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

Ending an Affair: Close the Door

ending an affair requires more than a decision. The bridge to that relationship absolutely needs to be burned.

Ending an affair requires more than a decision. If there is another person involved, the bridge to that relationship absolutely needs to be burned.

I remember when my oldest child began speaking. The words she learned provided a new form of entertainment. When she wanted us to open something for her she'd say "door" because she'd heard us say "open the door." Door became her word for open. However there was one phrase she got right. Each night when we'd put her to bed and begin to leave she'd say "Don't shut the door." She wanted to see us and to hear us. That connection was as important to her as air and water. The attachment she shared with us left her panicked if that door was shut.

Last week I said the first step to ending an affair was making an irreversible decision that it was over. The next step is closing the door. I shared the above example because if there's an attachment it may not come easily, you may even feel panicked. Ending a relationship may require breaking an attachment which is going to hurt, but failure to shatter that bond anchors you, your mate and your affair partner to misery for years to come.

How to Close The Door:
Use clear and concise communication.

Take responsibility for the decision to end the affair:

The affair is your responsibility not your mate's. You made the choices that led to the affair and it has to be your decision to end it. Let your affair partner clearly know it's over but in a way that is safe for your mate. If you're not the one closing the door it's too easy to open it back up. Your mate may be demanding you end the affair, and you should, but it must be because it's what you're choosing, not because they want you to. Playing the victim and blaming your mate or family for ending the affair only paves the pathway right back to your AP.

Be clear that it's over:

There can be no wiggle room. Saying, "I really want to be with you, but I need to do the right thing" isn't shutting the door. It conveys a desire to continue and encourages the affair partner to hang on. While you may be doubtful or even convinced the marriage can't work you've already made the irreversible decision to end the affair. Say it loud and say it clear. "This is over."

Over means over:

Let them know that over means no contact whatsoever. It may be tempting to lessen the pain by suggesting you can still be friends. Morphing the affair into "just friends" isn't closing the door; it's leaving it half open for the breeze to flow through.

Speak in the first person:

"I'm ending this relationship." Don't try and soften the blow by using the word we. If it's up to "us" to end this relationship then a covert alliance is maintained between the two of you and the door is left open to see how "we" are doing. They don't have to agree, in fact they probably won't agree. If they genuinely care about you and if you care about them, disappointment, hurt and anger will abound. But there's no other way. In affairs we promise things that others have first rights to, and when the illusion ends a harsh reality sets in.

An Important Note: This is especially true if your affair partner first breaks up with you. You need to make your own decision to end the relationship with them and take steps to that end. It makes no difference if they did it first, this has to be what you choose and act on. Otherwise you'll find yourself in the role of the victim pining away for what you can't have.

Be clear about whom you owe what:

Ending an affair is messy and wounded souls abound in the aftermath of an affair, but your affair partner isn't the victim. If they knew you were married then they at least had the opportunity to make a choice to enter the relationship. Your mate had no choice in the matter (even if you felt they didn't want the marriage anymore, unless you asked for permission they had no choice).

Restitution needs to be made for the victim, not the perpetrator.
Your affair partner's healing isn't your responsibility.

You can't end an affair by continuing to play "knight in shining armor." If you feel your decision places them at risk of self-harm then hand them off to someone who can help them by calling 911. Clearly communicate that you realize the damage you've done to your mate and family and that it's over. Let them know where your loyalties lie and that you're going to do all you can to help your family heal.

Set clear boundaries:

Clearly state that you want no contact and how you will respond if they attempt to reach you. Let them know you will not respond or that your mate will respond. Don't be naïve, your affair partner will most likely try to make contact, and for most there's a part of us that hopes they will. Letting them know up front how you will respond helps them understand that you're serious about ending the relationship.

Vehicles for communicating it's over:

If you've made an irreversible decision to end the affair, don't set yourself up for failure while closing the door. Using email or phone is far safer than having a face-to-face meeting. When ending my affair I knew it was impossible to meet face to face with my affair partner. I couldn't trust myself to maintain my new resolve if we were to sit and talk about it. My decision wasn't about her, it was about what I knew was best, and I didn't need her permission or agreement. More than likely the strong feelings generated by our relationship would have once again corroded my resolve and resulted in continuing the relationship.

