It can be extremely distressing to find out that the spouse you love so much is emotionally unfaithful to you. Knowing that they are more attached to someone else in spite of you always being there for them, can be very hurtful. Some couples even state that sexual infidelity is more tolerable than emotional infidelity. Learning how to deal with emotional affairs a spouse may be engaging in can be a difficult journey to embark upon.
It is a crucial one nonetheless. Unless you learn to deal with emotional infidelity on your spouse’s part, you cannot move past it. Without being able to move past it, you won’t be able to regain control of your life and decide what direction you want to steer it in.
So, what can you do if you discover your spouse’s emotional affair? How to deal with your spouse’s emotional affair calmly and with dignity? Is there hope for your relationship when your partner is emotionally attached to someone else? Can you move on from this setback? If so, how? We address these and many other questions to help you understand what to do when your partner is emotionally cheating on you, with insights from relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT, etc), who specializes in different forms of couple’s counseling.
What Is An Emotional Affair?
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Before you begin worrying about your wife or husband having an emotional affair, it’s vital to understand what it entails. After all, you don’t want to let trust issues fester in your relationship on account of baseless suspicions or go accusing your partner of emotional infidelity because they’re close to their childhood friend.
An emotional affair means establishing a strong emotional connection and bond with a person outside of the relationship. In most cases, this closeness shared by two people is similar to romantic intimacy. The cheating partner shares their vulnerabilities with someone else and goes to them for personal advice. A physical relationship may or may not exist between them, but they feel the deep emotions that they once felt or still feel for their partner.
Lack of interest in the family, excuses of working late, hiding the phone, being absent-minded, defensiveness and anger, taking care to dress up every single day, indulging in activities that do not involve you, or being overly nice to you for no specific reason are certain signs and indications that your spouse is having an emotional affair with someone else.
As soul-crushing as that discovery may be, you may find your partner brushing it away as nothing. The debate over whether emotional affairs count as cheating can place this transgression in a gray area. It makes it that much harder to decide how to deal with emotional affairs a spouse may be carrying on on the sly.
Related Reading: How To Heal After Being Cheated On And Stay Together
Examples And Signs Of Emotional Cheating In A Marriage
Seeing your romantic and/or emotional allegiance shift from your partner to someone else is not a new phenomenon, for sure. However, with internet and social media, freely available channels for communication outside of one’s primary relationships have increased drastically. So have avenues and ways of emotional cheating. This has made recognizing and dealing with emotional cheating doubly tricky.
What do you call the seemingly gray area of connecting with an online wellness coach who you develop a spiritual relationship with? Or a long-time follower on your Instagram account. It makes your partner extremely uncomfortable. Some people even take offense when their partners always turn to someone else in their family, say, their mother, to share a bad or good news. Which of these is emotional cheating, and how much?
Let us take a clearer example. Jose has been fighting with his partner, Sara, more often than before. Very recently he has started talking to a person who followed him on Facebook. They often liked each other’s posts in the beginning, gradually moving to commenting on each other’s photos.
Now, they talk to each other through DMs where Jose tells this friend all about his fights with Sara. He deletes their conversations after talking. The more he chats with her, the more he compares them both in his head. He also finds himself snapping at Sara more often. While he is not necessarily having romantic conversations with his friend, it looks like Sara was right to complain, “My husband had an emotional affair and I can’t get over it.”
This could be equally true if the genders were reversed and Sara said, “My wife is having an emotional affair and moving past emotional cheating has been traumatizing.” Before wondering what to do when your partner is emotionally cheating on you, some signs that may help recognize emotional cheating are:
1. Unfair expectations from your partner
To have sudden unfair and unrealistic expectations from your partner is a classic sign of emotional cheating. You stop recognizing your partner’s limitations and their personality that you were always aware of. It becomes more difficult for you to let go of the things you dislike about them. The list of such things is getting longer.
Add to all this, there is also a constant unfair comparison in your head between them and the person you are cheating on them with. Moving past emotional cheating gets very difficult because the partner who has been cheated on has been made to feel inadequate. If you want to help your spouse get over an emotional affair, you have to gradually build that trust in them that you still admire and value them, just the way they are.
2. Secrecy is increasing in your relationship
There is inevitably a lot of stuff you begin to keep a secret. You are subconsciously aware that what you are doing is inappropriate. You know your partner will not like it if they were to know of your relationship. So, you make sure you delete those texts, or do not mention that meeting. You are basically in a secret relationship with someone, whatever the relationship may mean for you at that time.
