Affair Help: Abandonment

Being left by a cheater for the affair partner, is painful. The feelings of rejection, anger, jealousy, and frustration are difficult emotions to deal with and to work past, especially in the face of people doling out the continual advice of “It’s time to move on”.

But they’re right. There comes a time when it IS time to move on. However, some people refuse to do so, preferring instead to live in stasis, hiding behind rationalizations of ‘standing‘, religion, children and family, or finances. In reality, the refusal to move on is founded in fear, dressed up as something more palatable like strength or moral beliefs. Whatever the real (or imagined) reasons, it doesn’t negate the emotional state that someone in this circumstance is struggling to cope with.

Seeking Legitimacy

Hearing a consistent stream of advice that you don’t want to hear about moving on, letting go, starting afresh, getting over it etc, can result in anger and feelings of resentment and ‘you don’t understand’ in the abandoned spouse.

Some spend considerable time seeking a legitimate psychological or medical label for their inaction and stasis. It’s true that some people feel less isolated and more normal when what they’re experiencing is somewhat legitimized by the discovery of a book, theory or article that licenses their stasis.

Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.
― Ann Landers

Wife Abandonment Syndrome

(Because if it is a ‘syndrome’ it makes it okay to stay stuck in the self-imposed stasis?)

Wife Abandonment Syndrome is a theory developed by Vikki Stark following some research with some 400 abandoned wives. She lists ten hallmarks of what she believes is W.A.S.:

  1. Prior to the separation, the husband had seemed to be an attentive, engaged spouse, looked upon by his wife as honest and trustworthy.
  2. The husband had never indicated that he was unhappy in the marriage or thinking of leaving, and the wife believed herself to be in a secure relationship.
  3. By the time he reveals his feelings to his wife, the end of the marriage is already a fait accompli and the husband moves out quickly.
  4. The husband typically blurts out the news that the marriage is over “out-of-the-blue” in the middle of a mundane domestic conversation.
  5. Reasons given for his decision are nonsensical, exaggerated, trivial or fraudulent.
  6. The husband’s behavior changes radically, feeling to his wife that he has become a cruel and vindictive stranger.
  7. The husband exhibits no remorse; rather, anger is directed toward his wife and he may describe himself as the victim.
  8. In most cases, the husband is having an affair and moves in directly with his girlfriend.
  9. The husband makes no attempt to help his wife, either financially or emotionally, as if all positive regard for her has been extinguished
  10. Systematically devaluing the marriage, the husband redefines what had previously been an agreed-upon view of the couple’s joint history.


So many of these ‘hallmarks’ are felt by anyone whose spouse’s are in affairs, though I don’t believe that it is wholly a gender issue so I remain skeptical about both the research and the label.

BUT … I am not disparaging or minimizing the emotional impact of this mess, or questioning the legitimacy of someone feeling hurt and betrayed. Neither am I suggesting that these 10 hallmarks are not common markers of an affair that results in the affair partner being chosen over the spouse. I absolutely believe these things to be valid, human, understandable, and legitimate feelings. I understand how it feels, and I understand the grief and desire for something or someone to just make it all go away. It’s real.

What I am saying is that calling it a syndrome, or finding a professional who calls it a syndrome, does not license anyone to abdicate their responsibility to themselves to accept what is, and to live and change their own life accordingly.

What’s gone and what’s past help should be past grief.

~ William Shakespeare

Let It Go, or Let It Be

In her article Letting Go or Letting Be, Vikki Stark says that it is the quest for closure that keeps you mired in the affair drama:

I think we need to accept that there are things in life that just trail off. A sense of closure, or coming full circle, is a luxury that we’re not always lucky enough to enjoy. It’s the continual search for closure keeps you stuck.

She explains,

It’s unrealistic to hope for a time when you will not longer get a twinge of sadness or hurt when your special song together comes on the radio, no matter how much time has passed. That’s human nature. But the goal is to take back your life into your own hands and fight like a banshee to make it be happy, in spite of the heartache you have experienced.

Forging forward with your own life, on your own terms, making choices founded in your own values and having them move your closer to your own goals? That’s a win.

You might not be able to let the affair go. You might not be able to heft it over your shoulder and never look back. What you can do for yourself though is stop the continual examination of it. You can stop yourself from bemoaning your lot in life, railing about the injustice of it. You can stop miring yourself in your own misery, casting yourself as a romantic figure in your own melodrama. You can stop cradling the wound and let it heal, and decide not to pick at the scab, however sickly satisfying it is to do so.

If you can’t let it go, let it be.

~ 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
  • chasingwind2013

    Here is my two cents based on my experience:

    I was abandoned by a married man who is 22 yrs old than me,

    I almost killed myself when he abandoned me.

    Now I finally moved on and realized how wrong I was and how stupid I was to get involved with a married man.

    Here is my thought after what I have experienced:

    I don’t really think the affair guy would be able to fully understand you,

    I don’t really believe the affair guy would really love you,

    I don’t really think the affair guy would want to screw you only,

    He is the affair guy, only one is not enough and never been enough,

    you will never be able to satisfy him since this is just an affair,

    In an affair, there is only limited time to understand, communicate and get to know each other,

    you guys will always in rush, so you will only have time to physically intimate,

    the longer time you do this routine, you will feel that’s the only thing you guys do when you meet,

    and the only thing you do is far from emotionally falling in love.

    maybe you guys never fight , that’s because you don’t have time to fight,

    but that doesn’t mean you guys do not have issue,

    On the contrary, you guys have huge big issue in front of you which is only focus on the thrill.

