One of the authors that I have followed is Willard E. Harley Jr. Ph.D., author of several different books including “His Needs Her Needs” (which you can find in “The Library” on our blog).  He has a fairly straight forward 2-step approach to surviving an affair.  Step 1: Never have contact with the affair partner again, and work to create conditions that make it impossible for them to be in contact.  Step 2: Create a romantic relationship with your spouse so that he/she won’t be so tempted to have an affair in the future.

Dr. Harley takes a fairly hard line and counsels victims of affairs to take definite action, and particularly urges wives to be independent and be willing to separate from their husbands temporarily until the matter can be resolved together.  Basically the betrayed spouse needs to make it clear that they are not going to put up with the affair.

What serves as a roadblock to this is that often times the spouse in the affair is reluctant to give up their lover.  Harley dictates that the spouse MUST stop making any contact and never see or talk to their lover again. He even goes so far as to say that they might have to leave the state that they live in, if that is what it is going to take.  This complete disconnect helps the spouse break from their addiction.

All contact with the affair partner must end

Should the spouse be unwilling to break all contact, the betrayed spouse must prepare for the possibility of a lengthy separation.  Harley recommends this primarily for the protection of the betrayed spouse’s emotions and  it also allows the spouse to withhold the fulfillment of needs that he/she performed before the affair.  This goes back to the point that an affair partner meets just one or two of the important emotional needs, while the spouse meets two or three.  What then happens is that the spouse in the affair realizes that the affair partner cannot meet the needs that his/her spouse had met, and often results in the cheating spouse letting go of his affair partner all together.

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When the married couple decides to reconcile and the cheating spouse agrees to avoid contact with the affair partner, it is now time for the betrayed spouse to learn how to meet the needs that were previously being met by the affair partner.  He/she needs to become more available sexually and needs to start joining their spouse in his/her favorite activities.  It is usually the case that the lover simply cannot take the place of the spouse, but the spouse can take the place of the lover.

Does the love ever die?

Dr. Harley states that there lies the possibility that the love for the affair partner may never completely die and he/she could remain vulnerable to the affair partner, and therefore should never see that person again.

I must admit that this last caveat makes me feel concerned for the future should Doug ever feel that his needs are not being met.   I constantly wonder if he eventually will decide to stray again and reestablish contact with Tanya. At the same time though, I’ve come to realize that a successful marriage is hard work, we’re in it for the long haul and we’re doing what we need to do to meet each others needs.  I can’t worry about the future, but only the present and what I can control.  It just really sucks that surviving an affair is even something I have to be concerned with in the first place!

    8 replies to "Surviving an Affair: A Two Step Approach"

    • michael

      I think that this hard approach might have worked better for me and to my advantage. If she would have left when she said she wanted to she would have had no support. The other man is married and from the looks of it not in a big hurry to leave his wife. So she would have had no support from him. And maybe it would have died on its own. But….. Any number of things could have gone wrong or been worse. I chose to stand by my wife and try to protect her from this cheating man and his intentions. To protect my family from harm. And help her through the problems that we have in our marriage. Our problems weren’t all my fault or hers. Just a combination of both of us. And I’m sure he helped her see all the things that I wasn’t doing for her. And how he was so much better. How his relationship problems had nothing to do with him. You think on his third marriage he could have found a much better wife to take care of him (Heavy sarcasm). Was she really thinking about being his fourth true love of his life. All those other women were just stop gaps while he waited for her to come back to him. Maybe that is what she thought. So if I had taken this hard approach she may have landed in his arms and done much worse than she did. Than I would be dealing with her coming back to me after he got what he wanted and gave her up, after she had demands of him he wasn’t ready to do for her. Like pay the bills. Take out the trash. Clean the garage. Don’t go to the bar, the kids need help with homework. Everyday things that a man and wife have to do. Not just date and flirt…… Just my thoughts on the hard line approach. I’m not saying its not the right thing for everyone. Just not for me. I love my wife. I need my family. I won’t let anyone do harm to that.

