How to End an Extramarital Affair

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Extramarital affairs have devastating consequences on couples. If you have decided to end one, setting boundaries, understanding your emotions, getting to the root cause and getting professional help can all improve the odds that you will be able to end your affair.

Set Boundaries

First and foremost, you need to be clear about your intentions if you want to end an extramarital affair. Letting your lover know that you have chosen to end the affair should be done cleanly and clearly and without the ever-popular “good-bye sex,” which confuses the situation and offers hope. Cutting off all contact when possible is your best bet. If you must see your former lover at work or other gatherings, stick to formal or professional greetings.

Understand It Will Hurt

The emotional process of breaking up an affair is not easy, as confirmed in research by M.M. Olson et al., published in 2002 in the “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.” In this study a three-stage process was revealed for those in marriages where there was infidelity: the "emotional roller-coaster," a "moratorium" or holding pattern as you get used to the situation and a phase of rebuilding trust with your spouse. Expect depression, anxiety and anger as you move through these phases, and know that loss, even in the context of doing what you believe to be right, is still a loss that must be grieved. But like any loss, the pain decreases with time.

Get to the Root

Affairs do not occur in a vacuum. In many cases, the cheating partner feels lonely, rejected or disconnected from the spouse. If you recognize that you have been feeling abandoned by your partner, finding more things you can do together and improving your attachment can work wonders in strengthening your resolve to end your affair. By looking at the issues within your relationship, you have a better chance at solving the underlying problem and avoiding the temptation to cheat in the future.

Consider Professional Help

If you need help improving your relationship and maintaining commitment to stay away from your lover, consider a professional therapist. Professional intervention that involves integrated approaches -- such as addressing personal, family and relationship issues together -- increases the odds of later marital healing, notes research by K.C. Gordon, et al., published in 2004 in the “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.” After therapy, those spouses who were cheated on showed greater forgiveness of the affair and both parties had less emotional distress following treatment.