backing off after the affairDr. Robert Huizenga, in his book “Break Free From the Affair,” recommends victims  “back off”  from the cheating spouse after learning of an affair.   

We received an email recently asking me to clarify more about what exactly I did when “backing off” after the affair.  I can attest to the fact that it isn’t an easy thing to do, as your instincts tend to tell you to do the opposite.  But it does work.

I’ve edited the email from this person somewhat so as to not give away any sensitive information, but I think you will get the idea.


Hi Doug & Linda,

I was wondering if you can clarify some stuff for me. First, some background. My husband and I have been together for 7 years. Lately, everything in our life has changed.  My husband lost his full-time job and I quit my job because we planned on moving.  I found out I was pregnant, and we had to move into his parent’s house.

D-day for me was about 2 1/2 weeks ago. The affair has been going on for about a month now. My husband has a side job in the same town where she lives on the weekends, so he goes out of town to where she lives. I know he’s having contact with her because my friends have told me they have seen them making out in public.

He calls her or texts her every chance he gets. Even in front of me. He has told me that he is confused and doesn’t know what he wants right now. He says he will not choose right now. I have read the book “Break Free From the Affair” and found that in these last two weeks I have possibly made every mistake I could have to try to get him back!  I have also found out that his type of affair was because he “fell out of love.” I know that this was the type of affair you both went through. I know now that I have to “back off.”   My questions start with this method.

Linda, how exactly did you back off? Were you still intimate with Doug? Did you still show him affection? Did you still act as a regular wife to him, i.e. cook, kiss him, take care of him? Do I just shut him out and act like I’m not even with him? Did you stop calling or texting him when he was not home? These are my biggest questions because I know I’m not supposed to pressure him or anything like that, but I don’t know how I am supposed to act around him. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!!!

Thanks!

“Jenny”

 

My response to her…

Hi “Jenny,”

Backing off after the affair can be very difficult if you are trying to do everything possible to save your marriage.  Initially I tried to give Doug everything I believed he was missing from our marriage – companionship, dates, sex etc,.  and honestly I went overboard.

For me, backing off meant stop getting in his face and start working on me.  I was focusing so much on him, Tanya, and  the affair that I never really thought about what I needed in our marriage, the pain I was in and how I was going to handle this. Here are some suggestions:

1.  Let him know that you want to save your marriage, but you will not tolerate his affair.  You are going to be OK with or without him, and you will be doing what is best for you in the future.

2.  Stop bringing up the affair and the other woman.  As difficult as this is, try to refrain from getting into emotional conversations about the OW and his feelings about her and the affair.  I made a big mistake here, as my words reaffirmed what he was thinking.  At times I told him he should be with her and that they did belong together.  I was so stupid.

3.  Don’t throw books, articles and websites at him expecting him to read them so that he can become enlightened.  It will be a waste of time right now.

4.  Don’t be afraid to let him spend some time by himself.  I was so afraid to let Doug alone, thinking he would be contacting her.  If he wants to contact her, he will contact her.  You cannot stop him.  He needs some time to think about things.  I thought if I gave him time to think he would realize he didn’t want to be with me.  But I believe the emptiness around the house is good for them.  It gives them an opportunity to feel the pain and guilt.

5.  Begin doing things that you enjoy, slow down the pace, do something different from what you usually do.  Go outside and read a book.  Don’t try to constantly engage him in conversations.

6. Be his friend.  Ask him how he is doing.  Check on him occasionally but don’t call him all day long.

7.  I continued to be his wife, took care of him, showed him affection when he wanted it, etc. I just stopped being needy, clingy and began to show him that I was a confident woman that was moving on with her life after the affair.

I hope this helps,

Linda

Click here for more information about “Break Free From the Affair”


 

    27 replies to "7 Tips For Backing Off After the Affair"

    • Jennifer

      Jenny, this is exactly my thinking. And Linda is right. Remember that you are a confident, secure, important woman and do those things you used to do when you truly felt that way. After all, that is who your husband fell in love with. If you are ‘unavailable’, maybe he will ask to spend time with you. He needs to miss you. He needs to recognize what he would lose. Try not to get bogged down in the situation. Find things that make you happy that don’t pertain to love/relationships. It’s easier said than done, I know. Just keep trying.

      • Doug

        Jennifer. Good advice. Thanks for always lending a helping hand and listening ear to the other readers.

    • surprised

      I feel just like Jenny – not knowing how to carry out the backing off. Thanks, Linda, for the insight, especially #4. I feel like I need to monitor him but having him spend alone time is probably good. I know I’m refreshed from alone time. Sometimes #7 is hard for me when I’m so hurt by his actions that the last thing I want to do is show him affection. I think I’m going to have to get that book by Dr Huizenga.

