What is the best way to manage seeing your former affair EVERY DAY, since they live in the same house you do? The affair has ended, and I’m trying to maintain a level head with my husband and children who are unaware of the situation. But it’s increasingly challenging because we commonly cross paths, use the same driveway, etc., etc. I would appreciate some guidance in this situation, as it’s really challenging for me to deal with.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. First of all, let me say… it can be very difficult to maintain your sanity after the intensity of an extramarital affair. And if there’s one thing that could make it even more challenging, it’s when the affair partner remains in close proximity after the affair is over, so I can certainly understand your level of anxiety and concern. So, let’s talk about what you can do to help yourself in this type of situation.
To begin with, I want you to remember this simple law of mind: proximity is power. What this law refers to is that whatever is in your proximity at any given time has the power to influence you. Let’s say, for example, you’re going on a diet. One of the first things you would probably do is go to your refrigerator and your pantry and get rid of anything that might be tempting to eat that wouldn’t be good for your diet. Now why would you do that? Because you recognize that if things that are bad for you to eat are in close proximity when you’re on a diet, then chances are high that you could be tempted. Why? Because proximity is power. But what if you were the only one going on a diet in your family? What if your kids and your husband were not joining you, and what if they love to eat sugary snacks and sodas, therefore you couldn’t get rid of all the bad stuff from the pantry? What would you do and how would you handle it?
Those are all great questions. Questions that time and again, people have had to learn how to solve, so that they could be successful on their diet. The good news is many of them have done it. And so can you… if you’re willing to follow my five simple rules for moving on after an affair, even when the affair partner is still in close proximity.
Rules for Life After The Affair
(When The Affair Partner Is In Close Proximity)
Rule #1: Let the feelings return to neutral.
Here’s something to keep in mind about affairs: once they get started, they have a tendency to stir up a lot of emotions. Imagine that feelings have a set point: neutral. This is what your feelings were for your affair partner, prior to the affair. However, once the affair gets going, your thoughts, fantasies and connections with the other person cause those feelings to grow. How intense they get depends on the person, duration and the affair itself. But once the affair is over, it’s your job to do everything in your power to allow those feelings to go back to neutral. How do you that? By removing all the things that caused those feelings to grow in the first place. This means: no contact, no conversations, and no indulging in thoughts or fantasies that could reignite your feelings. (More on this later.)
For now, here’s what I want you to do:
Whenever you find yourself thinking about the affair partner, or if something triggers a memory of the affair, or if you see them in person and you sense that your feelings are still there or that they’re intense in any way, just imagine that your emotions have a temperature gauge like a thermometer. Then, visualize in your mind’s eye those emotions cooling down. How many times should you do this? As often as needed until your feelings return to neutral. Do you think you can do that? I know you can.
Rule #2: Time and distance are your new best friends.
Time and distance (T&D) are your new best friends because with them on your side, all feelings return to neutral. So, your job is to simply allow Father Time to do his job by not interfering. And maintain distance, including physical distance, emotional distance and psychologically distancing yourself from that person. These are the two best ways to reverse your way out of this type of situation. What this means is, even if you can’t physically remove yourself, you can at least emotionally, mentally and psychologically remove yourself from that person.
Rule #3: Don’t indulge your fantasies.
Here’s something to keep in mind: there’s a difference between “endings” and “closure”. For example, an affair can end, and the people involved still not experience closure for years after. How? Because they remain mentally (and emotionally) IN the affair by indulging in images, fantasies and thoughts of what could have been, what should have been, or what might have been.
Don’t let that happen to you. I want you to not just shut the physical door but your mental door as well. This means you don’t indulge in any thoughts, fantasies, images or memories of them because closure doesn’t come at the end of an affair — it comes when you totally let all the hopes, wishes and fantasies go.
Rule #4: No contact. No karma.
Maybe you’ve heard the term “karma” before. Not many people understand exactly what it means. So let me try to give you a brief explanation of how karma is involved in this type of situation.
Think about it like this: if karma had a formula, it would look something like this:
Desire + Experience = Memory
How does this create karma?
Well, the memory of the experience (especially if pleasurable) leads to the desire to relive the same experience, which then leads to a more intense memory, which leads to a more intense desire to relive the experience… and on and on it goes. (You get the picture). This, for example, is how addictions are born. The point is, this karmic cycle could go on for years and sometimes even decades, causing affairs to drag on for 15 to 20 years. But that’s not going to be your story… because you can end the cycle with one simple rule: “No contact. No Karma.” This means: You don’t contact, you don’t connect, you don’t converse. Which in turn means you don’t create any new memories that trigger desires to re-experience.
Rule #5: Don’t make the past more important than the present.
This is a big one. Even if you’ve ignored all the other rules I just pointed out, don’t ignore this one. Because one of the big mistakes people make after an affair is to assume that the past affair or affair partner is far more important than they should be.
If you have decided (and it seems to me you have) that this person and this experience are in your past, then that’s where they need to remain. The bottom line is, any person that’s not a part of your future does not deserve to play a significant role in your present.
Does that sound cold? Mean? Callous?
Well, it isn’t. It’s called “having healthy boundaries,” which is exactly what you need right now to allow your feelings to go back to neutral and for time and distance to work.
My Final Thoughts
I believe there’s one more thing you can do to make living in close proximity to the ex-affair partner easier on yourself. And that is truly forgive yourself because chances are a lot of the anxiety you’re feeling could stem from the fact that you’re still carrying around some guilt or shame about what happened between the two of you, which in turn causes the situation to be confusing and awkward.
So, to cut the invisible chains between you and this person once and for all… I strongly suggest that you listen to my Self-Forgiveness coaching session. In that program, I will walk you through the steps to canceling guilt, neutralizing any sense of responsibility and embracing forgiveness, so that your feelings will return to neutral as soon as possible.