Love and desire are hard to let go of, no matter what their form. To end an affair is no less messy than getting a divorce, except perhaps you don’t need to pay exorbitant legal fees. But the emotional cost of ending an affair with a married man or woman, or to end an affair and still be friends, can be a difficult and tricky journey.
How to end an affair with someone you love is always going to be a question without easy answers. However, a little expert insight could be helpful to smoothen the way. We asked intimacy and relationship coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT, etc), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, for inputs on how to end an affair without falling apart yourself.
Why Is It So Hard To End An Affair With Someone You Love
“Any addiction which gives pleasure is difficult to quit,” Shivanya explains. “There is a direct correlation between degrees of pleasure and difficulty of ending that addiction. One should be aware of the pain of ending an affair with someone you love, right from the start. Any activity which is started without keeping the end in mind is detritus.”
She adds, “It’s an emotional conflict for both parties involved in the extramarital affair, regardless of whether they came together for physical or emotional needs. An affair is an exciting adrenal rush which two parties may have missed for long and therefore to end an affair would be to deprive themselves of their pleasures.
“For the partner who engaged in the affair, guilt also plays a part when they want to end an affair and move on to save the marriage. They could fear humiliation and accusations from both their spouse and their lover.”
Related Reading: Do Affairs That Break Up A Marriage Last
How To End An Affair And Save Your Marriage
There are various types of affairs and ending them depends on the length and depth of the involvement. There are short-term affairs and affairs that last more than a year. Affairs when both parties are married, and those where only one party is married. There are even affairs where neither party is married, but one of both are in committed, long-term relationships.
What your relationship with them is outside the affair would also factor in. For instance, to end an affair with a coworker is different than ending an affair with a narcissist you don’t work with. To end an affair with your boss would take different measures than to end an affair with your best friend.
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Shivanya recommends asking yourself the following tough questions before embarking on the journey to end an affair and save your marriage.
- Do you love your partner?
- Do you regret your actions?
- Have you ended the affair in your mind already?
- Are you willing to understand what led to your cheating and change your thoughts and actions?
- Are you willing to understand what your partner may have contributed to the situation and are you willing to forgive her/him?
- Are you willing to invest and sacrifice for the sake of your marriage?
Related Reading: How To Forgive Your Cheating Partner, And Should You
“If your response to all, or at least most of these questions is in the affirmative, then there is a good chance you can end the affair and that your marriage can be saved. Keep in mind that the only way forward is to forgive, forget and move on,” Shivanya says.
“The goal is to restore the love and commitment in your relationship so that both of you will want to invest in it. Not giving up on love is a lengthy process when trust has been broken. It takes time and a lot of effort to restore it” she warns.
Some affairs last for years, others may be shorter, but ending an affair is always going to be a painful, arduous process.
With Shivanya’s help, we’ve rounded up 10 steps you can take to make it a little less messy, or at least that helps you cope with the mess a little better. If you’re trying to end a long-term or short-term affair, here are some ways in which you can do so.
1. Make a firm decision that it’s over
Whether you’re ending an affair with a married man or trying to end an affair with a coworker, the first step to saying it’s over needs to happen in your own mind. Like all first steps, this is the hardest. You’ll be torn between absolute cutting off and wanting to end an affair and still be friends. Maybe you’re ending an affair with a narcissist and really don’t want to deal with their moods and emotional immaturity.
Or you’re trying to end an affair with your boss and wondering if it’ll affect your way up the promotion ladder. Even worse, maybe you’re trying to end an affair with your best friend and you’re terrified of losing them forever. Admitting and accepting that an affair is over in your own mind is going to take a lot of work, but you need to be absolutely sure because that’s the premise you’ll be working from to end an affair for good.
2. Have the conversation with your lover
Breakups are never fun, no matter how illicit the romance was. Also, remember that just because your affair isn’t seen as ‘legitimate’ by the outside world doesn’t mean a breakup is going to be easy.
“I was ending an affair with a married man, and it’s the toughest breakup I’ve ever had,” says Emily. “We genuinely cared about each other and wanted very much to be together. But he couldn’t leave his kids. We talked, we cried, and then promised to stay out of each other’s lives out of love and respect.”
If you’re ending an affair with a narcissist, you might need to stand very firm in your decision, since they’re prone to not accept things that don’t go their way. Also, some affairs last for years, and those will be especially tough to get out of since you’ve probably built an emotional connect. Be sure, be firm and be kind.
3. Confess to your partner
We did warn you that this doesn’t get any easier. Now that you’ve made up your mind to end an affair and talked to your ‘affair-partner’, it’s time to face your spouse or long-term partner. Be prepared for disbelief, denial, anger and tears. No one likes to be made a fool of by their partner, and this is not the time to make excuses or even give logical reasons. Say what you need to, and let them respond.
Related Reading: Confession Story: Emotional Cheating Vs Friendship
They, too, will need time to come to terms with this betrayal and figure out how they want to navigate it. Don’t go into too many details, but reiterate that you’re deeply sorry and that it’s definitely over. Once they know your remorse is real, it’ll hopefully be a little easier for them to come to terms with it.
4. Eliminate all contact with the person/s you cheated with
“Phone calls, social media, presents they gave you, anything associated with them needs to go. They cannot have a presence in your life,” says Shivanya. A physical cleanse preempts the emotional and psychological cleanse you’ll eventually need to do, so this is a good step to take.
