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

Ending an Affair - Step One: Make the Decision

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


Most Unfaithful See No Way Out

Suicide seemed the only alternative for ending my affair. Not wanting to cause any further pain eliminated honesty as an alternative. Mostly, I didn't want to be seen as "the cheater.” Snared by conflicting feelings, I wouldn’t decide. Despair hung over me like dark storm clouds. I could see no way out. Failed attempts at ending the affair ignited feelings of hopelessness and left me feeling absolutely out of control.

Crazy as it sounds, death seemed the best alternative.

I know right from wrong. My head knew I needed to end it but my heart cried no. I felt responsible for my AP and wanted to protect her.

My deception had no end. Here are just some of the mental traps I fell into:

  • It felt I couldn’t live without her and I feared the outcome of a separation.
  • I had never experienced such extreme and desperate feelings.
  • I was sure this was my one chance for happiness.
  • I believed she was my soulmate.
  • I even worried that letting go would result in someone else getting to experience the life I’d given up. If I stayed married would I remain forever miserable?
  • Would it be the right decision or would I forever regret this decision?

I began to catch glimpses of destruction in my future. More misery than I ever imagined flooded my life. If the affair was so great why was I so desperate? I finally understood I had no choice. I couldn’t break free even if I wanted. My own efforts were not going to be enough.

That reality guided me to the truth: I was ensnared in a fantasy of my own making.

Reasons to abandon the marriage were bountiful, but reasons to stop the affair seemed unimaginable. Determined, I began ignoring my emotions and thinking of reasons to stop the affair.

At the very least, I needed to  make a definitive choice one way or the other.

Step one

Step one in ending an affair is firmly deciding to end it. This is a unilateral decision made for you and by you. It is NOT based on an agreement between you and your AP. Joint decisions between you and your AP leave you in a covert alliance and provide reasons to check in to see how things are going. This must be an irreversible decision you make to get your life back.

It’s not the same as wishing you could want to want to break off the affair. That’s a mindset I call “W3” (wishing you could want to want to break it off). Without firm resolve and a strategy, the allure of the feelings generated by the affair will draw you back. There can be no wishing. This decision is about breaking free and has to be final.

An Uncertain Future

Ambivalence is two diametrically opposed desires effectively canceling each other out. It is a state of homeostasis that leaves you 50/50 when it comes to infidelity. We’re stuck because 50% of us wants the right thing and 50% of us wants what we want. The more resolute you are about ending an affair the stronger the tantrum from the other half. Anticipate the civil war that follows the decision to walk. The stronger your resolve, the stronger the internal tantrum. Voices in your head will tell you to run back to your AP and that you can’t live without them. The internal tantrum will shout that you’re making the worse mistake of your life. You must decide beforehand that the inevitable backlash is simply part of the process and do not waver. Your reasons for ending the relationship are still valid and this is the defining moment where you remind yourself of the promise of freedom you’re seeking.

Freedom will not come in the shadows of secrecy. After all, it’s the secrecy and darkness which empowers our failures and addictions.

Understand why the decision is difficult. This helps counter the voices telling you to give in and go back. For more information read “Why Breaking Up is Hard to Do”.

Compromising your morals and values doesn’t lead to peace. If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re compromising your beliefs. You may think you’re taking the right path, but I generally find there’s at least a sense of internal turmoil. If I’m at war within myself, I’m violating my core self by my decisions.

Breaking off your affair may be one of the most difficult struggles of your life, but until the decision is made the battle never really begins.

Next Steps to End an Affair

  • Seek out expert help from those who have walked down this road before and who are experts.
  • Decide to be resolute, unlike any other time of your life. As of this moment the affair becomes not optional.
  • Consider writing a cold-hard-truth letter to yourself on why you need to end the affair. Be blunt. Be straightforward. Put it away and read it later, time and time again.
  • Tell someone you trust, who is a safe person and who will give you support about your decision. Share with them why you’ve made the decision and what they can do to help.
  • Consider our Hope for Healing course and finding those who can walk with you in your recovery.

You’re not alone in your struggle, and you don’t have to be alone in your recovery.

If you’d like to purchase Hope for Healing click here.

Next we’ll explore how to inform your affair partner that it’s over.

For more insight on ending the affair we recommend reading reasons to stop the affair.




