Jill: The day that firm, written, clear communication was sent to Mark’s affair partner was the day our marriage began to heal. From that point on trust began to be rebuilt.

Mark: In our work with couples healing from infidelity, we’re often asked about how to break off the affair. We usually provide a template for communication as well as some guidelines.

Today we want to share those guidelines and that letter template with you. If you don’t need this information, it’s possible at some point that you will know someone who will need it.

Guidelines for the letter and why these are important.

  1. Address them by name but do not start the letter with ‘Dear’, or end it with ‘Love’ or ‘Sincerely.” Those  can be interpreted by the affair partner as sending mixed messages. Simply use their name to open the letter and use your name to close the letter.
  2. Make it clear there’s no room for a future relationship. If you give false hope it is more unkind than being direct. Also any way that you leave the door open will hurt your marriage and your ability to heal.
  3. As tempting as it is, don’t add sympathies. Remember, he/she is a grown adult who willingly chose to get involved with a married person. Saying something empathetic or validating like “I know this hurts” only keeps the emotional connection alive. Even if those are true, they cannot be communicated as they risk sending a mixed message.
  4. It’s valuable to have your spouse take part in the composing of this letter being sent or at least for you to send it while your spouse is there with you. This is a valuable part of healing for both of you and your marriage. Doing this is a first step of trust.

Jill: Remember, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T DELIVER IT IN PERSON ALONE and DO NOT TALK TO THEM. Send it via email or mail–with your spouse present– but no personal interaction. This is very important because any “in person” contact will increase the temptation to soften the hurt they are experiencing. Remember that you didn’t cause the hurt solely. The choices he/she made also caused their own hurt. Don’t take on too much responsibility for their pain. Instead take full responsibility for the pain you have caused your spouse and any other people who were affected by your deception and decisions. When Mark included me in this process, it was an important step to put a stake in the ground to indicate that we were moving forward.

Sample Letter

(Your Affair Partners Name):

What we did was wrong, and although I can’t change the past, I can change the future. So, out of love and respect for my wife, my kids, and my marriage, I am ending this relationship with you immediately.

There will be no further communication with you of any kind as I seek to restore myself and my family from the devastating results of this affair. I know this is abrupt but I am making a decision that I should have made a long time ago. We both used poor judgement and I’m sorry about my part of that poor judgment.

I love my family and my God and need to diligently work on restoring trust in my marriage and allowing God to lead my life.

I will no longer do anything to put either of those in jeopardy anymore. I will not be contacting you any further, or in any way. 

I ask you to please respect my decision to end this relationship and do not try to pursue contact with me in the future, as I will show my husband/wife any communication you might try to resume. 

(Your name here)

What to Do with the Temptation After the Break-up

Mark: The affair partner may reach out to you. DO NOT RESPOND. If that happens, loop your spouse in immediately. Don’t withhold that information because the betrayed spouse will see this as further deception. It a part of rebuilding trust even if you fear it will hurt your spouse more. Full honesty must be your new pattern.

Jill: It’s very likely you will feel bad about the pain you are causing and be tempted to reach out to see how the other person is doing. You might also be tempted to reach out on holidays, birthdays, or other significant dates you are aware of. YOU CANNOT REACH OUT FOR ANY REASON AT ALL. 

Mark: This is where you use prayer. The affair partner does not need you–they need Jesus. If you’re worried about them or thinking of them, pray for him/her and place your thoughts and concerns in God’s capable hands. You reaching out is not thoughtful. It is painful. You praying for them is the kindest gesture you can offer. Don’t communicate that you are praying for them…simply pray and trust God. Then put your thoughts, your actions, and your focus on your marriage and your spouse.

Jill: Infidelity doesn’t have to end a marriage but the affair must fully end for a marriage to experience restoration. This letter was sent to Mark’s affair partner twelve years ago and we are now not only fully healed but we’re helping other couples create a 2.0 marriage just like we did.

We have a lot of other affair recovery resources. You can find them on our website here.