Staying Free (Avoiding Relapse)

We don't fall back into the affair because we're weak, we fall back because we're prideful and we put ourselves in situations we think we can handle. I've never had anyone relapse because they're weak; we only relapse when we think we can do things such as meet in person to say goodbye. Don't be deceived, even if there is a part of you that wants out of the relationship, there is also another part of you that still wants the relationship. That is part of the struggle that comes from being human. Don't underestimate the strength of the attachment with your affair partner. Assuming you're too weak to handle meeting face to face will allow the door to be shut completely.

Involving Your Spouse

If at all possible, have your mate involved in the final communication. If it's a phone call let your mate be on the other line to hear what you say. If it's an email copy them on the communication.

Stopping an affair isn't a conversation; it's a statement.

Say what you have to say and no more. You're making this call or sending this email to let them know what you're doing about the relationship and how you're going to proceed from this time forward. Feeling guilt for the pain you've caused them by your choices is appropriate, but the point where you hurt them isn't telling them it's over, the point you wounded them occurred when you became involved with them in the first place.

An example of such communication might look something like this:

I am ending our relationship. Do not communicate with me. I now see this relationship was a mistake. My choices have deeply hurt my mate and my family and I'm going to do everything in my power to help them heal and find a better future. I only hope s/he can recover from my betrayal and I want you to move on with your life.

If you try to contact me I will not respond, but I hope you'll honor my request of no contact. I will respect you by not contacting you.

The Best Response is No Response

Some relationships have already died and there's no need to say it's over. If discovery happens after the affair has ended and there hasn't been contact for a number of months or if it was just a one-night stand then let sleeping dogs lie. The best way to end a relationship is no response. If the affair partner reaches out and even gets a negative response it still increases the likelihood of further communication. Negative attention is still attention.


Finally, closing the door to a relationship can be complicated and for various reasons what I've suggested may not work in every situation. If you feel your situation is an exception to the above mentioned guidelines then talk with an expert who can help develop a healthy strategy for ending the affair. I'd encourage you to sign up for our Hope for Healing course for the unfaithful spouse. You'll be happy to know we have both men and women's groups, safe not only for you and your pain, but also for your relapse prevention.

Next week, we'll be discussing how to lock the door after you've shut the door.

Sections: 

RL_Category: 

RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:

Comments

What happens if a child

What happens if a child resulted from the affair? You can not end all communication. How do you move forward in that situation?

end contact with AP

Yep you most certainly can! 1. Get a third party. No calls, emails or texts directly from the AP to YOUR husband. (It's OVER) If you and your spouse choose to peruse a relationship with the child. All communication goes through the third party not your husband. Even dropping off and picking up the child. It can be done! You are notified first not your husband as to the situation..i.e AP can't do this weekend because little Johnny is sick. OR 2. Just send a monthly check and determine later if you and your husband want to be in relationship with the child. When the child is independent from the AP. Like in18-20 years from now. That might seem harsh but it is not the end of the world. The AP can explain why thing are the way they are. She had a sexual relationship with someone else's husband. That is her truth to tell. Whatever you and your husband decide is the final say. Not between your husband and the AP. The AP has consequences to for her poor actions. It is not the child fault and NEVER should a burden be placed on the child. I goggled "Children born from Affairs" after I read your post and hundreds popped up. All the sites said the same ting...No contact with the AP is possible as it should be. It can be done with dignity and freedom from the AP. At this point what are you willing to live with? Maybe send the check for now and make decisions later after things have cooled down. The child is not without family he/she has a mother and extended family as well. A little time is not going to destroy anything. Audrey Meisner that has been mentioned did have a child from her affair. Her husband took the child on as his own in EVERY way. Audrey and Bob have zero contact with the AP It is different when it is the AP who has the child. I have Audrey on speed dial , you might want to contact her yourself? Whatever YOU decide make sure it is in the best interest of your marriage and not spite. You know what you can handle and that is the most important part. In the end your marriage is priority #1. Jana

Closing the door

What if they had a child.. Like my situation. They have to communicate because of the child. Which makes it more hard for me to heal...

