You are not quite sure how you got yourself into the affair, and even less sure about how to get out of it. You are in love with your paramour but hate the sneaking and cheating. You vacillate between ending the forbidden relationship and giving yourself totally to it. You feel intense emotions for your lover, but even as you tell yourself - or your lover - that everything is going to be wonderful, deep within a small voice says that it will not be.
When together with your lover, you feel an amazing blending of ecstasy and peace.
When alone, you feel guilt-ridden. Sadness and shame surface sporadically because you have not defeated your feelings of guilt about what you are doing. Instead, your own morality and integrity have tunneled deep inside you to war with your soul.
Your conscience wants to end the affair while your heart finds incredible fulfillment in the illicit relationship.
Earlier you tried a few times to end the relationship, but each time your willpower faded and your emotions drug you back. You felt responsible for your lover; you feared that he or she would be decimated or get sick or lose everything if you went away. At times, you feared that if you ended the relationship, your lover would be so distraught that they might destroy you, your reputation, your family or your finances. Though you wanted to do the right thing, ending the relationship was too difficult emotionally, mentally, or physically. With time, you gave up the idea of ending it and it evolved into the situation that now controls you.
Secretly, you wish that your dilemma would somehow resolve itself without your having to do anything. You find yourself thinking that if your lover would walk away, you could get past this, but the idea of losing your lover terrifies you. If either or both of you are married, sometimes you think that if your spouse or your lover's spouse found out, everything would be resolved without your having to make hard decisions.
The situation would be bad for a while, but you would accept whatever path available to you after the shouting subdued. Maybe that would mean staying with your spouse. Maybe it would mean divorce occurs and you could be with your lover. Maybe it would mean being alone, but even that sometimes seems a better state than what you are in now.
Though you do not wish to admit it, occasionally you fantasize about your spouse or your lover's spouse having a car accident or dying from some natural cause. That would make things easy. Your children, friends, church, and everyone else would be by your side in mourning and later all would rejoice in your marriage to your paramour. No one would ever know about the affair.
Those fantasies make the guilt worse. Sometimes you wonder if you are the same person you used to be or even if you know who you are.
You may feel great love and trust for your paramour but deep within there is fear.
You fear the future without your lover. You fear your future with your lover. You fear losing your children. You fear what you are becoming and fear that you will never again be who you were. You fear God. You fear that if you do not end the affair, you will lose connection with certain family members and friends.
In contrast, you fear that if you end the affair, you will never feel this level of deep love ever again. You fear that this is your one chance in life to have what others may only dream and that opportunity will never come a second time. You fear that if you abandon your lover, some other person will come into his or her life and have all the happiness and fulfillment that could have been yours.
During all the indecisiveness, one thing remains constant. The affair.
Each day you enmesh yourself more. Each day you feel a little less guilty, a little more assured that this is the right path for you. Each day you become a little more insulated against anyone that could hold you back from the new relationship—spouse, children, friends, church—and each day become a little more absorbed into life with your lover.
How is this going to end? What will your future be?
Three Possible Paths
Any person's life potentially has myriad paths and possibilities. However, it is likely that your future has one of three possibilities.
You will continue in your ambivalent state until someone else makes the decision that will set the path for the rest of your life.
You will commit to a relationship with your lover and trade your current life for one with him or her.
You will end the affair in time possibly to restore your life as it was.
Someone Else Makes the Decision
If you continue indecisively, eventually something will happen. Sometimes affairs go on for years, but that is rare, and they never go on forever.
The greatest likelihood is your affair will be discovered.
No matter how careful or cautious, ultimately you or your lover will make a mistake. A forgotten text, a mislaid note, a suspicious sighting of the two of you together or a thousand other things can happen. When that occurs, you will have no control over what happens next. If you are married or if your lover is married, hurt spouses will take charge. Friends, family, and acquaintances will enter the fray, each with their own opinion about what you have done and what should be done to you.
Though you may believe that if that were to happen, it would be better than the situation you now have, it will not be. You may well lose your fortune, your family, your reputation, your friends and your self-respect. Facing angry spouses flanked by modern-day-gladiators we call lawyers is a very unpleasant and expensive experience, financially and emotionally.
You may think that people who love you now will love you just as much if they discover your affair. Prepare to be let down.
You Committ to Your Lover
In an affair, at least one of the lovers is in a committed relationship with someone else, such as a spouse or fiancé. Therefore, an affair is illicit because it violates an existing relationship. Ending your existing relationship to be with your lover means betraying the promises and commitments you made to your current partner or your lover betraying promises and commitments to their partner.
