End the Affair Strategies and the Backfire Effect

Discovering an affair in your relationship is a shock and often the first response is one of panic.

An affair shows you how tenuous the structure in your life really is: security, finances, home, companionship, shared stresses etc. Your panic bubbles up to the surface almost immediately, and your reaction is to scramble to try to right the overturned cart.

Common Reactionary Behaviors

Of course you will be upset and devastated about this revelation about the affair, and you may find it incredibly difficult to accept this new reality in your life. Your immediate behaviors are heartfelt expressions of the upset that you feel, and you’re probably not thinking of much other than sorting this mess out and making sure that your relationship survives this horrible assault.

Be honest - how many of these have you found yourself doing?:

  • Following your cheater around, trying to ‘talk’ about your relationship
  • Printing information about affairs from the internet for your cheater to read
  • Reminding your cheater of their marriage vows to you
  • Crying and being distraught in front of your cheater
  • Reading bible passages to them (or even posting them your Facebook page) that denounce adultery
  • Arranging for couples’ therapy even though the affair is ongoing
  • Leaving out photographs or sentimental mementos of your life together for them
  • Telling your cheater you love them
  • Threatening divorce if they don’t stop the affair, when you really want to reconcile
  • Arranging dates with your cheater

If you are truthful, you probably did at least two or three of the things on this list.

You probably believed that your behaviors in the immediate aftermath of discovery were nothing more than a natural emotional reaction, or sensible and productive ways to get your cheater to stop their affair and recommit to your relationship. Think again.

The ‘End the Affair’ Strategy Fail

Buried in these behaviors is really a need to control and an attempt to regain it. When your circumstances change, panic and rage can become powerful motivators to ‘fix’ the new and horrible situation, and return things to the safety of ‘how things were’. At this point terms like letting go, acceptance, and moving forward are not in your vocabulary, and if they are, you simply don’t want them there! You’re clear about what you want, and you want what you had, what you were promised, and what you believe is rightfully yours, in certitude that your cheater has taken temporary leave of their senses.

All of the behaviors we’ve listed are more than a simple ‘reaction’ to an affair. They all have a flawed underlying strategy intended to end the affair and to return the cheater to you.

  • Following your cheater around, trying to ‘talk’ about your relationship
    • You’re not trying to talk with your cheater, you’re trying to guilt them, accuse them, berate them, beg and plead with them. You are trying to get the cheater to see how this affair is nonsense, and how they aren’t thinking straight.
  • Printing information about affairs from the internet for your cheater to read
    • You haven’t printed out all the pro-affair information that’s out there, have you? You’re showing them a one-sided version (your version, the correct version, right?) of how awful this affair is, how they are hurting you, how they are throwing their life away, and how they are making a terrible mistake that will haunt them for life. You’re trying to show them that their only real salvation is you.
  • Reminding your cheater of their marriage vows to you
    • Even if you didn’t have a religious background in your relationship, you are trying to guilt and castigate them over their broken promises to you. You’re holding the moral high-ground of honesty, integrity and honor, and you’re highlighting their affair (and by extension, them) in direct contrast, hoping that it will wake them up to the truth.
  • Crying and being distraught in front of your cheater
    • Because they can’t truly understand how much this hurts, so you have to show them. And when they really SEE it, they will be filled with remorse, compassion and love for you, and sweep you up and tell you how wrong they were, and beg you for forgiveness.
  • Reading bible passages to them (or even posting them to your Facebook page) that denounce adultery
    • Because when your own arguments and pleas don’t work, you bring in the big guns of ultimate judgment, omnipotence and the fiery hell of eternal damnation. How can it fail?
  • Arranging for couples’ therapy even though the affair is ongoing
    • Because not only will an authority figure give them a good telling off but the cheater will listen to them when they won’t hear it from you. And while you’re there, you might ignite the cheater’s desire to ‘save’ your relationship, and the therapist will say the magic words that end the affair and bring the cheater to their senses (and knees, for added value).
  • Leaving out photographs or sentimental mementos of your life together for them to find
    • Because they just need reminding of what you had together, what was real, what they’re throwing away, how they REALLY feel about you. The power of a wedding photograph shouldn’t be under-estimated?
  • Telling your cheater you love them
    • Because you do, and it’s okay for you to be honest about how you feel because that means something, right? You loving them trumps everything else - job done, now stop this nonsense and come home.
  • Threatening divorce if they don’t stop the affair, when you really want to reconcile
    • Divorce is scary to you, therefore it must be scary to them too. After all … divorce means financial detriment, less access to the kids, no cozy home … and everyone will know that they are a cheating rat and they will be punished and ostracized. In the face of all this ‘scary’, of course they’re going to rethink the error of their ways and reconcile.
  • Having affair books delivered to them
    • Because bludgeoning them with information about how much they’ve harmed you, their lives, and their children will bring them around to your way of thinking which, of course, is the right way of thinking.
  • Arranging dates with your cheater
    • Because spending time with you on a date will rekindle their love for you. When they are alone with you, away from the influence of the other person, looking into your eyes, they will see the light, remember how much they love you, take your hand and start to make things right again.

