The aftermath of infidelity is often turbulent and trying. We rarely stop to discuss how to end an affair properly. When couples seek to heal their relationship, the hurt partner is usually the initial focus. Yet, one of the things talked about least, is the unfaithful partner’s psyche, particularly how to end an affair and cope well afterward.
Rarely will an unfaithful partner feel comfortable taking any attention away from their partner’s pain to highlight any stress or confusion regarding finishing an affair. Asking for help or steps to end an affair may seem selfish or somehow inappropriate. In fact, healing the unfaithful partner’s wounded mind will likely never come up in affair recovery sessions if the therapist doesn’t think to broach the topic.
And, when it comes to how women end affairs? Well, there’s even more shame and silence around that.
And that’s where the compassion and expertise of Debbie Rose comes in.
Meet Debbie Rose
Not long ago, blogger Debbie Rose and I sat down for an important dialogue about life after relationship betrayal. As the author of the popular blog, After My Affair.com and moderator of a private, related Facebook group, Debbie provided some keen insights regarding infidelity and an empathetic approach to affair termination in general. Her ability to speak to the hurt and confusion of unfaithful wives is unique and immensely valuable.
Debbie recounts her personal experiences with an immense amount of sincerity and wisdom. Recovering from infidelity herself, she offers the kind of rapport and support that only one who has endured the path of an unfaithful partner can. Her remarkable story and refreshing openness shed much-needed light on the secret struggles shared by so many women.
You can listen to the entity of our conversation here and/or read the key points for ending your affair mentally, emotionally, and practically below:
Women Ending Affairs Hurt & Need A Voice Too
Female infidelity is such a specific niche. What drew Debbie to women who have been unfaithful? She graciously shared some specifics regarding her history and the journey that led her to her current state of emotional health and affair recovery.
As Debbie relates it, her path toward supporting and encouraging unfaithful women began well over a decade ago. Despite being a Christian mom, married for nearly twenty years, she too had an affair. At the time, she didn’t think herself capable of such betrayal. She was confused by her own behavior, wondering how she “ended up in such a “terrible place.”
Yet, despite the challenges, she and her husband healed their marriage. They survived as a team.
Today, they celebrate more than three decades and a house full of grandchildren together.
However, Debbie makes one thing plain: the road to marital restoration was not easy.
What Debbie Rose Wants You to Know About Ending an Affair
“Infidelity Is Not Easy To Overcome In Marriage.”
Debbie notes that affair recovery is like no challenge you’ve ever faced. The right marriage counselor, with the right qualifications, can be difficult too. This is why Debbie feels that our missions intersect.
Considering her appreciation for the work I do and the complexities involved in post-affair healing, I was interested in Debbie’s perspective regarding couples therapy. Was there anything that didn’t work that she could share with our readers struggling similarly?
Debbie shared that, first and foremost, she and her husband were not aware that they should seek out a marriage counselor who specialized in affair recovery. She recalled counseling disasters that enlightened her to “how unprepared many therapists are in dealing with the subject of infidelity.”
This led me to wonder why she wanted to focus on women specifically.
“…Lack Of Support And Information Just Made Me Feel More Alone And Isolated In My Shame.”
I understood Debbie’s point completely. A decade ago, the unfaithful wife was not a hot topic among researchers, writers, or therapists. Very few gender-specific resources were available and she often had to adjust the gender when seeking information.
Moreover, she found that the disparity in support offered to betrayed husbands could be hard on them. Betrayed men often believe an affair is a reflection of their manhood. They feel humiliated by the idea that they are unable to keep their wives happy and satisfied at home. Her own partner struggled this way.
Debbie wanted to be open and vulnerable. In essence, blogging was a way to write authentically and reach out to women like herself.
“Talking About Your Biggest Life Regrets Is Not An Easy Thing- Particularly When It’s Adultery…”
Was blogging her pain hard? Without a doubt. Her healing and wholeness took years because of the taboos surrounding female infidelity. Despite the monumental shifts in society and relationship ideals, we are conditioned to think that male cheating is more acceptable than the shameful indiscretion of unfaithful wives. Her infidelity blog is timely, addressing a rapidly closing gender gap in fidelity I’ve noticed in my own practice as well.
As a result, Debbie feels that the vast majority of women who connect with her story appreciate her efforts. Her goal (and mine) is to reveal a path toward lasting recovery and a way out of suffocating shame and condemnation. To this end, Debbie strongly believes that addressing infidelity prevention for both the husband and the wife is crucial.
“…it’s Not Always About The Marriage.”
