Dear Suzie, Please help! I have tried time and time again to end the affair. Each time I think it’s over, something happens. He calls or emails, and before I know it, I am right back where I started. What can I do to end it permanently once and for all?
That’s a very good question. Like I have said many times before, affairs are like lobster pots: they’re easier to get into than out of. However, don’t despair. There are some very specific things you can do to put the odds of success on your side. Here are my seven steps to help you break free from the affair, once and for all.
Make a True and Irreversible Decision to End the Affair
You know you’re ready for this step when you hear yourself saying things like “I’m sick and tired of this” or “I deserve better than this.”
But you should know that when this happens…
Wanting to end it and being willing to end it are two separate feelings. To permanently break free from the affair (with your dignity intact), you must have both.
Wanting vs. Being Willing
You know the old saying that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride? What it points to is that there’s a big difference between wanting something and being willing to do what it takes to make it happen. Namely, willing requires action, while wanting describes desire. Wanting to end the affair isn’t enough to end the affair. You must mentally and emotionally shift to a place where you become willing… where you’re ready to take decisive and irreversible actions to make it happen.
You must make a true and irreversible decision to end the affair. You must be willing to take the actions to back that up. Make up your mind to close that chapter of your life and never reopen it again. You must be ready to walk away and never look back.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.
The instant you truly decide to unplug from the affair, the decision will trigger fear and separation anxiety. Your mind will begin to torment you with questions like, “how am I ever going to live without him?” or “what if I’m making a mistake?”
You will even find yourself vacillating between periods of doubt, anger, and resentment. Your thoughts will be screaming, “Turn back! Turn back! This is too much, I can’t do this!”
This is called the decision backlash. (And you must be prepared to handle it.)
Beware of the tendency to want to escape or get relief from these uncomfortable feelings by jumping back in. This would be like jumping out of the frying pan and back into the fire. The secret to handling the discomfort of a decision backlash is knowing that it’s temporary, and it will pass.
It might help you to think about the story of the unhappy king. He had everything — land, riches, servants, and power — yet he remained unhappy. Until one day, a wise woman gave him a ring and told him that the words inscribed in the ring had the power to bring him instant happiness. Those words? “This too shall pass.”
Therefore, your mantra for dealing with discomfort and backlash that comes with making an irreversible decision to end the affair is to remember: “This too shall pass.”
Do a Complete Cleansing of Heart, Mind and Environment
This step is important because proximity is power. Think of someone going on a diet. Will chocolate cookies in the desk drawer help or hurt? How successful is the dieter going to be if there are lots of unhealthy snacks close by?
It’s the same with your affair. Anything and everything that has the power to trigger your feelings is an enabler. You must completely cleanse your heart, mind and environment of all potential triggers.
This includes, but isn’t limited to, the following:
- Delete all pictures, emails, voice mails and texts… sent or received (block them from your phone, social networks and email accounts).
- Discard all gifts (no matter how big or small) including things like lingerie, keys, shirts, sweaters, cell phones and all sentimental items (cards, notes, letters, keepsakes, hotel brochures, vacation memorabilia). Any memento that reminds you of your time together has to go.
- Dismantle all secret wishes, hidden dreams, fantasies, what-if’s, and “wouldn’t it-be-nice” thinking. Do not indulge in daydreams, wishful thinking, fantasies or musings about the ex-affair partner (no matter how harmless or innocent you might feel it is) **NOTE: This one is, by far, the most important (and sometimes, the most difficult). And yet, if you’re going to truly break free, you must cleanse your mind — as well as your environment — of him.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.
Check out my new home study course on how to end an affair: 5-Steps to Ending the Affair.
Adopt a Permanent “Do Not Contact” Policy
It’s not enough to close the door. You must also lock it and throw away the key. You must commit to NEVER contacting the ex-affair partner again. This means you must adopt a permanent, non-negotiable “Do Not Contact” (DNC) policy.
What is a DNC (do not contact) policy?
It means exactly what it says: DO NOT CONTACT. This is the equivalent of a legal restraining order, except it’s enforced by you, and has no expiration date.
Why is adopting a Do Not Contact policy so important?
It’s important for the same reason that not drinking alcohol is the ONLY way to ensure sobriety. It’s important for the same reason that NOT doing drugs is the only way to remain free of a drug addiction. Do Not Contact is important because affairs are primarily fueled by two things: conversation and connection.
The DNC rule removes both of these. It’s like starving a fire of oxygen: eventually, it has to go out.
Now I want you to lean in and listen to the following sentence very carefully.
Do Not Contact means Do Not Contact. When it comes to DNC, 99% compliance is non-compliance. Do Not Contact means… (spell it out) D-O… N-O-T… C-O-N-T-A-C-T. No sporadic contact. No occasional contact. No “I-just-wanted-to-see-how-you-were-doing” contact.
This means you must…
Block & Walk
- Block emails, text messages, and that voice in your head that tries to tell you to go back.
