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

Ending an Affair: Close the Door

Series:  Ending an Affair

  1. Make the Decision
  2. Close the Door
  3. Lock the Door – Part 1
  4. Lock the Door – Part 2
  5. Throw Away the Key
  6. Letting Go and Moving On

Ending an affair requires more than a decision. If there is another person involved, the bridge to that relationship 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 requires breaking that 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 end an affair:

Use clear and concise communication.

Take responsibility for the decision to end the affair: Ending 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 a professional who can help develop a healthy strategy for ending the affair. If you need other to walk alongside you during this difficult process, consider Hope for Healing.

Next we’ll discuss how to lock the door after you’ve shut the door.



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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.