I will admit that I’m always a little surprised when I hear from cheating spouses who are asking for my opinion on what to do to make things right. I’m usually pretty clear that I see things from the perspective of the faithful spouse. Still, sometimes it’s obvious that the cheating spouse is in turmoil over their mistake and they now want to begin to do the right thing. Some want to end the affair, but they know that it is going to cause a lot of pain when they do. So they sometimes ask about the best, and least painful way to proceed.
I might hear from a husband who says: “I know that I have to end my affair. I now know that I want to be with my wife again. I realize that I very wrongly took my marriage for granted. I want to start trying to heal my marriage as soon as possible. I haven’t told my wife yet, but I am going to. The problem is the other woman. She has convinced herself that she is in love with me and that we are soul mates. I admit that I didn’t discourage this because I got caught up in the relationship. But now I regret this and I feel guilty at the thought of breaking things off so abruptly. She’s going to think that she did something wrong when she didn’t. The truth is, I have just now only realized my mistake. There is nothing that she can do to change my mind. But I am starting to consider trying to break it off gradually in the hopes that this will make it easier for everyone. I’ve considered starting out just telling her that I can’t see her as often. And then I will just gradually start to see her less and less. Over time, it will become apparent that the relationship is cooling off and I suspect this will be easier for her to accept. Is this a good way to gradually break it off? Or, from a woman’s perspective, is there a way to do it more gradually that would be even better?”
Why You May Be Wrong In Your Assumptions: Honestly, I do understand your thinking. But there are many assumptions here that may not be correct. I’m going to talk about the wife in a minute. But for now, I’m going to focus on the other woman. The assumption was that she would accept seeing less of this man without question or complaint. There was also an assumption that she wouldn’t catch onto what he was doing and she would believe that suddenly, he had to see her less for legitimate reasons beyond his control.
Here’s the thing. The other woman often isn’t stupid. She knows that it is possible that you could end the relationship at any time because of your wife and your marriage. In fact, some “other women” have already had broken relationships where the married man ends things to go back to his wife. It happens all of the time. It wouldn’t be out of the question that she is already looking out for this. So she may well question you more than you think and, logistically, your plan wouldn’t work or be believable anyway.
Moral Considerations When You’re Trying To Do The Right Thing: Now that we’ve talk about logistics, lets talk about the morality of the situation. We all know that having an affair is wrong. But you can’t take that back. However, what you can do is begin to change your behaviors and begin to do what you know is right. And you have to know that it isn’t right to continue to lead this woman on and to continue to lie to your wife.
By trying to end things gradually, you are prolonging the relationship. And, even if you really are trying to do the right thing, and even if your heart isn’t in the affair anymore, you are continuing to lie to two people. You are continuing to betray your spouse. And you are continuing to engage in the type of behavior that you say you want to avoid.
The Reality Of The Situation: I know that you are trying to avoid pain. But in reality, you are only prolonging the pain. It is more cruel to give the other woman hope when, by your own admission, there really is none. Yes, it will hurt both your wife and the other woman. But, it is going to hurt whenever it happens. And the sooner you end it, the sooner you can begin the healing. The longer you prolong it, the harder it is going to be.
It is a pretty sure bet that living a lie is causing you stress. Continuing to do it for any longer than necessary just keeps the stress going. I can’t tell you that any of this is easy. It’s not. But in my own experience, the sooner you begin to move toward healing and toward doing what you know is the right thing, the better the outcome is going to be.