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

Ending an Affair: Lock the Door Part 2

Last week we talked about why locking the door is absolutely necessary in recovery. This week I'm going to tell you how to lock the door. If you fail to plan, you've intrinsically planned to fail. Recovery is not for the faint of heart. To succeed over the long haul, you'll need to create a plan for yourself and your marriage to be prepared when a tempting situation arises. Remember, even on your best day you are still most likely only 60 percent sure change is what you want. Make sure you do not fall victim to easily avoidable traps by using this guide to lock the door once and for all.

What's The Right Motivation:

The first key to locking the door is possessing the right motivation. Closing the door for the sake of your marriage is rarely enough motivation to keep the door shut. When someone comes in asking for help ending an affair, I ask why they want to end it. If they tell me because they want to save their marriage, I usually tell them that's not going to be enough. It's going to take time and effort ending an affair, and somewhere between now and 24 months from now, they may not even care if their mate divorces them. In fact they're probably going to want to divorce their mate at some point in the midst of the emotional turmoil, so why would they stay the course? Locking the door takes internal motivation. It's something that has to be done for self and, if you subscribe to faith, for God.

Whatever the reason, it needs to be well thought out and recorded to serve as a reminder of why you locked the door and why opening it serves no good purpose for you, your marriage and your future.

Having A Plan:

It's naive to believe you won't try to reopen that door. Without a plan on how to keep the door locked it won't be long till it swings open. Failure to preplan our response leaves us like a construction worker on a job site without a hard hat. Predetermine how you'll respond in every conceivable situation. When locking the door I generally have my clients write a list of 20 "what if's" where others or self might try to open the door. For example:

  • "What if my affair partner leaves a note on my car at work? I won't open it; instead I'll take it home to my wife and let her open it. We'll decide together how to respond."
  • "What if my affair partner sends me a text using someone else's phone? I'll forward the text to my mate and we'll decide together how or if we're going to respond."
  • "What if I have an argument with my mate and begin to long for the approval of my AP? I'll go for a 20 minute walk and recite memorized text, leaving my phone at home. When I return, I'll talk to a safe person."
  • "What if something triggers a memory of my AP and I want to text them to check in? Instead I'll text my spouse 5 reasons I appreciate them, or I'll call a friend who is safe and stay accountable to them."

Let it Die:

It's common for the affair partner to occasionally reach out to see how you're doing. I call that fishing with a lure. They cast the lure to see if you'll bite. To keep that door locked you don't want to respond. In fact you want to act like nobody is home. Not rising to the bait causes them to eventually move on to a different fishing hole. If you keep unlocking the door to respond, you keep the game alive and only increase the probability of relapse.

Avoiding Self Sabotage:

One form of self-sabotage is continually asking new people for their advice. Remember there are two sides to each of us. When the healthy part of us locks the door, the other part looks for an excuse to open that door. Through the years I've seen countless people ask advice from others who are far less experienced in an attempt to find someone who will tell them it is okay to reopen that door. Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the stew. Once your course is set, surround yourself with others who are walking a similar path and will encourage you to stay the course even on days you don't want to.

Fill the Void:

Those of us who've been involved in an affair understand the high associated with that relationship. Closing that door leads to withdrawal and intense personal pain. Betrayed spouses, I know this is hard to hear, but it's the truth. An affair is an addiction, and withdrawal pains are very real for your mate. To keep from reopening the door, the time previously consumed by that relationship needs to be replaced with something healthy. Instead of texting the affair partner, find other same-sex individuals like yourself who also need someone new to text. Recovery groups and those supportive relationships are critical when it comes to filling that void. Participating in groups such as Hope for Healing, Celebrate Recovery, SAA or SLAA help provide the necessary community to replace that void.

Create Safety on Your Side of the Door:

Locking the door can be a difficult decision, which is why you want to do everything within your power to make things healthy on your side of the door. Safety begins with your responses. Do what you can to be concerned for your mate as well as being respectful. In the long run your example of respect will help deescalate their pain. Keep recovery on a positive path by working your own healing and staying focused on your personal recovery plan.

Keep Realistic Timelines:

Be patient; this is a marathon not a sprint. Remember it's normal for the hurt spouse to take longer in recovery. Realistic expectations are crucial for keeping the door locked. If you mistakenly believe things should be better in a couple of months, you're going to be sorely disappointed. It takes 18 to 24 months for almost all couples. You're not going to be the exception. Unrealistic expectations will only lead to discontentment and increased temptations to personally unlock the door.

