Most of the information you’ll find online about cheating seems to center around the spouse who was cheated on and what they can do to get through it. But what about the person who is cheating? Is there advice that can help them change their ways and show them how to end the affair? On this episode of Relationship Radio, we’ll take a look at the other side of extramarital affairs and see what the cheaters can do to break their habit.
There Is No Shame In Asking For Help
There is more than one kind of affair. Some affairs are strictly emotional, some are purely sexual, while others can be a combination of both. Each of them involves a wide range of emotions. For example, if you’ve been in a sexual affair that has lasted a while, it was likely very physically intense to the point that it had some control over your desires. Or, if it was an emotional affair, you probably feel that you can’t control the emotions that you’ve been feeling. Lastly, a combination of both a sexual and emotional affair can produce the most intense emotions of all.
It is possible to end the affair and reconcile your marriage, no matter the kind. However, it won’t be easy and will likely take time. The first thing to understand is how strong the emotions that you’ve built during this time with your new partner genuinely are. The drives and emotions are probably strong enough that you won’t be able to do this on your own.
Limerence, which is often involved in long-term affairs, is an involuntary state of mind that provides an overwhelming and obsessive need to have the person you’re attracted to reciprocate your feelings. The changes in serotonin and spikes of dopamine that happen during limerence are comparable to what occurs during addiction. Just as when you try to overcome an addiction, the first step is to admit that you can’t do it yourself.
Take Responsibility For Your Actions
Admitting to your spouse, or even to yourself, that you’ve had an affair is difficult. Even if your spouse confronts you, the initial instinct is to deny it. It’s easy to blame your spouse for not providing whatever it was you were missing in your marriage. But, if you honestly want to repair your marriage, you need to take full responsibility for your actions. You need to set your ego aside, humble yourself, and recommit to doing whatever is necessary to fix your marriage.
Accepting responsibility isn’t just for your spouse’s sake; there is a psychological need behind it as well. As long as you continue to blame other people for your mistakes, you will program yourself to think you did nothing wrong. Admitting that it was your fault and dealing with the feelings and emotions that come from that are the next step in the healing process for you and your spouse.
Finding a same-gender accountability partner can help you take responsibility and keep you from relapsing. Be sure this is someone who wants to see your marriage survive and isn’t afraid to stand up to you and tell you if you’re doing something you shouldn’t. If you have an urge to contact your affair partner, call your accountability partner instead so they can talk you through why you decided to end the affair in the first place. As we mentioned at the beginning, the sooner you realize that the emotions are too big for you to handle on your own, the sooner you can move to the next steps of recovery.
End All Contact With Your Affair Partner
Taking steps to end an affair is complicated because of the bond you’ve created with this person. The only solution is to cease all contact with this person immediately. Even if you think you can handle having this person in your life in some capacity, your spouse will not be able to. You’re sending the signal to them that your relationship with your affair partner is more important than they are. You’ll likely send mixed signals to your affair partner as well, giving them false hope and prolonging the time it takes them to heal.
We’ve often seen people who have had affairs decide to end it but then see their affair partner one last time. They feel that they owe it to that person to tell them face-to-face that it’s over. You don’t. The best solution is for you to write a brief letter that directly states what happened should not have happened because you were married. You’ve decided to stay with your spouse, so please don’t contact you again. Then, to prove it has been done, let your spouse be the one who mails the letter.
Depending on the situation, you might need to take steps even further. Delete their contact info from your phone immediately. Block their number if possible. If you work in the same office or at the same company, you may want to look for a different job. While that may sound extreme, seeing your affair partner frequently will impede any progress you can make in restoring your marriage, to the point it will likely fail.
Communication Is Crucial
The next step in recovering is to take time for a self-assessment. Understanding what it was emotionally that allowed you to be led into an affair will help protect you from making the same mistakes again. No marriage is perfect, and communicating your needs with each other is crucial. When you discuss this with your spouse, remember that you’re not blaming them for what happened; you’re just trying to help them understand.
Your spouse will likely have many questions about the reasons why you had an affair. Human beings, men even more so, are visual creatures. So, realize that everything you tell your spouse about the affair will probably be visualized. You absolutely should be completely honest with them, but confess wisely.
What does confessing wisely mean? It simply means to be careful with the details. Your spouse may ask for specifics about what you did during your affair. There are two problems when it comes to giving details. First, what they will picture in their head is likely much worse than what happened. Second, those images will stay with your spouse and can linger even after you think your marriage has healed. It is ok for you to ask permission from your spouse not to answer those questions.
Your spouse will be hurt. Try to understand the hurt you’ve caused and the consequences of your actions. During the affair, your thoughts have been only about yourself and your desires. Taking the time to show empathy will make you realize how much others around you were affected by your actions. You need this level of understanding to be able to apologize for all the wrongs you’ve done and be able to move forward in repairing your marriage.
Things Will Not Go Back To Normal Overnight
So first, admit that the affair is too powerful for you to end on your own. Second, take responsibility for your actions. Third, confess wisely so as not to create unneeded visuals. Fourth, don’t expect the emotions and memories you have from the affair to go away immediately. It will take time for those things to fade, but rebuilding your marriage will help. Fifth, be transparent about everything with your spouse and create accountability. And lastly, find someone of the same gender to be an accountability partner when you’re struggling or need someone other than your spouse’s opinion.
It’s possible things will never fully be the same in your marriage, and that might not be a bad thing. What started with heartache and pain can be a perfect time to put accountability in place and do the things to build love, commitment, passion, and intimacy that was missing in your marriage to begin with. If done right, you can have a stronger and more satisfying marriage on the other side of an affair than you did before.
The Process Won’t Be Quick, And There Will Be Both Good And Bad Days
There will be days when you forget to let your spouse know you were going to be late or days when they’re still angry at you. And if you do have a moment of weakness and contact your affair partner, be sure to tell your spouse immediately. But one mistake does not mean that everything is over. Rebuilding trust in order for your marriage to thrive will take time and consistency.
Marriage Helper is here to help in any way that we can. We’ve created a toolkit for people who have had an affair called “The Affair Recovery Toolkit.” In it, we talk about and teach the person how this happened, how they fell in love with this other person, how the affair began, and how affairs end. You can also learn how affairs can change you into someone you don’t want to be.
We also have a FREE eBook you can read to understand more about your situation and how we can help you moving forward. Click here to get the eBook, “Married But In Love With Someone Else.”
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you find happiness again.