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

31 Reasons to Stop an Affair: Part 3

reasons to stop affair part 3
3 Part Series:

My staff and I have been inundated with nothing but positive feedback regarding our three part series, 31 Reasons to Stop an Affair. I’d like to thank each and every one of you that took time to comment, email, tweet and post about our 31 Reasons series. The evidence and reasoning to end an affair is not only sound but overwhelmingly reasonable and rational. I can tell you my staff and I have been there, personally. As much as it may make sense to end an affair, it’s not easy and it’s not simple. You’ll need help and you’ll need support. I’d like to encourage you to take a few minutes to read the final 11 reasons to end an affair, and then give me just a few minutes of your time at the end.   

21.  History stays intact. 

The few years we spend on this earth are too short to be wasted.  To throw away five, ten, twenty, or thirty years of history for a short-lived affair is tragic, as is the loss of the identity stemming from the breakup of a marriage due to an affair.  I believe there is a longing in each of us to finish life well and to be able to look back through our own history and see a life well lived.  It is a blessing to be able, at the end of our days, to still be surrounded by lifelong friends and family, not only for us, but also for those who have been blessed by the stability of that history.  Affairs rob us of that opportunity.  They fragment life and cause regret at the end of the day.  It may seem to be a trivial reason to stop an affair, but in the end we will be judged by that history. A broken marriage that ends in divorce is a painful legacy to leave our children and grandchildren.

22.  You can be a better parent from inside your existing marriage

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is the impact it has on your ability to parent.  Unless you have never had much of a relationship with your children, it is painful for them and for you to go to “standard visitations,” where they only get to be with you every other weekend, one or two nights a week and every other holiday.  You lose the ability to have input into the most important and individuals in your life that need you most.  You may be thinking it's a cop-out to sacrifice yourself for the sake of the kids, and that it's a farce to stay in an unhappy marriage just for the sake of the kids, and I might agree if there was nothing but hate and animosity constantly emanating from the marriage.  However, developing a healthy and cordial relationship with your spouse, one in which you both agree to maintain your commitment for the sake of the overall family, can be a noble and loving endeavor.  Being willing to sacrifice the self for the greater good of the whole is actually part of what love is about.  This may seem like a lousy option if you are entangled in an affair, but it's an option that many fail to consider.  It is admirable to think about the well-being of others besides you.  It is okay to honor commitment, to provide a safe place for your children to grow, and to ultimately provide a stable home for them to bring their children (your grandchildren!) home to.  Our culture refers to that type of decision as "selling out" or being codependent, but that depends on motives.  I once had a 34-year-old woman come into my office and announce she wanted to "divorce her mom."  When asked why, she replied that her mom was codependent and would not leave her alcoholic father.  When I asked how her mom responded to her husband’s drinking, she replied that she just went on with her life and paid it little or no mind.  When asked how his moods and behaviors affected her life, she stated her that mother still went to her Bible studies, did things with her friends, and enjoyed her life.  I asked how she responded when he came to the end of his drinking and had to be nursed back to health?  She replied that her mother cared for him, doted on him, and encouraged him.  I told her if she wanted to get rid of her mom I'd gladly adopt her.  Furthermore, I explained to her that her mom wasn't codependent; rather she was an angel.  She was a woman who didn't need her mate to be a certain way or in a certain state for her to be okay.  Instead she's just faithfully and joyfully fulfilled a commitment she made over forty years ago.  She's living the promise of “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”  A codependent's life is tied to their mate and their moods, and they are riding on the roller coaster of their spouse's life. One of the primary causes of affairs is codependency, which means an individual doesn't know how to be happy unless their spouse is responding in the right way, or is doing the right thing.  There are other ways to relate to your mate if you will only make the effort to learn, while at the same time blessing your children by being present in their lives on a daily basis.

