How to Spot + Heal from an Emotional Affair
With many couples busier than ever and spending more time apart than ever, emotional affairs come up often in our office. Not only are couples physically apart for the majority of their waking life (i.e. jobs, errands, kids, activities, etc.) — with the emergence of things like social media and cell phones, many couples also spend a lot of time energetically and emotionally apart.
When there is less time together, more time apart, and more time connecting with people outside the relationship, if things aren’t rock solid and intimately connected between the two of you, the stakes are high for emotional affairs developing.
Emotional affairs are a tricky subject for two key reasons:
(1) they are not as objective and clearly defined as a physical affair and often happen in public, innocent settings (i.e. not a hotel room)
(2) there is usually a lot of denial happening with the person having the emotional affair and an insistence that they are “just friends”
From our years of helping couples heal from affairs of all kinds, we have discovered that emotional affairs can create immense disconnect and prevent relationship bonding and growth. Plus, the topic itself can be a real source of conflict — especially when one partner is suspicious, and the other accuses them of overreacting, worrying too much, or being controlling.
That’s why, in this month’s blog, we give you the key things to look for to help you identify an emotional affair when it’s happening and essential tips to start healing and repairing from it.
If you are the partner concerned your beloved is having an emotional affair, we hope you find this information validating. If you are the one engaging in an emotional affair, we offer some loving guidance to help you get honest with yourself about what’s really happening and to find a way back into connection and getting the love you really want with your beloved.
First, let’s go over the common denial statements people tend to say when engaging in an emotional affair:
“We’re just friends.”
“I can’t tell my partner about them (or how much we talk) because they would just get upset and not understand, but it’s really nothing.”
“I let them have friends and do things with __________ (especially people of whatever gender your beloved would be attracted to).”
“If my partner was more emotionally available (or kinder, more supportive, etc.), I wouldn’t have to get it from someone else.”
Now, let’s look at the 6 key signs it’s an emotional affair (in no particular order):
(1) Confiding in your friend more than you do your partner — which often includes talking about your relationship challenges or complaining about your partner to them
(2) Spending excessive or inappropriate time with this friend and going out of your way to do so (in person or electronically)
(3) Being dishonest or hiding the amount of time you spend connecting with your friend
(4) Feeling sexual chemistry with this person, flirting with them, and expressing romantic interest or attraction to one another
(5) Increased disconnect or fighting with your partner since the two of you started deepening your friendship with the other person
(6) Fantasizing about this friend and how much better or easier it would be to have them for a partner (and it’s distracting you from your beloved)
One of these things alone would not necessarily constitute an emotional affair, but if you have at least two, it’s a sign this friendship is detracting from your relationship more than you realize.
In what way?
Any energy you are putting into this friendship is energy you are not putting towards nurturing your relationship and finding creative solutions with your beloved.
Plus, love is built on trust, and trust is what keeps your marriage or relationship together. It’s impossible for you and your beloved to be truly close and best friends if you are keeping things from them.
So, let’s look at what you can do to start healing from the negative effects of this friendship and redirecting that energy into strengthening and growing your committed relationship and making it better than ever.
9 tips to start healing and repairing from an emotional affair:
(1) Begin opening up vulnerable conversations with your beloved about what you need more of in your relationship. If these conversations tend to end in arguments and misunderstandings, get outside support to ensure you will be heard and find solutions.
(2) Start nurturing your relationship. It’s so much easier to judge our partner and feel dissatisfied when we’re disconnected. Put energy into bonding and growing together.
(3) Create distance from the friend. In some cases, completely end the friendship.
(4) Stop flirting, stop confiding in your friend about your relationship challenges, and stop doing anything (implicit or explicit) that would feed your sexual chemistry.
(5) Speak only positively about your beloved to this friend, and speak positively about them often.
(6) End all secrets, and be 100% honest, forthcoming, and transparent about any time spent with this friend.
(7) Surround yourself with other people in great relationships and who are highly faithful (affairs can be very contagious and permission-giving in social groups).
(8) Acknowledge and validate your beloved’s feelings, give them a space to be heard and empathized with, avoid defensiveness, and apologize for anything you’ve done that has negatively impacted your relationship.
(9) With an open heart, let your beloved know you want to work on making things better and growing your relationship.
Emotional affairs are a slippery slope, and we lovingly encourage you to stop them in their tracks, and use this as a ripe opportunity to explore ways you can nurture the relationship you are already in.
We recognize that many emotional affairs happen because the relationship is overdue for growth and connection. We are fully here to help you strengthen your relationship and create the kind of love you both really want — and to help make it way easier than you may think. Learn more about our counseling sessions here. Also, be sure to check out our Thrive in Love retreat, as we’re excited to be expanding the number of locations where it is being offered! This retreat is phenomenal at reigniting the spark, renewing your love, and taking things to a whole new level! Dates are now set for the Chicago area, Bloomington, Indiana, and Hood River, Oregon.
Thanks so much, and we’re sending all of our love and blessings to you in this wonderful season of rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings and possibilities!
Infinite Love and Joy,
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