      • Doug

        surprised, Do you communicate to him that his actions hurt you? If so, what is his response?

        • surprised

          (love the Halloween icons!)
          Yes, I do communicate to him probably too much. He just shakes his head, sighs, & acts like I’m not rational & then defends her &/or his actions saying it’s not personal anymore & she’s “still a good friend”. After reading the emails & txts from this past winter, she has crossed the “good friend” line & there is no going back. I try to ask him how he would feel if some man had said all those things to me & I wouldn’t break contact with him, how would he feel? But he just ignores me & keeps saying it’s not personal anymore, just a good friendship. (of course that’s a load of crap!)

          • Doug

            Thanks. I was getting bored of looking at the “mystery man” avatars.

            I agree with you–it’s a load of crap he’s shoveling.

    • Karen

      I’m sure this has been stated many times, but in reading the entries the last few days, I think it bears repeating. Even when you follow perfectly all the suggestions on this blog and others and positive change starts to occur in your spouse and/or you, it will not stay static. It’s like being on a rollercoaster – and a very scary one at that. My H was
      very repentant after I found out about his EA but has slipped many times since and I’m sure will again until he completely deals with his character issue that allowed him to rationalize his EA. When will that be?? Who knows? I so admire the spouses on this forum that are hanging in there while their spouses are continuing their affairs and backing off and allowing their spouses time – not sure I could do that. For how long should you do that before you demand a decision or a choice, either EA partner or spouse? It’s hard to decide when almost every single day brings different challenges and reactions that constantly play with your mind. Maybe some can roll with this scenario but not me – it makes me crazy at regular intervals. I’m using the positive thoughts methodology now, and it does work. I have communicated to my husband he has 3 years (my youngest will graduate from H.S. then) to figure himself out and rebuild our marriage – that has become my deadline. Some tell me I’ve just given him a license to “cheat” for 3 years. Maybe. But I am busy making changes in myself and how I react and communicate and take care of myself. One thing I am learning is this is a very long process of healing, yet we all go through similar emotions and experiences. While I just want it to over, I have to try to keep a positive mindset that all this “work” will be worth it.

      • Doug

        Karen, Great comment. The question is a good one about how long you should back off before giving an ultimatum, and I think it varies from case to case. I guess only you will know what is truly right for you.

    • Donna

      Like Jenny, I too have struggled with knowing how far do I back off from my husband. This is a great post and I have appreciated what has been written by all. I must say I have been guilty of talking about OW and my husbands feelings for her. Even tot he point of the other day (stupid me!) giving husband my blessing to go and see her if that is what he wants. He was shocked and said no, and I said I am just tired of all the sneaking around. An hour later I told him I take back my comment and I will fight for our marriage etc… I also told himt hat I am not interested in talking of DIVORCE as that is not the easy option. I told him that marriage is all about falling in and out of love with each othr many times through our life and that when we feel in the out of love stage, you just keep working at bringing back the spark and not throw the towel in so to speak.

      I will endeavour to not speakof OW and his feelings for her. Lastnight he was having a downer and was grumpy with the kids etc… I nearly went to him and said go and call OW, as I know that wil cheer you up. I didn’t of course as i will not give him permission to be with her at all.

      I have struggled withthe moments when he needs “me” time. He left home for 6 months and I think, heck.. how much more me time do you need. He is now home and we have made a room for him that he can call his own and have me time when he needs it. OW moved away a few hours and he is having more and more of thise me times of late. He still phones her and they txt all the time.

      He is now actually touching me, went 3 months where he couldn’t touch me. In the last 2 weeks, we have made love 7 or 8 times. That is massive for him, slightly confusing for me as he is apparently in love with OW and only loves me. I will take what ever as I feel that when we are intimate, these are bonding times for us and he is showing me that I do not repulse him.

      I am not clingy and I allow him his time. I have tuned into his moods and can tell if he wants to talk or not. Sometimes I really want to talk, however I sense he doesn’t so I just leave it until I sense a change in his mood.

      Amazingly when I should be a crazy mad woman, Iam feeling calm. My husbands affair will come to an end sooner or later. While I am playing the calm and collected wife, OW is on her own with her children getting mad and crazy that my husband will not leave and go to her, especiallyw hen he apparently loves her so much. Apparently she is his only true love and the only woman who he will truly ever love. This hurts so much, I find words the hardest thing to let go of and not affect me or our marriage. I am struggling with this one.