I'm really sorry you have

I'm really sorry you have this added complication. I'm not in that situation -- although my husband's affair partner fell pregnant, she lost the baby -- but I can only imagine how difficult it must be :( I recently read two books where a child resulted from the affair. Their stories may give you hope and encouragement. Marriage Undercover by Bob and Audrey Meisner Healing You Marriage When Trust is Broken by Cindy Beall Best regards, Jane

Were these books mainly for

Were these books mainly for couples trying to work on their marriage, or could someone like me, whose husband, who now lives with the AP, benefit from them as well?

Feeling of no closure

How do you address your unfaithful partner feeling they don't have closure or the last word because the affair partner ended the affair/communication very harshly making the end very ugly?

Secret Hope

I wish my spouse and her AP would have had access to this information prior to their "ending." After countless "closure" meetings, certified letters from the AP with statements of no contact, and even a formal court request for a protection order, my unfaithful spouse still seems to be pining for her AP. In her defense a recorded conversation revealed her AP stating that if "God wanted us to be together." Well how is that closing the door?

Closing door

I want to know more about confronting the ap

Good point. I was so hurt

Good point. I was so hurt when my husband ran into her months later and didn't tell me. He didn't have the strength to walk away. My problem is I think she owes me an apology. But she feels she is a victim. Can you adress that. I am having a hard time letting go of that.

Problems between your marraige

what if you are marriage is put under so much stress and the thing in your head is telling you to go out and do what you know makes you happy

My husband has told friends

My husband has told friends he's in love with his AP whom he's been involved with for five years. He has a child with her, and wants to be a "full time dad" to his daughter, who is almost two now. I've known about his infidelity for a year. He said at first he wanted our marriage to work, then a few months later, after trying to end it with her, said he was leaving, but wanted to still "take care of me", making me feel like an old, demented grandma dumped in a home and forgotten about; an unpleasant reminder of his sin and responsibility he can hopefully pawn off on family or the government. Though it makes no sense, I have clearly been told by the Lord to pray and believe for restoration, despite my desire to be delivered of the agony of his deceit and betrayal, and of seeing my husband become this "thing" that is not my husband, who was once an amazing, kind, Godly man. I know he's still in there somewhere, and it is to that man I vowed to love, honour and cherish, for better or worse. I made those vows before friends, family, our church, and our God. I don't normally do this kind of thing, but it's the first time I've seen posts concerning affairs where a child resulted from it. This woman would never be out of our lives for at least 16 years if we got back together. How does a man end an affair like this, and what part would the wife play? I told him when he first confessed that I forgave him, and if he'd let me, I'd walk with him through all this and be by his side, to stand with him as is my calling before God as his wife. We've been separated for almost a year. He moved in with her a few months ago. I'm wondering what the success rate for such a situation as this is? I suspect I know the answer, but pray I'm wrong. Have you seen these kinds of situations before? I've searched all over the web, and haven't really found anything, which is quite disheartening, to say the least. I think it would be helpful to pursue this topic (children born from adultery) that is clearly under-addressed generally. I suspect both betrayer and betrayed would benefit by knowing they're not alone in what seems to be an impossible situation, and that there might indeed be a Godly, healing, fulfilling way out. Thank you, Rick, BTW. I don't feel as alone when I read your material & see the responses. Bless you.

Forgiveness

My husband said all if these and more after his 6 week affair. Is not enough for me. As far as I know, there had been no contact but that is not enough. I fear I am so broken, I will never trust again.

