Has it been difficult to determine what to do when your wife won’t end her affair?
Sure, you could divorce her.
But some of you want to reconcile, and you’re looking for ideas that may help make that possible.
If that’s you, then keep reading for my 6 tips about what to do when your wife won’t end her affair.
See Part One- for what NOT to do when your spouse won’t end their affair.
This post is Part 2-When TO DO when an unfaithful wife won’t end her affair.
*As with the first post, this advice could easily apply if you’re a betrayed wife with an unfaithful husband.
But I’ve written it from the perspective of betrayed husbands and unfaithful wives since that is my primary
readers and there’s such a small amount written specifically for them.
If you only read Part one of this series (linked above), you might be pretty upset with me
right now as a betrayed spouse, thinking I’m getting on you or defending the unfaithful ones.
Yes, I got some nasty mail from some who misunderstood my perspective, or purpose, in writing this series.
So, please hear me- I’m definitely not defending the actions of wayward spouses
to continue in an affair.
It’s NEVER okay to have an affair- no matter what problems were in the marriage.
My husband and I know, just as much as anyone, how destructive infidelity is to a marriage.
I also have more of a picture than I ever did before of the pull and deception that comes over
a wayward wife when they’re acting out.
But I also know many of you write me asking for direction and help when you’re at the end of your
rope (& patience) and not sure what to do next, short of divorce.
If your spouse won’t end their affair, many of you will be forced to choose divorce, and you definitely
have a right to that decision.
But this post is primarily written to those husbands (or wives) that are trying any last ditch efforts
to see if their marriage can be saved.
If marital recovery is what you want (if not, then this post is really not written for you).
This is such a delicate subject,
and I realize there’s a lot of emotion involved in it for you as a betrayed husband (or wife).
But my goal is to help you set clear boundaries to minimize the length of their affair, if at all possible.
At the end of the day, you can’t make her end the affair.
I hope she realizes she needs to end it before she loses everything.
But the following tips are ideas on what you can do that might help break through that affair fog
and fantasy that she’s in right now.
Often, the unfaithful need to see very clearly what they’re in danger of losing
before they will take the necessary, and difficult, steps to end their affair.
Yes, there are no guarantees.
This might seem a strange series of posts for me to write since my purpose and goal is to help unfaithful wives (primarily)
and their betrayed husbands, to find hope and healing after her affair.
Some unfaithful spouses might see these posts as me betraying them by telling their spouse to give some “tough love.”
But these posts are the most loving I could write, because unless the affair fully ends, there is no chance for reconciliation.
I love hearing about marriages restored, because the affair ended, and the couple decided to fight for their marriage.
I know the stronghold an affair can have on those involved in it.
(which is why my first priority was creating a program and support group for those needing help to end their affair,
and fully let go of their AP to start healing).
But I also think there’s some important things a betrayed spouse can do that can help (or hurt) any chance at reconciliation.
In the end, the burden of whether the marriage survives falls upon the unfaithful spouse-will they end their affair?
Are they willing to face what they did instead of shifting the focus or blame?
Will they have empathy for their betrayed spouse and do whatever it takes to restore the marriage.
So please don’t hear me saying that it’s all up to you, betrayed spouse. It’s not.
But if there are little things that might help her come out of this deception faster, are you willing to do them?
Even if it’s painful in the short term?
That’s what this post is about.
As I mentioned in Part one, it can be incredibly hard to know the right and wrong things to say or do,
after learning about your spouse’s infidelity.
It’s just as difficult when you thought they ended it, and had no contact with the affair partner,
only to later discover they were still in contact and continued the affair.
Only you can fully decide what to do in this situation.
Many friends and family will tell you to end it, divorce them and move on. Easy for them to say, right?
They don’t have to live with the devastation as a result of that decision for years on you and on your kids.
The following ideas do not mean you should be angry or hostile…although that’s easier said then done.
That would also have the opposite effect than what you’re wanting, if you want the marriage to be saved.
But it may have to get worse before it gets better.
There are no guarantees in the outcome of this. Yet, you likely know you can’t continue the way it’s going.
So there might be some things you have to do even though you don’t want to do them, to protect yourself and your kids.
6 practical steps of what to do when your wife won’t won’t end her affair.
