To really understand why emotional affairs are hard to end we have to really understand what we’re dealing with. In some ways, an emotional affair is quicker to deal with than a physical one but in other ways, it can be worse.
Emotional affairs are harder to end than physical ones because you form a real bond or connection. Physical affairs can be nothing but lust, emotional ones can be a lot more painful and confusing. It’s possible to end them but emotional cheating can take longer to really remove from your marriage.
I have covered how to get over an emotional affair in more detail so we’re going to be more focused today on why they’re so hard to end. A firm understanding is good for both spouses to really understand what emotional cheating means for your marriage.
Note: Obviously I’m going to have to speak fairly broadly here but every marriage is going to be different. It’s important to put things into context of your marriage and what you’re currently going through. Take the marriage assessment quiz and we can get into the details of how to get your marriage back on track.
Emotional Affairs vs Platonic Friends
The definition of an emotional affair is blurry sometimes. It’s perfectly normal and healthy for both spouses to have platonic friends outside of the marriage. Some might even be close friends but at a certain point, we start crossing the line between a good friend and emotional cheating.
As creatures of great complexity, human beings are often hard to understand. And that’s not a bad thing. It just means that we have a lot going on in our heads. We’re capable of feeling a range of intense emotions, sensations, and feelings.
But with that heightened sensitivity and complex thinking process comes a vulnerability. It’s a vulnerability to pain, heartbreak, anger, and distress.
The truth is, we love the idea of emotionally and physically connecting to someone. But at the same time, we subconsciously make ourselves completely and helplessly vulnerable to those we love most. This is why when the relationship that we’re in becomes difficult, we’re more likely to indulge in an emotional affair with someone who understands us.
In some ways, emotional affairs are harder to end than physical affairs.
What Makes Emotional Affairs Hard to End?
So once you’ve figured out why you or your spouse are taking things too far – why is it hard to quit? Why emotional affairs are hard to end boils usually comes down to the feeling this kind of emotion brings. Likely the same emotion you got when you and your spouse first started dating. A feeling, closeness and connection with another person – that’s hard to let go.
What makes it so enticing?
You might have heard me say before life gets in the way of love. Sometimes the day-to-day grind wears down on your ability to see this connection with your spouse. Your conversations become stilted by complaints about your job and your spouse has heard all your funny stories already.
With a new person, there’s that element of freshness. You’re not constantly with them, you don’t argue with them over budgets or daily tasks. In some ways, the emotional closeness of marriage is amazing and can’t be compared to a simple friendship, but there’s an appeal to the fresh feeling of someone who still laughs at your old stories.
You Feel Like Nobody Else Understands You The Same Way
Ending an emotional affair means giving up on your special connection with a person. Chances are, this person offers you something that your spouse doesn’t or hasn’t been able to. Ending an emotional affair can be challenging because you may feel like nobody understands you the way they do.
Being in an intimate relationship can often mean connecting to someone on a deep, interpersonal level. When you spend more time with them, they learn more about you. The more they know about you, the more they might seem to understand you. This leads to a deep level of trust with that person – a trust you don’t want to break or have broken.
So, if you feel like nobody else understands you the way this person does, you can’t blame yourself for finding it hard to end the affair.
You Don’t Want to Lose Your Emotional Home
It’s heartbreaking, but people that we’re emotionally connected to become our home. We get used to their presence, their company, the sense of familiarity we feel when around them. We may not even realize this as it happens. We only feel it once things go wrong, and the overwhelming intensity of our emotions hits us. That’s when we suddenly realize that it’d be too painful to lose that person.
Our brains automatically create new neural pathways as we emotionally and sexually engage with a new person. The release of feel-good chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin is what we start to associate with that person.
You can’t blame yourself for finding that hard to let go. Nobody wants to lose their home. It’s essentially like you’re addicted to something. And just like any drug, letting go has withdrawal effects.
But remember that it takes immense strength of character to admit that you don’t quite need anybody other than yourself in your life. That’s not to say that your significant other can’t enrich your life – but it’s time you ask yourself who that person is.
Whoever it is, you must make it clear to yourself before you make it clear to your partner. It’s hard to end an emotional affair, but remember that it’s harder to hurt the people who mean the most to us in a relationship.
You Don’t Want to Face the Truth
Letting go of an emotional relationship means admitting to yourself that you won’t get to see this person anymore. It may also mean admitting you did something wrong by cheating on your spouse. We usually don’t want to do either of those things.