23.  It takes a lot of energy to live a dual life. 

An affair requires the living of two lives.  You have to be one person at home and another with the affair partner.  When asked which of the two individuals they prefer portraying, most will say they prefer who they are when they are with the affair partner over who they are with their spouse.  Sam described it as being caught between two worlds.  In one, he was a responsible husband and father with three kids and a wife for whom he provided.  He was the ultimate soccer dad— driving a mini van, going to work from eight to five, and sacrificing his life for the American dream.  He was fulfilling what he had always imagined his life should be about, the responsible, dutiful husband with a great wife and beautiful children.  He had the great job and the perfect house.  Life was as it was supposed to be, but he had lost his joy.  In the affair, however, he portrayed a totally different person.  In the affair, he got to be "fun Sam."  His affair partner loved all the stunts he pulled as “fun Sam” (these were the same things he used to do with his wife when he first knew her before the kids came), and it made him feel young again.  What prevented Sam from being the same person he was with his affair partner when he was at home with wife?  Why couldn't he be "fun Sam" when at home?  You possess the ability to be either person, and contrary to popular belief, it is not the affair partner that makes the difference.  It is within your control to be whomever you want.  If that's not the case, the truth is that you have little or no ability to make a difference in your own life.  If life is not fun at home, maybe it's because you're boring!  The solution isn't a geographic fix where you leave your family, but rather being the person God intended you to be.

24.  You will never have the opportunity to experience true love

Contrary to all the fairytale myths, true love doesn’t happen in a romantic moment of “riding off into the sunset together.”  True love is forged in the fires of struggle and growth.  You can never find true love in a romantic tryst.  True love is experienced when your betrayed partner chooses to accept and value the relationship with you, even after they discover that you and your actions were not what they bargained for.

We pursue affairs out of our perception of feelings of love for another, but affairs are not the relationships where we have the most potential to be loved.  At first it may seem so because we are receiving the five A's (accommodation, appreciation, adoration, affection, and affirmation) in spades.  We feel so wanted and accepted.  Nevertheless, we can never be loved unconditionally if we only conditionally let the other person know who we are.  Now, if you're reading this and you’re in an affair, you’re probably thinking your affair partner is the only person who knows who you are, but are they?  The very essence of an entangled relationship is romanticism.  It's about desperately wanting what you don't have.  It’s about the tragedy of being trapped in a marriage that is not satisfying and makes you miserable,  a marriage that feels lifeless and is full of pain and rejection.  On the other hand, the affair partner offers hope of a fresh start, and the experience of feelings that have been absent for years.  But is it love?  In reality, what feels like love is nothing more than the feeling commonly generated by the dynamics of romanticism (some refer to it as infatuation).  It is far better to want what you don't have, than to have what you don't want.  At some point, if you end up with the affair partner, you will move beyond romanticism and experience  reality; the reality in which you disappoint and are disappointed, where you are truly known by the other and they begin to realize you aren't who they thought you were.  When this happens, the relationship once again becomes a marriage of failed expectations and growing resentments, and you end up right back where you started.

If true love is what you want you have to take risks.  Let your mate know what you've done and who you are.  Reveal what a disappointment you are.  If they continue to choose to love you, not because of who they want you to be, but rather in spite of who you are, then perhaps for the first time in your life you will receive true love— a love that isn't earned, one that's not based upon what you do for another, not based upon your having to be acceptable or on your performance, or having to be acceptable, but a love that is full and rich. It is a real love where you can finally be accepted for who you are.  This type of love can never be experienced in a romantic relationship because your affair partner can't truly know you until you are married to them, and because extra-marital relationships are based on temporary pleasures.  Until a relationship comes to the point where it offers nothing but pain and rejection, where the liabilities far outweigh contributions (and all relationships come to this point), there is not an opportunity for the true test of love.  If your mate, by God's grace, is able to truly love you in spite of the affair, you will finally get to experience the love you've always wanted.

You may believe that even if your mate offers you unconditional love, there is no way you can ever have feelings for them again.  You might think you could never love them unconditionally and accept them as they are.  This is truly a crossroads in life.  It is at this point that you choose between life and death, between growth and stagnation, between love and self-centeredness, between maturity and comfort, and between God-given humility and pride.  As hard as it may be to believe that desire for your mate can return, that you can love again, and your mate can love you again, I have seen it happen over and over. Deficits in a marriage can be addressed and God can give new life.  He is the very source of life, but you have to stop what you're doing and give Him a chance.  If you don’t believe this, talk with others who have made that choice and see what they have to say. 

25.  Your feelings can come back, and they will.  

It is easy to bury your feelings for your partner when you are caught up in the intoxicating drug of an affair, a place where the world takes on a new glow.  As previously stated, however, this idyllic feeling does not last, and your problems will come rushing back in on you.  At the same time, it is possible to have feelings for your mate again, often after you have already abandoned them.  After a while, you may begin to find yourself pining away for something wonderful that you threw on the trash heap; something you are afraid you cannot regain.