If there are many things that you are keeping secret, it may be a clear sign that something is off. The same holds true if you are the victim of emotional cheating. If there are numerous loopholes in the things your partner tells you, there are chances they are cheating on you. When this happens, no one cares about proclamations of love, or if one has had physical intimacy or not. The fact that your partner is keeping something from you makes you feel like an outsider. And that is hurtful enough to feel like you are being cheated on.
3. Constantly thinking about the new person
You think about the new person in your life all the time. It begins from you wanting to check on them every few hours. But soon, you think of them at every little hurdle in the day, comparing how your life would have been with them. If you dressed up and you felt your partner didn’t appreciate you enough, you would think how this new person would have appreciated you.
This is a classic problem and no matter how much your partner tries dealing with emotional affairs in marriage by being better, or ‘outperforming’ your new interest, the hypothetical scenarios in your head will always win. This new person always shines brighter than your partner. This is why when a partner is emotionally cheating on you, no attempts to win them back work.
4. Feeling distant from your partner
Naturally, all the above gradually make you grow apart in your marriage with your partner. The secrecy and the unfair comparisons cause misunderstandings and a growing chasm. And thinking about the other person all the time lifts you from your current life and places you in a hypothetical dream life. Your partner looks at you and knows that even though you are there, you are not really there.
The constant chatter in your head of “what ifs” and “what would have been” are not lost on your partner. Your partner is pushed to believe “My wife is having an emotional affair, I’m sure of it” or “My husband had an emotional affair and I can’t get over it, maybe I should end our marriage”. So, what to do when partner is emotionally cheating on you? To find out, read further.
Related Reading: Finding Someone Special After Marriage In A Friendship
What To Do When Your Partner Is Emotionally Cheating? 8 Steps To Help You Cope
It may seem like the end of the world when you discover your spouse’s emotional infidelity. To deal with emotional cheating becomes that much harder when you consider the possibility that it could threaten your marriage. It may not necessarily be the case but the risk is very real.
Coping with emotional affairs and inappropriate talk that your spouse may be indulging in with someone is far from easy. It may come as a devastating blow to your self-esteem and leave you riddled with self-doubt about your abilities as a partner. “My husband is having an emotional affair. He thinks I don’t know it. I keep wondering: Where did I fall short in meeting his needs?” – thoughts like these spring up in your mind.
In moments like these, it’s imperative to remind yourself that your spouse is an adult and you are not responsible for their actions. Succumbing to doubts over your capabilities as a life partner is not the right way to deal with emotional infidelity. So, what is?
What to do when your partner is emotionally cheating on you? You can take several measures to deal with your spouse’s emotional affair and revive your emotional intimacy again, making it so watertight that there is no room for a third person to come in. The right course of action depends on your specific circumstances – the nature of your relationship with your spouse, the nature of the emotional affair, and so on. Even so, here are 8 broad steps that you can follow to deal with your partner’s emotional affair:
1. Check the facts
Before delving into the ordeal of confrontation, arguments and sleepless nights, be absolutely sure that your spouse has been indulging in an emotional affair. The line between emotional cheating vs. friendship can be blurry. Perhaps you are viewing a genuine friendship as an affair. Or maybe your partner is engaging in emotional cheating without even realizing it.
For coping with emotional affairs and inappropriate talk, you first need to ask yourself questions like: Why is your partner cheating on you? Are they investing less in your marriage? Are ‘you’ investing enough in your marriage? Have you observed certain noticeable changes in your spouse?
Intuitions can be really strong, but they are not always right. You need to have some definitive clues to back up your intuitions. Contemplate your emotions before you talk to your spouse about them. Observe if you are being irrational, overly jealous, or very possessive of them.
Also, check if you have been arguing a lot lately and if it is just the anger or resentment that is making you doubt your spouse. Once these facts are checked, you can then go ahead and calmly confront your partner about their emotional affair. In short, don’t go down the rabbit hole of “My husband had an emotional affair and I can’t get over it” unless you’re absolutely sure of what’s going on.
Related Reading: Effects of an extramarital affair on the partner
2. Balance anger and need for answers
Infidelity, whether emotional or sexual, can take a toll on one’s health and marriage. We understand that you’re hurting and you cannot contain your rage. At this point, you may want nothing less than full disclosure from your spouse. If you suspect or know for sure that your partner is emotionally cheating, you may want to know everything they’ve done behind your back.
If you really want to go down the path of learning all the details, you need to maintain composure and take it all in as calmly as possible. “To deal with emotional infidelity, it’s only natural to want answers to the myriad questions that may be clouding your mind. But when you ask your cheating spouse these questions, make sure you’re prepared to deal with the answers. Be an empathetic listener rather than rushing to judge or conclude,” advises our expert, Shivanya.
