When you have risked your marriage or formerly committed relationship with an affair you probably spent months or even years sneaking around. Perhaps you finally have been found out, or maybe guilt over what you are doing to your original partner or family is making you reconsider the relationship you have pursued outside of normal channels. Sometimes the feelings you had for the other person in your affair simply dissipate. No matter how you got to this point you are at a crossroads. The question now is how to disentangle yourself from the affair in a civil, compassionate, yet final manner.

Own It With Your Partner

Secrets and questionable decisions are all a part of any affair. If your spouse or partner knows about the affair admit to it. Tread carefully because you are not the wounded one but stop any subterfuge and come clean. It is a process and may take a long time to tell and absorb.

  • Be honest but compassionate with his or her feelings.
  • Let the wronged party decide how much he or she wants to know — do not “unload” all details just to relieve your conscience
  • Expect to have more than one truth-telling session — accept this without any rancor
  • Recognize the pain your affair caused without making a plea for understanding or blaming the victim

Own It With Your Former Lover

All you can do is acknowledge your part in the affair. Shaming and blaming are counterproductive. Being forthright and sticking to your decision to end the liaison no matter what happens is crucial and the only responsible way to proceed.

  • Concede that you have hurt and wronged this person
  • Affirm that you are sorry for the pain you have caused but strong in your resolve to return to your now fully committed relationship — hold out no hope that this is temporary
  • Make no promises you cannot keep now that the affair is done

Craft And Create Post-Affair Boundaries With Your Spouse Or Partner

Particularly if the three actors in your situation may cross paths in the future you must be proactive to avoid potential awkward or painful confrontations. If your community is small or the affair was at work, or because of a hobby or interest that will continue to be pursued, the negotiations may be trickier by even more important. The guidelines you lay down must be:

  • Reasonable and set up for success
  • Flexible, but only after you spouse or partner agrees
  • Communicated to your former lover — not for approval, but for clarity

They may include, but your situation could require other options:

  • Zero contact or communications between you and your former lover
  • Requests to be transferred out of a division or office if it was a work affair
  • Allowing your spouse or partner to make the decision for you, as a couple, to stay or go if an incident arises where contact is inevitable

Work Hard To Regain Trust

You will need to double down on your efforts to improve the relationship with your spouse or partner. Words may help, but actions are what separate a genuine effort from another lame excuse. You may have distanced yourself from the object of your affections during the affair but you must also work hard not to denigrate that person to family, friends, or the community. Trashing your former lover just makes you look small and cause others, including your spouse or partner, to wonder when they will receive the same treatment.

Hold your head high but recognize that moving beyond the affair is largely up to you and your actions. Reaffirm the commitments you made to your spouse or partner daily by being there completely for him or her. Build trust by being trustworthy. Every day is one step away from the pain you caused. Make it a wonderful one for those who have regained the center of your affections.