Is there a new name popping up in conversations with your spouse, stories where this person figures prominently, and you sense there may be the beginnings of an emotional affair?
It’s not uncommon for married people to have what are called “work spouses,” which means they are close to someone at work that is of the opposite sex. What can happen is an emotional tie develops, so that you, the spouse at home, may feel very much that you’re competing with the “other spouse.”
Defining an Emotional Affair
When you find out that your husband or wife has developed a close tie with someone, and their relationship has seemingly crossed a line from friendship or a working relationship to one of a more intimate nature, you may experience a range of emotions:
1. Guilt because you feel you’ve crossed a line of privacy and “snooped” around for answers.
2. Sad because your partner is sharing a connection with someone other than you.
3. Angry because your spouse is expending effort in another relationship instead of yours.
4. Neglected because you don’t feel your spouse is “excited” about you.
When one spouse spends emotional energy with someone else, they are often in conflict over the definition of what a close, intimate connection with someone outside of the marriage is called. If your husband or wife has a truly personal relationship with some intensity, the relationship has probably crossed over to an emotional affair.
When your husband or wife has an emotionally intimate connection with someone other than yourself, the intimacy that rightfully belongs in your marriage is diluted. To share your innermost thoughts with someone other than your partner means you are developing an emotional connection to them. That’s what intimacy is: sharing yourself with another.
Generally, the response from the person who has been “caught” is to argue, “What, you mean I can’t have a friend of the opposite sex?” And, sometimes the hurting spouse will feel guilty or unfair for asking this of their spouse.
Marriage is built on an emotional connection between two people who have shared marriage vows and their lives. When one partner goes outside of marriage to seek fulfillment, whether that fulfillment is sexual or emotional in nature, it’s cheating on the marital relationship—because it’s cheating your spouse out of having the best of you.
Many people struggle with how to define such a relationship. To help define whether or not your spouse is involved in an emotional affair, ask yourself the following:
Is the extent of the external relationship concealed from you, or transparent? The odds are highly against such a scenario. Another indication is if your spouse feels “special” with the other person, but not with you.
In most cases the cheater knows that the behavior is wrong. It usually feels wrong to communicate with someone outside the marriage on an intimate level, and that’s why there is an effort to hide the truth. When you happen to stumble upon or snoop and find the truth, the cheating spouse is likely to go on the attack and accuse you of being unfair, or defend that it should be alright to have a best friend of the opposite sex.
If your husband or wife can at least admit that they’ve slid into an emotional affair, this is at least a step toward repairing your marriage bond and putting the work into building up your own relationship intimacy once again, beginning with the following steps:
Step 1: Assess Your Emotional Connection
There is no excuse for a husband or wife to cheat, whether emotionally, sexually or some combination of the two.
Many of you want to know why it happened. There’s IS a clear answer if you work with a counselor or take the 7-Step Infidelity Recovery Course.
Examine your own relationship. Do you see signs of neglect? Is communication healthy, or non-existent?
An honest examination of your marriage will show you where you could make your partner feel special, and where you could be more communicative. Both of you need to be working toward a good relationship, otherwise you’re likely to find areas where your emotional connection has eroded.
Step 2: Understand the Types of Communication
When you read or hear the word “communication,” is the first thought that springs to mind the idea of a lot of talking?
Understand that there is more to communication, though talking with your husband or wife is a very important component. There is verbal communication, and there is also non-verbal communication. Both contribute to a deepened intimacy between you.
For example, non-verbal communication could include sharing time with your husband or wife, sitting together and watching a movie, flirting with your partner while out to dinner, or leaving a card on the table to say “thinking of you.”
Your partner went outside of the marriage to communicate with someone other than you, and usually to find the feeling of being “special” in someone’s eyes if you’re not providing that.
If you wish to heal your relationship after infidelity, you will need to strengthen your communication bonds, both verbal and non-verbal, by experimenting with new ways to connect on a more intimate level.
For example, if you can’t remember the last time you and your spouse sat down together to sip a cup of tea and watch the sunset, or play a board game, or go for a walk together, this would be a good time to initiate or re-initiate an activity like that. (See How to Plan a Date Night After an Affair)
If you’re both out of practice in communicating in this way, it may take some time to develop the habit of more intimate communication than you have right now. You will need to be persistent in a friendly way because your partner may even resent your attempts.
Questions for reflection….
- Do you suspect your spouse is having an emotional affair—or have proof?
- Has your spouse admitted that they may have crossed the line?
- Was your spouse defensive or understanding when confronted?
- How did learning of the emotional affair make you feel?
Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.
Popular Affair Recovery Resources & Programs
How to Survive an Affair – Over 20,000 customers have used Dr. Frank Gunzburg’s 3-step program to rebuild their relationship after an affair. Discover how this 3-phase program can show you both how to heal the wounds, pick up the pieces and “affair-proof the relationship for good.” Click here to read more.
Saving Your Marriage – Inside this powerful alternative to counseling, Dr. Gunzburg provides a 10-step program that show you and your spouse, what’s wrong and how to fix it. This self-help program is designed to help couples talk again, have fun again and “spark the intimacy.” Click here to read more.
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