How To Handle An Emotional Affair

When we think about affairs, most of us jump immediately to thoughts of physical infidelity, of a partner cheating by way of romantic physical contact with another person, but this isn’t the only kind of affair people have, and the other “type” can actually be more damaging to the health of your marriage.

What we’re talking about here are emotional affairs, and they are a little harder to define. Basically, an emotional affair is taking place when one member of a marriage is relying on someone else for the emotional support of a spouse. This can happen in person, among friends or coworkers, it can happen via email, text message, or through a social networking site. It can happen with old flames and new friends alike – and it’s a slippery slope to severely damaging the strength of your marriage.

When people become involved in emotional affairs, it usually happens gradually, just like making a new friend or the earliest stages of dating someone new. You simply start talking with someone, buti for before you know it, you’re talking about more and more personal topics, and you’re forming an emotional connection.

Now, this is not to say that all emotional connections beyond your marriage are bad – we share emotional relationships with our friends and family, and feel closely connected to all kinds of people in our lives, but when those connections start to replace or reduce the connection you have with your spouse, it’s crossing into the territory of an emotional affair.

It often begins because emotional needs aren’t being met the in marriage. It’s easy to understand the scenarios that could lead down this path – getting attention from someone new if your spouse is neglectful, talking to someone who understands and offers advice or consolation about problems in your marriage, or sensing genuine interest from someone when it feels like your spouse takes you for granted.

Those examples, and many more like them, can tempt people to slip into emotionally charged conversations with someone outside the marriage. The real problem, though, is that having those conversations with someone else means you’re NOT having them with your spouse.

Eventually, it can cause people withdraw from their spouses even further, and what began as a purely emotional connection can become physical infidelity as well.

In many ways, it comes down to intent. You can feel it when you’re attracted to someone, when you’re forming an emotional connection, when you’re doing something that would hurt your spouse. If it feels wrong, it probably is.

We could go on at great length describing the nuances of emotional affairs, how people are tempted into them, and the lasting damage that they can do to relationships, but it’s also important to discuss how to deal with the problems once they’ve happened – and how to stop them before they start.

First and foremost: communicate. The major causes of emotional affairs are unspoken issues in the relationship. If you keep your channels of communication open and honest, you won’t feel the need to reach out to another for your emotional needs. Instead, you’ll be able to let your spouse know what you need or what might feel missing from the marriage.

If, however, an emotional affair is already happening, it’s up to you to stop it before it gets any further. You have a choice about all of your actions, and if you find yourself choosing (even unconsciously) to communicate with someone other than your spouse about your emotional needs, you are allowing a rift to form in your relationship.

If you truly want to get things back on track, you need to admit to yourself that it’s not just about the other person, or even the connection you may feel with them, but about problems in your marriage that you haven’t been willing to address and emotional needs that you haven’t communicated to your spouse.

Similarly, if you suspect (or know for certain) that your spouse is involved in an emotional affair, the first step is to discuss communication – and find out what’s missing that caused them to seek comfort from someone else.

Understand that no one is immune to temptation, but we are in control of our choices. We choose to succumb to temptation, we choose to emotionally invest in people other than our spouses, and ultimately, we make a choice each time communicate with anyone – there are simply some things that should be reserved for your spouse and your spouse alone.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!


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sarena 10 years ago

Mid last year I found topless photo on husbands phone. I hit roof, contemplated leaving, but we went to couples counselling-we had other issues aswell(husband anger issues) and I tried to brush it under carpet. He and even the counsellor belittled photo, but it left bad taste in my mouth.

justnobody 10 years ago

I found out about my wife's affair in march of this year....4 months later i am happy to report that we have never been better. We have long, meaningful conversations about everything, good and bad. I feel more in love with her now than i ever did.

SadDan 10 years ago

My wife and I have together for 11 years and married 4 years. Have three great kids 5-9-12. Have had a good marriage on and off. Good for a couple years bad for a month and good again. About a year ago it was a huge one all the talk of divorce by both but decided to work it out. We went to therapy a about 6 years a ago. And was the best thing we ever did. Learned to talk to each other instead of screaming! About a week ago I noticed my wife changed a little. Came home a little later and kind of distant. So one night she fell asleep with the kids and I was going to put her phone on the charger for her. She had put a lock code on it. I knew what that meant so I woke her up and asked her nicely what was going on. She looked nerves and said I was going to waite till after the boys birthday but I want a divorce. I said is there someone else, she said yes but nothing physical. She made a connection with this guy that comes to her work(she does not work with him). I had already looked at the phone records. And he lives in a different state. She then proceeded to tell me I am not the man I once was I had got lazy.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Hi, Sarena - I imagine that must have been terrible. You need to deal with your anger and disappointment. Try to find a counselor that works for both of you. We also have some advice on dealing with affairs that may help.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

I'm happy to hear that, Justnobody! An affair can be a catalyst to strengthening your relationship.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

SadDan - That must have been quite a shock and I'm so sorry to hear that. Try to talk to your wife and see if there is something both of you can do to work on your relationship together.

scott 10 years ago

wife has had emotional affair few weeks back and I recently found hundreds of text on her phone record. She had gone on a dinner date with this guyfrom work behind my back and went out of her way to cover her tracks so I wouldn't find out. She claims she did that because I would blow things out of perportion which I did for good reason she seeing another man I don't know or whom I never met. She is in denial about doing anything wrong, insists nothing happened which I believe to some extent. But as I sit here writing this she is down in sprinfield il on a business trip with this guy and they have plans for a work trip in november for work as well. What the hell am I supposed to do or think about this. I'm strugggling very much with this as I have no one to talk to while she is gone and if I call I only get jealous and angry at the situation. please help me I'm going crazy sitting here.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Hi Scott - I see you've found one of the articles and I hope it gives you some ideas. Your wife may not have physically cheated, but something was lacking for her in your marriage. We believe you two can come together and make it even better. Here's how to start to work through things -

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