Blowing Up in Your Face

Not only do these behaviors do nothing for your self-respect, but they aren’t engendering the reaction in your cheater that you’re hoping for. You will come across as needy, clingy, miserable, and horribly judgey - it’s honestly not an attractive look on anyone. On top of that, you’re trying to make the cheater feel REALLY BAD … and that is to be avoided at all costs in cheater-land.

Really, when was the last time you felt positive about someone who told you that you are dishonorable, lacking integrity, a coward, insane, morally bankrupt, ethically deficient, selfish, doomed in perpetuity, and a bad parent? You’re hardly likely to invite them around for tea, let alone commit to loving them until you die.

Do you honestly feel love, compassion, and respect for people who make you feel terrible about your life choices, who doubt your ability to make your own valid decisions, and who tell you that your future is bound to be unhappy, unsuccessful, and lonely?

All of this will probably just generate feelings of dislike and distaste for the person judging you in this way. It might even spur you into an ‘I’ll show you‘ fighting stance.

A cheater, when faced with your end the affair onslaught strategy, is likely to ricochet further into the affair. Nobody likes being controlled, judged, upbraided, and hounded by a wailing and sniffly victim. A cheater being presented with ‘facts’, and reproach for being a terrible person by having an affair, can develop a sense of ‘fuck you‘ that is entirely contrary to the outcome you’re artfully (ahem) trying to engineer.

Unless your cheater is as dumb as a bag of rocks (and generally, they’re neither dumb nor insane) they will have ‘noticed’ your clumsy attempts to control the situation and are probably sharing with the other person their amused pity and derision at your pathetic and desperate attempts to end the affair and win them back. Ouch.

Singing Your Eyebrows: The Backfire Effect

When our choices are criticized we often defend them, even if we know that really we’re on some rather dodgy ground. Often, the dodgier the ground, the more zealously we defend our position.

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.

You’re Not So Smart

The Misconception: When your beliefs/actions are challenged, you alter your opinions/behaviors and incorporate the new information into your life.

The Truth: When your choices and beliefs are challenged, you dig in.

What it Says About the Cheater

For a cheater to end the affair, to apologize, to beg forgiveness, and to prostrate themselves emotionally before the righteous and faithful hurt partner, they have to admit wrong-doing. Wrong-doing aside, they have to admit bad judgment, selfishness, reprehensible disregard for their promises and the hurt they caused. Their future credibility is shattered. They have to look at themselves and see major faults, flaws, and failings. They have to face the censure of their family, their partner, and their friends, all while being charged with rebuilding the relationship. Isn’t it far easier to to pursue the affair, invest effort and time and work into it, and have a fresh start with someone else than it is to end the affair?

And just to prod you further … if this is who your cheater really is, remind me why you want to be with them so badly?

Yield Control

Let go of the notion that you should have control or influence over your cheater’s choices. You cannot prevent or end the affair just because you will it.

Ironically, there can be more “control” in a flexible position than in one marked by efforts to keep everything within a narrowly defined comfort zone. It’s like trying to hold on to a water balloon. The more tightly you try to grasp it, the more likely it is to just burst. If, instead, you gently and flexibly cup the balloon in your open palm, you’re much more able to “control” its movement without getting all wet.

Sandra Sanger, Ph.D

Disengage from the affair drama and make whatever Herculean efforts you need to prevent yourself from demanding/commenting/accusing/guilting.

The likelihood that the affair will last is incredibly small, but it has to burn itself out: Any flapping around by you trying to put out the fire will do nothing but fan the flames.

~ Wayfarer


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
  • Pingback: What's Love Got To Do With It? Infidelity Help Group

  • Pingback: Their Needs, Your Faults Infidelity Help Group

  • Pingback: Affair Survival Thinking-Kit Infidelity Help Group

  • Pingback: Transparency After the Affair - Infidelity Help Group

  • Pingback: Disengaging the Affair Drama Queen - Infidelity Help Group

  • Maiiaaaaaaaa

    Well, I have all points that you told here and my husband is a great cheater and he never want to be honest but he likes to keep lies.
    And I never want him badly.. To be honest, I hate him.. But in the same time, I still love him.
    But i never can understand why other woman really want him badly? Is it because money??
    The question should be on the other woman, why she likes to do affair with a married man?
    She knows the man is married, WHY she want him badly? Because my husband in financial stable and okay?
    I see again “MOnEY” is the most major REASON for many bitches like to Destroy other people family..!

