Being an Infidelity Recovery Coach and also having tried and failed to leave a loving affair many times before I succeeded, I felt called to help other women who were also struggling with this, so I created these 7 steps for leaving a long-term affair. While the majority of my clients tend to be “the other woman” or mistress, these steps can work for anyone who has been in a long-term affair.
Being caught up in a deep love, with the adrenaline spikes and dopamine highs of doing something in secret—you know, that thrill that comes with uncertainty and mystery—can be somewhat addictive and thrilling. Yet, at the end of the day, it tears you apart inside. You are operating with a large part of your life as a secret; you constantly fear being caught; you only get 20% of him; and—perhaps worst of all—he’s not available unless it’s on his terms. You have no freedom to freely reach out to him in the moment because,well… what if he’s with his wife, or someone else, and you get caught? So, instead, you fall into a pattern of keeping your silence and waiting for him to be ready for you.
Just like any relationship, your partner is usually the first person you think of to ring up and spill your joy, humour, gossip, surprises and pain in the heat of the moment, but dating a married man takes all those opportunities away. Each peak of emotion often gets suppressed and put on the back burner until you know you’re safe to talk with him. It’s a constant struggle to control yourself—what you say and who you say it to, how you act and react, the expressions your face shows—and it is completely exhausting. Soul-depleting, actually.
So let’s dive into seven points to consider when trying to leave a long term affair with someone you love.
You’re not good, nor bad for getting yourself into an affair.
Please, stop judging yourself so harshly and understand that you are human and, as such, you are here on the planet to have human experiences and learn from them. Being stuck on how to leave a long-term love affair is completely common! You may feel crazy for feeling so powerless to create the change you want or for constantly committing to change, yet never following through.
First, I want to highlight that it is ok for you to feel this way. It’s ok that you find yourself in this situation—no matter how wrong or shameful it feels.
Judging ourselves keeps us frozen and stuck. It removes the opportunity to build a foundation that gives us the ability to be resourceful and proactive.
The truth is, challenges happen in our life because we don’t yet have the tools to know how to deal with them. If we did, then we wouldn’t experience this pain and confusion. This experience has come into your life as an opportunity to evolve and grow as a person, yet before you reach that place, you face resistance and discomfort. In the discomfort is where your growth lies because the pain of it will force you to naturally look for answers that you don’t yet have.
Are you even ready to end your long-term affair?
In the blog, 7 Steps on How to End an Affair—Affair Recovery Expert & Marriage Coach, Suzie Johnson talks about the difference between wanting to leave a long-term loving affair versus actually being willing to end it. She mentions that, “willing requires action, while wanting describes desire”.
Often the reason you haven’t been able to create lasting change, up to this point, is that you have yet to fully decide that you are 100% committed to leaving. It’s easy to want change, but are you truly ready to leave for good?
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and sit with the question. “Am I truly ready to leave for good?”
Notice what happens to your body. Does it tense up? Does it make you want to run back and hug your affair partner? Do you feel tightness in your chest or a hollow in your stomach?
What happens to your internal dialogue?
“But I don’t want to lose our friendship.”
“But, if I end it sexually with him, we will never be as close.”
“How will he react if I tell him no more and really mean it this time?”
Or does it do the opposite?
Do you feel lighter and free? Does your posture open and your body relax?
Do you start getting excited for the possibility of lasting change…for good this time? Do you paint a picture of possibility for your future, instead of one of loss and lack?
This question, “Am I truly ready to leave for good?” is a fantastic indicator for finding out if you are actually ready and willing to leave your affair partner or if you want change, but also fear losing what you have.
Getting clear on what you DO want.
Now that you’ve asked yourself some important questions, it’s time to bring what is out of focus into focus. When you lack the clarity on what you want, you doubt yourself. Doubt breeds fear. Fear robs you of your self-confidence. Lack of confidence causes you to procrastinate and freeze. And procrastination will keep you STUCK.
So if that is the equation for staying stuck, the equation for creating momentum and taking inspired action is to first get clear on what it is you actually want. When you are clear, your mind will be open and receptive to opportunities to help you create lasting change.
[KEEP NOTE: We all have a PROACTIVE voice that knows we are made for more and can see our potential, and then we have a FEAR voice in pointing out all potential problems that can arise. When getting clear on what you want, you must tell the FEAR voice to hand over the mic so your best self can be the head decision maker. If you are making decisions based on fear, you are operating from scarcity and scarcity will shut down your potential and ability to think big. Whereas, if you are inviting your proactive side to be the head speaker, you become open and expansive and invite a whole new level of thinking and decision making to the table that serves you.]
Questions are the gateway to answers. HOWEVER, not just any questions! The more specific the questions, the more profound the answers. When you are stuck on how to leave a long-term loving affair with a married man, fear is usually one of the biggest motivating factors influencing when making your decisions—yet fear is obviously not the best place to be decisive from. These questions invite fear to step aside so you can see what it is you really want:
- What if it were easy?
- What would I do if I had nothing to lose?
- What do I fear most when it comes to leaving a loving affair? (Losing the love and connection you have with him? Do you fear going backwards in what you have going for you right now? Fear things will get messy if you decided to walk away? Etc.)
