Dear Suzie, I met a woman at an out-of-town convention. She seemed so confident and sure of herself; I was immediately smitten. Although I consider my marriage a good one, it lacked passion. I guess I was feeling lonely. Because when she came on to me, I just couldn’t resist. It seemed like the perfect setup. We were both in sexless relationships, so it only made sense for us to help each other. It worked out great for a while, but then things started heating up (more on her side than mine). Although I had developed some pretty strong feelings for her, I knew that I didn’t want to leave my wife. Well, she started talking about leaving her husband. That scared the living daylights out of me. I tried to end it and she threatened to go to my wife. I played along for a while; but as time goes on, it’s getting more and more difficult for me. Suzie, I wasn’t so sure before, but now I know. I want to end this affair, but I am scared to death of what might happen if I do. What should I do?
Dennis, there are basically two ways to learn in this life: Making your own mistakes (the hard way) and learning from other people’s mistakes (the easy way). I can see on this one, you’ve taken the hard road.
Here’s the thing about extramarital affairs:
If you ask most people (before they get involved in an affair), they will tell you, “I can handle it,” “It’s nothing serious,” “I know what I’m doing,” “I just want to have a little fun.” All of which sound pretty good when you’re rationalizing. That is, of course, until the reality steps in and rips open a gap between what you thought would happen… and what actually happens.
It never fails.
If there’s anything people underestimate when it comes to affairs, it’s their own emotions
You see, Dennis, once your emotions get engaged, the rules of the game completely change. (And you can’t just magically change them back.) Underestimating the power of sexual emotions is like underestimating the power of the ocean. (Not a good idea).
Opening our emotional doors is like opening Pandora’s Box.
Many of us have no idea what’s in there. We haven’t got a clue just how vulnerable those emotions can make us. We often have no idea that we can be manipulated, seduced, lured, and enticed… just like anyone else.
Here’s the part that makes this so difficult:
Most of the time, our emotions get involved subtly. We don’t notice what’s happening. Then suddenly, one day we wake up to discover someone has taken up residence in our heart (and we’re not exactly sure how they got there).
This is when things get sticky.
The instant one of the people involved in the affair becomes emotionally engaged, then exiting the affair for the other person gets really tricky. Sadly, most people never see this freight train coming until it’s too late.
You should know…
Very few women can have sexual relationships and not get emotionally engaged. (Those who can are usually professionals.) And the same is true for men. Very few men can lie, cheat, and be dishonest without experiencing some guilt. This tells you that the belief that you can have a guilt-free, no-strings-attached affair is a fantasy. There’s no such thing (except for sociopaths).
So, let’s talk about the emotions.
With an affair, the same thing that makes it exciting is exactly the same thing that makes it dangerous. What’s that? Emotions!
Think back with me for just a moment.
Allow yourself to think back and remember some of the emotions you had at the beginning of the affair. Now without knowing you personally, I can guess there was one key emotion present: curiosity.
You remember the old saying that “Curiosity killed the cat“?
Well, in this case, it killed the part of your mind known as logic. You see, the instant curiosity takes you over, you’d better buckle up your seat belt, because you’re now flying by the seat of your pants over some pretty murky, uncharted waters.
The challenge with curiosity is how naïve it is.
Rather than anticipating the pitfalls and downturns or planning for the unexpected, curiosity simply expects. It expects to discover newness. It expects to experience novelty. It expects to find, uncover, and discover something exciting.
It doesn’t ever ask, “What if?” It simply forges ahead. Those fools who rush in where angels fear to tread are usually being driven by one primary emotion: curiosity (a very powerful emotion indeed).
The point is…
Knowing what got you into the affair in the first place will go a long way in helping you to get out of it. Because chances are the same powerful emotions — curiosity being one of them — were a motivating force for your affair partner as well. It’s my opinion that the thing that gets you in might also be powerful enough to get you out. This is why when I coach people through the processes of exiting the affair, I often call upon the power of curiosity (and its opposite emotion, boredom) to help them have a successful and permanent exit.