You might notice what seems like some overlap from Part one, but I’m writing them from different perspectives of what to do, or not do.
1. Take back your power, and dis-empower their dysfunction.
I heard this quote and really loved it because it’s so true.
What they’re doing IS dysfunctional, and likely goes against everything they stood for or believed in the past.
But you still have a choice on whether you’ll allow them to continue in that dysfunction; with you as a willing participant or not.
This might mean you set a date in your own mind of how long you will wait for her to
come out of the fog and end her affair.
You might determine that if, after x date, you won’t continue this back and forth anymore;
and will move forward to separate or take steps to even end the marriage, if it comes to that.
Now hear me, I’m NOT saying to be belligerent or hostile. That’s a sure way to drive them away.
And I know the phrase “taking back your power” is used ad nausea these days.
But what I mean by ‘taking back your power’ is deciding for yourself what you will, and won’t, tolerate anymore going further.
It’s about knowing you’re not really going to continue being at the mercy of their affair fog and deceived frame of mind.
You really DO have a choice in what you’re willing to tolerate, and for how long.
It’s okay to get in touch with that, even if the results are not what you’re wanting right now.
I’m very much in favor of trying to save the marriage for your sake and your kids sake and I believe
that people can change if they want to.
But you also have a right to set a standard for HOW you will be treated and WHAT you will tolerate.
The old quote “we teach people how to treat us” also applies here.
Which leads me to #2
2. Set very clear boundaries for her-
and follow through on the consequences when she’s crossed them.
Calmly and clearly, explain to your wayward wife (or husband) what you will or won’t allow to continue.
Set a boundary and making it clear what you won’t allow any longer.
Let them know that they can’t come and go in your life, or the kids lives, or continue long in a state of ambivalence and indecision.
Like I mentioned in Part one, saying “If you do X (i.e. continue to text, call or in any way contact the AP)
then Y will happen (i.e. you’ll have to move out/we separate, you can’t have him around the kids,
or have the same benefits you’d have if you were fully committed in the marriage …).
But whatever consequence (Y) you set up- be sure to follow through on the consequences if crossed,
or you’ll have the reverse result than what you wanted…She/he won’t believe you and will cross those boundaries again and again.
Setting clear boundaries tells them “I’m not pursuing you or checking up on your every move!” It’s no longer about you..
but about me; my recovery and healing, not about you being in control of that.
You may choose to stay in the affair, but you won’t do it here!
A good counselor or infidelity coach can help you map out some clear boundaries if you’re feeling stuck in that area.
3. Make it uncomfortable for her to continue this lifestyle
of ‘having her cake and eating it too.’
Let her/him see what their life will really look like if they choose to continue the affair.
The truth is, your wayward spouse can also be stuck within the cycle of indecision because of cognitive dissonance, for who knows how long.
If the other side of her (or his) life continues plugging along like it always did, with all the benefits they get from the marriage,
what will convince them to end their affair?
So, it’s important to NOT let it be so easy for her to have her cake and eat it too.
She doesn’t get the benefit of having you AND the affair partner.
Although it’s a boost to their self-worth for them to feel so needed and given attention by 2 people,
they don’t get to feel that, and stay in the marriage.
This might mean letting her go (hopefully only temporarily, as one of the consequences to breaking a boundary)
so she’ll leave the house and even move in with him; saying
“okay, so your actions are telling me you want to be with him (or her), so go be with him then.”
I know that’s a horrible thought if you’re trying to have your marriage survive this, but hear me out.
There’s nothing like a glimpse of real life to wake someone out of their fantasy life.
[Personally, I had moved out of our home, away from my husband and boys, when I was in the thick of my deepest deception
and contemplating divorce, and I temporarily moved in with my AP and got a glimpse of what “real life” would look like.
That lasted all of a few days at a time. Let’s just say he wasn’t the prince charming my delusions convinced me he was.
I saw how completely different he was then my husband and I got a perspective I wouldn’t have gotten, as fast as I got it,
until I moved in with him. Not that I’m advocating that because I’m not. But it helped me see the reality of what my life
would really look like, which ultimately (not right away) helped me break out of the fog.}
4. Pull back and be less easily available, and accessible, if they won’t stop the affair.
This isn’t about playing games or trying to manipulate them into wanting you.
