Please note that ideas and actions can work differently for different couples. The steps to end an affair given here are not absolutely right or wrong. They are steps based on experts’ recommendations and much discussion among former wayward spouses (FWSs) and betrayed spouses (BSs) on this and other marriage forums. How you, your spouse, and your marriage respond to these recommendations may vary.
Please be aware that while recovering from an affair is quite feasible, it takes time for you and your spouse to work through the infidelity while wrapped in confusion, pain, shame, anger, and many other emotions that accompany the process. And while the time and effort may be well worth it, it may be a difficult road.
Before implementing anything suggested here, examine all possible outcomes of each action first to determine if the suggestion will be helpful or hurtful to recovering the M.
And remember… You cannot change your past, but you can change who you are today and going forward.
Working Towards Recovery
Recovery cannot begin until the affair is over. If you are in a relationship with another person and also with your spouse, you cannot focus fully on your marriage. Before you can work through your affair and rebuild trust with your spouse toward recovery, you need to end the affair.
Accept 100% Responsibility for and Own Your Choice to Have the Affair.
- It may be very hard for you to understand this right now. You may be convinced that your spouse made you be with someone else because s/he neglected, disrespected, abused, dismissed, or took advantage of you and you feel, therefore, that s/he pushed you into another’s arms. But regardless of what your spouse says or does, only you control your actions. It was your choice to dial the telephone, send the email, drive to the meeting place, and be with someone else. Every decision that led up to you having an affair was solely yours. Perhaps your marriage is or had been a bad one, but even if your spouse treated you poorly, your choice to not be monogamous was made by you, not by your spouse or anyone else.
You can deal with marriage problems in ways other than having an affair. Do not blame your BS for your decision to commit adultery.
If your spouse does not yet know about your infidelity and you’ve decided you want to return to the marriage and make it better, confess.
- If you want to stay in the marriage, then you should reveal your affair to your spouse. It’s the only way to start a “new” marriage with a stable foundation.
The marriage has been damaged by the infidelity. That’s been done. It’s just that the BS doesn’t know that yet.
Some debate exists among professionals who study infidelity on whether or not this is mandatory if you want to recover your marriage. Surface intimacy can possibly be achieved without confession, but if you want the deep type of intimacy that a husband and wife can share, full disclosure is required. Most of the people who have recovered or are recovering their marriage and gave input for this guide believe revealing your affair is a must if you want to recover your marriage and turn it into a good one.
Assume your BS starts working seriously toward improving things and the marriage makes great headway for a while. The fact that information has been withheld is likely to cause a rift of unexplained origin – a rift that will be hard to cross. This alone might cause your BS to start looking at available detail and conclude information is being withheld on purpose. This conclusion will stall the growth of the marriage unless you cover with additional lies and willful deception, neither of which benefits marriage reparation.
Another reason to disclose is because things have a way of coming out, even years after the fact in some cases, so being forthright now gives the best chance for recovery. BSs have said hearing a confession (versus discovering the affair on their own) is viewed as a step toward regaining marital integrity, and that works in favor of reconciliation.
Also, revealing your infidelity allows the BS to decide what to do about their marriage based on the facts of their marriage. If you had unprotected sex – even if just one time – your BS needs to know that their health may be at risk so s/he can take proper actions.
Still unsure about confessing? Consider these questions:
- Will the dishonesty rot the marriage?
- Will the disconnect of protecting this deep secret infect the relationship and inhibit the depth of connection between you and your spouse?
- Can a good marriage be made based on deceit of the deepest level?
- If you have a conscience, can you handle all on your own the guilt and shame you likely feel about your what you’ve done, for the rest of your life?
John Powell wrote in his book The Secret of Staying in Love, “Permanent withholding will always be a permanent deficiency in the relationship, an obstacle to the love that could have been.” Honesty is required for a stable and fulfilling marriage. Honesty, in this case, requires both courage and empathy on your part.
How to Confess
When revealing the affair, consider the timing and location of the confession. Do it at a time when the two of you will not be interrupted. Turn off telephones and have someone watch the kids away from where you will disclose the infidelity. Do it in a private place, where your BS can ask questions and you two can face this without the possible embarrassment of others watching and listening.