Affair Recovery Timeline

Don't underestimate how long it takes for feelings for the affair partner to subside. That also takes about 18 to 24 months. I've often heard people say at about six months that they still have no feelings for their mate and their feelings for their affair partner are as strong as ever. They believe this somehow means they've made the wrong choice. To keep the door locked, your commitment has to be long enough to allow circumstances to change. You must allow the process to work and give it time.

Now What?

Next week we'll discuss another vital piece to the puzzle: how to throw away the key.

If you want your life back, you need to throw the key away and move forward. Now go lock the door.

Are you and your spouse looking for a way to maintain safe and open dialogue during this process? Look into our EMS Online course that guides you in joint recovery work.



RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:



I have to say reading this makes me very discouraged. My husband left rather than be "flayed open and put under a microscope (Christian marriage counseling), only to get to the point where we're back together for him to be put under another microscope (mine- for having the audacity to want transparency, to be put before his AP, their baby, hunting, and the other mountain of things more important to him than me or our marriage. Meanwhile, I've been under his microscope for longer than I can remember as he looked for more 'reasons to leave me', building his wall of lies about me to hide behind so he could continue what he was doing). The idea of addiction and it's effects rings true here. This article, though good, makes me feel even less significant. I can't see my husband EVER going along with this.He said himself he cannot look at himself so closely. He flips out and/or gets nasty at the slightest hint of criticism, twisting my words- making all this my fault. I used to believe him; but no more. I've taken responsibility for my part in the dysfunction of our marriage- repenting and asking for forgiveness numerous times, but I can't seem to recall him ever owning up to his part; it was always about what I did to force him to want to leave, then make him vulnerable to an affair. Meanwhile, he already had an inappropriate relationship with the AP- just friends, of course. She knew he was married, went after him anyway, & he says she's a "good person". EVERYONE, Christian or not, pretty much knows adultery is wrong, c'mon, really. The only hope we have is in God. But God is more than enough. I stand for the purposes of God in this marriage. I know the road is hard, and you're just trying to be realistic. Is there any encouragement for someone like me? Any rays of hope you could inject into future articles like this would be helpful to the betrayed. Don't get me wrong, I think these things really do need to be addressed and I'm glad you've done so. It's just hard on some of us who are married to those who have sold their integrity for a bowl of porridge.

Unfortunately your article

Unfortunately your article sounds familiar in so many ways. I've been betrayed by my husband. He left after I found out about the 2nd (or maybe 3rd) affair he was having. I asked forgiveness for things I had done wrong and maybe even for some I hadn't. So many accusations...none of them reasons for him to do what he was doing. I believe in marriage for life!! He has filed for divorce. But it's so true... God is more than enough despite the deep feelings of pain and betrayal. To read these articles about how difficult it is for the betrayer to leave the AP is hard to accept. On the other hand it is good for me to know the truth about this. Nothing is to hard for God though and that is who I have to leave my husband with!


I can’t believe the similarities in our stories. Claiming what a good person she is even though she knew he was married and even tried to become friends with me. He wasn’t happy, all the things I did wrong for him to be unhappy. Of course, it’s my fault.

18 - 24 months for healing?

I have read and understood both parts of this wonderful and insightful series on "locking the door." An interesting question has arose for me and perhaps others that are struggling as the hurt spouse. In the case of a "confirmed" relapse or continued "affair seeking behavior" would the 18-24 month time-frame of recovery reset from the original D-Day to this new D-Day?

D Day reset

Yes I have the same question. Does the time frame for healing reset after a new discovery


Do confirmed replapses reset the recovery timeline?????

Locking the door...

We both had a couple of set backs during the first 2-3 months of reconciliation. A text and a few e-mails from AP's. Hence the new email accounts and new phone numbers. Learned those the hard way. Yesterdays news now. I especially liked you addressing the "What if's" It is better to have a plan before than face a disaster later, that's just being smart! Our AP's would have to literally show up on our doorstep in order for contact of any kind to take place. Jana

Are you sure that it takes up

Are you sure that it takes up to 24 months to let the feeling go for the affair partner? My H swears when he ended he never "longed" for her again. He was relieved it was over. He said he always loved me even during the affair. Maybe he's lying, AGAIN??? He said when he left he saw the real her and was disgusted with the whole thing especially her. I don't know, just curious.

