Affairs are complicated and devastating things. Created by emotionally uncertain or immature people, they can destroy families and create heartbreak that ripples through your life. These affairs aren’t just sordid. They are confusing and chaotic, validating and soul-destroying all in one.
It’s not just navigating these affairs that are messy, either. When you choose to engage in infidelity, you also have to consider the sharp prices that come at the end. You see, it’s not smooth sailing, shutting the door on forbidden love. Quite the opposite. For those who choose to call it off, even more chaos can lie in wait.
When the affair ends.
One way or the other, all affairs end. For some, things end quietly or in love. In rare circumstances, the affair becomes the central love, and the story goes on. Or, both partners call it quits and hope to move on past the shame and the guilt that they feel.
Most affairs don’t end that way, however. There’s rarely smooth sliding out of what should never be. Many find that when the experience ends, the real trouble begins. There are a lot of nasty knots that have to be untangled; and a lot of new realities that have to be considered.
Because it’s not just your feelings to be considered. Your reactions aren’t the only reactions in play. When you make the choice to end an affair, you should consider the other person too. There’s not just one person involved in the infidelity. You can’t predict what the other person will do, just as you can’t predict what will happen when you call it quits.
What could possibly go wrong?
If you think affairs end smoothly, you’re deluded. The reality is more brutal than that. A lot can (and does) go wrong when you end an extramarital affair. Sure, your heart can get broken. Worse is likely. The other person can escalate events and make choices that make your life worse in a lot of different ways.
They could go nuclear
Just because you’ve decided to end the affair does not mean the other person will comply. Relationships take more than one person to build, and they take the agreement of both parties to end (in peace).
You may have done the right thing, but the other person may still create a big emotional mess and refuse to go quietly. They can create a lot of problems in your life…not just at home, but at work and within your friendships, too.
Before you end things, you should consider the emotional reaction of the other person. They may have a scorched earth policy with those who do them wrong, and there’s little that can be done when you’re dealing in the dark. Honesty is always the best policy, but care, compassion, and respect are also key.
Your partner could find out
People don’t always end affairs for altruistic reasons. It’s not always a matter of seeing the light and wanting to do the right thing. Some people call it off because they don’t want their primary partners to find out. They don’t want to get caught. But that’s exactly what can happen when they call it off.
Exposure is common when affairs end. Vengeful rejected “side pieces” can get in touch with your partner out of a need for revenge. They want to see you hurt like you hurt them. Your pain can get you caught too, however.
Don’t underestimate how much pain you may be end to call your affair to an end. The difference will be noticeable and can affect everything from your relationship at home with your family to your performance at work.
You could get hurt
When people get into affairs, many don’t assume they will wind up in a world of pain. They assume that the only people to get hurt will be their primary partner and the temporary temptation. Rarely are their own feelings taken into consideration, and that’s a mistake.
That’s right. Walking away from your affair — or even getting exposed or dumped by the other person — can cause lowered self-esteem. You can end up feeling so much guilt, shame, and regret that you learn to look down on yourself in ways that damage all future relationships.
Perspectives may change
Affairs aren’t a great way to go about managing your issues. It won’t make you feel better and it will (always) cause more damage than it will create solutions. It can be impossible to establish trust again after someone cheats. It’s hard to see them the same way, and that’s a crucial component to remember.
If you get involved in an affair, people may see you differently. It will certainly change the way your primary partner looks at you, but it could change the way you are perceived at work, in your friendships, and even in your family, too.
Want to safeguard relationships with your kids at all costs? Want to make sure your reputation with others stays intact? Then don’t get involved in an affair that you then have to break off, risking exposure for the poor personal decisions you make.
Major life disruptions
Affairs are entered casually. Too casually, in many respects. People give into temptation and forget reality entirely. They slip into the fantasy and forget that there is real human emotion (and human casualties) involved with these complicated relationship entanglements. It’s not just a good time. An affair can become a major life disruption.
That’s especially true of the breakdown. Before you jump into an extramarital affair, you should consider the emotional mess it may turn into.
Your partner may end up heartbroken, and explosive. You will have to deal with that and may end up so drained that you can’t be there the way you need to be there for your friends, family, and career. The whole thing may turn into a mess that could disrupt everything in your life that genuinely matters.
Playing it safe (and doing the right thing).
Are you about to call it quits on an affair? Is the guilt and the shame eating you alive? It may be time to take a step in the right direction, but you’re going to have to accept some harsh realities. There may be no escaping some of these consequences you’ve set up. There is not always the option to sail smoothly out of the messes you’ve made…but you can still be better.
If you’re ready to end an affair, you’ve got to do the right thing — by yourself and everyone else involved. That means:
- Being radically honest
- Accepting accountability
- Setting higher self standards
Be honest with yourself and everyone else involved. With your primary partner, you may have to consider telling them the truth and laying it all out on the table. The other person? You’re going to have to be honest with them too and consider both their reactions and their feelings as a human being.
Tap into your deepest compassion in all parts of this journey, even for yourself. Don’t dissolve in shame. Be as compassionate as you can to yourself and be fully accountable for what you’ve done. Don’t try to control the outcome, just fully open yourself to the consequences you’ve made.
In this place, and only in this place, can you set an eye to rebuilding (either with your primary partner or on your own). To do that, however, you must ensure you never go back to that place of temptation and insecurity. Set higher standards for your relationship and the roles you play in that commitment.Ending the affair is the right thing to do, but remember: you can’t control the outcome or what comes next. More hiding and more lies will no longer get the results you need. Radical honesty is the only way. So stand tall, stand strong, and do what’s right. Make that your starting point to rebuild and recover, with a greater sense of who you are and who you never want to be again.