    To be honest, many times I want to divorce and already ever run away from him,
    I really want to leave him but he always come to me and begging me to come back to him..
    And he ALWAYS says he Promise to Change.. But he never change..!

    My husband ALWAYS tell me that there is NO other woman. (Which actually other woman or his secret sex affair bitches told me yes)
    My husband always told me that What other woman said to me is WRoNG and Bullshit..
    Other woman are Stupid Ugly and Lie about him..
    He is not interested in those other woman..
    My husband is really great Liar and very good on cheating since long time ago.
    He never like to see me talking to my male friends..
    He is SUPER DUPER Jealousy Egoist man.. But in other hand, he cheats me many times.
    So when he sees there is other guy BETTER looking, BETTER job, BETTER characters than him, he become aggressive and blaming me.

    Funny he does NOT want to let me go to other guy and to move on from him.
    Because I told him that I also have the SAME RIGHT like him.
    If he can cheat me, I also can do the same, but I don’t want. So I prefer to divorce first and go on with other man.
    But he is ALWAYS angry if I said I can get any man I like too, because he KNOWS I am still young attractive woman.. Thats the fact..!

    But I don’t understand his Childish behavior characters..
    He does NOT want me to go, why like that?
    He said he will Suicide if I go away from him.
    My husband is really sick mentality man.. I want to bring him into psychology.. But he does Not want.. So what should I do?
    Just to leave him is also not the best solution..!

    • Wayfarer_IHG

      Hi Mia

      I am sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this in your marriage - it’s incredibly painful and difficult.

      Firstly, threats of suicide if you leave him is emotional blackmail. I would be willing to go out on a limb here and say that it’s just a way to keep you controlled, in place, and doing what he wants you to do. However, if you do have serious concerns about his mental health and stability, and genuinely believe that he might harm himself, do not hesitate to seek help from medical and/or mental health professionals.

      With that out of the way, let’s look at the other things here.
      1. I know how tempting it is to want to blame the OW, call her names, and focus on her. The truth is that SHE didn’t do this to your relationship - your husband did. The OW did not destroy someone’s family - your husband did. She did not have the ability to insert herself into your relationship without his invitation. In terms of blame, leave it squarely with your husband. Investing energy in the OW gives her power over you - and I would suggest that you find other things to focus on.

      2. Affairs are about power and control, and everything you’ve written here screams that your husband is a manipulative, controlling person. The jealousy, the anger, the threats, the begging and promising to change? All of these things are manipulations of you, designed to keep you with him while he does what he wants. Many cheaters feel that their spouses are their property in a way, and that they have the right to say and do whatever it takes to keep their property firmly in their possession. They don’t have that right.

      3. What should you do? Well, you are living with a serial cheater who is evidently controlling this situation and taking as many manipulative opportunities as he needs to keep you in order. If you want that kind of relationship for yourself then (beyond keeping yourself safe from physical harm), what else is there to do? If, however, you DON’T want this for yourself, then there has to be change. Ask yourself - will he change? Has he changed in all the times he’s promised it previously? If he hasn’t, then what else can change? You? The relationship?

      Something that I see often is that where people already know the right answer, but seek to find one more to their liking, they often say things like, “Leaving is not a solution”. In so many cases, leaving actually IS the solution, however unpalatable that is.

      Your husband has made his position clear: He doesn’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing (he refuses to seek professional help for any issues he may have), though he expects fidelity from you. He is enjoys his lies to you, is happy to promise to change without any intention of doing so, and continues to do whatever he chooses, regardless of how this affects you.

      In response to this, you have stayed, so he has no reason to change, because he’s getting his affairs AND you. Sounds like a pretty good deal for him.

      I can’t give you a magic solution Mia because the solution to his cheating lies with him. The solution to you not being in a relationship with a controlling and manipulative serial cheater … that lies with you.

      I would recommend that you register with our forum here, and start reading up on a strategy we have called The Refocus. It will start to protect you, return some control to you … and who knows … it might shock him a little.

      Take care.

      ~ Wayfarer

  • Pingback: Yes, Their Affair Was Your Fault - Infidelity Help Group