Some affairs are a symptom of marital problems. Some women are confused about why they choose to cheat. Despite what most couples think, sweeping generalizations often don’t prove true in specific marriages. Debbie herself says her own affair wasn’t born from deep marital discontent. Rebellion and revenge weren’t factors.
In other words, she, like many women, cheated for internal reasons. She noted that her mind played tricks on her once insecurity and longing set in. This isn’t unusual. Women often feel content in their marriage but “lost” or unhappy within themselves. They can start to feel the following as a precursor to infidelity:
- Feeling unattractive or less desirable
- Feeling emotionally depleted (always giving and not taking care of themselves)
Essentially, many loving, kind women allow themselves to become vulnerable. The attention offered by someone other than their partner appears to be an escape from predictable, ordinary lives. Their own stresses and insecurities trap them, much like relationship expert Esther Perel wrote in her book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity:
“…one theme comes up repeatedly: affairs are a form of self-discovery, a quest for a new (or a lost) identity.”
Affairs are Usually Not about Sex
Basically, Debbie and Esther make a key point. Affairs are usually not about sex. They signal a deeper desire. The betraying spouse desires the attention of another person for the sake of finding lost parts of themselves…or discovering parts they didn’t know were there.
Longing often becomes a seductive motivator toward unfaithfulness. The longing to be wanted is deeply desirable. Shedding roles, routines, and responsibilities tempt women toward a relationship that makes them feel more alive. When cheating becomes a means of reconnecting with yourself, you have to turn inward and take measures to reclaim your brain and relationship.
Have “Good Women” Gone Bad? Or Is Something Else Happening?
We can’t kid ourselves. When it comes to infidelity, anyone can get caught up.
Of course, few of us will admit we are the “type” to cheat. Yet, Debbie is clear: adultery happens slowly, to anyone, anywhere. Women are no exception. The protections that would ordinarily safeguard you or your relationship may not be in place if you think you could “never” be unfaithful.
Succumbing to the self-deception of “I would never do that” can quickly lead to a broken relationship. How?
- First, the wife makes a seemingly inconsequential compromise, like innocent flirting.
- Then, more compromises follow. Boundaries she thought were solid become porous. She thinks she can manage the situation and contain the secrets.
- Finally, she crosses into a full-fledged affair.
Whether she discloses the affair or not, she cannot escape the fallout.
Relationship expert and author Shirley Glass shares similar thoughts in her book Not Just Friends. Her research supports the theory of the “slippery slope” between friends and the path toward full-blown physical or emotional intimacy.
So the question then is what happens when a wife lets herself slip down that steep slope into a full-fledged affair?
Midway Through Her Affair, Limerence Rules
In the middle of the affair, Debbie shares that things are intense. A wife is swept up in a new, romantic” fantasy world.” The extra-marital relationship is exciting and euphoric. The term for this overwhelming state? Limerence.
Limerence results from the rush of dopamine and other reward-based chemicals in the brain. The affair partner seems like “the one.” Character flaws pale in comparison to their seeming perfection. Bolstered by secrecy and the forbidden nature of adultery, an unfaithful wife may feel that she is living a fairytale with their professed “soulmate.” Of course, this dismisses that she once viewed her spouse the same way. It is all an illusion of lasting love that seems real inside the secret world of the affair. Debbie refers to this lack of clarity as the “Affair Fog.”
Too often, women trade their marriage for the idea that life with their affair partner will remain a fairytale. Of course, they soon discover that limerence doesn’t last.
And then the “affair fog” lifts…
When Reality & Shame Roll In, Fairytale Love Fades
The harsh light of reality can be very difficult as limerence dissipates. Debbie noted that the realization of the losses she’s sustained can be very difficult for the unfaithful woman to take. Shame, deception, and the immense amount of upheaval in her life hurt terribly. This is when ending the affair becomes urgent.
Why? Because cheating is so uncomfortable that she will tolerate any pain required to end it. The problem? Debbie contends that very little guidance exists regarding how to exit the affair.
- How does she end the affair?
- How does she maintain absolutely no contact with the affair partner for the sake of her marriage?
- What is the outline for escaping the infidelity trap and staying free?
This is where Debbie is most passionate. Helping women end their affairs permanently is her goal. She views an unfaithful wife’s lover and the resulting limerence the same way she would an addiction. To recover well, the wife requires qualified, compassionate support and a proven process.
Debbie’s blog lays out a healthy way forward. I’ve shared them here:
How to End an Affair Practically
Facing the formidable challenges of leaving your affair behind practically is vital. Solid tools and a plan can make all the difference.
1. Do not end the affair in person.
End the affair by letter or text. Do not lead the affair partner on or provide false hope for future contact.
