How Much Time Should I Give My Spouse To End The Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: I can’t think of any time in my life where I was in as much pain as when my husband had an affair. I can’t imagine that it would get much worse than this, unless that same husband refused to end the affair. Unfortunately, I hear from many wives in this situation. They find out that their husband has been cheating and they assume that he will agree to end it and to pick up the pieces. When he doesn’t do this and insists that he “needs time” to end in the affair, then it is almost like rubbing salt into an extremely painful wound.

Comments that you might hear in this situation is something like: “I actually found out about my husband’s affair from his best friend. He has known my husband since they were children. But once my husband and I got married, this man became a close friend of mine as well. This man didn’t want to betray my husband, but he felt that he owed it to me to tell the truth. And, as much pain as I am in, I will always be grateful for that. My husband didn’t even attempt to deny the affair when I confronted him. He confirmed it and I asked him what we were going to do moving forward. He said that he wasn’t sure because he could not just abruptly break things off. I asked him why in the world he couldn’t just end the relationship at that very moment and he said that he ‘needed time’ because he had developed real feelings for the other woman. And that he said he ‘needs time’ to evaluate what he wants to do moving forward. Well, I don’t think that he deserves time. If he loved me and if this marriage was important to him, then he should be able to decide in an instant to end the affair. I am floored that he is refusing to do this. My question is how much time should I give him to end the affair? My instinct is telling me to give him a week, but my best friend said that I should not give him any time at all. She says that I should tell him to either pick me immediately or to leave and never come back. She said that if he really loves me, then he should be able to make that choice immediately. Who is right? How much time should I give him? It hurts me so much to know that he is going to be with her.”

Before I give you what is only my opinion, I have to say that I am not a therapist. This is probably a question best suited for a professional who has some knowledge of the couple. But as a woman who has been through this, I can share my opinion. If my opinion rings false for you or you don’t share my thinking, feel free to reject it.

With all of this said, it’s my experience and observation that ultimatums such as this never work quite right. Sure, you may get his attention momentarily and he may even agree to end the affair because he feels forced to do so. But it may not stick because he didn’t willingly make this decision himself. And he may resent you or be angry at you for forcing this. He may even tell you that he has ended it while he still sees or communicates with the other woman behind your back because he feels forced to do so.

None of these scenarios are ideal. So what can you do besides continuing to be in pain while you are waiting for him to take up his mind? Well, you can turn on the pressure in your own way. You can let him know that while he is making up his mind, you won’t be accessible to him, as he might expect a spouse to be. Because really, how can you participate in a marriage when there is someone else involved in it? You aren’t likely to make any true progress toward healing your marriage until she has left it. But, in order to get the best result, that decision should be his. And it is a decision that is best made by him and him alone.

So you might respond with something like: “I’m not sure why you would need time to decide to do what is right. I find this very disappointing and perhaps it gives me information about your commitment to our marriage. While you are making up your mind, I will be working on myself as an individual. I can’t fully participate in our marriage if I don’t know it’s outcome and if I doubt your commitment to it. So I can’t force you to make up your mind in any certain time frame. But what I can tell you is that while you are making up your mind, I won’t be actively participating in our marriage. I can’t put any faith in you if you won’t put that faith into our marriage, make a commitment to me, and do what is right. So let me know when you come to a decision. Until then, I’m going to be on my own working on myself.”

Of course, it goes without saying that this usually means no physical intimacy and affection. Because what incentive would he have to end the affair if he is getting what he wants from both women? However, if you limit his access to you while he is making this decision, then he will have much more motivation to end it because there is a consequence for him making a prompt decision.

So to answer the question posed, I think that I would try this approach before I gave an ultimatum or a time deadline. Because the best case scenario is for him to willingly decide to end the affair.

Ultimately, your own healing doesn’t need to be dependent upon his actions.  You can work on your own recovery at any time without waiting for him.  If it helps, you can read more of my story on my blog at

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