- Walk away from places, rooms, and situations when the ex-affair partner is present. Use different entrances if you have to. Switch jobs if you need to.
It’s important to understand:
The Do Not Contact rule is not to protect the ex-affair partner… it’s there to protect YOU.
Here are a few reasons why this is true:
- DNC — gives you the space you need to repair and rebuild your boundaries
- DNC — means no new hurts, no new lies, no new illusions, no new disappointments
- DNC — means loving yourself enough to give yourself a real chance to heal, recover, and move on
- DNC — allows you to have T&D (time & distance) — the two key things required for emotions to fade and return to neutral
- DNC — creates the space that allows you to put things back into perspective
- DNC — takes you out of guilt and shame because you know you’re doing the right thing
- DNC — helps you recover self-respect and rebuild your self-esteem
- DNC — opens the way (if you’re single) for someone new and available to find you
- DNC — gives you the time and energy you need (if you’re married) to work on your marriage
Bottom line? If you do not contact… you win!
Here’s the mantra: I do not contact before, after, or ever. Follow this step to the letter, and you will be free. Break this rule at your own peril.
Find and Eliminate All Excuses for Failure
Here’s my definition of the word “excuse”:
Excuses: false arguments that make a wrong action appear right
Since I’m pretty sure you’re a good person (or else you wouldn’t be seeking help), then the only way you would be able to allow yourself to keep going back into the affair is if you had some way of convincing yourself… what you were doing was actually okay. That is the primary function of excuses. They make wrong actions seem right.
You don’t have to keep falling into that trap.
The law of the universe is very clear: ONLY RIGHT ACTIONS CAN PRODUCE RIGHT RESULTS.
Under no circumstances can a wrong action EVER produce a right result. I’m well aware that some people will argue with this concept. They would point out that all is fair in love and war, being in love gives them the right to cheat, and what they’re doing is okay because they mean no harm. And yet, I would still say to these people, these are all just excuses… not the truth.
- Truth — Only right actions produce right results. Here’s a clue that the action you’re taking is a right action: you won’t need any excuses.
- Truth — There’s a difference between what is fair and what is just. “All is fair in love and war” doesn’t mean all actions are just or right.
- Truth — We all want to feel our actions are right, but not all of us are willing to take the right actions, so we fall into the trap of excuse making. This is a smoke screen. Taking wrong actions, while hoping to find a way to make them right, is as unrealistic as expecting to find ice inside a volcano.
Why do you need to find the excuses that allow you to keep going back into the affair?
It’s important to find and remove the excuses ahead of time. This is because while under the influence of nostalgia, withdrawal, and missing the ex-affair partner, it’s not unusual for people to begin to rationalize and make excuses, so they can reengage. To prevent this from happening, you have to find and remove all of your excuses… before they have a chance to weaken your resolve.
This means you must be willing to:
- Listen to the lies you tell yourself
- Pay attention to the rationalizations you use
- Become aware when you’re allowing yourself to be dishonest
- Find and remove any excuse which has ever made it feel okay to reengage
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.
Let’s move on to step #5…
Allow the Grief, Heartache, and Discomfort to Pass
People ask me all the time, “how is it that the end of an affair can trigger grief? Isn’t grief reserved for death or the ending of real relationships?”
I tell them, grief isn’t about death. Grief is about loss. In fact, almost any type of loss can trigger the symptoms of grief. This can include such things as the loss of a pet, loss of innocence, loss of a job, money, trust, respect, or just about any other kind of loss. So, although an affair doesn’t have the same foundations as a committed relationship does, the end of an affair can still trigger grief symptoms because of the loss of fantasies, imagined possibilities, activities, and the ex-affair partner’s presence.
Here are some clues that you’re dealing with grief:
- You find yourself alternating between feelings of sadness and hopefulness.
- One moment you’re crying, the next moment your heart feels numb and frozen.
- You’re angry, and at the same time, you feel guilty and don’t want to let go.
- You’re filled with insecurity, regret, shame, and remorse.
If any of these symptoms ring a bell, then chances are pretty good you’re dealing with grief. If this is the case, then it’s important to give yourself the time and permission to allow yourself to grieve and allow the heartache to pass.
Here are three things you can do:
- Allow these feelings: Don’t judge them or tell yourself they shouldn’t be here. If you need to grieve, then grieve. Tell yourself: all my feelings are okay, and even the feelings that I’m not OK… are okay.
- Grieve honestly: Remember, you were drawn into the affair for a reason. At some stage, there was something you wanted or needed that you believed you could get from the affair. It’s important to allow yourself private time to grieve that it’s now over and gone. (Honest grieving allows for closure and helps you fully move on.)
- Focus on what’s possible, not what’s impossible. Optimism is one of the best lubricants for the grieving process. Include laughter, fun, supportive friends, and look on the bright side as much as possible.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.
Let Go and You Win
Right now, I believe you’re standing in the classroom of your life. I believe everyone that comes into your life has been sent, and every situation is here to teach you something. The question then is, what is this experience trying to teach you?
