How To End An Affair

Seeing someone who’s already taken? You know it’s best to get out… but how? Heed this advice to move on and find someone who can love you back.

By Sari Locker, Ph.D.

he lust. The passion. The thrill of the forbidden. Like it or not, having an affair with someone who’s already taken can be a rush. But all too soon, the unanswered phone calls, lonely holidays, and pangs of guilt take their toll. What can you do to stop? If you ever find yourself becoming the “other woman” or “other man,” here are some tips that I, a sexologist and author, know can help you get out—and get over it.

Figure out why you’re in the affair
“I did it again,” sighs Rachel, 27, a lawyer from Washington D.C.
“Some days I feel like an addict, and I want to do anything to see him.”
The man in question works at her office—and is not at all single. Their affair started when they shared late-night drinks at a conference out of town. Now, a few lunch hours a week, they sneak off to her place for illicit midday romps. But he still spends every night with his live-in girlfriend. Rachel never imagined that she’d be the other woman. Now she is, and she’s even willing to put up with everything from getting shushed so he can talk on the phone to his girlfriend to spending Valentine’s night alone—all for those few lunch hours of fun. The first step to ending her affair is for her to figure out why she stays in it. “The sex is good, but that can’t be it,” she told me. I recommended that she see a therapist to help her figure out her predicament, and sure enough, the light bulb went off. With the help of her therapist, she found the meaning behind her affair: “I had been so hurt when my ex left me for another woman. I think that I started this affair in order to show myself that I could steal a guy away from a woman!” she admits. “I feel more ready to stop it now, because I understand that this is about my issues with getting hurt by my ex.”

Realize that you deserve better
Therapy can help you learn to move on, but some people reach this realization on their own. Bob, a 39-year-old teacher living in New York City, for one, hated being single. When he met a new woman and she agreed to a dinner date, he thought that his days of bachelorhood were over. She lived up to his expectations in every way but one: She was married. After two months of being told he was the best but being treated as second best, he realized that he’d be better off alone than with her. How did he get to that point? “Simple,” he says, “she stood me up one night, in a restaurant. After an hour of waiting, I ate alone, and the whole time wondered how I could have been so gullible. I wanted a woman to fall in love with me, not someone who treated me like she only loved me when it was convenient to her.”

Find new friends and activities to fill the time
Rachel is just starting to try to end her affair. For her, what’s most important is
Get out there and date—it’ll prove you’ve got plenty of options other than someone who’s taken.
changing her habits to keep her away from her taken man. “I force myself to make lunch plans with women from work, or I schedule meetings that run through lunch,” she explains. “If I can avoid him from twelve to two, then I know I won’t have the chance to sleep with him that day.” But for Rachel, every day is a struggle. “Some days I feel like an addict, and I would do anything to see him,” she says. “That’s when I have to call a friend to yell some sense into me.” Do what it takes, and you can break the habit.

Get out there and date!
When Mike, 27, a writer from Philadelphia, broke up with his girlfriend, it wasn’t really his choice. As he explains, “She said she needed space, and I had no choice.” Her “space” didn’t last long, and she got a new boyfriend right away. Mike missed her daily, and when they ran into each other at their favorite deli, he didn’t waste anytime getting her to go back to his place. “We started sleeping together again,” he says. “It was just like old times, with only one difference: Now she was cheating on her new boyfriend.” Mike doesn’t think she’ll dump the new guy for him, so what can he do? Well, for one, he needs to find new people to date to show him she’s not his only option. By getting active on the dating scene, he’ll simultaneously be filling his time (so he’ll have less time to be tempted by his taken ex-girlfriend), and he’ll be trying to meet someone new and single to fully move forward with his life.

Learn what to do in the future
The best way to end an affair is to never start it in the first place. If someone says he or she is already involved, you need to walk away and not let yourself be enticed. Many single people, particularly those who have been burned by being a “mistress” or “mister” before, find it simple to steer clear. Now over an affair, Janet, a 32-year-old actress in Los Angeles, offered some insight into what to do to make sure an affair never happens again. “It’s a three-part test,” she says. “First, I check for a ring. Second, I ask him a dozen questions to make sure he’s single. Third, I go to his place to make sure he lives alone.” If everything checks out, only then does she get involved.

Sari Locker, Ph.D., is a sex educator, TV personality, and author of the bestseller, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex. She has an M.S. in sex education and Ph.D. in psychology, and was the host of Late Date with Sari on Lifetime Television. Her website is
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