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

Ending an Affair: Lock the Door Part 2

Series:  Ending an Affair

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

Last week we talked about why locking the door is absolutely necessary in recovery. This week I’m going to tell you how to do that. Without a plan, you’ve intrinsically planned to fail. Recovery is not for the faint of heart. To succeed over the long haul, you’ll absolutely need to create a plan for yourself and your marriage so you won’t be caught off-guard when a tempting situation arises. Remember, even on your best day you are most likely still only 60 percent sure change is what you want. Don’t give leeway to that 40 percent and fall victim to an easily avoidable trap.

Use this guide to ensure you are locking the door once and for all:

Right Motivation:

The first key to locking the door is 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 I can’t help. It’s going to take time and effort ending an affair, and somewhere between now and 24 months from now they’re not going to 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 for God. The reason needs to be well thought out and recorded to serve as reminders of why you locked the door and why opening it serves no good purpose.

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.

Stay the Course:

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 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. Joint recovery work, such as EMS Online, can be useful in helping the two of you maintain an open and safe dialogue where you both can heal.

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.

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. Give it time.

Next week we’ll discuss how to throw away the key. The strength of the part of you that doesn’t want to shut the door will determine the level of resistance you feel as you read this series. But if you want your life back, you’ll want to throw that key away and move forward. Now go and lock the door.

 

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Comments

encouragement

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

Uncertain...

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.

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