“I think this was the hardest thing for me to do,” says Shannon. “I was involved with someone from work for over two years. To end an affair with a coworker, when I had to see him at work every day was terrible. I eventually asked to be moved to a different department so I really could cut all ties. Love in the workplace is never easy, as it is!”
It’s never going to be easy to do this. But if you’re thinking of how to end an affair with someone you love, every trace of their presence needs to be erased from your life. At least for the first few months, if not forever.
5. Start therapy to address the reasons you cheated
“Professional help is incredibly important once you’ve decided to end an affair,” Shivanya says. She points out that affairs start with deep-seated dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and always come from a place of lack. “It’s important to address what was missing in your marriage or long-term, committed relationship, to dig deep and find out what it was that led to you having an affair in the first place. What were you seeking?” she says.
She also recommends starting out with individual therapy without your partner. In other words, address and work on your own issues as a person outside of all your relationships first. You could reach out to Bonobology’s panel of counselors for help here.
“Your partner will need individual therapy too, before they can start to move on past the violation of their trust. Couples’ counseling is eventually needed but wait until your partner/spouse says they are ready,” she adds.
6. Learn to be honest about everything
Confessing to an affair will create trust issues even in the strongest of relationships. From here on, everything you say could sound suspicious to your partner. “Learn to be utterly and completely honest with your partner,” says Shivanya. Even white lies need to be put on the backburner because your partner is hurting and especially sensitive to being lied to right now.
“After I ended my year-long affair and told my wife, it was truly hard to build trust again,” says Richard. “Even if I mistakenly told her the keys were on the table and they weren’t, she saw it as a lie. It took a long time to rebuild our marriage, but honesty was a major part of it.”
7. Know that rebuilding takes time
Yes, you’ve confessed, yes, you’re truly sorry and are ready to put everything into gaining your partner’s trust again. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight, or even a few months from now. “You might have to sleep in the guestroom for a few days or weeks. As and when you get back to sex with your partner, it will need to happen at their speed, not yours. It may take a while for them to get back in the mood,” says Shivanya.
As we’ve said, there are all types of affairs, and some affairs last for years. But that also means you’ve been letting your marriage or committed relationship break slowly and surely during that time. Even if it feels repaired, it’s never going to be the same.
8. Allow all feelings
Whether it’s affairs that last more than a year, or a fling that lasted a few months, to end an affair is to try and let go of a part of yourself. Along with sorrow and loss, you’ll feel remorse, resentment, anger and confusion. Don’t judge yourself too much. Let the feelings come and process them as best as you can.
Don’t, whatever you do, fall into the trap of feeling immoral or like someone who deserves harsh punishment. Yes, you disrespected your relationship and broke your partner’s trust, and you will need to make amends. But self-flagellation doesn’t benefit anyone.
“Honestly, when I was ending my affair, I couldn’t help but think of the benefits of extramarital affairs,” says Kelly wryly. “I felt terrible, but I thought of how being the ‘other woman’ had meant I got the presents, the good sex and none of the hassle of being a wife.
“Also, I really liked the man I was involved with so I actually wanted to end an affair and still be friends. But I knew I couldn’t do that to my husband, and he couldn’t do that to his wife.” Affairs when both parties are married can bring about especially complex feelings. Be patient with them and with yourself, talk to a professional and work your way through the benefits of counseling.
9. Forgive yourself
Before you expect your partner or family to forgive you, or even expect forgiveness from the one you’re ending things with, forgive yourself. You’re not going to be able to move forward if you’re constantly beating yourself up.
An affair doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there are always reasons and desires and loneliness surrounding it. And we repeat, having an affair doesn’t need to color your whole life as a reprehensible being. As people, we’re complex, and often we end up hurting those we love with our choices.
Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean your remorse levels dip, or that you make less effort to rebuild your marriage. You just need some level of quiet certainty that you’ve forgiven yourself and are ready to move forward.
“There are several realistic reasons to end an affair,” says Shivanya. “There’s finances, family (kids), and love.
“For instance, living in two households instead of just one, basically doubles your housing costs. Many people just can’t afford that, especially in a single-income home. Not to mention the cost of an actual divorce, should you take that path. Remember, in a divorce, it’s only the lawyers who win,” she adds.
“Kids may survive a divorce but the impact of a broken family may last a lifetime. The strain on the family, custody time or even custody battles, can be difficult. As long as the parents are not constantly battling or providing an unsafe environment, it is generally better for them to stay together.
Ultimately, do you still love each other? Certainly, it may not seem like it at the moment, and it might take months or even a year or two before you can straighten things out. But if you both truly still have love for each other and want to make it work, you can,” she says.
“If it sounds hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s a long process. But you can repair your marriage, if you can let the past go without too much guilt or resentment. It’s going to take a lot of faith and courage to repair your broken trust, but it’s not impossible. Work your way towards a new intimacy, take time to heal your and your partner’s wounds, and love will do the rest,” she concludes.
Affairs can end when one or both parties realize they want to give their marriage/long-term relationship another chance. They can also end if one or both of the long-term partners find out about the affair. Once a decision is made to end the affair, it’s up to the people involved how they want to do it – remain friends, cut off contact entirely etc.
An affair, especially one that’s lasted many years, is tough to end because you’ve built up an emotional connect and maybe even fallen in love with each other. Maybe you’ve found what was lacking in your marriage and it’s fulfilled you in wonderful ways.
There’s no script that can tell you what to say when you want to end an affair. You can be straightforward and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to do this anymore.” Either way, it’s important to be firm, and be kind when ending an affair.