When is it time to end a relationship?

Dear Anne – Each day for me is a complete struggle. My husband of almost 15 years disclosed his affair recently. The affair has been going on for 5 years and his affair partner is also married. My husband advised that he disclosed the affair because he was struggling with the depression it was causing him and he wanted to heal our marriage. He said he was ending the affair. I threw myself into the marriage and tried very hard to provide the emotional and physical needs that had been absent from our marriage, although I was struggling with all of my own emotions. My husband was ecstatic, but I learned in early April that he was unable to end the affair. He again promised he was going to cut things off with her for good. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t the case and found out a couple weeks ago he is still talking to her and seeing her. He says he has told his counselor that he wants to be done with her but just can’t figure out how to let her go. From all of my reading so far I understand that his obsession with her is like an addiction and that he has to quit her cold turkey. He has tried this several times now and failed. The whole thing is completely devastating to me and I am now tired and weak from fighting to save my marriage. This has been 2.5 months of pure hell and I have no idea how much longer I can go on. My question is how do I know when to give up? When is it time to end a relationship? How much longer do I hang on knowing that he won’t let this other woman go? – Kristi

Dear Anne – I am still in limbo after 2 years. We are existing in the same house and struggling to remain married. At times I still really resent him for what he has done to us. How long is long enough to work at staying together? When is it time to end a relationship? Life is passing me by and I am on autopilot. Work, eat, sleep and pretend things are getting better, but we are in a rut together. He just wants me to forget about it. I really want to do that, but the triggers send me reeling backward at warp speed. Any advice? – Kate


While these two questions are the same, “When is it time to end a relationship?” They are also completely different, because one woman is still in the trauma phase (the first 3 – 6 months after disclosure), and the other is at the 2-year mark. There are also other factors to be considered.

To Kristi – one of the things you are also dealing with is “breaking all ties with the 3rd party.”

To Kate – I’m concerned as to why you are still in limbo. As you describe it, nothing is changing and that’s not good. 3 possible situations come to mind.

Situation #1 – Your husband may not be giving you what you need to heal, either A. because he doesn’t know how, isn’t able, doesn’t have the tools, has a wrong idea of what it takes, or B. because he is unwilling.

Situation #2 – Your husband is giving you what you need, and you still feel crappy. This is a common experience, and that’s because when it comes to reconciling a marriage after an affair there are two healings that need to take place. One is the reconciliation of the marriage. The other is the healing of the broken heart of the betrayed. The healing of the broken heart of the betrayed is a personal part of healing. It’s actually a healing that only you (the betrayed) can do, because no one else can get into your head.

Your struggle is in your thoughts, in the meanings that you are attaching to what has happened to you. If your husband has changed his ways, been willing to participate in counseling/coaching or seminars, read books, discuss them, and truthfully answer your questions about the affair. If his actions today tell you that he loves you, and you’re still stuck, then this is no longer about him, but rather it’s about you.

You will get further insight about this by listening to our most recent teleseminar “Dealing with obsessive thoughts and lots of other questions answered.

Inevitably, if your spouse has done everything right, and you are still struggling, then you are believing as true something that is false. You are attaching meanings to the affair that aren’t true. Sometimes to heal personally, we have to first identify our belief systems, and then challenge them. False belief systems will keep us stuck.

Forgiveness, and getting better overlap, because forgiveness is the last step to healing. Forgiveness is about you deciding to let go, of your thoughts of anger, hatred, bitterness, revenge etc. Sometimes it’s also about letting go of your beliefs that you are somehow less than others because this happened, or that your love is somehow less than the love of others because this happened.

The problem with all of this is that it is not an intellectual exercise. Nothing you will read, no matter how accurate will make you better. This is a heart issue. You have to get the message from your head down into your heart. This is exactly what our “Take Your Life Back” retreat for betrayed women is designed to do, and exactly why it has been so successful. So please look into it.

Situation #3 – You both aren’t doing the right things. Then something has to give to force the issue. Whatever you do, quit doing what you are doing now, which is nothing. Maybe you aren’t doing the right things because you don’t have the tools. Then you need to consider attending Healing from Affairs.

Another consideration is a controlled separation. To find out more about a controlled separation I highly recommend, Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation (CS) Cas Save Your Marriage . A controlled separation for many couples provides the platform that forces the needed issues of change, and is more a plan to reconciliation, because it pushes partners out of their limbo.

For any betrayed spouse, I also recommend that you get involved with BAN – Beyond Affairs Network. If ever there was a time to get involved, now is that time.