Your partner is going to be more willing to answer and address all your issues if you practice mindful listening and a little bit of compassion. Once you lash out, your spouse will assume your unwillingness to listen and hide facts about their emotional infidelity from you. This will hinder the possibility of surviving this crisis.
3. Do not blame yourself
Dealing with infidelity in marriage is not easy. Your thought process can be all over the place, your judgment clouded. It is also not uncommon to feel guilty about your spouse’s affair. As the sufferer, you might blame yourself for being in the wrong. You would question your actions and your behavior. You might think you were the inattentive one, or you didn’t care enough, or you didn’t provide the safe platform your partner desired. Ball all of these thoughts up and throw them away.
“Hold compassion for yourself. If your husband or wife had an emotional affair, it’s in no way a reflection on your capabilities as a spouse. Even if your relationship was going through a rough patch or you and your partner were growing out of sync with each other, there are myriad ways to remedy these issues. Cheating is not one of them,” says Shivanya.
The bottom line is there is no reason good enough to cheat on someone, be it physically or emotionally. You can certainly work on your weak aspects in a marriage, but do not indulge in the blame game. Don’t let your partner get away with emotional cheating by declaring you as the reason for it and don’t blame yourself for your partner’s wrong actions.
Blaming yourself only gives your spouse an upper hand in getting away with their wrongdoings. You are at no fault here. Your partner’s infidelity is their responsibility. Realizing this is a very important step in dealing with their emotional affair.
Related Reading: Watch out for these 10 signs of cheaters guilt
4. Talk to a therapist
What to do when your partner is emotionally cheating? Allow yourself to feel all the uncomfortable, unsettling emotions coming up in response to your wife or husband having an emotional affair. Clamming up is a common response to discovering that your partner is emotionally cheating, especially when you had no idea.
You may want to retreat to your own cocoon, overthinking about the future of your marriage. You might even question yourself and everything around you, but you would not be willing to share it with anyone in fear of judgment. It is normal to not be able to discuss the issue directly with your partner, but you do need some help addressing the problem. Avoid waiting in silence, hoping that things will eventually change for the better.
Instead, seek the help of a therapist instead of obsessing over the situation and its outcomes. Should you need it, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors are here to help you. Talking to one will resolve all your doubts and give you the right direction while you’re grappling with too many emotions like fear, guilt, sadness, doubt, anger, etc., all at once. A therapist with expertise in marital infidelity can assist you to get through the troublesome stage faster.
5. Back off for a while
It is emotionally cathartic to shout, cry, throw things, and blame your partner for ruining everything as a way of coping with emotional affairs and inappropriate talk. But a better chance to save your marriage is by backing off. This gives your spouse some time to clear their head and think sensibly about their actions. Try to maintain your calm and practice confidence. Providing your partner with a breathing space will give them a chance to phase their emotional affair out.
Shivanya says, “Let your partner deal with the deluge of emotions their mind must be inundated with after the emotional affair comes to light. Remember, everything is not about you. So, when your husband has an emotional affair or your wife cheats on you emotionally, don’t take it personally. There is a good chance that the infidelity has nothing to do with you or your relationship but is stemming from certain unresolved traumas of the past or an insecure attachment style.”
Backing off is an important step to deal with an emotional affair. It hastens the healing process. Being needy or clingy will confirm your partner’s apprehensions toward your relationship. To sober down their emotional infidelity, you need to give them the time to ponder on their behavior so that they realize their actions and their effects on your relationship.
Related Reading: 6 people on what they learnt about themselves after they cheated
6. Do not beg or plead
You are in love with your spouse and you do not want them to leave you. To avoid that, you’re ready to do anything that you can. Well, don’t. Surviving an affair requires you to mindfully choose healthy relationship practices over unhealthy or dysfunctional ones.
You may be desperate for answers to how to deal with emotional affairs a spouse is engaging in. But losing sleep over “My husband is having an emotional affair, what can I do to make him choose me over the other person?” or “My wife had an emotional affair, how can I make sure she’s over the other woman?” is not going to do you any good.
No matter how badly you want your marriage to survive, do not go down on your knees and beg your partner to stay. If your spouse is done with your relationship, there is nothing you can do to change their decision. Alternatively, if your partner is guilty about their emotional affair, they will take active steps to make things right.
Here, you need to handle the matter with dignity. Always remember, nothing comes above your self-respect. Joining hands, weeping, pleading with your spouse to stay is not going to make them stay, but it is going to question your self-respect. Express your feelings, but never beg your partner to stay.
