How Do I Get My Husband To End The Affair Without An Ultimatum Or Not Giving Him A Choice?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from wives who are broken hearted not just because their husband has been having an affair, but also because he can’t or won’t come to a decision as to whether he wants to end that same affair.  This can feel like a double betrayal especially when you are still very strongly invested in your marriage.  Many wives want to know how they can change his mind without stooping to manipulation.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband told me last week that he has been having an affair for about three months with one of his clients. I assumed that he would stop representing her and would also break it off.  He did stop representing her (or so he claims) but he has been honest and has told me that he isn’t sure if he can break it off.  He says that she has become very attached and dependent on him and that he had developed feelings for her.  Well, I am dependent upon him too because I am his wife.  This is not acceptable.  He can’t carry on with someone else.  But when I tell him this, he says that he would understand if I wanted to move out or take a break but that he can’t promise me that he’s going to end it immediately, although he can promise me that he doesn’t want to lose our marriage.  So where does this leave me?  I want him to end it.  I can’t stand knowing that he’s going to work and that he might see her.   I told my best friend that I was going to give him an ultimatum and basically give him no choice.  I told her that I was considering telling him that he could stay with her and I would take him for every cent he has and I would make sure that every one knows that he is a cheater.  But my friend said this is a mistake.  She said that this will make him angry at me and ensure that he falls right into her arms.  I know in my heart she’s probably right, but I don’t know what else to do. How do I make him break it off without forcing him to?”

My heart broke for this wife.  This situation was so unfair to her.  And although I agree that ultimatums rarely work and usually leave both people feeling angry, I do believe that there’s a way to nudge him to end it while allowing him the knowledge that it was always his decision.  I will discuss this more below.

Why He Needs To Make Up His Own Mind About Ending The Affair: Before I go on and tell you how I’d go about nudging him in the right direction, I first want to stress how important it is that he believes that he has a choice.  If he feels forced or pressured to break it off, you run a real risk of him building her up in his own mind as the one who got away.  Not only that, but people tend to view forbidden things or things that are just outside of their reach as more valuable.

So there is a chance that if he thinks that you are keeping him from having what he wants, then he will want her even more and want you even less.  I hate to put it that bluntly but I want you to realize that if he feels forced, he might reluctantly stay, but his mind will be somewhere else and you will both feel this void.  That’s no way to rebuild your marriage.

Allowing Him The Choice But Nudging Him In The Direction You Want Him To Go:  As I said before, I don’t believe ultimatums work well.  However, there is nothing wrong with directly telling him how you feel and stressing what you are unwilling to tolerate.  So your response might be something like: “I’m disappointed that you won’t break it off, but I can’t control what you feel or do.  I can however control my own feelings and I can tell you that I can’t participate in our marriage when I know that you are breaking our vows.  I know you said that you would understand if I moved out but I don’t think it’s fair that I have to leave our home.  I will move out of the bedroom and stay in the spare room until you decide what you want to do.”

The idea is that you don’t give him the benefit of your marriage when he hasn’t committed to that same marriage.  And then you conduct yourself with dignity.  No insults.  Just disappointment.  It’s fine to let him know that you wish it were different.  It’s fine to express your anger.  But you don’t want to lay it on so thickly that he has to leave to avoid this.  Because if he does, you are almost giving her exactly what she’s been hoping for.

Know That Time Will Often Do The Work For You:  I know that it’s very hard to have faith in this,  but the odds are on your side.  A relationship that started with this kind of deception does not have much of a chance.  And now that the affair is out in the open, it might start to lose it’s excitement.  Often, while you are focusing on yourself and conducting yourself with dignity, she is starting to make more demands of him.  And suddenly that relationship that seemed so easy now has become so hard.

It’s usually at that time when he starts to realize that he may have made a a huge mistake.  Remember that you still get to make your own choices.  He may come back and tell you that now he’s decided to end it, but you get decide how you want to proceed when he does.

I didn’t give my own husband an ultimatum. But I did make it clear that I would not deal with him in any meaningful way until the affair was over and he was appropriately remorseful. If it helps, you can read more on my blog

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