When you’re the Other Woman in an affair, it’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows. At some point, you will become sick of the situation and will want to break off the affair. Breaking up is generally hard to do even when we really want to and know that it’s the right thing.

Affairs can be extra tough to walk away due to fear that you haven’t been understanding and patient ‘enough’. To be clear, you have. There’s also that all-pervasive fear that you’re going to break up with Mr Married/Attached at precisely that moment when he was actually going to leave his wife/girlfriend. There’s the sense of rejection, loss, and even abandonment that can be activated by an affair. It can feel like an exorcism that brings up every ugly thought and issue that you may have been unaware was rumbling around inside you.

Many BR readers have been or are in an affair situation. They often wonder, How the hell do I put an end to this affair and move on? I hope that these fifteen tips can help to put any woman who is in this situation on the road to feeling happier, secure, and free to move on to healthier relationships.

Before you go down the break-up route, do have an honest conversation with you and ask:

Is this a half-hearted cry for attention from him that I hope will force his hand into making the decision to be with me?

If yes, halt. This is how you lose credibility and open you up to more pain. He’ll just think that you’re crying wolf and it will only be a matter of time until you’re back in the affair hot seat. Be honest with you about what you’re trying to achieve. If this is about attempting to influence or even force him into making a decision or at the very least, game-playing, re-evaluate your motives. Consider the bigger picture and whether this is how you want to spend your time because it’s a slippery slope to losing your dignity and no one is worth that.

If you’re serious, here are some suggestions for making an exit that focuses on self-care.

1. Be firm and strong.

Be resolute about your decision and immovable. If you really do want to break up and you’re sick of the situation, he shouldn’t be able to wheedle his way around you. One of the strengths that he’s employed up until this point in the affair is talking you into (and out of) certain things. This time he can’t. This time he won’t.

2. Make it about YOU, not HIM.

If you put the focus of the breakup on him, he can make excuses that he means at the time but probably don’t hold up after the event. Promises will be made that are highly unlikely to be kept once you’ve calmed down. Yes, you are breaking up because he can’t give you what you need, want and deserve, however, you’re also breaking up with him because YOU are better than this. You are not that woman anymore.

3. Remind yourself that he is throwing you the crumbs of his time and his emotions.

Yes, you may be conditioned to think that the crumbs are enough for you, but the reality is that a healthy relationship with a man that is only with you and puts you at the centre of his life, feels far different to the flimsy ‘relationship’ that you’re in now. That and whatever you’re prepared to settle for is what you’re going to get. You always deserve more than crumbs.

I am not that woman who will live in the shadows while you figure out if you're going to leave her to be with me. by Natalie Lue about breaking up and getting over a married/attached man

4. Think of the woman he’s with.

You might view his wife (or girlfriend) as the person who’s robbing you of the opportunity to be with ‘your’ guy. In reality, she’s a human being with feelings, strengths and weaknesses just like you. Put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself how you would feel if you were her in the same situation. Whatever story he’s told you about why he’s with both of you, the cold hard truth is that he’s chosen not to leave because having the best of both worlds is what he chooses (and wants). There’s also no such thing as an honest cheat. He chooses dishonesty. When you stop seeing her as this inconvenient, pesky obstacle, you will be able to feel compassion and also have self-compassion. Blaming her for his infidelity and blaming you for why he hasn’t left ignores the bigger picture of the real issues.

5. Is this how you saw a healthy, happy relationship? Do you still want to be doing this in 3, 6, 9, 12 months or even in years?

I know that I never saw myself as a sideline woman, no matter how low my self-esteem was. Think very hard about whether you want to continue living on the fringes and in the shadows of his life? Can you keep living with lies? Could you do what you’ve already done, forever? This is the perfect time to think about your short-, medium- and long-term goals, as well as your values. Is this affair taking you towards your needs, expectations, and wishes or in the opposite direction?

6. Think of all the times you’ve had to take a back seat.

Remember that occasions like birthdays, Christmas, New Years won’t have to be spent waiting for his call or snatching a moment together.

7. Go cold turkey.

If you can afford it, go away for a few days or a week for a bit of r&r or go and stay with friends and family. Turn off your phone and let loved ones know where you are so that they (and you) don’t worry. There should be absolutely no contact with your ex.