I am hearing the same thing

My husband too is claiming that he has nothing but negative feelings for his AP. He is going as far as to say that toward the end, before I confronted him with my evidence and we had it out, he claims that the couple of weeks before then, he'd come to dislike the affair and was desperate for a way out, realizing he didn't live our even feel attracted to her anymore... I don't know. The way he acted toward me during the initial phase totally contradicts his claims. He was acting as if I had destroyed his most precious link in the world. During the weeks he claims He no longer cared for the affair, he had actually ramped up the amount of time he spent with her, evaluated to spending money on her, and spoke incessantly about her, forbid me to speak ill of her, under threat of "ruining his mood with unfounded pettiness against his "friend"." To me, it's all a cover. He thinks he is saying what I want to hear. He thinks he is sparing my feelings, but what I want is the truth... I have had months of lies and betrayal, and I just want that phase over. I want honesty and truth... no matter how ugly or painful. At least with the truth, I can begin rebuilding instead of wasting time second guessing every word he says.

my husband said the same thing! thank God!

Yes, my husband said the same thing! Can you imagine if yours had taken 24 mo. to end it?!!! I can't! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't, COULDN'T tolerate that!

I honestly have no feelings for my AP

While I cannot speak for your husbands, I have no feelings at all for my AP. Being in a loving and healthy marriage is a million times more fulfilling and enriching than festering in a guilt-ridden affair. My husband is an infinately better partner and I am ashamed that I risked it all. Nonetheless, I understand that trusting your husbands must be terribly difficult, so I wish you the best.

I second this

I agree with the last lady Sarah who said she really didn’t want anything to do with her AP at the end. And being in a healthy happy marriage is infinitely better. My thoughts exactly. Toward the end of mine I started to see my AP true character. Things I ignored at first. As it became more obvious he was out just for himself with no moral backbone I really started to not like him. Of course that helped me get over him easier. Although there were still days it was hard. Mostly for the fantasy and escape of the addiction than it being really him I missed. My husband is a far better man than this man will ever be. It’s been 12 years since the affair worst time of my life.

This is helpful to hear. I

This is helpful to hear. I can relate to this so much and it gives me hope I will one day not “miss” or think about my affair partner. I know my husband is a much better man.

True healing with your mate

True healing with your mate can not move forward until your commitment shifts. It doesn't matter how many times you say or promise it, until that shift starts to happen in your heart your spouse won't feel it. When my husband locked the door and threw away the key it changed our world. I don't remember it happening in a single day or week. But I do remember reflecting on how the past month had gone, and I though about how the month before that felt. And I remember saying to myself, it feels like I have my husband back, all of him. We still had conflict, I still had triggers, but we approached these struggles together. I don't think this happened until about twenty months after I discovered the affair. Something just started to feel so right again where it had so wrong for so long.

Thank you for this. I’m 19

Thank you for this. I’m 19 months from D-Day though we’ve had setbacks, and we’re not healed. I like the way you put it better. The 24 months may not even start until you make that shift in your thinking, which took me a long time.

Wow! This was a little

Wow! This was a little depressing to read if you're a betrayed spouse! I have been struggling with my husbands latest affair for the last 18 months, and after reading this, I'm wondering if this isn't the reason I'm having a hard time moving forward. He was involved with this last women for 3+years, I know he had feelings for her (which he denies) I guess I was thinking/ hoping he would be over it by now. I want to be done with this mess with him or without him.


I found out about my husband's affair on my own through hearing him through the door on his cell phone. This was in February. During the initial 4 weeks he was very apologetic, we had had what I thought were deep good conversations yet I discovered he was still texting her and he had even sent her flowers on her birthday and signed the card I love you. Each time I discovered he was reaching out to her, I confronted him. He kept apologizing and said it was over. The third time I discovered that communication was still happening - I had also additionally discovered he had also been having sex chats with girls that were his friends on facebook. I made him call his parents and go home and talk to them or leave. That was our February and March. Since April, we have found someone to work with and things seem to be going fine. He says he has not had conversations with her at all. His phone and emails have all been changed. He no longer has a Facebook account. He closed his old accounts before I could really read and see everything. While I am glad he changed all his contact information, to this day - that bothers for the shear fact that he cannot really remember details of his time with her. This affair lasted 3 years. So reading this series is making me nervous. How do I know if he is telling me the truth? How do I know if our conversations are real enough to heal fully? At what point will I stop visualizing the two of them together? At what point will I be okay with myself in all this? During this affair my husband was without full time work. 6 months into his affair I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have had a bi-lateral mastectomy. We have 3 children the youngest is 5. I just want my life back - my trust, his word, our original love. I want to forgive but I feel like maybe I am being too easy modeling my forgiveness after my faith. I am so lost though I don't even know what a real, deep conversation would look like and if he is being truthful to me.

Full recovery?

