How long can you keep a secret? For some, a secret can last what feels like a lifetime. When you’re in a long-term affair, one that has lasted a year or several, you may not even know how to get out. Sure, affairs can be thrilling and fulfilling, but they’re never the answer for dissatisfaction in the most important relationship of your life—your marriage. All affairs must come to an end someday.
If you and your spouse want to move on in a healthy way, you need to come clean. Of course, doing that and surviving the fallout is going to be a gauntlet. That’s why you need to know the 4 steps for leaving a long-term affair for good.
What Is A Long-Term Affair?
Many affairs don’t last longer than a few months, but there are some exceptional cases of ones that survive for many years. You’ve probably heard the stories of extramarital affairs that last for 10, 20, or even 30 years. This is why leaving a long-term affair can be so challenging. Over the years, you have definitely come to love the other person outside of your marriage. You may have a blissful life with them, too.
And sure, there are benefits to not having the same responsibilities in an affair that come with marriage. Finances, children, work…the one reason why affairs are so appealing is that they’re a break for normalcy.
But that break can be detrimental and devastating to the victims.
7 Steps For Leaving A Long-Term Affair
Deciding to end a long-term affair takes courage. You have to want a single monogamous relationship built on trust and respect more than anything. Otherwise, you may be tempted to cheat again.
1. Coming To Terms With The Affair
Whatever your reasons are for ending the long-term affair, know this: wanting and willing are two different things. If you want to leave an affair, you need to analyze your feelings. You need to be willing to remove yourself completely from that person’s life and devote your time, energy, and spirit to recovery. Ending an affair is an irreversible action. Once you say goodbye, that’s it.
Also, know that your spouse is going to be heartbroken. Disillusioned. You’ve dismantled their trust, and it’s going to take a long time for them to trust you again. Are you prepared for that?
If so, then you’re already in the midst of the biggest step towards ending a long-term affair. Follow through with the breakup and keep moving forward.
2. Start Talking With An Infidelity Recovery Specialist
Alone or with your spouse, finding support outside of the relationship is crucial to your success. While breaking off the affair is the first step, working through the aftermath is much more difficult. You shouldn’t have to do it alone.
Having someone unbiased there as things are laid bare is advantageous for a few reasons. First, the infidelity therapist can guide the conversation, even when it gets difficult. Second, they can mediate the room when emotions start to rise. A therapist can also give you ways to overcome the grief (that both of you will be feeling), so you can start moving forward.
You and your partner need a chance to discuss the infidelity in a safe place, where you can talk freely. This is especially useful when you have children or parents and in-laws living with you.
3. Cleanse Your Heart, Head, And Home
Ending a long-term affair requires the cold turkey approach. Like someone on a diet trying to stay away from sweets, you have to rid your whole house of sugar. Or in this case, any evidence of the affair. Anything you see that reminds you of the other person is going to trigger intense emotions.
You must leave those emotions—and that individual—in the past with the old you.
In order to do that, you must:
- Delete emails, text messages, phone calls, voice mails, pictures, and other social media interactions from your devices.
- Get rid of gifts that you have accumulated throughout the years. This includes notes, clothing, pictures, and souvenirs. All mementos must go.
- Do not indulge in daydreams and wishful thinking while throwing these things away.
- Block the individual on social media.
4. Adopt A No-Contact Policy
Now that you have created some distance, it’s time to bar the windows and shut the door on the affair. One of the most pivotal steps to ending a long-term affair is the “No-Contact Policy.” When you come up with this policy, it’s based on your honor. You enact it, execute it, and give it an end date.
In other words, you will not contact the person that you had an affair with. No phone calls. No emails or text messages. Do not engage with them online.
Are they someone you see regularly? Ask to have your work schedule changed. Switch jobs, if need be. Go to a new gym.
Remember, this might seem harsh, but you’re going to need the space. You need time to deal with what has happened, and it also gives your spouse a clear sign that you mean what you said—that the affair is done.
5. Eliminate Any Chances For Failure
There may come a time as you leave this long-term affair behind you that you start to rationalize and make excuses for the behavior. Know this: No matter how you frame the affair, it was wrong. Infidelity is not justifiable, no matter the reasoning behind it.
This might make you angry. You might feel the urge to be dishonest or subtly lie to your partner when they ask you for details.
Don’t do this. Be honest with yourself. Otherwise, you might fail in truly ending the affair and fixing the issues that started the whole thing.
6. Let Yourself Grieve
Yes, you’ve experienced a loss. Now, you need to process that emotion in a healthy way. You might feel the need to criticize yourself for what you did. Your emotions are all over the place. One minute you’re happy, the next bawling. You might even feel like you’re spinning out of control. These are normal. It’s called grief.
You’re allowed to grieve the end of your affair. Don’t judge yourself too harshly for being upset. You did the right thing, but the right thing doesn’t always feel like the best option.
Remind yourself that the affair served its purpose. There was something you wanted, and whether you got fulfillment or not, you have moved on. You have moved past who you were when the affair started.
Lastly, focus on what is possible in the now. Live and laugh with friends and family. Give time to your hobbies. And most of all, work on rebuilding your relationship with your spouse or partner.
7. Look Towards The Future
What may seem like a catastrophe right now will eventually repair itself. With infidelity therapy and time, you will be able to let go of the long-term affair and move on. After all, letting go of something doesn’t always mean you’re losing it. Sometimes, happiness is a boomerang. You let go of it momentarily to take a breath and it comes back after a brief departure.
You haven’t lost anything. You’re gaining something much greater by walking away from the affair. You’re regaining a healthy relationship built on trust, love, and respect. It will take time, but it’s worth it.
You Can End It And Move On
Now that you know the 7 steps to ending a long-term affair, it’s time to put them into action. Things may never be how they were before the affair began, but if you are open, honest, and determined to fix things, you could end up with a relationship better than you ever imagined.
Couples Academy can help guide you through the steps of recovery from infidelity. Whether you want to work on communication or strengthen your bond, the program is loaded with useful information and tools for you to use. Contact us today to learn more.