Now, let’s go over the tips.
Let me give you six quick tips taken from my Graceful Exits process.
Keep in mind that these are general ideas that work. The key here is to use them as guidelines and pointers.
Affair partners are often misguided by the idea that the end of the affair is a bad thing, when in fact, it’s probably the best thing for them. It’s important that you communicate this idea clearly. Tell your affair partner that in the long run, saying goodbye will heal both of you rather than harm either of you.
This is probably one of the most damaging things I see wayward partners do. When they exit the affair, they do it halfheartedly. I can’t tell you the number of affair partners who’ve said to me that a lot of their hurt, anger, and revenge (toward the wayward partner) was because of the indecisiveness they showed at the end. Do yourself a huge favor. When you exit, close the door firmly behind you. Once it’s closed, don’t reopen it (ever). This alone can save you all of your endless pain and suffering.
When you try to end an affair with another woman, one of the first things she thinks is that the wife won. In an effort to prevent the wife from “winning”, she will spill the beans. This is why it’s important for any man caught in this scenario to take the time to let the other woman know that when it comes to extramarital affairs, there are no winners, only survivors. The wife doesn’t win and the other woman doesn’t lose — because people aren’t prizes to be won or lost. Just being able to communicate this understanding to the affair partner will go a long way in helping her heal, as well as healing yourself.
I don’t consider an affair over until the DNC (do not contact) agreement becomes a way of life for both the wayward partner and the affair partner.
What is a DNC?
It’s a lifetime, self-imposed restraining order. Do not contact (DNC) means exactly that. NO CONTACT with this person. This includes no conversations, no texting, no phone calls, no FaceTime.
This goes both ways.
Not only must you adopt a policy of not contacting her, but you must also make it clear to your affair partner that she is not to contact you. This means she can’t initiate phone calls, drive-bys, texts, conversations, or IMs.
Key point: DNCs are forever. (Yes. Forever.) This is hard for some people to accept, and yet it’s totally necessary. The DNC rule is for life. Because that is the only difference between a period and a comma in the relationship. One is permanent, while the other is not. Remember: When you exit, close the door permanently behind you.
When people end or exit affairs, they mistakenly expect to experience closure. But the two aren’t the same. This is why a man might end an affair, and two months later, find himself right back in it. That’s because although he ended it… he didn’t let go. Closure means letting go. It’s an emotional and spiritual release. Closure takes practice. When you exit the affair, you must also let go of the affair partner. This requires making a conscious effort NOT to indulge in thoughts, memories, fantasies, or wishes of “what could have been” (easier said than done) and why I always say… “Ending the affair is hard, but finding closure is where the real work happens.”
Once emotions are triggered, it’s easy to lose perspective (as you’ve already discovered). Many have tossed away good marriages and ruined families because they were under the influence of emotions triggered by an affair. But emotions are like ocean waves with crests and troughs. The key to finding the calm after the storm is time and distance (T&D).
T&D are your two best friends.
The more time away from the affair partner, the more your feelings will subside. This is true on the other end as well. The less time you give, the more the other person’s feelings will wane. But time apart isn’t enough. You must also put distance between you as well.
You distance yourself in three key ways:
- Emotional distance: Yes, this means closing the doors to your emotions. It means veiling and shielding your feelings, thoughts, and inner world.
- Physical distance: Stay away… from that side of the office, that side of town. Move out of state if you have to.
- Mental distance: Do not share mental real estate. Shut down thoughts, memories, and fantasies. Simply let go.
There you have it.
Six quick tips to help guide you through the exit process. While I have faith these suggestions will come in handy for you, I’m also well aware that these things are easier said than done. However, don’t despair. Just the fact that you’re asking for help is a sign that you can be helped.
Now, the question is… will you accept the help you asked for? I know you will.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!