Marriage Missions International

Total Separation: The Right Way to End an Affair

You’d think that a wayward spouse would be so aware of his or her weakness and so aware of the pain inflicted that he or she would be thoughtful enough to make every effort to avoid further contact with the lover. Instead, the wayward spouse often argues that the relationship was “only sexual” or was “only emotional, but not sexual” or some other peculiar description to prove that continued contact with the lover would be okay.

Most betrayed spouses intuitively understand the danger and demand that all contact with a lover end for life. Permanent separation not only helps prevent a renewal of the affair, but it is also a crucial gesture of consideration to the betrayed spouse.

In spite of career sacrifices, friendships, and issues relating to children’s schooling, I recommend with all seriousness that there be a sudden and complete end to an affair. And I recommend extreme measures to ensure total separation for life from a former lover.

Several years ago, I owned and operated ten chemical dependency treatment clinics. At first, we used several different treatment strategies. For some, we tried to encourage moderation, and for others we tried to achieve total abstinence. It wasn’t long before all the counselors agreed that total abstinence was the only way to save drug or alcohol addicts from their self-destructive behavior.

Unless they completely abandoned the object of their addiction, the addiction usually returned. For these people, moderation was impossible. The conviction that their drug of choice was off-limits to them for life, helped end their cycle of addiction-treatment-addiction.

My strategy for ending an affair with total separation from the lover developed after my experience treating addicts. And, over the years, I’ve found my total-separation strategy to be very effective in ending affairs in a way that makes marital recovery possible. Without total separation, marital recovery is almost impossible.

An affair is a very powerful addiction. The craving to be with the lover can be so intense that objective reality doesn’t have much of a chance. The fact that a spouse and children may be permanently injured by this cruel indulgence doesn’t seem to matter. All that matters is spending more time with the lover. That makes it an addiction.

Even the one-night stand may be an addiction. It may not be an addiction to a particular lover, but it may still be an addiction —to one-night stands. In affairs that have low emotional attachment, the addiction is often to the act of having sex itself, rather than to a particular lover.

The addiction to one-night stands can also grow from a need to be continually assured of one’s attractiveness. People who indulge in such practices want to feel that they can have anyone they want, even that person over there sitting at the bar. These people who need constant reassurance of their attractiveness must learn some other way to gain that assurance —a way that does not destroy their marriage.

The analogy between chemical addiction and an affair is striking. In both cases, the first step toward recovery is admitting that the addiction is self-destructive and harmful to those whom the addict cares for most —his or her family.

After recognizing the need to overcome the addiction, the next step is to suffer through the symptoms of withdrawal. Addicts are often admitted to a hospital or treatment program during the first few weeks of withdrawal to ensure total separation from the addicting substance.

The way to overcome an addiction is tried and proven —abstain from the object of addiction. Alcoholics, for example, must completely avoid contact with any alcoholic beverage to gain control over their addictive behavior. They must avoid places where alcohol is likely to be found, such as bars and parties. They must even avoid friends who drink occasionally in their presence. They must surround themselves with an alcohol-free environment. In the same way, when a wayward spouse separates from the lover, extraordinary precautions must be taken to avoid all contact with the lover —for life.

Of course, my advice is not easy to implement. Many people who have had an affair try but fail to make a drastic and decisive break with their lover.

The above article is adapted from the book, Surviving an Affair, by Dr. Willard F. Harley and Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers, published by Revell. This book is a guide to understanding and surviving every aspect of infidelity —from the beginning of an affair through the restoration of the marriage. The authors Dr’s. Harley and Chalmers describe why affairs begin and end, how to end an affair, how to restore the marriage after the affair, how to manage resentment, and how to rebuild trust. It also guides you step-by-step from the devastating blow of infidelity to a loving and trusting marriage.

— ALSO —

There is also an additional article written by Dr Willard Harley Jr, that you might find helpful. You can read it by clicking onto the link provided below:

THE ADDICTIVE POWER OF AN AFFAIR

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601 Responses to “Total Separation: The Right Way to End an Affair”
  1. d27 says:

    (PHILIPPINES)  Being cheated on hurts!

  2. Brenda says:

    (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA)  Its been six months and I am still hurt, confused and angry. Sometimes I wonder if I would be happier without him. This is my story; I will try to make it brief. My mother became ill two years back. She wanted to stay in her home and my family needed money. So we made the exchange. Only mom began to rely on me more and more. I was exhausted taking care of two homes. I mistakenly began to stay over a lot.

