugh pityingly at people caught in the snare of greed who fall prey to the wiles of a con artist. We commit to never allow ourselves to be so duped as to lose large sums of money on obvious scams; however, the same emotional forces that seduce those vulnerable individuals are the very ones that ensnare those involved in affairs and addictions. In the midst of an affair, sane and logical individuals begin to experience feelings that far exceed normal emotional states. And in such states, we make radical and irrational decisions about the future, decisions that affect not only our lives, but also the lives of those who are connected to us. It's frightening to have to live with the consequences of decisions made in a state of virtual insanity.

4. People almost always "affair down."

This is an axiom I have observed over the past twenty years of studying and working with affairs. I have never seen a situation where I felt an individual "affaired-up"—meaning that they ended up with a better person. It may seem like a better decision at the time, but it will prove it to be a step down. A dear friend of mine once shared a close call he had with a woman in his study group at church. He said that he had been aware of the spark between the two of them for some time, but had pushed away the reality of their synergy until one night when they found themselves alone. He told me, "Rick, she was so beautiful, and she truly cared about me and wanted me. It was the moment of truth. I looked at her, took a deep breath and told her I didn't know what she thought was going to happen, but this was going nowhere, and I walked away. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but there's one thing that had confused me: you'd always talked about the fact that people affair down. Now I understand. I can finally see how I would have been "affairing down" if I had chosen her, because although she may have been more physically beautiful than my wife, in terms of maturity, character, integrity, intelligence, loyalty, spirituality, and those types of character traits, she was no match for Carol. " Open your eyes: there is no such thing as a move up when it comes to an affair.

5. You'll stunt your growth.

Marriage is God's primary tool for growing people. It is in the marital relationship that a person stands to gain and lose the most. It is where someone has the most opportunity to grow in their capacity to love, and to be loved. It is true that amidst an affair, you may be receiving an abundance of accommodation, appreciation, adoration, affection, and affirmation; but getting your needs for nurturance met through an illicit affair isn't going to produce maturity (or a successful long-term relationship). In fact, the love generated in an affair is not love at all, though it may feel like it. It is an illusion. It is built around how that person makes you feel, not about how you truly feel about them. It consists of the belief that another holds the answer to your felt needs. True love, on the other hand, is the love you receive after your mate learns of your betrayal and chooses to love you anyway. Growth comes from embracing the difficult situations in your life and having both the courage and fortitude to face them—not by avoiding a challenging situation.

6. No man is an island.

I am astounded by the rationalization used by many involved in affairs that their mate won't care, or that their mate will be better off if the marriage is abandoned. What makes you think you're so insignificant? The reality is, what you do will literally alter the course of their remaining years. Among other things, your affair affects their ability to trust, it destroys dreams of a life with you, it forces them into decisions they never wanted to make, and it robs them of the opportunity of learning how to be in relationship with you and how to grow beyond themselves by loving you. It strips them of their choices. Ultimately, it will literally stunt their growth as well as your own. And that's just the effect it has on your spouse! It will also profoundly impact your family and friends, and will create any number of difficult situations for them to navigate. Are you being so selfish because you think only of your misery without considering the misery you are about to create in the lives of those who care about you?

7. It is a trap.

What the world tells us regarding the wonderful outcome of affairs is a lie—plain and simple. If you look at the research done on affairs, you will see there is seldomly a successful outcome, and people who so eagerly rush into affairs more often than not get trapped in a situation from which they have a hard time getting away (remember the movie, Fatal Attraction?). What looked enticing and exciting at the beginning can become a web that drains the life energy away from you and the people you love. For example, second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages. Why would yours be the exception?

8. Don't call it love.

Affairs are based on romanticism, not real love. Romanticism always consists of the dynamic of two individuals longing to be together, but are kept separate by life's circumstances. Romanticism can only apply to love outside of marriage, and the ingredients always consist of secrecy and mystery (such as the secret glances or stolen opportunities). Romanticized relationships, therefore, have a premarital or extra-marital association. Poets rarely write of the romantic love of marriage, the care required for children, or the mutuality of love in old age. Romanticized love by its own definition is something "beyond" or "out of this world" which cannot be contained in the defined walls of a marriage. The theme never differs; it is always the same song with a different verse. Consider the great romantic plots through the ages, such as Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, or movies like You've got Mail or Pretty Woman. There are endless examples, all with the same theme of two individuals searching for the fulfillment of love and longing to be together, but whose efforts are tragically foiled by circumstances. Even more telling is what happens at the end of these stories, when they finally manage to come together. The curtain falls, the movie ends and the sitcom goes off the air. Such is the outcome of the vast majority of affairs.