Reply to Sara Eliza re: Forgiveness

Hi Sara, I felt the exact same way after finding out about my husband's multiple affairs and prostitution moments. I have had many ''D-days" and the last one since Jan of 2016 was this past Feb. It is hard, and I still hurt terribly, in fact, I cried this afternoon at work during my lunch break just thinking about the toll it has and still is taking on me. Please try the Harboring Hope class if you cannot attend any of the workshops. It helped me and yes, I (we) STILL need more help but that was a start for me. Have you seen about the upcoming 1 day 'seminar' being held? It's for betrayed women! I desperately want to attend however, I am in Nevada and just travel and room/car/food expenses would be too much right now for me. Please know that with prayer, (lots and lots), and Godly counsel, you will start to trust again, slowly, but surely. I never thought I would, not even an ounce, but I am getting there. It's a process but you can and will. Stand strong Sara, we are all broken and hurt but not beyond fixing. Hugs and blessings to you!

Thanks

Thanks so much. I am just not sure he is worth the pain. If leaving would turn off the pain, I would leave in a second.

Pain

The pain doesn’t leave. I’m finding out that you have to go through it. It’s difficult. It’s gut wrenching. It’s soul searching. It’s a journey. It’s a journey none of us would chose to be on. I’m giving myself the time to heal. I’m sorry you are here. Harboring Hope has been worthwhile for me being able to connect with other women who are also on this journey. My group continues to meet weekly. We share with each other what has helped us and also, to listen to each other. Unfortunately, leaving doesn’t turn off the pain.

Heartbreak

Hi, I am new at posting so please accept my apologies if I do something wrong.
I didn’t ever think I would be visiting any of these sites (but here I am)!.
My husband of 20 years has had an affair with a work colleague (21 yrs younger than me).
She apparently went all out to get him (even not wearing any underwear to work) sending naked pictures of herself to him etc etc.
When I first suspected, I was called mental, paranoid and jealous.
It’s been 2 years today since I started getting drip-fed bits of information and until May 2017 I was led to believe that it was all in my head and I needed help!
I have been called things (by the other woman) she has been so cruel to me and my husband hasn’t done anything to stop her.
He thinks I should just get over it and move on!
They are his words, he said that he had a breakdown and that I should have seen the signs! I don’t know what to do! It is haunting me!
I f I have a trigger, I have to deal with it (his words again), I am not allowed to talk about it because he says that I am not healing by doing so and it’s not constructive in moving forward.
He has compared my body to hers and it has crushed me, that’s how I know that the heart can break, mine did, I felt it!
He is angry all of the time and is a totally different person to the one I met, the one who abhorred affairs and told everyone that same thing.
Please help because I too don’t think I can get over this. To the above ladies who have left messages, I am so sorry for your pain. I am thinking of you.
Ronnie x

Healing

Hi Ronnie,

I’m so sorry you are feeling this pain. This was me and this situation was very much the one I found myself in last year. We have worked through it, we did temporarily separate and seek counselling. These things helped, but it was through these email and private counselling that I made my breakthrough. This is a difficult journey. One paved with anger, regret, remorse and sadness. If only seems to be the phrase you repeat. This situation is not your fault. Sadly, you both enabled somebody else to enter the relationship because of a range of feelings. The decision to have an affair is a selfish one and. It one you could have controlled or should take responsibility for. Your husband sadly will be experiencing a lot of guilt and shame. He will also be very confused. He has broken all of the rules and moral codes he believed fully in. Who is he now? What does this make him? How can he in his eyes go back to being the man he was? He can’t. He has to accept his actions and their consequences. You cannot help him with this. It’s his journey, part of his breakdown. He has to address these things before you can fully move forward. It can be done. We have done it. We are stronger and happier than ever. Do I still grieve - yes! Your email made me cry, it is one of many reminders I have of how far we have travelled. Do I feel helpless and powerless now - no. I have had to accept and grow on my own as well. Change in a relationship is not always a bad thing. My husband did everything in this article. I questioned him and called him a coward for not responding to her, for allowing her to be so cruel about me. What I see now is his actions were demonstrating he was serious it was over and we had a future. My actions, the desperate need to communicate were those of action and would have encouraged her to remain in our lives. She, like your husbands AP was awful to me! Sent vile emails, malicious communication to my work, his work anybody who would listen. The wall of silence we cultivated actually made us stronger and protected us from the damage she had helped create. Keep strong and remember, you are able to get through this and emerge a better snd stronger person irrespective of the outcome. My prayers and love go out to you. Xx

Affair

Your comments are very insightful. My husband's ap tried to manipulate him and that bothered him. At first his break up emails were kind and considerate, then when she called 24 times in one two day period, he became more dismissive. Then she started to bribe him with money and gifts ---if he would continue the affair. At that point he ended it like Rick recommended. At first I wanted to save our marriage but after a year of lies about the details---- not so sure anymore.