    • Scott M.

      I am 33 days past d-day and i have made every mistake listed so far on this blog. Clingy, needy, begging, cajoling, victim, spying, even went so far as to buy spy program for her computer(didnt actually put it on there, but she found out) you name, i have done it.

      She is totally closed off and silent to me. Unless it has something to do with the kids or a tv show I get nothing. She is addicted to one person in particular but there is a second.

      I have been able to get out of her that she feels un-appreciated and not special for many years. It goes back even further as the other night she admitted that her most important day, her wedding day, her reception was in “a basement”. Holy cow was I floored and saddened. She is dissapointed in me as a fatehr and dissapointed in me that I am not much different than her father, whi is detached and non apprecitive.

      She admits that she is responsible for us being where we are because of her inability to communicate her issues with me, and that she feels bad as she cant be complaining now.

      My part in this is that I have been distant from her and the kids, very self centered and focused on my job as I feel guilt in not being able to provide for my family. My career is asking questions and the last thing i want to do when i get home is ask more questions…..arrrrggghhhhh.

      So, I find out thru cell phone records she is talking secretly for 985 minutes in a single month to a guy 20 min down the road who she now goes to see face to face 3 times a week for over 3 hours at a time. we are just friends(hahahaha), we like each other company(hahahaha), we have reconnected. Oh and he is an old lover from high schoool.

      She has told me she doesnt know if she has the energy to want to save the relationship, that she has to work thru this by herself and that I need to giver her space. I am to focus on the kids and not her.

      The pain and discomfort on her face when she doesnt think I see is immeasurable. Her starring to space, her living this in this alternate world is purely heartbreaking for me as I have been told I can help.

      Our 21st annivesary is this month and I am planning a birthday party for her that I begun in July-out of town guests, old friends.

      I am stuck and so is she. How does this back off thing work again??

      Scott

    • Toni

      Scott,
      I’m going thru the same thing with my H. It’s been since July that he started talking to his ex gf from 20yrs ago but I found out in Aug. I did the same mistakes but in the middle of Sept I read the Break Free book and started backing off. We talked about the OW and our relationship; he said he’s giving me a chance to show him that this marriage will be different but he’s not leaving the OW till he starts to see it which is BS. Since the last talk he suggested ‘date night’ with no phones. And over the weekend (which he spends with her) he saw me leaving Fri night and knew I was going wine tasting on Sat (not something I would have done before) he texted me off and on the whole weekend. And Sun night he wanted me to actually sleep with him in his room. I didn’t. Not huge steps but I believe steps. Yesterday he wanted to spend the afternoon with him and we went to an apple orchard. Again small steps but he did leave to be with her last night. Believe me I know this is an uphill battle and for now I’m willing to climb it.
      This is what I’ve done. I don’t bring the OW up anymore. I started doing other activities that I’ve always wanted to do with out inviting him (which again I would have done). I act happy when he’s around even when I’m not. He doesn’t want to be home with me if I’m depressed. I try to have normal conversations with him when he doesn’t seem distant. This is a hard one because sometimes he’s not engaging or if he just talked to the OW he can get irritated quick and when I tell him he’s just trying to start an argument he usually apologizes so I try to pace his feelings unless it’s frustration then I’m still happy just quiet. I still take care of him and show him affection and we’ve never stopped being initimate, again something I don’t understand since he says he loves the OW then why still have sex with me? Maybe as a guy you can give me some insight on that one. Since I’ve done those above I think he’s made those small steps. Yes he still spends the weekend with OW and one/two nights a week after work but he’s more conscious of talking to her and when he texts her. But now I get winks and goodbye kisses. I act like she doesn’t exist when he’s home and it helps along with a glass of wine. What do I have to lose? He hasn’t filed for divorce or hasn’t moved out of the house and the OW has asked him to move in with her. OW by the way has no idea about us or the sex. I hope I sort of helped. I know how hard this is and how hurtful you are feeling. It has consumed my life.

    • Scott M.

      I hate this bullshit of “trying out for the team” mentallity. You cheated on me, you should be trying out for my team, not the other way around !!!!!! That is total bullshit. Lets try this, YOU will see it when YOU believe it.

      Holy Crap I just want to SCREAMMMMMMMMMMMMM

      We have had sex once since this moved to this new level. She couldnt look at me, and couldnt get it over with fast enough, then she had the nerve to say, “Well, we are still good at that” Fool me once.