So I am seeing this it seems 6 years after you posted the question. This seems to be the closest to my situation. The difference being that his AP is his Sister in law. It had went on for 13 plus years. They all lived together for 9 of those years. We've been married for almost 2 years. 3 months ago I discovered after a month of reveals that he had been intimate with 4 women during our time together. A couple since we have been married. But contact with at least 7 women, if not more with online, texting, etc. Trading explicit pics and texts. They all knew he was married. We have been in counseling. We seem to be doing well very quickly. He seems like he has seen how awful his actions were and feels guilty. I'm curious at this point...in your situation, did you guys make a full recovery? What were your hurdles and pit falls? I appreciate any response. Thank you. God bless.


My spouse says he has no feelings for the AP and that he wishes with all his heart that he had made better choices.He says the shame wears on him every day.

How do I believe him?

Trust will take time. But if

Trust will take time. But if he keeps showing you that you can trust him, it will eventually get better. I still have good days and bad days, but the good days are now outnumbering the bad days.


Sara, mine says the same thing! I honestly believe him too. It’s not what they say, it’s their actions. What all has he done to make you feel safe and loved.. mine has jumped through hoops and once he locked the door, it stayed that way. You’ll be able to tell what’s sincere and what’s forced.


The thing I will never get over is the lack of integrity that is at the foundation of every affair. I understand that we all make mistakes and we all need forgiveness. However, it is so hard to love again when ones heart had been so broken in such a harsh way. Ladies, I am just not sure these men are worthy of our love.

The timelines are so true

I really underestimated the duration. you are really speaking to me here. been reopening the door since the break 9 months ago. i trust this process as outlined here. thank you.


I trust my husband is human. He may not ever reach out to the AP again, in fact he doesn’t even like mention of her name, but that doesn’t mean he is is trustworthy.

After 16 months I feel the pain presents itself less but I have scars, anxiety and gut pain that won’t leave me. I have an overwhelming sense of being alone, but I’ve become used to that and feel that’s the sense I will die with. I feel death is closer than life, where I used to think I was young at heart, full of romantic dreams, I now feel stupid for having romantic thoughts.

I used to want to reconnect with my husband so badly, now despite knowing he is still my only friend and liking him a lot, I still feel he is a stranger.

My life is over. Not in the painful crushing way it was when I first knew...but now in the knowing I can not connect with anyone because I would always trust them to be human... and that is less than the trust I need.


Reply to K2

I understand your hopeless feelings but as hard as it will be--- you will need to make a life for yourself. Find a friend, go out to lunch and talk about fashion or your pets. Go to a movie by yourself, take a class. Not nearly as scary as you think. You will never get your joy back if you sit at home alone and you will be more attractive to your husband if you make a life for yourself. Be prepared for your marriage to end and know that if it does---- you will survive. I curled into the fetal position for 6 months but life goes on and like a death, we grieve and move on. We will always be on alert because we are married to flawed individuals---- but make your life so interesting that you will survive. I will pray for you even though I will probably never know you. Everyday is a struggle with bitterness, hurt and devastation but that is the human condition we live with. I told my husband that I would try to help him build a better marriage but the verdict is out ----if we will make it. However, if we do not or if you do not----we have a life to live. I pray you get your joy back because this is not your fault. It is your husband's character flaw as well as the flaws of the lonely immature woman who said yes. Do not be a sponge for their mess. You can do this. It will take time and prayer but we will find our joy again. And when we do, they will never be able to destroy us again.!

Your comment brought me to

Your comment brought me to tears as I feel the exact same way.

It will get better

You will feel better. Some people just need more time. I found it to be true that it is best to focus on yourself and reconnect with yourself. That is something you can do. It not only makes you feel better but draws your mate toward you again. Although it sounds selfish it isn't. I ended up getting a divorce. I didn't want one. But my husband could not stop communicating with his AP and I knew that I could not live that way.

It sounds like you have lost hope. To me, hope is a bit scary too. It seems naive. But I think there is a way to have hope for a better life while at the same time understanding human frailty. I am not sure how to do it but just trying gives me hope and makes me feel better.

Take care, and I hope your path becomes less difficult.


I completely relate to what you're saying. This part of me inside has died and I no longer look forward to living. It just seems like the same thing day in and day out. The discovery of his A led me to discover a side of my spouse that I didn't realize existed. The compartmentalization and ability to keep secrets from me. My sense of judgment and security was gone. How can I believe anything he says anymore? It's been several years and I am still in the same place. I feel like the walking dead.