26.  "I deserve to be happy"  

That's the same one Adam and Eve fell for!  And it is no surprise that we believe this lie.  After all, just about every television ad and media spot conveys the message that happiness is our birthright and will come if we just buy this or do that.  Constantly surrounded by these messages, it is easy to convince ourselves we have a right to the affair or the sexual indulgences.  However, no matter how many people are repeating it, a lie is still a lie.

27.  It will waste all you have to give in life. 

Your pursuit of an emotion will cost you your strength as well as your years.  In Proverbs 5: 7-11, the writer states: "Now then my sons; listen to me and do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her (this can also apply to the opposite gender), do not go near the door of his/her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another's man's house. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent”  In the moment, what seems best is to escape from the difficult reality of a disappointing, if not downright painful marriage, but that is just in the moment.  Wisdom throughout the ages speaks to the long-term results of these actions.  Our tendency is to only focus on the present, and we seldom take the time to explore the realistic future.  Years of an investment in a family will be lost, not to mention the financial losses that come from divorce.  Attorneys will acquire your hard earned money.  Retirement accounts will be split.  Lifestyles will be forced to change.  Children will be divided in their localities.  Seeds of bitterness will be given fertile soil to take root and begin the process of hardening your heart.  It will not only be hurtful to your ex, but that bitterness will also interfere with your ability to relate and connect with the new people in your life.  Years may be spent trying to mend wounded relationships with adult children and friends from the past.  In the long run, you will lose the ability to enjoy your dreams of how life ought to be.  Your life will be wasted as you lose your best chance to finish well.  Wisdom cries out for you to stop and turn back before it's too late.

28.  It is far better to live by faith than to live and learn.

After an affair, regrets are common, but it may be too late because you will have lived, and then learned, and perhaps already squandered what is precious to you.  Countless people will testify to their regrets of the endless negative consequences of their affair(s).  It is much better to get off the path now, before the affair or addiction costs you much of what you have toiled for in life.

29.  You will end up hurting the majority of people in your life. 

The impact of your actions will go on for the remainder of your life.  By leaving a marriage (even if you believe the other person deserves it), you not only change the course of their life, but the course of each and every person who touches your life as well.  There is a ripple effect that can gain momentum over the years. Divorce is never really over.

30.  Broken relationships = financial problems.

I hate to end on a mercenary note, but it has to be said.   The single greatest threat to long-term financial stability, both yours and your children's, is divorce.  The nation is filled with once-secure individuals who lost a significant portion of their wealth because of their bad decisions.  It is a simple matter of Home Economics 101:  one house is cheaper to pay for than two, half of a retirement account is never as good as all of it, and zero spent in legal bills is preferable to perhaps tens of thousands spent on useless and sometimes vindictive litigation.  Conversely, one of the top ways to become wealthy is to stay in a marriage.

31.  For heaven's sake.  

You have probably guessed by now that I come from a Christian perspective. I have tried to stay strictly rational until this point, but now I need to share my final thoughts with those who want a spiritual perspective. For those who do not share a life with Jesus, the following reasons may not make sense, so please do not feel compelled to read on. For those of you who do share a life with Jesus, I ask you to prayerfully consider what I am about to say. I do not claim to have all wisdom. In fact, I genuinely want to write only the truth that has been revealed to me. Please try to read this with an open mind. I don't think I can actually tell you anything you don't already know, but I desire to speak to the truth that is in you. I do not possess anything that you do not, since those of us who are in Christ share in the same life and in the same hope. So please read on.

Many of you reading this probably feel misunderstood as well as disappointed, if not downright bitter about the benefits of having led a "Christian Life." In fact, if I were to state that a great reason to stop an affair is the blessings you would receive, you might even question my understanding of your situation, or at least my integrity. A common reason for infidelity is disappointment in the way life has evolved. Those of us who have been involved in "Christian circles" have frequently been taught or promised the good life as a result of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, only to find life became more difficult, not easier. We were told that the blessings of following God would exceed the pleasure of sin, but that reality holds true only when you are living a life filled with blessings— a life you enjoy and leaves you feeling satisfied. But it is that heretical teaching in today's evangelical church that leaves many feeling confused and bitter.