      I noticed she stopped wearing her wedding ring. She took calls this past weekend from her two fellas with me in the next room as she talked. She called these “private” conversations. The guy from minnesota is goingthru couples counselling with his wife to try and save their marriage. I heard her say, “we just had that conversation the other day” to him. Like she is comaparing notes or something!! Wonder if he is supposed to be talking to her with him going thru therapy and all??? The tone in her voice when she answers those calls are so happy and excitied, HI!!! makes me want to puke.

      Guess I need to set some boundries for those calls, like please leave the house so I cant hear.

      These other guys, if they are her friends as she thinks they are, then why didnt they say, ” look, you are going thru some heavy shit, you need to go home and talk this out with your husband, not me. Dont call me, dont come over. I will be here as a friend, but you need to go home and work this out with him” thats what i expect a friend to say, but htese guys are egging her on, stringing her along and she is eating it up. She doesnt see, she is blinded. Blinded by rage, hatered, remourse, guilt, lostness, resentfullness, empitness???

      My goodness is she messed up.

    • Toni

      Scott,
      I too heard conversations between the two of them and he would text her when I was right next to him. I’ve since told him to do it somewhere else so now he sits in his truck and ‘goes to the bathroom’. The last few days the talking and texts have slowed down but I overheard him talking to her in the garage when he thought I was in the shower. And it doesn’t seem like anything has changed between them. I’m screaming with you! All of our friends have constantly told him he’s making a huge mistake and this is not how you handle it. When he introduced her to them they all ignored her and made her feel uncomfortable. I hate this but I still want to save my marriage. In starting to question why but for now I’ll keep fighting while he gets both of best worlds!

    • Jay

      If you have proof of an affair, throw them OUT! Or leave yourself. Demand it end and until it does your not coming back. Let them know that you want to work it out but the longer they take the more damage they are doing to the marriage and so you can’t make any promises. The sooner you do this the better! Do this with love but with firmness!

    • Alice

      Linda…..can I ask how long it was after you started to back off until Doug agreed to no contact with Tanya?

    • Kathy

      I feel torn about this issue because, on the one hand I don’t want to be clingy and needy, but on the other hand I feel like because I was so distant from him for so long that if I don’t show him now that I want to fix that part of our marriage, then we’re done. I don’t know how to back off and still show him I love him, especially in the physical dept.

      • Ash

        Please dont do anything. If he knows that you are available to him, he will not miss you. Infact, he will feel he has more power and will use you both to decide what he wants. He has to miss you, but he wont if you are there for him. Show him you are moving on.

        I made the mistake of being available to him. He left me when i had given birth to my second baby and was still breastfeeding. He told me he needed time to sort out his feelings and later I found out he was with another women. He would come back to test me, sometimes arguing for no reason. He wanted to see my emotions, whether negative or positive, as he would know I still cared. Do not show him anything.

        When he realised that emotionally I no longer needed him, he came back, getting tattoos of me etc, heeheehee.

        I also wanted to show him what he was missing but it really did not work for me and allowed him to get away with treating me like shit. If he knows that you know he has another women, how can he respect you if you are being needy.

        • Kathy

          Thank you Ash. Yes, since I posted on Jan 11 I tried and tried to fix everything I’d previously done wrong, and I’m fairly certain it didn’t work. In the last couple of days it feels like things have gone back to square one, and I am realizing that he was only responding to my overatures, but was making precious few of his own. Although he said things were over with the OW, I’m beginning to suspect they may not be at all. Frankly, right now I feel like I’d be better off without him if this is the way he’s going to behave. He is childish and throws temper tantrums when he gets angry (throwing/breaking things, etc.). The emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on for the last couple of weeks is too much.

          The problem with showing him nothing is that that’s what he accused me of doing for years; that was his excuse for the EA. That’s why I thought, if I just do all the things I should have been doing, everything will be okay. Well, it doesn’t seem that everything is okay. And like you, it seems like, in the last couple of days, he’s arguing for no reason, or blowing things all out of proportion.

          I really think he just wants out, that he’s wanted out for a while, and he just doesn’t know how to move on without tearing everything apart. I’m almost numb.

    • Ash

      If you make him feel guilty, you will never know the real reason for him coming back to you. Please, please, please show him what he is losing.

    • nony

      Awesome article! And much needed!

    • Kristine

      I agree about backing off. I had to LET GO and LET GOD. My husband moved out against every wish in my body, heart and soul. He had told me he ended the affair a couple of weeks prior and i kept looking for proof. When I found out that he hadn’t I demanded he do it NOW. He pushed back and said “this isn’t working”. NO SH*T Sherlock? How can it work with one foot in and one foot out?