    When I was home I couldn’t understand why the neighbor guy kept coming over to get my husband. I asked my husband who lives over there; where you keep going? He said the neighbor guy, his wife, and two kids… and his sister in law. My husband is 58 yrs old but attractive. The sister in law was 22 and had a boyfriend. I didn’t worry cause of the age difference, until my 18 year old son told me he saw his dad leave our home at 11:00 pm. He went to the neighbor’s house. He didn’t return until 3:00 a.m. I arranged something different for my mom and stayed home every minute from that point. But it was too late.

    One day a month later the 22 yr. old’s boyfriend came to my door and said that my husband was stalking his girlfriend. He said my husband was writting love letters and left candy on their porch and he said it had been going on for a ling time. He gave me a letter in case I didn’t believe him. I went to my husband and he said he felt sorry for her and he was mad at me for being gone all the time. He said he loved me not her.

    He told me because I was demanding details, that she came to our porch and offered to take him to dinner after she received his first letter. He said he told her he couldn’t do that. My dilema is you feel very strongly that more went on between them. I feel that he was lying. I won’t give the girl the satisfaction of questioning her. What does any one else think? And how do I get past this? We have since moved, by the way.

  3. Lee says:

    (USA)  My husband left me 18 months ago and told me he didn’t want to be married anymore and had a “girlfriend,” a woman he met once at our house who he carried on an emotional affair with for 2 months. She found out very quickly that he was a self-centered man who had lots of issues and very emotionally needy. He dropped her when she told him it was all about him.

    One month later, he met another woman who had began an affair with, a foreign woman with an abuse history. They have been involved with each other for the past 15 months. He refuses to talk to me about what went wrong in our marriage and puts me off when I tell him we need to talk. This woman has no money (my husband is a doctor) and I believe, has manipulated him into believing that she NEEDS him. From what I can see, he has taken her to places, payed for their hotels, meals out, entertainment, etc.

    Seven months ago, I met a man and began a relationship with him. It is a long distance relationship, but it has been a very important friendship/romantic relationship for me, and has helped me heal from the DEVASTATION of infidelity. My husband only apologized to me when I told him I forgave him for his actions, but I realize now, I haven’t forgiven him, and probably never will. I was a loyal wife who stood by him while he recovered from alcoholism and in addition, has bipolar disorder. He has hurt me beyond belief and I feel that he “used” me as his support, listening device, stress reducer, etc. In other words, a taker, not a giver. The man I am spending time with is a caretaker. He is not perfect, far from it, but he makes me feel protected and cared about.

    I still love my husband, despite his actions, but I have to say I have lost my respect for him as a human being and never thought he had the capacity to betray me EVER! We have known each other for 37 years and have two wonderful children and built a life together that was very happy for most of our marriage.

    What causes people to become so disloyal on such a visceral level is beyond my comprehension. But what I have realized is this: My husband suffers from low self-esteem and an emotional void and is using his affair as just another way of self-medicating his void. She is just another drug for him. Since he can’t drink, this new drug is his replacement for the alcohol and other substances.

    I have healed much more of late as time does help to heal all wounds. However, on a very profound level, I will never feel the same way about my husband and he has lost all credibility in my eyes. In short, he doesn’t deserve me, and I deserve SO MUCH BETTER!!

    Find your self-dignity all of you who have been betrayed and be open to someone who treats you with love and respect and is emotionally HEALTHY!!! My New Year’s resolution to myself.

    • Edward from Europe says:

      God loves you and requires you to forgive him. When you forgive, you get healed and who knows, your marriage will be restored in Jesus name.

  4. Pixie says:

    (UK)  ”I Hate His/Her Ex” is a book for anyone having difficulty coming to terms with their partner’s past relationships – brilliant read! Available on Amazon or most bookstores – Kindle or paperback!

  5. Lola says:

    (USA)  I have been married for over 27 years. For the past 10 years my husband has been impotent and now has no libido for the past 6 years. He has to take Viagra but doesn’t want to because he doesn’t have the desire to begin with. He has spoken to his doctor about his medications and the doctor said they are a good mix and aren’t contributing to his problem. He is unhappy in his job of over 30 years and is planning to retire next year.

    To make a long story shorter, I have had affairs. My last affair was last month and I think it has ended. I am very upset because I put my heart on the line and got hurt. I am not a fool. He has a girlfriend that he doesn’t live with that he says he loves but not sure if he is love with her. Our chemistry and personalities mixed wonderfully. I honestly had high hopes that he was my knight in shining armour. What a fool I was. After our last meeting, the emails have stopped completely. I have asked my husband to go to marriage counseling and he refuses. He does not like to kiss, hug, cuddle, snuggle, or do anything romantic or physical.