- If better financial opportunities lay waiting for me on the other side of walking away, how would I then feel about my decision to leave?
- If the best man I could possibly ever ask for was waiting on the other side of leaving my affair partner, a romance that has the most special, unique and deepest level of love… how would I then feel about leaving my affair partner?
Start by talking to someone outside of the relationship.
The very walls you build to protect yourself are the same walls keeping you imprisoned. If you are hiding in shame and processing this extremely emotionally taxing event on your own, then you have yet to harness the simplest (and often easiest) way to create lasting change…
talk to someone. People thrive when we have others to confide in and lean on, when we are able to gain new perspectives and strength from our community and support system. Living along inside the bubble of an affair is a lonely, painful existence, even with the highs that come, sporadically, from time spent with the person you’re having the affair with.
There’s a proverbial saying that states, “A problem shared is a problem halved”. Talking to someone offers a massive relief and takes a huge weight off your shoulders, simply by removing the need for you to hide the truth from everybody and knowing that someone is there to share your burden. When you voice what you have been feeling and going through aloud, it makes it real, it gives you the ability to access emotions that you have been suppressing and obsessing over for far too long.
If you’re reading this and are like, “FUCK NO! No way in the world would I dare” then you have just found the very thing that’s blocking you from moving forward—the very thing that could completely pivot your life, IF you choose to explore it. The scarier it feels to tell someone, the bigger the breakthrough you will have when you build the courage to confront this fear.
Stop waiting for the perfect time
In Marriage Helpers blog How to End an Affair with Someone You Love Dr. Joe Beam states
“You fear the future without your lover, but you fear your future with your lover.” Feeling torn between what decisions to make is all too common. You feel that if you make decision “A” it will create pain and if you make decision “B” it too will create pain.
The blog also suggests, “Do not put it off because of a special day coming up, or to find a better situation, or to make it easier on your lover, or any other reason. Hesitation devastates. Act now.” It can be really easy to come up with reasons why now is not the perfect time. However, I invite you to dismiss the pursuit of doing things “right” in a way that looks good and feels good and instead ask yourself, “If I was to break it off now, what’s the best job I can do based on these circumstances?” And then act.
Sophie, a client of mine, was in an affair with her boss. She had expertise and skills that others within the company did not have. The whole business was leaning on her, and she was getting outstanding results. Her fear? If she left him the business would collapse. So for 2 years she aimed to step back but plans never followed through because the business always called on her. She loved her affair partner and the last thing she wanted to do was to create massive stress in his life if she were to leave the relationship and his business. However she eventually had to face her fears, knowing that nothing was going to change fast. She cut the ties with her affair partner and the business in one scary act of courage and her freedom in life has been maximised ever since.
There is a beautiful quote by Cayla Mills that’s says, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice.”
Timing is not always going to be perfect. And if you are waiting for perfect then you will often be waiting a long time.
Dismiss the need to have your affair partner, or you business colleagues or friends be the foundation for your decision-making process. After all, if your friends and family are giving you advice on the best decisions to make on your career and advising you to stay yet they don’t know you are in an affair with your boss, they cannot give you sound advice because they are not coming from a place of seeing the whole picture. That’s also where talking to someone about your affair becomes helpful.
So if you have been wanting to break it off for a while now and have not yet ended it with your affair partner, my question to you is: When IS a good time to act on change, for good this time?
Next, cut off all contact.
WHATTTTTTT?!!! Can’t we stay friends and just end the sexual relationship? If you want to create real and lasting change, you must detach yourself from him. He’s like alcohol and you’re like an alcoholic. Don’t keep the cupboard lined with alcohol and then say, “I’m just not going to drink it.” It’s especially hard to do when he was (and will continue to be if you keep him around) the first person you go to, to confide in and share with. That is the very reason you MUST go no contact. I recommend 6 months, minimum. Although it will be super painful to cut off conversation with the person you love most, it will be the easiest way to create the change and freedom you seek. It’s like a bandaid—it’s painful to rip off, but it’s a lot better to do it quickly then to slowly peel it back.
Understand that it will be painful.
Leaving a long-term love affair with someone you love is never easy. As humans, we constantly try to bypass the pain and, in doing so, we settle for feeling good in the moment and ignoring what our intuition is really screaming out for us to do. So we soak up the love and connection that feels great, but is always temporary.
But what if it will get painful, and it will STILL be ok? What if, instead of avoiding pain at all costs, you learn to understand that that pain is a sign of the beautiful connection you did have? In Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s blog, How to end an affair you want to continue, Laurie states, “Ending an affair and healing won’t happen overnight. You’ll grieve the breakup because you love him. You’ll regret letting him go. You’ll wish you were back together, and you’ll cry yourself to sleep at night. But, you will heal and move on!”
This is a journey, and this journey won’t always be easy. However, I personally wouldn’t trade my experience or wish it away for anything. I am the woman I have become today because of the unbearable pain, conflict and misguided beliefs I needed to face up to in order to get myself out of a long-term love affair. And, I assure you, this experience can be the same for you. Although extremely hard and emotional now, once you’re out of it, this experience will be one of the biggest building blocks for shaping you into a powerful woman who knows how to value her worth, set boundaries and speak her truth! You are a diamond in the making 😉