What to Do When Your Spouse Won't End Their Affair
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Help! My spouse is having an affair, and even after they've promised to end it, they haven't. What do I do?
You've discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful. You've confronted them and they've sworn to end things with their affair partner. "No contact!" You're adamant and they agree. You roll up your sleeves to do the work on sorting through the destruction that befell your marriage.
And then you learn that contact hasn't stopped. What do you do?
Read on for help when your husband/wife/partner won't end their affair.
Tip #1 - Determine what you can and can't live with.
Only you can decide what behaviors you can tolerate and what you won't.
If your spouse won't or can't end their affair, and isn't being honest about it, its time for you to get honest with yourself. Are you willing to hang tight? Or do you need to go (temporarily or permanently)?
What changes do you need to make to take care of your own mental, physical, and emotional health? We know that ultimatums, rules and promises don't work. An unfaithful spouse talks the talk more easily than they walk the walk. It's just human nature. If you're going to set ultimatums, you need to be willing to follow through on them 100%. Otherwise they simply become empty threats, and your spouse learns to call your bluff. Figure out the boundaries that YOU need to live by and be ready to hold to them.
Deciding what you can and can't live with is a personal decision. Get a trusted therapist to help you work through this and discern how you need to move forward for yourself right now under your particular circumstances.
Don't make decisions for yourself in order to try to control your spouse's behaviors or force them to change. Do make decisions that are based on your own personal needs.
One of my clients in Fairfield County had been negotiating with her husband for months. She begged for full honesty and transparency at home so they could regain and rebuild trust. After acknowledging reality -- that his behaviors weren't changing significantly -- she and her two young kids left to stay with family nearby. My client did this for her own sanity. Inadvertently, it was the long-overdue wake up call for her husband. It was only when she put her foot down on setting and maintaining her own boundaries that they finally (in baby steps) began to work toward coming back together. But most importantly, my client restored her faith and trust in herself.
Tip #2 - Accept that you can't control another person.
Begin to come to terms with letting your spouse go.
Letting go doesn't mean you're letting go of your marriage or condoning their behavior. Letting go means accepting that we can't control another person. The only person we have control over is ourselves. We can control our circumstances only as far as our own choices and behaviors are concerned.
It's time to get your life back.
Stop playing detective. Stop badgering or setting ultimatums. Get off the nightmarish merry-go-round and get busy with the business of living. Work on rebuilding your self worth, healing, and strengthening your sense of self. Connect with and get together with friends. Get involved in recreation or creative endeavors. Take a new yoga class. Smile. Engage with the world and keep your head up higher than you ever have.
What your spouse is or isn't doing is likely going to be the case whether you're micromanaging them or not.
Whether your own changes make your spouse perk up and take notice isn't the point. Remember how we aren't doing anything to control another person? The point is that you're going to slowly but surely do your best to start living life for you right now. You're going to work on self-soothing, on picking up the pieces and on building yourself back into a whole human who IS okay. The important point is you're doing it for yourself. You're doing it to ensure that no matter what happens in your marriage you're not playing the victim and staying hostage to your spouse's choices; rather, you've got the grit and resilience to live your life on your own and do it damn well.
"Though the feelings you're having right now have been triggered by the current crisis of infidelity, you have to find ways to soothe yourself. Learning to self-soothe is a skill that will serve you all your life, in any number of painful or traumatic situations." – Michele Weiner-Davis, Healing from Infidelity
Tip #3 - Know that one person can't fix a marriage.
If you've been turning yourself into a pretzel trying to solve the issue of your spouse's affair, reread steps one and two.
You're going to need your spouse's conviction and commitment to healing and strengthening your marriage. And until you have that, you don't have it.
Stop nailing family photos all over the house. Stop digging out your wedding album to prove you were once happy together. Stop coming up with the 10 point plan to save your marriage. Stop searching for intensive couple's therapy retreats. Stop prancing around in your underwear hoping they'll see you as desireable.
Is your spouse doing all that, too? If they aren't, that's information.
More often than not, I see the hurt spouse doing most or all of the work to save the marriage. This is normal. Do what you have to do to know you've given it your all and put in the effort you need to see to be able to live with yourself. But unless. your efforts are ultimately met, be willing to understand that it's not effective as a long term solution.
This is the time to be patient if you're willing and able to be. This is the time to accept that forcing the outcome isn't going to be the outcome you actually want. You're not going to "make" your spouse wake up and see. You're not going to fix this on your own. One person does not rebuild a marriage.
Tip #4 - Know that you WILL be okay
Lastly, there is one final spoiler alert I need to impress upon you.
No matter what, you WILL be okay.
It might not be the life you signed up for. It may not be what you thought would ever happen to you in your wildest dreams.
But I can promise you that you will get through this, and that there is life on the other side.
Professional help can be a lifeline as you work on acceptance, boundary-setting, letting go, and healing. The process is painful. It's not pretty. It's excruciating at worst and disorienting at best.
But you won't be here forever. Trust in that truth.
So remember and repeat after me, and repeat to yourself often:
"I will be okay."
Lauren provides boots-on-the-ground lived experience combined with invaluable professional expertise working with infidelity. She is committed to helping individuals and couples deal with and heal from marital affairs in a highly effective, yet warm and judgment-free style.
Lauren's articles help share much-needed information, and reduce the stigma and shame around the common experience of infidelity. Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about working together.
Lauren, Affair Specialist