9. Field of dreams.

Unfortunately, certain types of passion have the tendency to spend themselves quickly. Romanticized love and holding out for the possibility of perpetual passion raises unrealistic expectations. When little or no passion is experienced and the embers have cooled, many people think their marriage has failed and begin to look for the exit sign. The advent of the fading embers is not the indicator of a failed marriage, but rather the beginning of the transition to the next stage of the relationship—a place where true unselfish love and real passion can begin to develop.

10. Romance can be hazardous to your health.

There is no high more potent than the feeling generated by an affair. The reunion of affair partners after a season of absence produces overwhelming feelings. The sky is bluer, the sun shines brighter, the birds sing louder, and all seems well in life. You and your partner are cloaked in ecstasy; the world, as you know it, ceases to exist. All that is real in that moment is you and your partner. Gone are the worries of the world and the pressures of life. For in that brief moment of time there are no concerns—only bliss. Who doesn't want to experience that type of high? But it never lasts! Reality sets in, and the temporary escape from life's problems end. Just like a heroin addict, the next day comes and all of life's problems not only come flooding back, but get worse–or at least–more complicated. One of the interesting dynamics of addictive behavior is the "bubble effect." There is a tremendous high that comes from your drug of choice, but that feeling is temporary and leaves you wanting more. As time passes, you become obsessed with the thought of your next opportunity to escape. In fact, that obsession can become so intense that it is all you can think about. There seems to be relief from the anticipation itself, but as the process plays out, you actually lose the ability to experience life in the moment. You become so future-oriented, you lose the ability to enjoy what is around you now. In fact, the life you are living is now filled with misery because you cannot be with the one you want. You end up living in a bubble of misery until you can once again experience your drug of choice. You can lose all of the joy of living as a result of craving the high.

A client I'll call Joe once paged me at 6:30 in the evening. He stated he was in front of his computer, and just had one more button to push before he entered the porn site. Joe reminded me of his promise to call before he used again, and said the thought of calling seemed to ease his guilt. I asked how long his affair with porn normally lasted, and he responded about one hour. I then asked how long he would be miserable as a result of what he was doing. Joe said about 72 hours. I asked if it was worth 72 hours of misery for 1 hour of ecstasy. He quickly responded yes, so I asked how many hours he had spent obsessing about using the porn. Joe said he had been obsessing since about 10:00 that morning. I stated it might be difficult to talk him out of something about which he had been obsessing for 8 hours. Joe was in the bubble. All life apart from the porn had lost meaning, and there were no motivating factors at that moment to stop Joe. The source of Joe's happiness had been reduced to an addictive behavior. Without getting to experience what he craved, there could be no happiness. The fate of those trapped in affairs is the same. Your drug of choice becomes your only hope for escape and happiness.

If you're feeling trapped by an addiction or affair, you should try our Hope for Healing course. Group settings have been proven to be more effective than traditional counseling. Find ways to cope with your guilt and shame while experiencing a community that truly "gets it."

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the grief of finding out about your partner's addiction or affair, Harboring Hope is a great place for you. Our registration opens today at noon CST, and typically sells out within 1-2 hours. You won't regret working on your own healing during this difficult time.

Harboring Hope registration opens at 12:00 PM Central Time (USA) today. Space is limited.
Harboring Hope is our online, anonymous course for betrayed partners. You can get your life back. It often sells out within a few hours.
View Harboring Hope Registration Status

Hope for Healing registration opens December 4th. Subscribe to be notified.
Hope for Healing is our online course for those who have been wayward to heal after infidelity. It often sells out within a few short hours. Don't miss it!

View Hope for Healing Registration Status



RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:


Wizard of oz

All I can say is AMEN!! Hands down, the most brilliant article I've ever read on affairs. Having just untangled out of a highly emotional affair, the segment on "Dorthy and the wizard of Oz" was spot on! I couldn't agree more and am astonished at how utterly self focused, and uncaring of others feelings I became during the affair, focusing solely on "my needs"... Insanity.

Agreed. Rick, just a

Agreed. Rick, just a fantastic piece, and I can't wait for the rest. Tahoe, just curious if there was an event, a natural progression or getting help that brought you to your realizations. You seem to have reached an understanding that probably all of us on the betrayed side pray our spouses would achieve to be able to heal together. Hope that healing is happening for you. Thanks much.


Well goodness. It's actually taken months of unwinding. I got busted, and therefore had to deal with the bomb that went off, hurting many close friends, as the AP was a close person in our community.
Even though it was an emotional affair, the hurt that it caused was spread to multiple friends and family members .
The affair was like a drug addiction, and the further we progressed in it the less and less we cared about anyone's feelings but ourselves. Sickening, but true.

This is undoubtedly the best

This is undoubtedly the best article you have written on this topic. As a BS, it is hard to read but is so very thorough and objective. Thank you. I can't wait to read the next installment.

