Can Affairs End In Friendship?

I sometimes hear from people who were having an affair and they either know that the affair must end or they are in a situation where it has just ended.  Many still believe that their feelings were at least partly real.  Some want to know if it’s at all possible to maintain the friendship – even if the romantic part of the affair must end.

Someone might say, “I know that this is going to sound selfish, but I’d honestly like to maintain my friendship with the man who I’m having an affair with.  The reason for this is that he’s just become an important part of my life and a comforting source of support.  We work together and I depend on him.  Still, my spouse is getting suspicious and my family is the most important thing to me, so I have decided that I must end the affair.  Is it unrealistic to think that I can keep the friendship?”

Fair warning, what is coming next may not be what you want to hear.  I am not sure how realistic it is to keep the friendship, but I don’t think it’s at all fair.  I hear from so many faithful spouses who are terrified that their spouse will cheat again.  These spouses are fighting so hard to hold their families together.  They are struggling to allow themselves to be vulnerable in order to rebuild the trust.  How do you think that the knowledge that their spouse wants to remain friendly with the other person will affect that process?

I can tell you from experience that it can be very hard for both spouses to recover from an affair.  The faithful spouse struggles with trust and resentment.  The cheating spouse struggles with guilt and with feeling worthy.  So why throw in just one more difficulty (like remaining friends with the other person?)  Doing so is only going to make the faithful spouse more distrusting and the cheating spouse will feel that much more guilty.  This is not a good formula for success.

This is only my opinion, but when you want to remain friends with the other person, you’re looking to have your cake and eat it too.  The temptation is just something that you don’t need.  A good counselor once told me that while you are in affair recovery, you should not do ANYTHING that you would not be comfortable with your spouse knowing about or with your spouse actually seeing you do.  Would you really be comfortable with your spouse seeing you being friendly with the other person?

And let’s flip the scenario. Let’s pretend that you are the faithful spouse and that your partner has cheated on you with a coworker.  The affair is over, but you’re still trying to regain your footing.  You feel extremely betrayed and hurt, but your spouse is wanting to maintain a friendship with the other person.  Would you understand? Would you encourage this?  Or would you be extremely hurt and outraged?  Would you hope that your spouse would see that he or she needs to put your marriage first and put the other person aside? If you are being honest with yourself, any sane person would want for the affair relationship to COMPLETELY end.  This means no friendship or anything that is remotely personal in nature.

I understand that many people are faced with a situation where they have to work with the other person.  Honestly, I’d suggest a transfer or working on another team within the same company.  I know that this sounds dramatic, but most people find it awkward and tempting when they have to continue to work with the other person. It can be very hard to put your marriage first when you are in this situation, but that is exactly what you must do when you want a recovered and healthy marriage.  If none of these arrangements are possible, then the ideal is a professional work relationship, but not a friendly or personal one.

Some of us are friendly with our exes.  This can happen because most of us did not know our spouses during those relationships. Or, if we did, we did not betray our spouses in order to have those relationships.  There is a big difference between the two. When you lie to and betray your spouse in order to be with some else and you have an affair, then that person will need to be off limits going forward in order for your spouse to be able to trust you.  That is just reality.  Yes, it means that you will have to give the other person up, but someone who truly wants to save their marriage should be willing to do this.

Recovery after an affair means truly putting your family, and your spouse, first.  You aren’t doing that when you’re trying to have a “friendship” with your affair. If you are truly putting your spouse first, you are cutting out anything that might hurt your spouse or make them uncomfortable.  Trust me when I say that this friendship falls under that category. It is inappropriate and insensitive.  The easiest and best thing to do is to not pursue it.

If my husband had insisted on having a friendship with his affair, I’d suspect that we would not be together today.  In order for me to even be willing to save our marriage, I needed to see him completely cut off every single aspect of the affair.  There’s more about that on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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