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Question about giving this to my Husband

It's a long and complicated story, as I'm sure everyones is so I give you the basics. My H started his affair with a very good friend of mine (our families were very close) almost 2 years ago. He moved out just over a year ago. He pretended to try in MC and barely did any IC. He refuses to try anything else, he says he's happy. They are still involved. She lives about an hour and a half away but spends as much time as possible here, at least for the summer, she works in the school system. I'm sure my H is gone from me and if he were to return it would be a very hard road back for us. But I think our 17 year marriage deserves the effort, from both of us. This affair has ruined 2 families, ours, we have a young son and hers, they have 2 teenage daughters. They also betrayed good friends (me and her H) One of the justifications I hear thrown around is do you really think we would be doing this and causing everyone so much pain if it were not real and we are not in for the long haul. My son is unaware of their relationship. Her daughters are aware of the relationship. The damage all around it devastating. So here is my question, would it be appropriate to give this series and supplemental reading to my H? What would be the best timing if any? and scariest of all for me, will I be helping him strengthen his relationship with her? The place I'm in right now is I would love to be able to save my marriage but it's getting harder to say that. I love him but I'm angry and disgusted.

I applaud my wife.

I didn't even have to ask... The moment she was caught, even in the midst of not fully understanding what damaged she had wrecked upon us, she cut things off. At first I was upset that she went to see him right after discovery (that same morning)...after all I had kicked her out of the house and that was the last person I wanted her to see. But as she told me, she wanted to make it crystal clear to her AP that it was a mistake, it was done and she was gone. I'm not proud of her mistake, but I admire the way she took full and complete responsibility for cleaning up her mess. She still works at making amends and healing our marriage, working as hard as she can. It may not be enough to save our marriage in the end, but it certainly made me thankful that nothing was dragged out. Honestly, if she would have done anything different or had any hesitation at all...there would be no marriage today.

Living two lives

I'm extremely grateful for this article! I'm a female who is having an affair. I have been hoping for an article like this for quite some time - speaking to us betrayers. I want to first start off by saying that I never imagined I would be in this situation! I was the girl that said "i do" and told everyone that I would be married "forever!" Well now I am 9 months into an affair and I'm stills married and living with my husband who isn't willing to divorce me. We have two boys and he believes we need to do "the work" to save our marriage. However - my AP is so incredible and we connect on so many more important levels than my husband and I could dream of! In addition my AP talks about having a life together and about marriage.... I love my AP's vision for our future. However - I can't seem to divorce my husband... When i read " We’re stuck because 50% of us wants the right thing and 50% of us wants what we want...." That statement hit me cause that is exactly my problem. Currently I am having both - but I don't think I can sustain this for long....especially if my AP has plans for us soon.... Man - I'm stuck really really really bad!! When I think about breaking it off with my AP I feel like I'm gonna suffocate. I feel like I'm gonna be walking away from one of the best "matches" that has found me (finally).... But I also know that divorce was not in my plans when I said "I do." So I am not sure what I am supposed to do anymore! I am essentially living two lives and don't know how to resolve and/or proceed with my relationships! Help!! Please!!

Ditch your AP NOW! You are

Ditch your AP NOW! You are setting yourself up for years of misery if you do not. Gather up the strength and do it! The grass is NOT greener on the other side, I speak from experience on this one.

AP vs husband

Thanks for your response! Tell me what your experience was? I am so worried about going back into my marriage and being miserable, like I was prior to "stepping out." My husband I don't communicate, aren't on the same emotional level, have very limited common interests, have no sexual fulfillment and seem to not get along when it comes to our relationship and love for each other. I felt lonely for years prior to my affair and finally, I let my boundaries become weak and that is when I met my AP. I should also note that in the years prior to my affair, my husband and I tried every thing. At my request, to try and improve our relationship, we did (counseling, books, cds, marriage groups, bible studies, etc.) to no avail. And about the "grass is NOT greener..." I love that analogy - I use to always say that if I fertilized my own "crap" my grass would be beautiful! HA! Okay... So what was your experience. I just want what I have with my AP every day - so badly (I love our relationship, our communication, his emotional maturity, and his physical affection (to name just a few things)). I envision that this relationship is possible and that a blended family is what I will have?? What am I missing? What if my relationship with my husband is not fixable??