Well, one clear lesson, in my opinion, is that this experience is here to teach you the importance of letting go because everything in life is temporary. Learning to let go is a survival skill — one we all have to learn.
Here are two key things you need to let go of right now:
#1: You have to let go of the dreams and wishes for “what could be” or “could have been”.
One of the most difficult aspects of letting go is accepting the reality of the end of something. This includes giving up the impossible dreams and hopes of what could be. Yet it’s only by doing these two things that you truly can break free because as long as you cling to the “future perfect” pictures, you’ll never find closure… therefore freedom.
#2: You have to let go of the idea that letting go equals losing.
A big obstacle to letting go is people equate letting go with losing. Really, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s only by letting go that you win! What do you win? You win your freedom, the return of peace, your self-esteem and self-respect… just to name a few.
Fact: Letting go is winning!
Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving. Letting go is growing up. I believe it’s a gift to learn how to love and let go and to learn the difference between needing someone and loving someone. It’s a gift to learn how to let go of the past and move forward with your life, and it’s a blessing to let go and learn that all things are working together for your good (even the things that don’t feel good).
In order to help you gain a better perspective on this, I’ve included a copy of a wonderful poem I found somewhere on the Internet. I wish I knew who wrote it because I would like to thank them.
On letting go…
To let go isn't to forget, not to think about, or ignore. It doesn't leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret. Letting go isn't about winning or losing. It's not about pride and it's not about how you appear, and it's not obsessing or dwelling on the past. Letting go isn't blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts, and doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness. It's not about giving in or giving up. Letting go isn't about loss, and it's not defeat. To let go is to cherish the memories, but to overcome and move on. It is having an open mind and confidence in the future.
Find and Embrace a Support System
It’s important that you know you’re not alone (and there’s no reason for you to go through this alone).
If you want to ensure your success, then you must create a support system of people you can trust. You need only those people who aren’t interested in judging you as much as they’re interested in supporting your full recovery.
Please don’t underestimate the power of a support system.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of women who have been drawn back into the affair simply because there was no one there to talk them down off of the ledge, and no one to talk to whenever they felt overwhelmed or tempted. Keep in mind that a support system isn’t about having a lot of people. It’s about having the right people. It doesn’t even have to be anyone you know personally. It can be a group of strangers who are going through the same thing. (The Internet is filled with forums and support groups for the end of the affair.) The key here is for you to be willing to reach out and allow yourself to be supported as you move through this process.
There are plenty of people online, in your community, in your church, synagogue, or mosque who are going through or have gone through the same thing you’re going through now.
If you can’t find anyone, just do a search on Google for “affair recovery support”, and you’ll find lots of support groups, boards, blogs, and websites made up of people who understand what you’re going through.
Again… there’s simply no reason for you to go through this alone. And what’s more, it’s dangerous. On your own, you’ll be more vulnerable to temptation when things get rough.
And here’s another thing…
Because the end of the affair is bound to leave a gap in your life for a while, you need constructive ways to fill that void, or else the temptation will be to go back to the same old destructive habits.
Make no mistake about it.
The affair was taking up a lot of your time, energy, attention, and emotion. Now that it’s gone, its absence leaves a vacuum. You’ll need constructive activities to replace the destructive ones. I suggest you make a list of healthy alternatives you can do with your time, energy, and emotions (a support group can really help you come up with some great ideas).
Recapping the 7 Steps to Permanently Ending an Affair
My final thoughts:
It’s my opinion that until we learn how to accept forgiveness for our mistakes, we stay tied to them. This is why I believe that true recovery after an affair must include accepting forgiveness for your mistakes. You must find and commit to a path, plan, or process that guides you towards self-forgiveness, healing, and true recovery. Above all, forgiveness is not a theory… it’s an experience. This means you’ll need a program or process that can guide you through a true experience of forgiveness.
I can suggest three options:
- You can turn to your church or religious community to see what kind of guidance they can offer you in this area.
- You can get private coaching from me via the phone or Skype.
- You can watch/listen How to End the Affair home-study which includes two great sessions: Dismantling Emotional Affairs and How to Break Free from the Affair.
No matter which way you decide to go, it’s important that you do more than just tell yourself… it’s important to forgive. You must actually follow through and do it.
Key Insight: Our negative baggage never gets lost in transition.
It’s funny how our personal baggage seems to always show up in the next relationship or the next destination. So, if you don’t take the time now to forgive and let go, you could spend the rest of your life haunted by the ghosts of mistakes past. If that’s not what you want, then I suggest you learn how to truly forgive yourself and the past, and let it all go .
So, there you have it.
My seven steps for permanently ending the affair. I have faith that these seven steps will help you achieve the freedom you deserve while helping you preserve your dignity and restore your self-esteem.
One last thing.
I want you to pause right now and take a deep breath. As you breathe in, say to yourself.. “LET”. And as you breathe out, say to yourself… “GO”. Repeat this mantra several times (breathing in and breathing out, silently repeating “LET… GO…”) and remind yourself that all things are working out for your good.