    I have told him how much this hurt me and he said this is him, we’ve been together a long time, I watch too many shows like The Bachelor, I am in a dream world, he loves me and sex is not important to him like it was when he was a younger man. To be honest, I was never never all that sexually attracted to him even when I married him but I thought it would grow in time. He was angry with me for years for not wanting sex as much as him and he and I went to counseling many times because of this. But now that the table has turned and things have gotten progressively worse to the point of him being more like a father/brother to me than anything else, he refuses to go to counseling and says that if I don’t like it, to leave. My emotional, sexual, physical needs are not being met. I feel lonely in this marriage.

    Cheating didn’t help but I thought the last man was going to be different. I need to be cherished and loved. Being in a sexless marriage doesn’t mean just the sex is missing, it is everything else…all the sweet gestures and little things. I have asked my husband or a divorce a couple of times and he was very upset and said he would try to improve and knows he has not been much of a lover but that he loves me. Well, he does get warmer and sweeter but just for a week. Life is tough. Just thought I would share. Thanks for reading this. Oh, by the way, not that this matters, but I am considered a very attractive woman. Yes, I am insecure at times.

  6. Adr says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA)  I met a woman through a church activity where we were seeing each other quite frequently. We tried to convince ourselves we were just ‘friends’.

    I was in the final stages of divorce (not because of her) and of course she was unhappy in her marriage. We didn’t have much contact until I decided to send her a hello message over the holidays to which she responded positively (we didn’t see each other during that time). Our chemistry was incredible from the first private meeting we had. She tried to do the right thing and keep me at a safe distance, but I did everything in my power to seduce her.

    We met every time we could find time, and because we had no privacy the tensions were extremely high. One thing led to another and a few months later we slept together. Shortly after this she told me that God has told her to end it, but I convinced her to keep a platonic relationship going. Of course this never works and our affair was discovered. After this, she said that we should not have contact anymore and she has done that by ignoring my occasional messages.

    I love her unfortunately, a married woman. I wish I didn’t. Should she continue to ignore my communications it would settle things in my heart in time, BUT, if she doesn’t, the possibility continues. We look for a glimmer of hope and continued exchanges will feed that hope, no doubt. It is no absolution for what I have done, but if you leave the door open, someone will come in. Someone will be ready and willing to give you what you crave, unfortunately at a great cost to all concerned.

  7. CHER says:

    (CANADA)  It’s interesting to see how we quote the Bible and also ‘judge’! Please, he who is without sin cast the first stone. Right is right and wrong is wrong! If you have done wrong ask for forgiveness, receive forgiveness and move on without looking back. Until you find yourself in a situation you truly cannot say how you would react. All self righteous women, judge not! Those broken hearted women learn from your experience, and move on. Life is full of ups and downs. You win, you lose. Seek Christ he is all about forgiveness. Life is too precious to waste on regrets, MOVE ON! BE HAPPY.

  8. MS says:

    (USA) As a woman who’s husband cheated, I cringe every time I read a comment by a mistress saying that obviously the wife didn’t give the husband what he needed, otherwise he never would have strayed.

    My husband never talked to me about how he was feeling before going out to cheat. The cheating started as fun and games and fulfilling sexual urges. Through a very painful physical and emotional affair, the addiction that he suffers from became apparent. We are both in 12-step programs dealing with the effects of his behavior. (For the sex addict – SA or SAA, for the partner – Sanon or Cosa) and going to couples’ therapy. Sex addiction is a very powerful, progressive illness that leaves a lot of turmoil and pain in its wake. As a result of the affair, my husband has damaged the trust I have in him and his relationship with his children. It is going to be a lengthy process to repair the damage, but I am hopeful that it can be repaired.

    The depths that my husband and his mistress went to to sneak around behind both of our spouses backs is unbelievable. As a result, she has lost her marriage. He feels guilt and shame. And I know that I can’t trust what he says anymore unless he seriously undertakes recovery. I do see the behavior as part of his illness and every phone call, text message, or visit with the mistress was his “acting out” behavior that he used to cover up some void or pain he feels inside.

    Looking at reality, he didn’t give up his marriage, we slept together every night and made love daily. His mistress also knew that she was being lied to. She became jealous that he was seeing someone else. Did it dawn on her that the someone else was his wife and family? Probably not.

    While my husband professed his love for the other woman I see that it is living a total fantasy. Wouldn’t we all love to be in a relationship where we could feel completely free of any pressures (financial, kids, home maintenance, etc…)? What a great fantasy. Part of being an adult is accepting the responsibilities you have in your life; including loved ones. Life delivers external pressures. Adults talk about them and try to work through the problems to find solutions. Even if my husband and I divorced and he went to live with his mistress, day to day reality would creep in. The same pressures of life are always there. Affairs don’t fix the problems, they only cause pain.

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