Figuring out how to get over an emotional affair can be a minefield. While a sexual affair is obviously devastating for any marriage, emotional infidelity can sometimes be even worse. Can you come back from it and what do you need to do?
A survey of 90,000 men shows over 78% of them admitted to an emotional affair. It’s entirely possible to get over an emotional affair but requires you to deal with both the other person and the underlying issue.
So let’s make sure we understand an emotional affair is, why it matters so much and what you can do about it.
What is an Emotional Affair?
An emotional affair is an intimate relationship that is formed with someone outside of the marriage. While it is not sexual in nature, it can be much worse for the health of your marriage than sex. Many emotional affairs end up turning into sexual affairs as well so the sooner we nip the problem in the bud, the better.
It’s common the spouse cheating will feel much closer to the person they’re cheating with than their spouse. And, make no mistake, emotional cheating is cheating.
Occasionally, people do not even know they are in an emotional affair. This is because their marriage has devolved to a state where they must seek friendship and intimacy elsewhere (I’ll explore this more later).
Spotting an Emotional Affair
Warning: Minefield ahead.
When I gave guidance on married men texting another woman I made it very clear that there’s nothing wrong with your spouse having friends of the opposite gender. In fact, it’s incredibly normal.
Just because your spouse is texting someone doesn’t mean they’re having an emotional affair. I’m going to give some general advice here and make a few assumptions but tread lightly – if you want to look at your marriage and how to get it back on track then take the marriage assessment quiz.
Spotting an emotional affair can be difficult and it’s a fine line between a close friend and emotional infidelity. This is because we have traditionally come to associate infidelity with sex. We know what it means if your spouse is sneaking around to hotel rooms and lying about what they’re doing. But what if they’re just talking to a friend on their phone?
Spotting an emotional affair is different from spotting traditional signs of cheating. Often the spouse doing it won’t feel the same level of guilt because they can rationalize it with themselves that they’re not really cheating because there’s no physical infidelity.
- The cheating spouse is strangely protective of their computer and/or phone. Taking it with them or (worse) deleting messages.
- Emotional distancing. The closer the cheating spouse gets to the other person, the more they’ll try and emotionally distance themselves from their spouse. Often starting fights over minor things or finding faults is the obvious sign of this.
- The cheating spouse brings up a new friend in conversation a lot or compares their spouse to this new person often.
- The cheating spouse changes their physical appearance. Taking better care of themselves or going to the gym out of the norm.
- They provide… too many details. If they have a sudden burst of interest in a new hobby or topic it might be that it’s influenced by the other person.
How Bad is an Emotional Affair?
An emotional affair can be a minor setback or a huge problem in a marriage. As stated previously, an emotional affair can lead to a sexual one. Sometimes, it can even lead to love. Worst-case scenario, it could lead to the end of your marriage.
The good news is that in most cases, it is possible to recover from an emotional affair. When you have been with someone for a long time, it is quite reasonable to imagine what could have been, and ‘test the waters’ with someone else.
What is important is that you make sure you do not cross the line. The relationship between a married couple is not formed in the heavens. Rather, both you and your partner must fuel the fire to keep the spark alive! Marriage is a constant effort, and complacency is one of the main reasons why marriages falter.
More often than not, an emotional affair is just a way for the universe to remind you of what is important to both of you.
How do You Get Over an Emotional Affair?
It’s entirely possible to overcome an emotional affair. Statistically, it’s even likely as long as one of you is making the effort to get things back on track.
The first step should be obvious.
Getting on the Same Page
You can’t get over an emotional affair while one of you is still in one. I’ve talked before about getting your husband to leave the other woman but this applies just as much for wives and the advice is the same whether there was a physical element to the affair or not.
The first step (regardless of where you are now) is getting you both to agree that you want to move past it. Communication with the other person is going to have to stop entirely.
Get Into the Details
In the long run, I always say you need to move beyond an affair and not throw it in each other’s faces at the next opportunity.
That’s in the long run.
Right now, you’re going to need to talk about it. Openly. Honestly. Why did one of you feel like they needed to have an emotional connection? What was it that was missing from your marriage? It could be the intimacy, or the need to share your feelings, or it could simply be companionship.
After that, discuss them all with your spouse. The first step to rebuilding trust is to discuss everything. This is never going to be a fun conversation to have but it’s not a step you’re going to be able to skip. Get into the details about what happened and dig deep into the why.
Take Steps to Reignite The Spark
Remember the days when you first met your spouse? Would you ever have imagined having an emotional affair with anyone during those days?
It is important that you rekindle that feeling. The best way to get over an emotional affair is by bringing the ’emotion’ back into your marriage. Here are a few things you could do:
- Start going on dates again. You are very different from when you first met one another. It’s time to discover each other all over again. Usually, it is best to go on at least one date a week.
- A huge part of being married is discussing practical matters. Everything from problems at work to future plans (e.g. retirement). This will help you appreciate what the two of you do for each other.
- Rejuvenate your sex life. Usually, marriages involving emotional affairs are ones where sex has almost completely died out. It is a good idea to reacquaint yourself with your partner on a physical level along with the emotional one.
- Start doing the little things again. Remember how you would randomly buy gifts for your spouse when you began dating? Even if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start. The best way is to do little things that would make your spouse appreciate you more. Hopefully, they will begin to reciprocate these acts.
Understand that healing takes time. You both need to rebuild that bond again and that doesn’t happen overnight.
Do not forget that your spouse is going through something quite similar. Regardless of how they feel about an emotional affair vs a physical one the two of you are going to feel the pain of this.
And that’s a good thing. Marriages fail far more often when you just try and bury the pain and pretend as if nothing happened.
Make sure that you give your partner enough space. Respecting their privacy during such a difficult transitionary period is quintessential to a complete recovery of your relationship. During this time, just show them that you care, and you are ready to make amends. My list of 5 questions to save your marriage can be quite helpful here!
Overall, it is best to be open, honest, and patient. If you have the right mindset, it is possible to recover from an emotional affair. In fact, your emotional affair could be nothing more than a footnote in your marriage within a few years.
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