Most of us are romantic by nature. We like chasing the idea of a reality where everything’s perfect. A lot of times, we can end up believing that a relationship with a particular person will fix all our problems. It temporarily even feels like it does. So, when it’s time to end it, we don’t want to face the truth.
In a sexual affair that’s also emotionally intimate, we’re often so deeply involved with a person that we fail to see anything outside our self-created bubble of happiness.
Ending an emotional affair is a process. In marriage, emotional affairs can crack your relationship. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be re-built. You need to ask yourself what’s most important to you.
You Fear Going Back to Your Old Life
Emotional affairs are exciting, passionate, and intense. Ending an affair may feel hard to you because subconsciously, you know that it’ll mean going back to your old life. Perhaps, you got into an affair in the first place because you felt something was missing in your life – which would mean that you’ll finally have to face that and deal with it.
At times, we only get involved in an emotional affair because we’re dissatisfied or bored with our lives. It’s human nature. We want what we can’t have.
So, if there’s a part of you that fears going back to your old life, then perhaps it’s time you ask yourself why that is. How long will this emotional affair be enough for you? More importantly, is it worth risking your current relationship for it?
You Forgot to Draw Boundaries
We’re all guilty of this. When a relationship becomes intimate, we forget to draw boundaries. We let the other person in, and we let them get away with a lot of things. And when it’s time to end an emotional affair, we don’t know how to do it.
Research shows that men and women have different neuropsychological modules that process sexual or emotional infidelity. In other words, our brains react in different ways to sexual or emotional cheating. While both genders tend to feel equally jealous, we process it differently.
Boundaries are a form of self-respect and integrity. No matter what kind of relationship you’re in, it’s always crucial to draw some level of limitations. But sometimes, when we get intimate with someone, we allow those lines to blur. We want to give everything to this person, even if it means it’s harming ourselves in the process. While this is undeniably unhealthy, you can’t blame yourself for doing it. In the heat of the moment, nobody realizes it. We only know when we reflect on our relationship.
Getting Beyond an Emotional Affair
Getting both of you over an emotional affair is surprisingly similar to saving your marriage after a physical affair or just one too many fights. It’s going to take a little time and a lot of effort but sometimes a rift like this is just what it takes to remind you both of what you used to have and get you working back towards that stage.
And that’s really what it’s going to take. Work. If you’d like to get more into the details then give me an idea of what you’re going through:
Why Do Emotional Affairs Happen?
Human beings aren’t black and white. Over our lifespans, we connect to many different people from many places. Sometimes, we find someone new and feel an instant, almost magical connection. Nobody wants to let go of a relationship like that.
It’s rare to find the kind of emotional intimacy that makes you feel understood, loved, seen and cared for – all at the same time. So, when you find it, you naturally don’t want to let go of it.
As humans, we always want to connect, love, and share with other humans. Whether we admit it or not, we crave human connection. Emotional affairs happen when we connect to another human being. Usually, this is someone who either parallels our thoughts and belief systems or challenges us to something different, exciting, and dangerous.
Do Emotional Affairs Turn Into Love?
They can, depending on how you define love. We all have different demands and expectations of love. For some of us, love may mean trust, compassion, and sex. For others, it may mean a loyalty as deep as the ocean, a connection that the stars couldn’t parallel, and a commitment to choose no other being.
When emotional affairs become sexual, they often turn into romantic relationships. Therefore, yes, people can fall in love with whom they’re having an affair. But again, this depends on your situation. If you’re already in love with someone else, then an emotional affair may be nothing more than just that to you – a connection, a friendship, a safe harbor.
However, it’s also possible that it becomes something more with time. If not ended, an affair can spiral out of control, and what started as some harmless flirting can become the thing that wrecks your marriage.
So, it’s essential to ask yourself what it is that you genuinely want. The truth is, only you know what someone means to you.
Emotional affairs are tricky. We crave human connection, trust, and intimacy. It’s understandable why it’s so incredibly challenging to let go of a relationship. After all, why would you want to? Well, the answer is simple: because something or someone else is more important to you.
It can help to remind yourself that nothing should matter more than your mental health, peace, and happiness. If someone is causing you distress or pain, you might be in a toxic relationship. The first step is becoming aware of it, and once you do, you should take the steps needed to end it.
In the end, the most important thing to ask yourself is what you value most. Is it your marriage or your affair? While an emotional affair is incredibly hard to let go of, sometimes it needs to be done. It’s going to be painful and will likely take your time to move on from it. But know that it’s the right thing to do – for yourself and for the sake of your marriage.