Reply to kaneis

I read your comments and I know you hurt beyond measure. You can over come this and move on either alone or with your spouse. At 17 months, I no longer feel like life is over. I hurt and I cry and I am bitter but not all the time. Life moves on and so will you and the lessons of this chapter will eventually make you a stronger person. Never forget that this was not your fault and never forget that the best revenge ( if you must) is a happy well lived life. You can do this!

I feel the same.

I have stayed with my husband and forgiven him. But I, too, feel so alone in the world, now. I did not feel that way before.

I still love my husband, but I realize he is a stranger to me. I will never trust him, again.

Still In Contact

My husband still calls his AP. This hurts me very much as he has promised to break of with her and to work on our marriage. Its a 10 year affair and he said it takes some time. Its approaching 3 years since I discovered it and he has kept it well hidden all these years. He sounded sincere in wanting to leave her as he said I am the only legal wife and the person he wants to spend his old age with. Your lessons have been very helpful to me and it seems to reveal what's going to happen next. It scares me to read your lessons but same time it keeps me on my toes, making me aware that he ending the affair is not just 'a full stop'. Thank you for being there for me as I only shared my troubled heart with two persons. I have one time gone into dis-function mode and felt life was bitter and meaningless. Unsure whether to continue trusting him or I should just leave the marriage. I go berserk thinking he's still call her. He also does not like me to bring up about his matter on AP as he said its only him who can settle and solved what he has started. It marveled me much as to how he can be with me and yet acted normal calling her daily. Its like he has a split personality.

Still in contact

Only you know what will work for you personally. My DH did not fully break off his relationship with the AP until I put my foot down. I think he thought I would always be there for him--in fact, he told people I was hanging on. I wasn't hanging on, I was meeting with an attorney to figure out my divorce plan. When he realized I was DONE, then he broke things off for good. If you keep allowing him to call his AP, he will likely keep calling. He has no reason to quit if he can have both of you at the same time. Only you know if you can live with that. If not, call his bluff and file for divorce. He may need that wake up call to make a decision. And if the decision is to keep on with the affair partner, you are better off leaving and working on getting yourself healthy.

Same thing happened to me

My now ex-husband made the decision to call off the affair. But he could not lock the door. He was clear that his "process" involved continued communications with her. After we triedg to get back together a couple of times I realized that he was never going to stop communicating with her. At that point I had to make the hard decision to move on with our divorce. He knew divorce would be the consequence. So sometimes it just does not work out. He spent a lot of time trying to convince me that they were going to just be friends. My problem was that he was not willing to be transparent, which meant I would never really know. And the not knowing would do me in. I did not want to live that way.

But it is still good to try to go through all of these stages. We can't hurry the process or skip a part. I wish I did not have to get divorced, but I was basically forced to. My ex still does not understand my point of view, which I find dumbfounding. We are friends now, which is nice.

My husband is doing the exact

My husband is doing the exact same thing. He actually tries to have conversations with me about his AP and their troubles. He thinks that my stating we are divorcing because he cant give her up is my opinion of how things should go. I'm dumbfounded. He's controlling and makes vailed threats. I really wish I could erase him from my life, but there's children. I am beyond my capacity to cope.

So many more betrayals even before the affair

It has taken so much just to grasp the shot that he had an affair, what’s worse is I now have found out this was deceitful behavior was going on in many other ways. Porn, hundreds of girls phone #s eBay account with tons of hidden purchases, sideline numbers, dating sights, multiple pay as you go cards, hidden camera, other cell phones the list goes on and on. He has no contact with the AP but continues to work at the strip club a few nights a week. His double life was so extensive that I don’t think I know him at after 9 years. I just can’t understand

thoughts from the spouse who betrayed...

(I know the last post was 2 years ago but...)

This is encouraging to those who know they have a problem and its not the AP. For those who were betrayed, I don't know how this can encourage you - but don't be disheartened. Especially if your spouse is going through the H4H program which is an agent for healing. My AP isn't the problem - I am. I realize he just happened to be there during a very vulnerable time and showed me affection. In Ester Perel's book on affairs she mentions that the AP doesn't even have to be good looking! I was addicted not to my AP but the feeling it gave me when i fought with my spouse. It scared me to know that I could be vulnerable with a man and not my husband. I KNOW God can bring us back to oneness - if he can do that to us, anyone can find healing in the Lord. I have no idea how people can get through without God opening our eyes to our unhealthy patterns and running to him for change. Only God can change my heart and heal me - everything else is coping skills. Your spouse wants to change. Reminding him/her that the thought of the AP is hard for you but also the idea that your spouse does not want to experience real change is harder. It isn't who they truly are.

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