Healing

I am so sorry you find yourself here. Just stay strong and take care of yourself. To quote my spouse " you are the innocent one".

Eat good food, sleep when you can and tell only people you trust. This journey is harder if your friends also betray you.

I think this journey is so hard for women because we do not expect to be stabbed by other women.

If all women would "just say no" to married men, the world would be a better place.

Heartbreak

Hi Sharon. It has been almost 3 years since my D-day. My husband had multiple affairs, with women at work and a few he met online. I understand your pain. The first woman my husband slept with pursued him by letting him know she thought he was "sexy" at an after work gathering (drinking was involved), and started messaging him on his private gmail account. But...in the end, it was my husband's choices and actions that led to his involvement with her. I held her responsible for her part, as well. But...in the end, he is my husband, and he is who made promises to me. Our marriage (23 years at the time of discovery) had issues and through counseling and therapy we have been working on these things, but I do not take responsibility for his selfish and childish choices to dissolve into a world of fantasy instead of dealing with his real relationships and life, and honestly, you shouldn't either. The other woman is cruel because she is also only about herself. It doesn't matter what she looks like, most of these women are the same. See her for what she is, an incredibly selfish and broken individual. She must be incredibly lonely to want to poach on someone else's life.
If you haven't gotten help or counseling yet, please do this. It will help you know how to set boundaries with your spouse and with others. It will help you feel heard and understood. Your husband sounds like he is angry and cruel because he has guilt and shame, and he is a coward. He is too afraid and prideful to look inward at his failings. Instead he is trying to project them onto you. These are not your fault. Quite honestly, when my husband dealt with his deeper issues from his teen years and abuse, got therapy, got in a support group and most of all, truly turned his life over to God, he radically changed. He was free from years of bondage and shame and guilt. He was humble and able to own his issues-and not try to make them about me. Our lives and marriage are very different 3 years in-for the better. The years of pain and heartbreak were hard, and I still get triggers now and then (can't say I'm loving these), but I am grateful that I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel and a much stronger, more honest relationship than we ever had before.
This doesn't always happen. I have met many people on this journey that had very different endings. It takes your husband humbling himself and getting help for my scenario to happen. If your husband doesn't choose this, you can still get help. I am praying for you. God can help you get through any scenario, if you will surrender it to him. He will walk with you through it, and when necessary, carry you. Let his people help you as well. This sight and program are a great place to get that kind of help. Some local churches have programs and individual counseling is a God-send. Be graceful to you, and know God is holding you in his arms, if you'll only let him.

Reply to island girl

Not sure if we will make it but I am feeling stronger. I now know I will be ok on my own. We have made steps to put money in my name and arrange things so that I will feel safe even if the marriage does not make it .
At this point divorce will probably be a relief. I have no desire to live with a womanizer. The relief is that I am finally to that point.

Ending the affair

My husband told me about his affair after 15 years. He told me he had a daughter with this woman. He claims he ended the affair after a few months. He was not there when his daughter was born. Yet he's been helping the mother financially all these years. I had no idea how much money he was giving her. How can he totally end the affair when he has to keep in contact because of his daughter. He has offered to take me to "see" what the situation is like including talking to this woman to prove to me that they have not continued this relationship. I don't know what to do.

Reply to 15 years/luz

Luz, I pray for your broken heart. Obviously your
husband ended the affair and went on to have 15 good ( I hope ) years with you.

I pray that you will have your broken heart healed and that God will give you wisdom to do the right thing .

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