You just described my life prior to my affair. To a T. All of it right down to the marriage retreats, bible study's etc. Then along came Mr. Wonderful. Although I did not stay with my husband during my affair, I filed for a divorce to marry my AP. Had the ring and the whole nine yards. Guess what happened when real life showed up. My kids hated him, my family took sides, the more time I spent with my AP the more reality set in. I was isolated from every good thing I had and I was stuck with a wash-out. I know it is hard for you to see the truth about your AP right now while you are in the middle of it, I guarantee you it is the biggest mistake of your life! That awful husband I thought I had wasn't so bad after all when my AP started showing his true colors, they ALL do eventually! My AP was worse, people that have affairs ALWAYS affair down. The signs are right in front of you about your AP and it not working out, stop pushing them out of your mind to justify the FEW good feelings you are getting from him. You have a 2% chance of a long term relationship with your AP during the first 24 months and then you will be divorced once again. What you are describing your AP to be are nothing but feelings. Your affair has nothing to do with your AP or your husband but everything to do with you and your lack of filling your heart with God love but instead you are filling it with a person. The very same problems you have in your marriage will rear their ugly head eventually with your AP. Because they are about you and you alone. Your relationship with your husband is very fixable and can be better than you ever dreamed possible. Your husband is willing to still be married to you. Would you have the same commitment to him if he cheated on you? He deserves a trophy right now. You have to address your own deep seeded issues first apart from your husband and your AP. Oh I get it , it seems very real and life is all unicorns and rainbows and you never felt so happy as you do right now. I promise you that will pass sooner or later and what will you have then? A husband that moves on Suicidal children Children that don't want to stay with you and the man they see as the reason for your divorce Blended family's have to spend a lot of money w counselors. Seeing other people do it is one thing but living it is another An AP that has lied to you more than you lied to you husband Single parenthood Bills you cannot pay All while watching your ex-husband happy with another woman living the life you only wish you could get back So I guess how do you get out of the fantasy of Mr. Wonderful? Make an appointment with Rick in person or video chat, so that someone can love you enough to tell you the truth. It is literally not them (husband or AP) it is YOU! Jana P.S. I attended EMS thinking no one has ever felt as wonderful a relationship as I did with my AP and within 30 minutes in black and white I quickly learned I was nothing more than a cliché at best.

Wow. That rocked.

Jana - I've read your writings and posts over the last few years...Not always agreeing, but appreciating your insight and devotion to fixing the wrongs that were committed by you and your compassion to move beyond those done to you. But honestly, that was the best and most straightforward advice I've ever seen. Damn girl... I'm going to make you my personal motivational coach. From a betrayed husband...thanks.


i agree with "anonymous" above, WOW, jana. from another betrayed husband, thank you. God has blessed you through your circumstances to be able to help others

Spot on!

...and yet another betrayed husband here.
I wish my EX would have learned this before it was too late. Her boyfriend dumped her right after our divorce was final. All of the lying, deception, pain she caused me and our children...was for nothing.


Oh Jana - I sitting here in tears. I am at a crossroads. I know I dont have a hope of a good relationship with AP, but Ive felt alive for the first time in my life. And Im in my 40's with a 'good' man, and beautiful kids - but Ive just been dying inside for years. Being a teenage bride and pushed by family and church - I think Im rebelling? Im so sorry for your story, you are very brave sharing it, and of all that I have read today, you have touched me the most. Im in Australia, so wont be seeing Rick or the counsellors there sadly, but thank you for your courage. x


Read and Re-Read Samuel's article "Competing with the Fantasy" three times a day. Also read your own post regarding your husband, what you think or don't think you have with him at this point. Once you get to a place of commitment to your marriage it will be more than clear to you that you have placed yourself higher than him. He seems to have all the lacking yet you have none? I totally get that for now. If you choose to come clean and start sorting through issues you will be surprised at how many, if not more, unhappiness your spouse has had with you. Unhappiness that he has endured (pre-affair) because he has put his love for you ahead of himself because he is a good and decent person that will not let his emotions overtake his knee jerk reaction to throw his hands up and bail. Believe me the SEPERATION OR DIVORCE word has crossed his mind more times than you ever want to know, yet he chose to suffer through whatever was going on at the time because he is strong enough to believe in 'one wife for life'. The fall from that Babylon Pedestal betrayers put themselves on is a mighty long one to the crash of reality. Good thing God catches us through our obedience to do the right thing before it's too late. Is that not your current predicament right now? Serving two masters...You will love one and hate the other. Which one will you choose this day? The husband of your youth and commitment or the passing feelings of a satanic LIE? I feel for you girl, but know when you do the right thing with complete honesty your God will clean up the mess and make beauty from the ashes. Everything that you have ever wanted is waiting for you. Reach out and grab the very hand of God that has been there all along. He is calling you and searching for the one that has left the ninety nine. You would not be on this forum unless you still have hope. You have more than hope and Jehovah God is waiting on you, just move your feet in that direction. he has the power to dissolve your feelings for your AP in 24 hours through his ability to overcome the enemy that has sooo ensnared you with a powerful lie. The father of lies wants your marriage and so far he is doing a very good job. Yet you are still married, He has not won yet. Don't let him. Jana

This is your decision to

This is your decision to make. As an adult, you know right from wrong and you are deluding yourself in thinking that it's okay to sit in limbo. Either way, you are going to lose in this deal. you may not see it now, but you will lose your family's respect or you'll regret your decision. Holding everyone emotional hostage is not fair, decent or respectable. It's just selfish. You are hanging onto both out of greed and making excuses for it. You need to make a decision and face the consequences of your choice and actions. Either way, that is your choice to make, but you are treating your husband and children with disrespect. They will all despise you for doing this. Do the right thing...make your decision and stick with it. Relieve these men of the burden you are placing on them. No one respects you for holding on and having this affair. Make a decision, move forward and move on with your life...and let them move on with theirs.