    • Carla

      Michael, I totally understand how you feel because my daughter in law (married only 18 months) was/is involved with an ex-boyfriend of hers for the past few months. He is 20 years older than her and has a very checkered relationship/marital history. How right you are about the dating and flirting – pure fantasy when compared to everyday life of work, bill-paying, domestic chores etc etc. It’s Ok to meet up in 5 star hotels and have wonderful food, but what about over the kitchen sink at 7.00 a.m. in the morning.

      I think Facebook and other so-called social networking sites have a lot to answer for, and people start out on a slippery slope when they start to look up ex’s.
      Like you, my son is a loving, caring, sensitive guy (his mother in law adores him and would go ballistic if she knew what her daughter had been doing), and yet his wife has lied and cheated her way through the past few months, even writing in a diary that she wants to marry her ex-boyfriend.
      It was my sons birthday at the weekend and I saw the card his wife sent him. She either IS still in love with him in her own weird way, or she is the world’s biggest hypocrite. I cant make up my mind. She writes…’To my darling, gorgeous husband, I love you more each day.’ When I saw it, I wanted to rip it up and throw it away. My son is taking a watch and wait approach. He is certainly over the initial shock of finding out and I think he is gaining strength every day. Fortunately, they don’t have kids. I wish you well, Michael.

    • michael

      Carla… I can understand your feelings on the card. You can’t truly know what was in her head when she wrote it. But I do see it as a good sign. When my wife and I were having problems we weren’t talking much about our needs. And while she was just starting to talk to her ex our anniversary came up and she left me a card on the counter that I didn’t find until I got home that day. There wasn’t much that was hand written from her just a card. I felt ashamed for not doing anything for our anniversary so we didn’t talk about it. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made during her affair. I’m sure this fueled his working on making me out to be a bad husband. All the while he was cheating on his wife. Or at least hiding what he was doing. And so was she. So you can kinda understand my disconnect at the time. I decided for this year I was going to do something every month on the day of our anniversary. If this is working I’m not quite sure because we are on our 4th month of this year and she has given me nothing on the days that I have given something to her. She does thank me with hugs and kisses but its not as big of a deal to her as it is to me. When christmas came along I wanted to get her something nice and told her I was getting a present for her. When I asked her is she got anything for me I think she just found a book at the store she was at and wrapped it for me. Than on christmas I had given her the present and card that I made myself with loving words and towards the end of the day she said oh that’s your present over there. No card. When valentines day came around we never said we went going to get anything for each other so I spent some time and money on her and got nothing in return. Than came my birthday I woke up to two very nice cards. One from the kids and one from her. The words that she wrote brought me to tears. Not so much as to what she wrote but that she did write something nice. So as much as you may distrust what she says in her card, the fact that she took the time says a lot to me. If she had no feeling for him it wouldn’t have even been there. I’m sure it meant a lot to him. Trust in his heart to do what’s right for him.

    • Sue Peacock

      What if the affair partner suddenly starts attending a yoga class that my husband and I are going to? I don’t want to stop going to my yoga class, but it has made a real mess of my recovery. Any suggestions?

      • Doug

        Sue, Are there other yoga classes in your town that you can attend instead?

    • Sue

      It’s a place where we have a membership, and I guess I’m just afraid that him seeing her is going to start up the whole thing again, to be honest. I know that if it starts again, it wasn’t because of yoga class – but you know how these things go. We were just starting to get back on track and now I have to have it all rubbed in my face. One of those things that I have to rise above.

      • Hurt

        Can you confront this woman, or better yet, make your husband do it right in front of you? You don’t have to be nasty, but you and your husband could approach her and he could tell her that it makes you both very uncomfortable for her to attend the same class as you both, and for her to please respect that you were there first and to find another class for everyone’s benefit… She may not respond but at least if your husband says this to her in your presence then you have a bonding thing with him, and she knows that he is with you and would make seeing her at the class easier – as long as you have no further conversations with the woman. I know that no matter what it is unbelievably hard for YOU, but he should do this for you as a minimum as he is the one who decided to hurt you. You can’t give up your life because of what HE and SHE did!! You have every right to be there!! Be strong and good luck!!

    • Angela


      Put their ass on the street immediately. Resist falling into pain paralysis. The more pain you allow to go on, the more paralyzed you are.

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