How Does A Married Man Feel After You Break Off The Affair?

I sometimes hear from people who knew that it was right to end the affair that they were having.  Most will announce that they are ending things and then they will cut off all contact.  This just seems to be the best way to go about it because it leaves no room for confusion and it minimizes that temptation to go back on the decision. However, abruptly cutting off the affair and then having no contact later means that you can’t know how the other person is doing and what they are feeling.  This can sometimes be painful.

As an example, someone might have a conversation like this one, “after a four month relationship, I decided to break the affair off.  It broke my heart to do so, actually.  The other man was married and had small children.  He did not lie to me and tell me that we’d be together one day.  He never made that claim.  But I started to hope for it.  And I knew that I would have a hard time living with myself if I tried to separate a man from his family.  I’m not making the assumption that he would have left them for me, but I wanted to end things before it even got to that point.  I like to think that we had a pretty good relationship.  He always said that I made him laugh and that being with me made him forget his problems.  He said that I was great stress reduction.  When I broke it off, he tried to talk me out of it.  So I wonder how he is feeling now, but I promised myself and him that I would not contact him.  I am going to stick to that, but how do most married men feel when the other woman breaks it off?”

Some of them are disappointed.  It’s like any other relationship that ends.  It can sting, especially at first.  But, statistics show us that over fifty percent of marriages that deal with an affair survive.  I do not know if the man is going to tell his wife about an affair and pursue counseling, but statistics show that couples who are open and talk about the affair have around an 85 percent success rate of staying together.  (Of course, it’s not always easy to be so open about this for a sustained period of time.)  My point with all of the statistics is this: the chances are good that the other man will maintain his marriage and his family.  In fact, if you hadn’t broken it off, statistics show that it would have eventually ended anyway.  I know that relationships are more than just numbers, but statistics show that most affairs don’t even last for a month.  And very few last for more than a couple of years.  Even fewer become permanent.  I’m not saying this to hurt your feelings.  And I commend you for doing the right thing.  What I am saying is that the outcome of the affair was probably going to be the same whether you broke it off or not.  The husband might be sad or upset that you were the one who ended it.  But if he goes to counseling (and hopefully he will) then it will likely become obvious to him that affairs so rarely work and are almost never healthy.

So while he may initially feel negative feelings as he processes what is happening and attempts to pick up the pieces of his life, he may eventually come to appreciate what you did and be relieved that more damage wasn’t done by just prolonging the inevitable.  There can certainly be some ego and hurt feelings involved when you feel that you didn’t have a choice in the relationship ending, but once that passes, most people realize that it wasn’t healthy and needed to end.

How long it takes this hindsight to set in depends on many things, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a man who had an affair comment five years later and say, “man, ending that affair was the worst decision.  I really wish that I had continued on and kept risking my family. I wish that I had kept being dishonest and kept doing what we both knew was wrong.”  Instead, most people will tell you that at the time, they were caught up in the affair and couldn’t see how wrong they were.  Once they have the time and distance to wake up, they realize that they made a huge mistake and they often see that they are better off out of it.

I suspect that you already know this because you made the choice to end the affair before any more damage could be done.  You probably realized that you deserved more than being someone’s secret.  The other man’s family deserved more also.  The husband may or may not feel sorrow.  We can’t really know.  But statistics tell us that, if he’s like the majority of people, he will save his family and stay with his marriage.  If he gets counseling or works with his spouse, he is more likely to be happy with his marriage.  People DO recover from affairs every day (you can read about my recovery here:   I know that you’re worried that breaking it off is going to be detrimental for him, but the statistics just don’t bear this out.  So I think that you can feel good that you were the one who took the initiative and did the right thing.

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