You are better than whatever you've been prepared to settle for quote by Natalie Lue, Baggage Reclaim

8. Stop being where he expects you to be and break whatever routine you have.

Stop being where he expects you to be. When I speak to ‘other women’, whether they realise it or not, they are almost always in a tight routine. After all, keeping things in this way is how he stops himself from getting caught out. It’s also how he fits you into his schedule. You must break the routine. Stop being in his rotation. Let your phone go straight to voicemail or screen. Be out when he calls. Instead of being in watching TV with your feet up waiting for his call, be out. Be busy. If you think you’ll be tempted to be swayed, change your mobile phone or block his email address. Find out more about No Contact.

9. Tell somebody that you trust.

You’d be surprised at how many women act in secrecy. This plays even further into the affair partner’s hands because it’s incredibly isolating. You are at the mercy of whatever he is telling you. Affairs and in fact, all dubious relationships rely on an element of shame and secrecy, and this compounds your dilemma. You’d be surprised though – lots of people have been in your situation. There is someone in your life who can and will be empathetic and support you with your exit.

A confidante gives you a sanity check but also gives you a rock of support.

Choose someone you trust and who can be supportive but tell you that it’s time to quit. Failing that, share with a professional or even that coworker who has gently taken an interest in you or expressed concern. The latter is how many readers have exited not just from affairs but also from abusive relationships.

10. Don’t date until you’re ready.

This protects you from knee-jerking into another situation that you may not recognise as being unsuitable and unavailable due to craving some sort of emotional replacement.

There’s no progress in ditching a married man for another emotionally unavailable man.

There’s also no point in dating if it’s a way of passing time in the hope of filling in the gap until the married guy potentially becomes available. The only time you should date is when you are genuinely ready to move on and Mr Married/Attached doesn’t figure any longer.

11. Remember that you need time to grieve and heal.

There is no quick fix and the right decision doesn’t always feel good initially. Grieving is a process, and it takes time. Weather the storm, cold turkey it out and let out the tears and frustration but don’t give in. Your ‘relationship’ is over.

12. Seek professional support.

If you’ve been in relationships that have a habit of wearing down your self-esteem and you want to understand your relationship patterns or feel you need extra help to get you through this time, this is an excellent way of giving you support. Exploring the reasons that contributed to your desire to be in this relationship will also ensure that you ‘re able to gain a fresh perspective, heal and move forward. Also, check out the Unsent Letter Guide in the downloads section – it will help you to explore your feelings and address current and old anger that may be affecting your decision to be in the affair or keeping you stuck in it.

13. Address any areas of your life that were neglected during the affair.

No matter what you think, something or someone, or both, suffered while you focused your energies on the affair. If you let work slide or put off career decisions, prioritise whatever it is, now. Neglected friends or family? Build bridges. If you’ve ignored yourself, spend time on you. You have to put the focus back to you if you are truly intent on succeeding. It’s because it’s been all about him why you lasted so long with him in the first place.

14. Remember how you REALLY felt when you were with him.

Yes, I’m sure there were happy times, but you need to consider the relationship in its totality. Look through your diary. Play your mental tape of the relationship. There were probably a lot of times when you were lonely, disappointed, insecure, sidelined, teary, clingy, frustrated, angry, too dependent, listless and much more. Put both feet in reality and get real about who you have really been. If you were that happy, you wouldn’t be reading this, and it wouldn’t have been an affair. Try keeping a Feelings Diary. Keep a note of all of the reasons why you’ve broken up and the disappointments. Refer to this list when tempted to revisit the affair.

15. Know that you’re not alone.

It can be a shock to discover that your situation isn’t unique. It’s not about you not being ‘good enough’ why they haven’t left their spouse/partner. You have always been enough. You don’t have to settle for crumbs, and yes, while it will be hard to call time on this affair, by saying goodbye to fear, delay and guilt, you’re are taking steps to being available for the right relationship for you.

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The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.

Ready to reclaim yourself from the cycle of people pleasing and any patterns that reinforce feelings of low self-worth? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.

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