Total Separation: The Right Way to End an Affair

You’d think that a wayward spouse would be aware of his or her weakness, and aware of the pain inflicted. And because of this awareness, 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.” Another argument this spouse gives is that it was “only emotional, but not sexual” or some other peculiar description. They say this to prove to the other spouse 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.

Total Separation: The Right Way to End an Affair

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. Eventually, all of 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.

Total Separation Strategy

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. Their spouse and children may be permanently injured by this cruel indulgence, but it doesn’t seem to matter. All that matters is spending more time with the lover. That makes it an addiction.

Affairs Are Addicting

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.

Suffering from Withdrawal

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. This is to ensure total separation from the addicting substance.


The way to overcome an addiction has been tried and proven. Addicts must abstain from the object of their addiction. Alcoholics, for example, must completely avoid contact with any alcoholic beverage to gain control over their addictive behavior. They must even avoid friends who drink occasionally in their presence. In addition, 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. They are 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 great 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 —

To find further help on this issue, please read the two linked articles below. (Note: they are not Christian articles, but the information is very sound and is scripturally sound.)



— PLUS —

You will find below an additional linked article written by Dr Willard Harley Jr, to read, that you might find helpful:


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Filed under: Surviving Infidelity

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623 responses to “Total Separation: The Right Way to End an Affair

  1. Am I wrong to require my husband’s total separation from the other woman to include no contact with her children as well? They are not his children but he was there coach for a couple of years. They were my son’s friends as well.