How to End Emotional Cheating
Emotional Cheating – What is it?
Emotional cheating, i.e., an emotional affair, is a friendship outside of your marriage or primary relationship that has evolved into something more. Sexual intimacy is not a part of the affair, but there is a close bond and the feeling of “he/she gets me” that is usually reserved for married couples. Emotions and inner thoughts that should be reserved for your partner are instead shared with this other person. So, how do you stop emotional cheating so that you can refocus on your spouse and emotionally connect with them?
Ending Emotional Cheating
Emotional affairs are hard to end because you get a sense of validation that you may not be getting in your marriage. You are seemingly valued, and that feels good. Because a sexual affair is about physical attraction and lust, it is much easier to end than an emotional affair. A physical affair can be stopped more cleanly without any emotional ties to break. However, deep feelings have developed in an emotional affair, and a bond has developed with your affair partner. If you are not experiencing emotional closeness with your spouse, and chances are you aren’t, it can be challenging to let go of an emotional affair.
How Does Emotional Cheating Begin?
An emotional affair usually begins without any intention of cheating on your spouse. They often happen simply because there is an opportunity. This is why emotional cheating is usually done with a co-worker or a family friend.
Most everyone has friendships outside of marriage which can be quite healthy if boundaries are drawn and respected. However, you are in dangerous territory when boundaries are not adhered to and when the relationship becomes secretive from your spouse. You begin to rely on this person for the love and support you should receive from your spouse. You begin to share your intimate thoughts and feelings, which should only be shared with your spouse. You start investing time and energy into this relationship and, thus, have less time and energy for your marriage.
Signs of Emotional Cheating
Here are some signs that the “friendship” has gone too far:
1. Constant communication
You stay in touch with this person throughout the day and even at night. They are the first person that you share your news with. You text them first when you have good news. When you are disappointed or upset, they are the person that you call to vent those feelings. Your spouse becomes secondary in your information chain if they are included at all.
2. They are always on your mind.
You feel happy when you think about them and believe there is nothing wrong with that because you are not in a physical affair. You might even dress to please them and begin fantasizing about intimate moments with them.
3. You ignore boundaries for relationship information.
Trusting your friends with certain secrets is just a part of friendship. But, you have crossed the line when you share relationship secrets that should only be shared between you and your spouse.
4. You become secretive
You keep meetings and conversations with your “friend” a secret from your spouse and others. You may set up a secret email account. You don’t give your phone password to your spouse.
5. You spend a lot of time with this other person.
You make up excuses to spend time with them and are always alert to opportunities to be with them in person.
6. You are increasingly comfortable and close with them.
You find it easy to share intimate personal information, and you feel closer to them than you do to your spouse. In addition, you find it easier to talk about certain topics with them than with your spouse.
Steps to End Emotional Cheating
Because an emotional affair is a form of betrayal, it can end your marriage. Therefore, it can cost you everything – your marriage, home life, lifestyle, friends, and, in some cases, your job. So, if you are serious about ending the emotional cheating and investing in your marriage, here are some steps to consider:
1. Take Responsibility and End It
If you are the one involved in emotional cheating, acknowledge it. Be honest with yourself and with your spouse. End it, now. It has to be a complete break – no halfway, no being friends, no communication. If you do not end it completely, you will still be in it, and you will never be able to rebuild your spouse’s trust. Own your mistakes and don’t make excuses or try to blame someone else.
2. Determine the “Why”
To be able to repair your marriage and for your spouse to be better able to forgive you, you need to understand what caused you to be unfaithful in the first place. Why did you look to someone other than your spouse? (Be careful not to blame your spouse.) Why did you invest time, energy, and emotion outside your marriage? What drove this behavior, and how can that need be met in healthy and appropriate ways? If you are the offending partner, you could have difficulty expressing your needs in the relationship. It could be that a marriage therapist or marriage coach could help you to fully express those needs in a way that your spouse could understand and meet them. This could prevent a repetition of your unhealthy behaviors.
3. Restore Trust
Restoring trust is simple, but it is not easy. First, you must be honest and consistent over a period of time. Whether it makes sense to you or whether or not you like it, rebuilding trust means doing whatever your spouse needs to feel that you are trustworthy. It may be passwords to your email accounts, location tracking on your phone, getting a job transfer or a new job where the other person doesn’t work, etc. Whatever they need to be able to trust you again, commit to it. Be patient. Rebuilding trust takes time.
4. Communicate Feelings and Needs
Couples who recover from any infidelity are those who learn to appropriately communicate their feelings and needs to one another. The injured spouse needs to share their hurt and pain so that the offending spouse can express understanding and validate them rather than becoming defensive. The offending spouse can then express remorse and sorrow over the pain that has been caused and can begin to make restitution and communicate their own feelings and needs. If unable to do this, the offender may withdraw and feel further alienated from their spouse.
5. Get Help
Most couples require the assistance of a professional to heal from the injury caused by any infidelity, including emotional cheating. Because both spouses are hurting, having a skilled therapist or relationship coach is helpful to be a calm and objective voice in the healing process.