7. Make a decision
The worst has happened. Your spouse had an emotional affair, and there is nothing you can do to change that. However, what you need to do is make a decision. If you think your relationship can recover from the damage, consider whether the relationship is worth saving and give it another chance. It does not have to be the end of your marriage.
Try and observe your partner’s response. If your partner is emotionally cheating and seems really guilty about it, chances are that they really want to make things right again. On the other hand, if your spouse is blaming you for their emotional infidelity and does not think that they did anything wrong, maybe it is time to call it quits. However, take your time to make the decision. Do not rush into anything.
“Life is how you see it, so find a new perspective to the situation and/or your partner. It becomes easier to deal with emotional infidelity if you view it from the prism of empathy and try to understand why your partner may have done what they did,” says Shivanya.
Related Reading: 8 steps to completely forgive someone who cheated on you
8. Take your time to forgive
They say, “Forgive and forget.” But that is not easy. Only you know how much your spouse’s emotional affair has affected you. Take your time to struggle with the trauma and then begin to rebuild the trust. Any form of infidelity is hard to forget. Once you’re ready to let go of all the inhibitions and negative feelings inside you, only then can you begin to really forgive your partner and build a successful relationship thereon.
Give your spouse a chance to be completely honest with you. Let them understand the pain they have caused you and let them make it up to you for it. Take physical and emotional space from your partner, for days, weeks, or even months if you want. Reconcile with your spouse gradually as the bad memories fade over time, and you feel you are ready to trust them again.
If you see your spouse working through this problem, then give them another chance by all means. You will need to cope with your feelings after discovering your spouse’s emotional affair. However, if you feel that there is no way you can recover from the pain and it is just better to move on with your respective lives, that’s okay too. You deserve to be happy and you need to understand and accept what is going to make you happier in the long run.
What Not To Do When Your Partner Is Emotionally Cheating?
Now you know how to deal with emotional affairs a spouse may be involved in. However, in such emotionally volatile situations, it’s not always possible to react dispassionately or remain pragmatic. When you’re riddled with hurt, anger, pain, and a sense of betrayal upon learning that your partner is emotionally cheating, it is possible that you may end up reacting in ways that can worsen the situation.
A flare-up of tempers, calling names, saying hurtful things can seem like potent tools to level the playing field and make your partner suffer the same angst that you’re dealing with. However, these never do anyone any good. It won’t make the process of dealing with infidelity in marriage easy for you. Nor would it help your partner see the error of their ways. So, when you deal with emotional cheating in your relationship, keep this rundown of don’ts in mind:
- Seek revenge: Just because your partner has betrayed your trust, doesn’t mean that it’s okay for you to do the same. Steer clear of the temptation of having an affair yourself to seek revenge on your partner
- Play the blame game: Of course, the affair is your partner’s fault but don’t make it a point to rub it in at every available opportunity, especially if you want to give the relationship another chance. This is one of the worst reconciliation mistakes couples can make when dealing with infidelity in marriage
- Air dirty laundry in public: When you’re coping with emotional affairs and inappropriate talk that your partner may have been engaging in, it’s natural to want a shoulder to lean on. By all means, have a support system to get through this difficult time but that does not mean venting to anyone at all who cares to lend a sympathetic ear
- Drag the children into it: While you’re still figuring out how to deal with emotional affairs your spouse has had, don’t drag the children into the mess. Definitely don’t share details of their parent’s transgression with them. You may scar them and fracture their relationship with your partner. If you choose to stay together as a family, recovering from this can be hard for them
- Deny your feelings: You may feel a spectrum of emotions, from anger to pain, guilt, shame, and embarrassment upon discovering that your partner is emotionally cheating. Allow yourself to feel the full extent of these emotions. Bottling up or sweeping them away will only augment their intensity
You need to avoid being obsessed with the relationship. You also need to stop worrying about what people will say. Once it starts interfering with your peace of mind, you will not be able to find joy in anything that you do. Make the right decision and stick to it and we promise, you will be a happier person in the long run.
Yes, a marriage can survive emotional infidelity if both partners are willing to put it behind them and work on rebuilding their relationship. However, to succeed at this attempt, it’s also crucial to address underlying issues that may have triggered an emotional affair.
There is no specific timeline for how long emotional affairs can last. These can be a short-term way of coping with a lack of emotional intimacy in the primary relationship or may even carry on for years, especially if they’re undetected by the cheater’s partner.
The basic premise of emotional affairs is strong chemistry and attraction between two people, so yes, they can turn into love and also becomes a stepping stone to a full-blown affair, sexual intimacy included.