response to two lives

Every emotion you so bravely expressed rang true for me, and in the end, I have to confess it was concern for my AP and what I was leading him into that made me choose to cut it off. We connected on a spiritual level from the beginning, had those conversations my husband would never had, but the longer we were together, the fewer those became. I saw we were putting each other before God. I was leading him away from one of the things I loved most about him. The "affair" had stopped, but I was battling with cutting off communication. I saw myself as the tempter, and I would have rather drown! that I had led this man, who had opened some door that would never close again in me, to myself and away from his Lord, was too much. Such Shame. The pain was unspeakable, and I had to have a lot of support and help. I needed to forgive my husband too, and trust God. Over time I could see the devastation, selfishness, and horror I had subjected others that I loved to, but honestly, in the middle of it I was blind. I really believed things would be better for everyone. That was a lie. I still pray for all involved. My husband and I are still working, neither of us wanting to go back to what was, both believing something else is possible. I have to say God has surprised me in a thousand countless ways, and often it is still a battle. Sin always leaves it's mark, and it's trace feelings. I will not lie. It is excruciating, but the pain is inevitable. You have my love and my support. Do the hard thing and trust the only infallible source, God, not man. I will not judge, I have no right. I remember your pain and pray that you can distinguish love from need. We are all looking for our Savior, just in different ways.

Heartbreaking thoughts

As the betrayed spouse, it is heartbreaking to know that my husband had such strong feelings -whether you call it love or not - for another woman, and that he chose me as the "right thing to do," not the thing he wanted to do. I want to be loved and cherished as the one he wants to be with, not someone he has to learn to love but doesn't really want. This keeps me from being able to let go. No matter what he says, I will always know that it was such a struggle to decide to stay with me. It was not something he wanted but something he felt he had to do. It makes me feel that it is hopeless on my end. How would I ever believe it even if he did turn around and love me above all others?

Re: Heartbreaking thoughts

You have described exactly how I'm feeling, too. My husband is absolutely certain that he loved - and still loves - his AP. And I am his obligation because of our three children and the 18 years we've been married. In our case, the choice may have been easier because his AP is also married with three children and not willing, from what I can gather, to give all of that up, either. It is obvious that his heart is not fully here though we do have some pretty good moments from time to time. We are in week 10 of the EMS Online course, and to his credit, he has participated fully - done the homework, engaged in the discussions, etc. But my doubts are enormous! I, too, so desire to feel chosen and wanted that I wonder if I can ever let go of the fact that he is having to work so hard to build a relationship with me. I find solace in the Psalms, but particularly Psalm 9:9-10. "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." I certainly do not mean to be "preachy" - rather just to share some comfort I have found. Though my faith has been profoundly strengthened as we have walked along this road, I still find myself with such doubt and distrust. Every single day it's a conscious choice I have to make to believe that somehow we will be refined from walking through this fire. Notice I said "we" - I can believe it for myself, but buying into the idea that our marriage can be better than ever is often just too overwhelming a thought to entertain. So I have to hold on tightly to certainties, like the love of Christ is enough to sustain me; and hold loosely to fleeting thoughts and emotions and feelings which are bound to change over time. I know that we are no longer the same people, and as we (hopefully) mature and grow through this process, we will begin to see the new people we are becoming. And there will be a whole new love to go along with that. As I work through this and slowly, very slowly, let go of the idea that my husband's "falling in love" with another woman will always trump his feelings for me, I find myself a tiny bit more hopeful. Ultimately, I am only responsible for my own actions and there's absolutely nothing I can do to change what's happened or how he feels about me. But I can seek the Lord with all my heart, soul and strength and rest assured of His promise to never leave me or forsake me. I am certain my husband will fail me again (hopefully not by having another affair!), as I am certain I will fail him. This walk of forgiving and being forgiven will last as long as we are together. It's messy and hard and I'm sure there will be days I still long for a different past and mourn what I feel was lost, but my hope is that if we stick it out, doing what's "right" even when it's not our first choice, then there is a brighter future ahead. That was a long and convoluted thought to let you know that I am experiencing much the same thing you are! Hang in there! Each of us will get through this.

affair resulting to a child

Maybe you could help me understand the process of ending the affair wherein the unfaithful spouse has a child with the AP. No contact rule is not applicable. Or can it be possible? I have opened myself to the idea that he would have visits to the child. Are there any 'rules' or steps that I need to know? D-day was 5 months ago and I still feel so much pain. The unfaithful spouse is not helping as he appears to be not driven enough to take the necessary steps to make drastic changes. We have 2 lovely children and I am barely keeping it together. Help!

How are you??

Hi Strongwill,

I was hoping to touch base to see how you are doing. I am in the same situation where the child is 2 months old and wondering what are appropriate boundaries. Just looking for some guidance.

What type of affair was it?

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