Thank you

I've been out of my affair for over a year, and struggled with all of these things. I just have to say, out of every article and therapy session I've experienced, this bit of writing is the most powerful thing I've read. I will use it when I feel weak.

Thank you.

Can't wait for the rest

Beautiful article! Can't wait to see the rest. My only problem is: do I send this to my wayward wife now or wait for the other 21?

I agree

I'm in the same boat. The first 10 seem powerful enough, but maybe the other 21 are worth waiting for before suggesting that she read it. Our divorce is only a few months away from being finalized and she doesn't listen to my pleadings anymore.

Healing in Florida

Thank you for the 31 reasons to end an affair. Part 1 gave me great insight into the betrayer mind set. It cleared up for me the myths and falsehoods of affairs. Understanding these concepts has helped me greatly. My D-day is but 31/2 months old. I hurt deeply. Your website and post are a God send. Thank you.



As a woman married 30 years, walking right into an affair 4 years ago and still in it, everyone of these are true. I don't want to end my marriage, I do love my husband but now I'm so emotionally attached to my affair partner it feels like my heart is being ripped in half. My husband doesn't know because he trust me so much. I came across this website through Living Proof Ministries, Beth Moore has a way of speaking directly to my heart. I'm working on cutting the ties with my affair partner.

Reply to True

Run, run as fast as you can! 30 years of marriage, family and everything that is yours will be lost. I've lived the nightmare and please STOP! Take this advice now, life is for living in happiness, love and trust/faith.

Spot on!

An extraordinary piece of writing, you have perfectly described my partner during his affair. Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this eternally complex subject. It certainly contributes towards my healing.


Absolutely the most amazing write up about affairs I've seen. When does Part 2 come out? SO READY!!

NEEDED to read the "affair down" portion....

It's so difficult not to compare yourself to or feel inadequate compared to the AP..... I so very badly needed to read the "affair down" section. Made me cry.... His AP is pretty and doesn't have children (so hasn't struggled with weight and has no stretchmarks or loose tummy skin) she also held a high position in our church, has a degree and is continuing school; whereas I chose early on to be a stay-at-home mommy because I wanted to be there for my kids in a way my parents and his parents were never there for us. In fact I took care of pretty much everything at home so HE could focus on work and school.. He's almost finished now and I have nothing to show. During the affair and our separation he would throw it in my face and claimed that I never had any ambition and those words have stuck with me... I worked really hard to get to a point where I knew my worth. I grew up AWFUL and I fought my way out. I am nothing like some one "like me" should have turned out and there have been multiple times in our marriage where I wasn't "happy" and I never chose to have an affair... Even still, with everything we've been through.. I constantly have to remind myself and remember that. I am a good, amazing, wonderful, beautiful and incredibly smart woman and for whoever may be reading this, YOU ARE TOO!!!!! This will not define my value and worth. (Motivational rant over)

31 Reasons to Stop an Affair

Very powerful. I could see so much of this in my husband. It has been 5 years since I found out about his affair. He is a 25 year recovering alcoholic and you think he would know better than to do this. I never looked at the affair like an addiction, but I see the similarities now!

Husband's affair

Yeah I guess I could see some of the similarities. But I still can't understand how someone can be so thoughtless of another person they say they love and how can they lie to them for decades without any remorse. Just my thoughts. Maybe I am wrong.

I agree I am in the middle of

I agree I am in the middle of nasty divorce created by him. He has twisted this divorce and blames the cost the effect on my teenage boys the financial burden etc. on me. Everyone sees his delusional behavior. His affair partner is just like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. He is trying to take me down emotionally and financially all with th help of this women. He has no empathy for anything or the damage he has done to my sons. He thinks he is a good dad when my 19 and 17 year old are just going along with their time when this women is with them. He has never face the trauma of his childhood sexual abuse and his selfiness has blown up our family. I will get through this with my head held high I pray someday he will break and get the help he needs but I doubt it.

After reading these, he made

After reading these, he made the choice to move on with the affair partner and completely end it with me.

Letting Go ... Moving Forward

I had the affair .... the pain of letting go of the relationship I chose to end nearly 9 months ago (not to mention the pain involved in waking up to the pain I've caused my wife and others) has been gut wrenching .. and yes, so it should be, what I've done is disgraceful. I know I made the right decision to end that relationship, but that doesn't seem to have made it easier to let go. I have listened to the whole series with the 31 reasons a few times now as I drive to work and it's like a healing balm that speaks truth amidst the cloud of thoughts and emotions that swirl around ... less so than they did 3 months ago and less then than 6 months ago... but still swirling ... I'm grateful that this resource is available ... it does help a lot. I need to keep hearing this. Thank you.

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer

Free Surviving Infidelity Bootcamp

Our experts designed this step-by-step guide to help you survive infidelity. Be intentional with your healing with this free 7-day bootcamp.
I would highly recommend giving this a try.
-D, Texas