2. Affair termination means blocking any potential access points.
The affair partner can never contact you. Nothing must slide through. No reignition point should exist. This is your responsibility. Your phone, emails, and social media cannot be available to them at all. Anything that links you must be eliminated securely. Those triggering songs, meeting places, gifts, or objects? They must go. It’s non-negotiable and absolutely necessary.
3. Ideas of “friendship” must be relinquished.
There is no going back. Your spouse would never trust such a friendship. Period.
How to End an Affair Mentally & Spiritually
Learn to take control of your thoughts.
This is vital. Thoughts feed feelings and feelings motivate behavior. Pay attention to how you think about your affair partner. Avoid the trap of dwelling on your former lover or romanticizing him. This just fuels an infidelity relapse. Deliberately stop the thoughts and rumination. Actively replace unhelpful thoughts with beneficial thoughts about your husband or family instead.
Seek spiritual support for ending your affair.
Debbie, a Christian, noted that lasting mental and emotional recovery involves a spiritual component. I agree. Research supports the significant influence spirituality has on healing.
Debbie renewed her relationship with God by reading scripture, seeking forgiveness, and praying for strength. She said this provided encouragement and the motivation to break free.
Your perspective and the degree of expected support depends on your own faith, meditative practices, self-talk, etc.
All of this, of course, is easier said than done. At this point, consider psychotherapy if you need to. Talk to your therapist openly. It’s perfectly okay to express a need for help. A separate session or individual therapist might help you reshape your thoughts and establish a solid support system.
Protect your mind and recovery efforts.
Guard against lies and excuses that promote infidelity relapse.
Be honest with yourself. What keeps you connected to your affair partner? What do you tell yourself and others that might reopen closed doors?
Remind yourself that you don’t need “closure.”
Seeing your affair partner will not make the pain of moving on easier. In fact, the opposite is true. Reconnection reinforces the harm to your mind and primary relationship. Attempting to gain closure will only dismantle the emotional progress you’ve made.
Become more aware of the boundaries you need for successfully ending an affair.
To get to the life and relationship you want, you must continually erect firm boundaries to keep you and your marriage safe.
How to End an Affair and Face the Shame
It is no easy thing to face the fallout of your choices following an affair. Guilt and shame weigh heavy. Your destructive behavior becomes increasingly clear and may feel unbearable.
The pain you may have caused your partner and others aware of your betrayal is real. The guilt you carry may feel so significant that anxiety about ever healing can overwhelm you. You may have a host of these and other worries bothering you:
- You’re ashamed of how you’ve let yourself down.
- You lament that you betrayed your own beliefs and vows.
- You may believe you are unworthy of a second chance.
- Your regrets are hard to live with and make looking and moving ahead a challenge.
Debbie maintains that you must look for someone safe to turn to. She is quick to note: that your partner’s pain is not minimized by your recovery process. Regardless of the stigma, you need healing too. Forgiving yourself and accepting forgiveness are important for your future and that of your marriage.
Esther Perel’s views on shame vs. guilt apply here too:
“The shift from shame to guilt is crucial. Shame is a state of self-absorption, while guilt is an emphatic, relational response, inspired by the hurt you have caused another.”
Ultimately, shame regarding your infidelity is crippling if you remain mired in shame. Living in regret and rumination keeps you stuck and self-focused. Guilt, though, honors the experience and compels you toward relief, repair, and sincerely earning your spouse’s forgiveness.
How to End an Affair? Don’t Go It Alone, Affair Recovery Programs Help
You and your partner are looking at the betrayal that drove a wedge between you with open eyes now.
That’s okay. That pain is part of moving forward. With compassionate guidance and a clear plan, you can start to heal for good. Ending the affair and honestly facing each other signals that you are both ready for the kind of help that will put the affair behind you and set you on a new path forward. You don’t have to go on your own. We are here to help. Please read more about infidelity recovery and moving on from an affair. Please schedule a free 45-minute consultation with us soon.
BEGIN INFIDELITY RECOVERY WITH IDIT SHARONI AND HER TEAM OF RELATIONSHIP EXPERTS
I do hope this conversation with Debbie is helpful and encourages you to take steps toward recovering from an affair and creating a healthier relationship. For more support and information, please consider learning about my Infidelity Recovery Program or book a consult soon. Our Miami FL-based Affair Recovery practice serves clients in Florida, The US, Canada, and worldwide. We would love to help your relationship thrive no matter where you are in the world. To start recovering from an affair, follow these steps:
- Schedule a free consultation
- Meet with our infidelity recovery expert for a 45-minute initial consultation
- Start healing and rebuilding trust with our affair recovery coaching program
We Look Forward to speaking with you!