      I kept pleading all the way up until the day he started moving stuff. I remember standing at the door to his office while he was packing stuff up and throwing stuff out like a kid getting his first apartment He looked SOOO freaking happy! I wanted to say “please don’t do this” but I knew I had to let him go. I knew he had to travel down that path to find out whatever it is he had to find out. So I said nothing, I even moved out of his way and brought a bag filled with his things to the car. Most painful thing I ever did watching him pack and leave. He was/ is a grown man though. I couldn’t stop him. I wasn’t his mom. I was his wife and he made a choice to leave. All I could do at that point was pray and pray mightily. Those prayers saw my husband do a 180 in 10 weeks. I didn’t beg my husband home, he saw what he needed to see and realized where he needed to be on his own. Guilting someone to stay won’t ever work. I wanted my husband to be home because he wanted to be home on his own.

      I will say this though, even though I knew my husband was in an affair, he was still MY husband, I was still his wife too. I flirted with him, complimented him. I figured if his “girlfriend” was doing those things I would do it too and do it better. I figured out if those were the things he was lacking from me, attention, compliments, me looking my best then that’s what I’d give him. I didn’t do it so much that it was creepy or needy but when the opportunity arose, I showed him what he had been craving. I even would text him little I love you type messages from time to time. Men have fragile ego’s. I wanted to also be the one to stroke my husband’s ego so he could see I was able to provide him the same feelings someone else was. Again it wasn’t overly done but when the opportunity was there I would. He was my husband and like my mom told me when he moved out “you don’t have to audition for the title of Mrs. you already have it!” HA!

    • Matt

      my w moved into the spare roomstating she needed space, 8 months. During which her affair started. My issue now it’s been over a year since it ended but i have done all the don’ts. Suggestions for a guy who went blind during all this? Yes blind. She thinks I’m don’t have any other options…

    • Matt

      We seem to be just roo mates with a child. In fact she needs me to keep her lifestyle. I am focusing on my child and a new business I’m starting.

    • CookieMomster

      This was a good article to repost as most of us can recognize, albeit maybe a bit late, the mistakes that we made immediately post D-Day and perhaps save some of our newer friends from doing the same. I initially hovered, called constantly (worried as all of us are that any of his time I didn’t consume would be spent contacting the OW), became clingy, always wanted to talk thing out, etc. As mentioned, if they want to contact the OW there is nothing you can do to prevent it and when I found out that was exactly what was going on I also learned (by confronting her) that he was saying…. (in his words) that I was making his life a “living hell”. This confused the heck out of me at the time because I thought that going overboard in showing him how much he had hurt me and how much I desperately wanted to save our marriage was the exact response he was looking for. I often wish I had handled things much differently at that time, if for nothing else but to save a little of my own dignity. We are a little more than 18 months post D-Day right now and doing quite well. I still think of the EA every day and have self-diagnosed myself with PTSD since I exhibit most all of the symptoms. Hubby is very happy and committed. The one thing that drives me most crazy, however, is his belief that the EA somehow awaked our marriage and when all was said and done was worth it for the changes it brought about in our relationship. I content that his being truthful with me about the things he ended up sharing with her (things I had no idea were bothering him) we could have experienced the same result with much less pain on my side of things. I know some people can, but I can never look back on my husband’s EA and say that “maybe it was a good thing”. Getting back to the original topic though, one of my biggest regrets is my own behavior in the first few months, but as we all know we cannot go back in time.

      • CookieMomster

        content=contend 😉

    • Sadsomuch

      I have made the same mistakes. Those first few weeks out, I couldn’t seem to hardly let him out of my sight. Then I realized that I was basically ignoring my children!! That slapped me back to reality fast. Then I started the “if she is the only way you will be happy, then go to her”. Stage three was then “if she is so f***ing wonderful, go get her big boy. If you think she is going to leave her husband for you , then you better get on out the door and start that wonderful life you dreamed of.” Stage 4 is now just what ever. I am trying to just live our life but noticed I brought her up again yesterday. I wonder why I am biting off my nose to spite my face?

    • mcb1

      I know this is a really old post. How does this 180 turnaround work when your husband no longer lives with you? He has moved back with his parents . They have gone away for two weeks today and I feel sick with the thought that he could spend that time with the OW. I try to keep super busy so I don’t overthink. I feel on edge and anxious. I only contact him by text to do with finances and haven’t let myself get hooked back into conversations. He left just over 3 weeks ago. I feel like I’m losing the plot at weekends, work keeps me busy during the week. and his parents have been around until today and he’s told them he’s staying away from her.

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