It’s learning the best ways to react when someone is stuck in deception and self-absorption.
Like I mentioned in Part One of this post (point #4), if they know you’ll always be there whenever they decide to call you,
text you or ask anything of you- and you’ll always be there, then they still have the best of both worlds.
Because humans usually want what they cannot have, pulling back from chasing her ( if she won’t end the affair)
tells her you’re respecting yourself enough to not be treated like that anymore as long as she’s still acting out.
What often happens is eventually (after 1 week, 2 or 3 weeks a month or more)
you might see her suddenly wanting to talk to you, and reestablish a relationship with you and pursue you again.
They don’t get to have their AP AND you. That’s not a marriage.
Affairs are built on fantasy, escape and attention as the foundation.
The illusion of being wanted and loved by both people (husband or wife and AP) can continue to fuel the fantasy and feed their ego,
without the repercussions of their actions.
Let your wayward spouse know that you’ll be okay without them,
even while telling them you want and hope the marriage will survive; but you’re not going to chase them down.
Chasing them down only gives the unspoken message that yes, it’s all about them.
5. Work on you and your own healing, and that of your kids.
Working on your own healing takes the focus off your spouse and onto you.
This can be helpful and difficult, but it’s truly what you need to do if they won’t end their affair.
Because no matter what happens with your marriage, you’ll still have you.
Working on your own healing is for your spirit, soul and body.
It means building up your spiritual life and connection with God.
Your soul is your mind, will and emotions so working on
getting whole and healthy in those areas by taking care of yourself,
through your own individual counseling and
learning how to improve areas in your life that need improving.
Healing your body is about getting exercise, even a brisk walk in fresh air and eating better so your body
doesn’t have to work extra hard processing through the junk and alcohol, while it’s feeling the stress you’re under.
Please don’t fall into societal myths that guys shouldn’t go to counseling, but individual counseling
was really instrumental in helping my husband sort through everything.
That’s part of getting your own healing.
6. Ask your spouse if they’d be willing to go with you to a marriage intensive weekend.
When you’ve done everything else, and avoided doing the things on part one of this post, you still have options…and this can be part of your boundaries.
Without pushing them to end the affair, you can ask if they would be willing to join you in attending a weekend intensive,
for couples who’ve been hit by infidelity.
If your wayward spouse refuses to attend then you might have gotten your answer on where they are now.
But as part of your boundary of what you need to have happen, this will help clarify things for them.
But the point is not to convince your spouse to end their affair by your pleadings alone.
It’s not about threatening them to stop or else —.
If they’re still in their affair, they’re still caught up in the deception and fantasy world from the affair and in affair fog as a result.
It’s hard for you as a betrayed spouse, to reason with a unfaithful spouse, while they’re in this deception.
But having a neutral third party who understands more about affairs, and the ins and outs of infidelty will help them see,
with more clarity, why the affair happened in the first place.
An infidelity coach, therapist, or weekend intensive can help them see the amount of lies and rationalizations they’ve believed.
If they know you’re not asking them to end the affair as a prerequisite to attending,
you’ll probably have more success for them agreeing.
There are some good ones out there, and although I have not attended one myself because many of these came after our crisis, I have heard good things about these.
I know you’ll probably look at the price of any of these and think it’s out of the question…I get it, we would have said the same thing.
But consider this an investment into your marriage and hopefully will be the catalyst to begin to help your unfaithful spouse come out of the fog.
I know some of them offer scholarships that you can call and request to be considered for.
Also, see if family might consider helping you, if at all possible.
Here are the marriage intensives/retreats for couples in crisis and offer specialized help around infidelity:
- Focus on the Family “Hope Restored” Marriage Intensive.
- Joe Beam from Marriage helpers has a weekend marriage seminar https://joebeam.com/marriage-seminar/
- Rick Reynolds and those at Affair Recovery have what they call “EMS weekend”
Here’s the link for that https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/ems-weekend
- Beyond Affairs has a healing from affairs seminar for couples.
Or just a private intensive for couples https://beyondaffairs.com/seminars/private-intensive-couples-retreat/
- Michele Weiner Davis is a therapist specializing in infidelity and offers one on one
Help called private intensive sessions from her office in Boulder Colorado.
I wish you the very best in this difficult journey you’re on.