    We are human, not animal, we have thought, we have feelings, we have mind,

    Physical thrill is not enough to support all these,

    Our feelings need more than that.

    But in an affair, if you need more, you will feel miserable because you just can’t get more from an affair.

    If you are with your life partner, like your husband or boyfriend,

    you have real time, you can do lots of things together rather than just
    being physical; You will have time to have fun on doing various things
    plus being physical. Maybe you feel the thrill is not as high as in an

    but you actually get so much more from a real relationship, that’s care, friendship and real love.

    Maybe some ppl can really find true love from an affair, but I know I am not one of them.

    I know who I am, I know what I am, I can only live in a real life,
    because after all that I’ve experienced, I know I will never be able to
    find what I really need from an affair, the affair guy is not countable,
    reliable and trustful.

  • Phoenix

    So I just had a chance to read this part on the affair abandonment - which happened to me. My ex h has now married his affair partner (9 months after our divorce). I have to say the list of 10 of the Wife Abandonment Syndrome was 10 for 10 in my case! It’s actually validating to see someone else write that out. I think what had me stuck for so long was the first two - that my ex h seemed trustworthy and honest and that he never said he was unhappy in the marriage. I was so stuck on that! It just seemed ridiculous to get out of marriage when you never said you were unhappy. But I guess that falls in line with number 5 - that his reasons for his decision were non-credible, flimsy, and never made sense to me. I have just come to accept that he has issues and maybe someday he will realize what he gave up and for what. Or he won’t and that’s ok too. I don’t care so much anymore. It does help to know that I’m not the only one who this has happened to. Now I am making my way into what I consider a healthier relationship of my own and am very happy with it. For any other abandoned spouses - hang tough - you will get through to a better place!!


    • Wayfarer_IHG


      Thank you for taking the time to comment - I too believe that it helps us to see that others are experiencing the same issues. This whole mess can feel incredibly isolating, and you can feel like you’re going slightly crazy. Hearing that others have been through it (and that you’re NOT nuts!), and come out the other end of it intact and happy is invaluable.

      Thank you for sharing P, and as always, my continued best wishes to you and yours. :)

  • Sandy

    Wow..I don’t know how I missed it..but I just found this article today. Phoenix..the same thing happened to me. I am 5 weeks out from Dday, and once I found out about my H’s 3 year affair with the OW, that was it. He made it perfectly clear that we were over and he wanted her. I have been on the forum here quite a bit, trying to learn ways to cope with the situation. I feel robbed that I didn’t get the chance to fight or stand up for myself. I am hurt beyond words that I was just thrown away for the OW. I know that it’s hard for anyone when they discover an affair, but wow..when you are tossed aside immediately for the feel that it’s so unfair that you didn’t even have a chance to try to save your’s not even an option! And to be here, seeing that the H and OW are deliriously happy, is just another punch to the gut. In my case, it was a 25 year marriage, as opposed to their 3 years together. As the good people in the forum have told me: “Remember..he shut himself emotionally from you 3 years ago. You are still emotionally tied to him, because you were still vested in the relationship and didn’t know that he wasn’t.” But being abandoned immediately for the That’s a concept that you just can’t wrap your mind around.

    • Wayfarer_IHG

      Hi Sandy, thank you for sharing this part of your situation here.

      I know we’ve said it a lot, but I’ll say it again for anyone else who is also reading this:
      Don’t assume that the affair relationship is perfect, that they are ‘deliriously happy’ or that they are ‘soul mates’. I know it’s easy to imagine them walking blissfully into the sunset, hand-in-hand, but the reality is probably VERY different. Very few affair relationships survive (perhaps as low as 3% according to some statistics), and of those that do survive in the immediate aftermath of discovery, they rarely have longevity. Studies suggest that 75% of affair couples who marry, subsequently divorce.

      Part of the difficulty for the faithful partner is their (understandable) creation of a story about the affair couple. They spin themselves a fable of the nature and quality of the affair relationship, the personality and allure of the other person, and how the cheater is suddenly on cloud 9. This fairytale is then used by the faithful partner as a measure for their OWN life, relationships, flaws and failings - it’s unsurprising that the faithful partner comes up short of this crafted image of perfection.

      In my view, the affair couple are more likely to be a poor version of Al and Peggy Bundy than an idealized version of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Once reality challenges their previously ‘special’ relationship, they will face the same stresses about bills, housework, lawn-mowing and the obnoxious interference of Great Aunt Agatha as the rest of us. Don’t be tempted to create a perfect Hollywood ending for them, because life certainly won’t.

      Don’t spend energy on wondering about the affair, the affair couple, or their relationship - they will succeed or fail without you.

      Focus instead on your own life, your own dreams and goals, your own future, and your own happiness. A cheater isn’t the only one who can have a new life - and I’d be willing to bet that YOUR new life will be founded in reality and with honesty.

      An affair relationship? Your husband’s own conduct tells you that what starts in deceit, continues and ends in deceit.

      Stay strong.

      ~ Wayfarer