Indeed there are blessings that come from a life of following Jesus, but the fullness of those blessings doesn't necessarily come in this life. They may, and if they do that's great, but those who buy the teaching that the Christian life will always result in happiness, satisfaction, and comfort, have been sold a bill of goods. That false teaching is apparent in the example of just one life- the life of Christ. He certainly lived a great "Christian Life," but look what it got Him. So you may have already figured out that doing the "right thing" makes sense as long as life goes well, but at times the pleasure of sin may seem to outweigh the joy of following Jesus if those blessings are taken away,  if for whatever reason you don't like your mate, or if maybe you are just terribly unhappy with your life.

You may feel caught between the two-choice dilemma: leaving behind and rejecting all you have believed right and true regarding God's will for your life in order to experience the  extreme happiness you now are experiencing with you affair partner; or returning to a miserable marriage where you have no foreseeable hope of happiness in this life. The decision is more difficult if you bought the lie that the Christian life would bring the fullness of joy in this life. The reality, however, is that being born again and sharing a life with Jesus does not necessarily bring supreme happiness in this life. Some may experience this, but it is not the path for all of God's children.

The life of Christ in me is not a life that pursues the goal of fulfilling felt desires. Instead, it is a life that longs to worship and glorify the Father. It is not a life that uses God as a means to achieving the ultimate satisfaction in this life. God is not our tool to achieve our own happiness. As Larry Crabb points out, "If that were the case then satisfied desire would be the end and God would be the means. That in turn means that my ultimate pursuit in life is happiness and satisfied desire becomes my idol." God does not exist for the sake of helping me experience the fullness of a happy life; rather, I exist for His good pleasure, and I live to serve Him. I will indeed experience a supreme joy, but it is not guaranteed in this life. If I live for an experience of happiness, if my desire becomes the primary goal of my life, and I live for nothing higher than its felt satisfaction, then I am no longer living by faith. I am an idolater worshipping desire. I am no longer living for God.

As I see it, this life is about experiencing the great mystery, and that is "Christ's life in me and the hope of glory". I live by faith, not for the experience of satisfied desire. My faith is based on Christ and the reality that His life is now my life. I actually have the very spirit of the supreme God of the universe at the center of my being. I was never intended to live for the short-term experience of a soul mate who is not my wife. Jesus tells us that there is no marriage in heaven, so we know this life is not about marriage. It is by faith that I wait for my fullness of joy, not in this life, but in the next. Faith is not about what I believe and receive in this life; rather, it is about how long I can believe and receive nothing. I live for that day when Christ will say, "Well done my good and faithful servant," and not for the day I have fulfilled my desire.

So for those of us who have tasted the sweet gift of the love and grace of God and know there is a life after this life; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are calling you. Will you take time to listen to them? I don't presume to know what they might say to you. I only know what the Word of God reveals about Jesus' passion and compassion for those who are His, as well as His constant pursuit of “black sheep” to bring them back to the fold. I am aware of the Father's tolerance, patience, kindness, mercy, and love for those whom He has called.  I know that by His very nature he is love, and there is nothing you can ever do to alter His love for you. I also know of the Holy Spirit's deep desire to glorify the Father and the Son through our lives, and of His amazing presence in our lives as He reveals the presence of God to us and in us. Don't squander the gift of God- the gift that cost Jesus his life. You are not your own, rather, you have been bought with a price. Take time to listen to the gentle loving voice of the Spirit within, and ultimately joy will be found in following His voice rather than in listening to your emotions and fears.

Conclusion

After all is said and done there is usually a lot more said than done.

I have tried to list some common reasons for stopping an affair. Experience has proven that it is not as easy as “just deciding to stop,” but the first step is recognizing that decision. For many identifying the decision that exists is the best they can do as they begin the journey. The decision to "save your marriage" is separate and apart from the decision to stop your behavior. If you would like further help on steps to take, read our 6 part series: "Ending an Affair"

I’d like to propose something to you today, both betrayed and unfaithful. If you’re a betrayed spouse, I’m hoping this series has helped make sense out of some pretty crazy behavior by your spouse that you’ve probably been at a loss to understand. If they won’t attend the EMS Weekend with you, or, if they won’t take any action, we have a safe place for you to heal. It’s called our Harboring Hope course. If you’re an unfaithful spouse, still trying to make sense out of this all and wondering what steps you should take next for your own clarity and healing, I’d like you to consider taking our Hope for Healing course. As I’ve said before in recovery, it’s not about trust, it’s about safety. This is a safe place for you to heal and I hope and pray you’ll take action today to find more safety in your own recovery.

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Without a doubt, the best

Without a doubt, the best article I have read addressed to person in an affair. For the BS, the information is also extremely beneficial in understanding the "whys."

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