Temper your confession with the questions being asked by your BS, and don’t make it a general unloading of your conscience. Like all of this–from an affair’s beginning to ending, then to restoring the marriage after the affair is over–confessing the details and revealing the truth of what happened is a process rather than a single event. Even years later, questions that need answering might arise in the mind of the BS, so be certain the answers given in the beginning are complete, true answers, because if they are later shown to be less than the full truth, recovery will take much longer to accomplish, and might not happen at all.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you think your BS will become violent or do any bodily harm, but you still insist on trying to repair the marriage, withhold the information about the affair until you can reveal it in a safe way, at a safe time, and in a safe place. Talk with your spouse in the presence of a trusted third party such as a therapist, pastor, or family friend. In addition, have a plan in place that will enable you to safely exit the premises after your confession and remain away from your BS for as long as necessary to protect yourself.
Stop the Lies.
- Commit to and practice complete and absolute openness and honesty (O&H). Affairs thrive in secrecy, so being truthful may initially be difficult for you. You may instead try to convince yourself that you need to withhold the truth in order to protect your BS from further hurt and harm. You may think you are doing what’s right by not sharing the details about what you’ve done. But that could not be farther from the truth. You do not get to determine what your spouse wants to know about his/her marriage. Your spouse gets to decide what s/he wants to know about your relationship with someone else – because that relationship directly impacted your BS’s marriage, too.
Not being honest only adds fuel to the problem. Every time your spouse discovers another lie, it’s like s/he is discovering the affair all over again, and this chips away at the chances to recover the M. Many BSs have said that the fact that their spouse was with another person (OP) hurt deeply, but the fact that their spouse repeatedly lied to them hurts even more.
Be honest and tell the truth, not matter how much you think this will hurt your spouse. This cannot be stressed enough.
Accept that the Task of Convincing Your BS that the Affair Is Over and All Precautions to Prevent Reigniting the Affair Have Been Taken Falls to You – the WS.
- Most, if not all, BSs would like to have a No Contact (NC) letter sent by you to the other person (OP), but you must be willing to write it.
The goal of an NC letter is to begin the process of assuring the BS that the affair has ended, and any chance of it resuming (meeting regularly, etc.) has been eliminated. How that is accomplished is not as simple as an NC Letter, but The Letter does indicate a first sincere step toward reaching that goal.
If you write an NC Letter, have your BS approve it and have your BS send it (or witness you sending it) to the OP. The OP needs to know the NC originated from you and not your BS. The best way is to hand-write the letter and have it sent certified mail or delivered by a trusted source. If you must send it by email, copy your spouse on the email so the OP sees that your spouse knows about the A and the NC letter as well.
Another example what therapist Al Turtle refers to as a Turbo NC Letter. He knows of a case where the WS wrote the letter (kept it short), sent it to the OP, and then the WS also called the OP on the phone with the BS listening on the other line. The WS read the letter out loud, ending with, “Thank you for listening. Good bye.” The BS got to hear this, the WS got to write it and read it, and the OP got to hear it, plus will have the NC in writing as well, in case the OP missed something.
There is a caveat. You may opt against sending the NC letter if the affair was over years ago, and discovery or confession only recently occurred. In that case, it’s suggested you do not re-contact the OP solely for the purpose of the NC letter, assuming NC has been in place for quite a while – as in year(s) have gone by and not just weeks or days. However, since people from our past tend to turn up when we least expect them, especially in today’s social networking format, if contact is ever attempted by the OP, then perhaps an NC letter is warranted.
Any Necessary Contact Between You and Your Spouse and the OP or the OP’s Betrayed Spouse (OPBS) or Significant Other Should Only Be Conducted Between the BSs.
- You cannot break NC with the OP, nor should you ever insert yourself into the OPBS’s life in any way ever again.
Do Everything You Can to Ensure You Do Not See or Have Contact with the OP for the Rest of Your Life.
- This might require changing your cell phone number, closing your email account, or ending mutual friend relationships. It also might require making drastic lifestyle changes.If you work with the OP and the OP will not resign, you and your spouse will have to get things in order quickly so that you can quit your job as soon as possible. If leaving your company is absolutely not an option (and only if this is agreed to by your BS), seek a job transfer or find another work arrangement in another location (other campus or a home office) to ensure you will never have to meet with, correspond with, or see the OP.
If your BS and you determine that staying with your company is the only option for your family, realize your BS may check up on you during the work day in whatever way makes him/her less uncomfortable with you being near the OP.If you live near the OP and the chances of running into him/her are likely, you and your family may need to move to another location.Putting yourself in financial ruin and/or throwing your kids into total crisis in NOT the way to do it, but NC is critical in getting you through your withdrawal from the OP quickly, and it’s imperative for recovering your M. You need to do what you can to establish NC right away.