How Do I End an Ongoing Affair?

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The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy estimates that as many as 20 percent of Americans cheat on their spouses. Most affairs, says sex and relationship psychotherapist Tammy Nelson, last three years or less, and can end for various reasons including trying to make your marriage work or realizing you made a mistake.

Clear Communication

The key to ending an affair is to make your decision absolutely clear to your spouse and your lover, says Dr. Scott Haltzman, a psychiatrist and author of "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity." He suggests you be direct about what you plan to do. Be honest with your spouse and totally cut ties with your lover.

Be Responsible

Nelson encourages those in her practice who have been involved in affairs to be responsible about how they end an affair, taking into consideration that at least three lives are involved. She recommends you treat your lover with respect and empathy, apologizing for the affair and for whatever hurt will follow the end of the relationship.

Do the Work

Nelson also advises that you can grieve the end of the affair and all that it meant to you and your lover. Your life changed because of the affair, possibly for the best, writes Nelson. Thank your affair partner for any positive changes you realize, such as a renewed enjoyment of life, a more carefree attitude or a new interest you shared. Integrate the positive changes into your old life so you don’t lose what you gained and feel drawn back into that affair or the need to begin a new affair, says Nelson. Discuss the changes with your spouse and talk about how the new you fits into your relationship.

Sever Ties

Your life might contain many connections from the affair that you need to toss when exiting the relationship, suggest Love Doctor, Terry Orbuch, in an article for "Psychology Today." Toss out the mental picture of what life could be if the affair became your new marriage or the fantasy of how your affair partner made you feel. Recoup your dignity and your commitment to a life of integrity and promise not to return to the secrecy, deceit and hurt that comes with an affair.