To find out more about BAN – please watch this brief youtube video; Welcome to BAN

I am currently creating a program for BAN, aimed at progressively taking betrayed spouses on a healing journey. I am also offering special teleseminars focusing on each month’s topic for members of BAN only. And I just finished filming the video session aimed for July 2015, which exactly covers this question, “When is it time to end a relationship?” – I call it “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

The one for June 2015 covers the question that comes before that, “How do I change my spouse?” which really means how do I change myself, which is what you need right now. (Please note local BAN coordinators may be ahead or behind of the current planned months.)

Of course, you can purchase and watch these 30-minute educational films in the privacy of your own home, but there is a multiplied power, when you watch it with your group, and discuss it in-person, after you’ve just watched it. We all need face-to-face connection with others who “get it” in order to get through this.


Only you can decide this, because only you will live with the consequences of the choices you make from here on in. Not me, your therapist, or your friends who may be so quick to tell you what you should do as if they were an authority on your life.

For some great suggestions on how to make good decisions, please listen to our audio seminar on “Making Tough Decisions – When you are between a rock and a hard place.”

It is unwise to make a decision when you are in the emotion of the moment. Don’t make any major life-altering decisions during the first 3 months post disclosure. Anger impairs our judgment. You may as well drink 6 Martinis on an empty stomach and then decide!

So for you Kristi, since you are less than 2 months out, leaving would normally not be a good idea right now. That said, the problem is that your husband has not ended his affair. It may very well be that an ultimatum is necessary. Please read our article about that: What if the cheating spouse loves the other woman/ other man? What you do need is to reach out and get some good help. We are here to help, you can call or write to us at 360-306-3367 or info@beyondaffairs.com .

For you Kate, it could be time to leave. Two years is certainly enough time to give your marriage. But if this is about you have you considered, will leaving change anything? Is it really what you want? Have you done what you need to do to change?

Sometimes I get asked, “How many affairs is too many affairs to forgive?”

Frankly, one is too many. You have every right to leave after one affair if you want. It’s just that, there are many good people who have affairs. And if you give up too soon, you could be giving up on your best future. It is wiser to see if your spouse will man up or woman up and do what it takes.

There is also the question of whether or not you can forgive. Forgiveness is a last step, not a first step. First the healing process must be honored so full healing can take place. If you are in the first 3-6 months after finding out, it is too soon to even be thinking of forgiveness. At best you can decide that you will forgive, once the healing process has been honored. The earliest it would be reasonable to consider making a permanent decision is one-year post disclosure, unless your spouse is over the top unrepentant, unchanging and/or cruel. It is very important that you respect yourself in this process.

One has to consider, what will you do after you leave? I’ve never known a betrayed spouse who wasn’t interested in making sure an affair never happens again. So how will you do this? There is only one way to be guaranteed that you will never be hurt in love again, and that is by living without love. Hmmmm! That doesn’t sound so good.

If you marry someone new, who to your knowledge has never had an affair before, how do you know they won’t have an affair in the future? You don’t.

It reminds me of a story I once heard of a major decision-maker in a big business, who made a mistake that cost the company millions. Everyone knew he would be fired. Instead, the CEO said, “Are you kidding me? I’m not firing him. I’ve just spent x million training him. He’ll never make the same mistake again.”

So it may be with your spouse. In most cases a person who has had an affair, but mans up or womans up and really does the personal growth work, a person who has the right tools to heal, and does the work, is less likely to have an affair than someone who has never had an affair, because the ones who never have are most often naïve. In many cases it is this naivety that leads good people too close to the line, and eventually over into an affair.

Are you going to let some new woman or man have your husband or wife, now that they’ve finally become the person you’ve always longed for them to be?

If your spouse refuses to do any work, it may be time to give up and leave. Still I recommend that you seek outside counsel, because I’ve seen many marriages where it seems that the unfaithful isn’t doing the right thing, when in fact the hurtful, uncaring and uncompassionate betrayed spouse is blinded to the good their spouse is trying to do, and the bad that they themselves are doing. Not every unfaithful spouse is like my Brian (eventually remorseful and willing to change), and not every betrayed spouse handles themselves like I did either (eventually compassionate and willing to listen). Healing takes two. It may not be fair, but it is the truth.

If you’ve given your marriage time (1 – 2 years), if you’ve reached out for good help and tools, and if you’ve done your part, and your unfaithful spouse continues in their unfaithful behavior, then it may be time to leave, but only you can decide, and you will know.

© 2015 Anne Bercht. All rights reserved.