It’s not easy and I know it’s very complicated to know what to do.
I’ve written this from a perspective of having been the unfaithful wife, as well as from the perspective of working with so many wayward women.
I’ve experienced, and seen, how trapped many of these women are. Whether you understand that or not, or accept that or not, it’s true.
Many unfaithful women did not plan on getting stuck in this web and even when they’ve wanted to end it, have found it difficult to break free.
So although these tips might seem hard it’s actually to help them see the truth.
If your wife won’t end her affair, or you know a woman who needs to end her affair, or has just ended it but needs to fully let go
and learn how to prevent relapse and pursue healing-
here is a link to my course/support group that I’m offering a few times per year. She can get on the waitlist if it’s currently closed.
My hope for you is that your marriage will be restored, and at least that YOU are healed and restored from all the pain this has caused.
You might also be interested in my letter to a betrayed husband.
Burn the ships in your marriage after infidelity.
An interview with my husband and his perspective.
Marriage rebuilding ideas and posts.
Lorraine Koroduadua says
Thank you so much for these helpful steps from Part 1 and Part 2, Debbie. I am slowly starting to understand and realize now the Don’ts I have to avoid and the dos I should work on. It has been a difficult few months for me as I didn’t know what to do or not do, what to say and not say, I just couldn’t control anymore how I reacted when I found out my husband was still in contact…I would just lose it and smash his phone but after reading your steps I have come to realize these things that I have done. I pray things get better for myself and my husband. our marriage and for our family and esp for our children.
The Hunter says
Thank you for this article! As a BH, with over 7 months under my belt, I can justify everything you wrote here. I started doing the above actions and live to the mindset right away after D day. I told her if she wanted to pursue happiness with the other guy, just go ahead. Meanwhile I started working on a good couple of core issues in my life, and starting to be emotionally independent of her (very important!!!). After 3 months, she broke off the affair, she could not handle me being distant very well… Her AP handled it very poorly, the guy was just devastated (actually threw up when my little cheater dumped him:)). After a couple weeks, they started to be in contact again, back into the fog… About 6-7 weeks ago, my wife told me she wanted separation, she would try the relationship with AP. Me back into distancing mode the next day. Actually moved out, we are rotating in our home, so don’t moving the kids around. I have to tell you all, this so much better, than living under the same roof with someone in a fogged mind. Might sound scary, but once you give space for YOURSELF, things become easier, clearer! I don’t call her, not initiate contact, let her do that. After, 3-4 weeks she started warming up to me. Telling me she loves me, she misses our life, that I set a very high standard for her possible future relationship with AP this way making her life very hard now (???). Seems like she is facing the reality of this emotional decision. She has great anxiety, can’t sleep, I can tell she is not feeling good, I would not trade places. I want to ask all the time: is this the happiness you were looking for? But I don’t… The hard part for me is standing my ground, not giving in. She has to be the one wanting our marriage, wanting me, breaking off with AP. This is going to be a long journey, might not happen, but as of now, I am feeling great, strong, not lost my power. It is great to handle all this emotional hardship on my own! Once you get to this point, your life changes forever. Please all betrayed husbands keep this in mind and make it your goal! Make this whole thing about YOU, take this chance to make YOUR life better than ever!!!
Is possible to know your email? I’m BH and soon my wife is going to leave me to be with her AP. But keep on saying to me that she still loves me as a best friend. And she will be happy when I’m happy. That she don’t know that she will be happy with him. I need your view on her comment. So much she told me but can’t afford to have a counseling. Need much help on this as I am willing to give up but can’t take it when she is not happy.thanks
Ryan Tooke says
I would just like to talk to someone.
Thanks for this. Hopefully i can manage my own emotions like this and stay strong as you are. Im going through so much emotion ups and downs right now. How i wish i can do the same.
To “the Hunter” that is encouraging words my friend. My wife has bee in over 1 year, going back and forth back and forth. I started to focus on me and actually pray for me instead of all the others involved including the AP. At some point we as the BH have to look out for ourselves instead of our manly instincts taking over wanting to protect our wives and want whats best for them. Like Debbie said most of the time ladies Affair Down when it comes to the man they are with to their current Husbands. Stay the course keeps your faith, stay in God’s word and let him work! Be patient and know that God does not put more on you than you can handle without Him!