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3 Reasons Why Ending an Affair Feels SO Hard

Affairs are complicated and often difficult for one to define and explain.  Perhaps the best way to conceptualize an affair is by likening it to a hand grenade. 

Grenades are sleek vessels that carry chemical components and explode the moment that the vessel breaks, thus releasing the explosives from within.  A marriage or committed relationship can be thought of as the vessel, while an affair can be compared to the chemicals that lie in wait within. 

Ending an affair can be extremely difficult whether the vessel is still intact or whether it has already exploded. 

Furthermore, if the vessel is still intact, ending an affair can sometimes feel as if you are detonating and sacrificing yourself.  You may destroy some emotional burden in the explosion, but add doubts and regret in the process.

Why is ending an affair so hard?  Wouldn’t ending it solve the problem and provide some much-needed relief?  Perhaps these questions seem straightforward, but are in fact much more complicated. Ending an affair might alleviate part of the problem, but can add other problems in the process.  

Read on to learn why ending an affair is not as simple as one would think.

Reason #1: You’re Not 100% Sure That You Are Doing the Right Thing

Doubts and uncertainty are two critical components that can lead to an affair.  Coincidentally, they are also elements present when trying to end one. 

An individual may be unsure if leaving an affair is what they truly desire and may question if their ultimate happiness really does lie with their partner.  Individuals may fear that ending an affair will do irrevocable harm to their lover, or even to themselves. 

There is also the chance that ending an affair can be futile, as the relationship may fall apart anyway.  This uncertainty can lead one to question whether they will end up alone. 

Being alone can be a scary prospect and an affair may provide one with a sense of security and two options to fall back on.  In turn, ending an affair leaves the person with only one, less desirable option.   

Doubts and uncertainty in this process are normal and to be expected.  There are no guarantees in life and choices must be made with the resources that we have on hand. 

One certainty is that ending an affair will allow an individual to shift their focus and attention back to their partner and their relationship. 

Whether the couple chooses to work on the relationship or go separate ways, they will at least get a true opportunity to figure it out.  This shift in focus will allow an individual to explore what originally drew them to their partner in the first place, in addition to what pulled them apart. 

Another certainty is that individuals must always owe it to themselves and to their partners to see if there is anything there worth saving. 

Reason #2: You Feel Loss

Affairs typically begin when one has lost their way in life.  A person may feel like they have lost themselves in the relationship, lost themselves to their partner, or may feel lost within themselves.

Feeling lost can lead wayward wanderers to actively seek answers elsewhere, or may result in being receptive should the answers find them first. 

Regardless of individual circumstances, an affair tends to fill a void that is created when one feels lost.  A void may result from lack of emotional intimacy, loss of meaningful communication, diminished sexual desire, or lack of attention. 

Affairs have a way of temporarily filling a void, or making one forget about it all together.  Thus, ending an affair can force an individual to face a void and determine how it got there. 

Additionally, ending an affair can make a void feel compounded in that one is also losing their lover and the pleasant distraction that they provided.

Despite the losses that can result from ending an affair, there are also some significant gains to be considered. 

Individuals can obtain an opportunity to address what caused negative feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness in the first place. 

They have a chance to figure out how and where they got lost in the first place, along with how to steady themselves on their desired path. Finally, a person can acquire a chance at fulfillment that may come from themselves, from their partners, or from some place unexpected.  

Reason #3: The Excitement and Adventure Ends

Over time, committed and long-term relationships may become predictable and boring, which may just be the impetus for one to seek an affair in the first place. 

Although an affair can bring confusion and doubt, it also undoubtedly brings adventure and excitement. 

Exhilaration may result from the flirtation, attention, and butterflies that a new relationship brings, or can result from the adrenaline created when one does something forbidden

The euphoria and chemical changes can make a person feel confident, attractive, and alive again, creating a stark contrast with how they felt before.

Ending an affair signifies the end of fun escapades and the exhilaration that goes along with it. The loss of excitement and adventure may return a person to a state of boredom, depression, and despair.

Although ending an affair does mark the end of a forbidden adventure, it also provides a person with a chance to start a brand-new adventure with their partner. 

If partners choose to mend their relationship and initiate new beginnings, excitement is likely to follow.  Furthermore, if partners end up parting ways, their next adventure could be waiting right around the corner. 

Wrapping Up

Relationships are fragile and adding an affair to the mix can cause an already troubled relationship to become even more vulnerable. 

An affair can be compared to the explosive agent in a hand grenade, hidden quietly within the vessel of a relationship, with the propensity to detonate as soon as the vessel cracks. 

Going through life holding a live hand grenade is dangerous, risky, and stressful.  However, one always has the power to disarm it at any time by ending an affair. 

Although ending an affair can be difficult, it will provide a chance for a person to work on themselves and on their relationship without disruption or distraction. 

This will provide more control and eliminate the constant fear that the hand grenade will detonate and implode their life without warning.

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Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS

Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS is a Licensed Professional Counselor in New Jersey, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance writer. Tracy has fourteen years of clinical and supervisory experience in a variety of mental health settings and levels of care.

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