Most people have a clear idea of infidelity. For example, when you’re in a monogamous relationship but sleep with an outside person, it’s obviously cheating. That’s undeniable. But what happens when there is no physical intimacy, only emotional? Does emotional investment in someone else outside of the relationship still count as infidelity?
An emotional affair does involve feelings of intimacy, even love, and it develops over time. It might look like friendship, but it can destroy a relationship or marriage.
What is an Emotional Affair?
Call it what you’d like—an emotional affair, emotional cheating, or an emotionally charged relationship—it is still an attachment beyond your relationship. Moreover, an emotional affair means that you are seeking validation and love elsewhere when you should be focusing on your partner.
The other dangerous component of an emotional affair is secrecy. If you feel that your relationship with this friend should be kept under wraps and never spoken of to your partner, it is probably because you know it would hurt them. On some level, you fear what would happen if they found out.
Can Emotionally Charged Friendships Lead to Physical Affairs?
If you have been wondering if the emotional investment can lead to a physical affair, the answer is a resounding yes. When a friendship is suddenly blurring platonic and romantic love, there is a very big chance that you will become physically intimate.
Emotional affairs are often the result of a disconnect between you and your partner or spouse. When people do not feel sexually fulfilled by their partner, this often leads them to seek satisfaction elsewhere. Even if that was never the intention, your emotional investment, as well as fantasies about this friend, could tempt you both to initiate physical intimacy.
Why Ending Emotional Affairs is Difficult
You may realize that a friendship has gone too far and that you are emotionally cheating on your spouse. Or maybe, you have found out your partner is involved in an emotionally charged friendship with a colleague from work. Regardless, ending the emotional affair is going to be hard.
Emotional affairs happen because two people start sharing their emotions with one another, become comfortable, and start feeling attracted to each other in some way. Infatuation can lead to obsession. You start to imagine yourself sleeping with your friend instead of your romantic partner, and the chemistry between you only gets better with time.
A one-night stand will leave you feeling wracked with guilt, but an emotional affair was never the product of a single night. Emotional cheating is gradual, slowly consuming your relationship. And that’s why it’s so challenging to end an emotional affair because it’s based on a real transactional relationship.
How to End Emotional Cheating
Emotional cheating is betrayal, regardless of how it feels. If it hurts your partner, you have cheated on them. However, you have the power to choose your relationship over the emotionally charged friendship. You can mend the damage you’ve dealt and come out stronger.
Here is how to stop an emotional affair:
1. Recognize That You Have Betrayed Your Partner
You need to recognize that you are having an affair and, most importantly, end it. There are many signs of emotional cheating, such as spending more time with the other person than your partner, buying one another gifts, turning to your friend for emotional validation and support, and keeping secrets from your partner.
Once you have come to terms with reality—and what you have done—you can progress towards recovery. Recognize the relationship for what it is then end it.
2. Take Responsibility
One of the reasons you have these emotions for someone else is because you needed attention or support or understanding, and your partner wasn’t there to meet those needs in some way. However, just because your relationship hit a rough patch doesn’t mean you can cheat. Furthermore, emotional cheating will only create more distance and more problems.
In other words, even if you needed attention, you need to take responsibility for, one, not speaking about your needs, and two, betraying your partner. You must admit that you’ve had an emotional affair and show remorse for what you’ve done in order to move on.
One thing you can do to give your wounded spouse or partner some assurance is to break off all contact with the other person. Maintain this promise. Write out a written agreement of zero contact.
And if that person happens to be a coworker you see on a daily basis, you must let them know not to speak to you anymore.
3. See an Infidelity Therapist
Infidelity of any kind is going to open a gaping rift between you and your partner. You’ve hurt them, after all. Such betrayal might cause your partner or spouse to withdraw or make them suspicious. Since emotional affairs can be so appalling and challenging to overcome, it’s recommended that you see a professional therapist.
Visiting a marriage counselor or infidelity recovery specialist is one of the best things you can do to save your marriage. Infidelity therapy will help you through the emotions, as well as assist with piecing together trust.
4. Identify The Reason
Alongside a therapist, you can also begin to figure out the reasons why the emotional affair happened in the first place. This might not always be obvious to you and your partner. Are you lonely? Bored? In need of a self-esteem boost? Discussing these things with a therapist and your partner is key in getting through an affair. If you want to prevent it from happening again, you identify the problem and work together to surmount it.
5. Work on Rebuilding Trust
If you want to save your marriage or relationship, rebuilding trust is paramount. Make your partner certain that you won’t initiate another emotional affair by being transparent and true to your word. Rebuilding the trust between you both is going to take a while, so be patient.
Moving Towards Forgiveness
How do you stop an emotional affair? The essential step is to recognize what is happening. From there, you can call off the relationship, attend infidelity therapy, and work on rebuilding trust between you and your partner. The bright side is that you can work through emotional cheating and end up with a stronger, more loving relationship with your partner or spouse.
If you are looking for some assistance, consider Couples Academy. Not only will you learn how to be more confident in your relationship, but you both gain knowledge and skills for more effective communication. Paired with therapy, Couples Academy ensures you get through an affair and come out smiling.