If others are part of the relationship you end, you change forever the nature of your relationship with them. You may still be a parent, but you will not be a parent in the same way as when you and your spouse both lived together with your children. You may still care about your in-laws, but they will no longer be your relatives. You may enjoy mutual friends, but the ones who feel they should support your abandoned partner rather than you will never be as close again.
In time, you will learn that the new relationship is not as perfect, wonderful or fulfilling as you had imagined. Every relationship brings its own set of problems and miseries. If you are similar to most, when you finally face all that you lost to have a committed relationship with your lover, the stresses and difficulties that normally attend that relationship will be magnified by your sense of what it cost you emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically.
There is a reason that those who divorce their spouses to marry a lover have a much, much higher rate of divorce. Sadly, each one of them thought they were going to be the exception.
End the Affair
There is great value in living consistently with your beliefs and values. It isn't always easy—actually, it may at times be quite difficult—but the consequences make it worthwhile.
If you truly believed that your affair is right, and that being with you lover is your best future, you likely would not be reading this article. You probably are reading this because you want peace again. Peace throughout your entire being—heart, mind, and soul. Peace that comes from knowing that you are being who you really are and doing what you know is the right thing to do.
Thinking about staying in your current marriage or relationship may be painful, but most of that has to do with the fact that you've rewritten history. Nearly everyone in an affair does. You've mentally exacerbated the bad times and faded the good ones. You've misplaced the memories of the happiness you've had together and enthroned the nastiness.
However, your mind is playing tricks on you to make your current actions doable. The spouse or partner you may be vilifying now can be the one you love more than any other, but that can only happen if you choose to end the affair and do the right things.
If you end the affair now, you may well have a chance to save your marriage or current relationship. Actually, not just to save it but make it better. If it were everything that it should be, you likely would not have entered the affair. However, all that can be overcome and you can build a relationship that will be better than you ever imagined.
How to End the Affair and Save Your Existing Relationship
The first step to ending an affair is to make a firm decision that you are ending it. If there is anyone you trust, tell that person what you are doing and that you have decided to end it. Let them become your support, your encourager and if necessary, your courage.
The second step is to end the affair now. Do not put it off because of a special day coming up or to find a better situation or to make it easier on your lover or any other reason. Hesitation devastates. Act now.
The third step is to tell the lover that it is over. Whether you do it face-to-face or by a handwritten letter, do not go into explanations. Do not talk it over with your lover. Do not express love, loyalty, or longing. Make it quick, to the point, and without discussion. Sound harsh if need be. Any other approach will cause your lover to maintain hope that you will change your mind, and that is the cruelest thing you can do. End it quickly and sharply and then end all contact. That is an act of caring and love.
The fourth step is to tell your current partner, if you are in a committed relationship, that you have been unfaithful, that it is over, and that you wish to make your relationship work. There are situations where this is not wise, but most often it is. Use the following three criteria to decide:
1. Confess if your current partner has ever asked about the affair and you lied.
2. Confess if your partner has any possible way of discovering your affair. (As much as it will hurt to hear it from you, it will hurt much worse to hear it from someone else.)
3. Confess if you have emotions that potentially will keep you from developing closeness with your partner. If you feel guilt, shame, regret, fear, anger, resentment, or anything else that negatively affects your relationship with your current partner, they have the right to know what it is and why it exists.
The fifth step is to make sure that you have no further contact with your former lover. Do whatever you need to do to make it impossible for the two of you to communicate. Change cell phone numbers. Remove Facebook friends. Change email addresses. If necessary, change jobs. In extreme situations, change cities. Further contact will very likely lead to more involvement. That hurts everyone. Now that you have made the decision and are doing the right thing, do not allow yourself to fall into any situation to hurt anyone again. Not your spouse, partner, children, family, church...or your former lover.
The sixth step is to seek the right help to make your current relationship better. If it were all that it needed to be, you probably would not have had the affair. This is not to blame your spouse/partner or to blame you. No blame is needed. There is a weakness and that needs to be rectified.
Seek a counselor, a mentor couple, or an intense workshop that will help both of you:
- Understand how the affair happened.Repair your relationship.
- Facilitate forgiveness.
- Develop a great future together.
The seventh step is to help rescue others who are in affairs. When you heal your marriage or relationship, you will be in a unique position to help others struggling to end their affairs. You will not have to seek them out; they will instinctively find you. When they do, guide them through making the right decision and following through with the right steps.
Joe Beam founded Beam Research Center, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples. For more information on getting help for your marriage, click here. Follow Joe on Twitter and Facebook.