Is Emotional Affair Recovery Possible?

Emotional affairs aren’t often talked about but can be as disastrous to relationships as physical affairs would be. You might be asking yourself, “Are emotional affairs even real?”

Unfortunately, not only are emotional affairs real but they are increasingly common in our extremely connected world. Spouses who cross certain emotional boundaries with someone other than their spouse are most likely involved in an emotional affair.

Whether you are the one who is trying to define the relationship you are having with someone outside of your marriage or you are the spouse who wants to understand what to do next, this article might be just right for you.

4 Steps to Emotional Affair Recovery

Here are four steps to achieving emotional affair recovery:

Step 1: Accept that you are participating in an emotional affair.

Emotional affairs often begin as casual friendships, so it can be hard to identify in the early stages. Normally, people are looking for something in another person that they aren’t receiving from their spouse.

Let’s say your spouse never compliments your appearance or talents. At work, your assistant is constantly building you up and giving you daily compliments. You begin to grow closer to your assistant and further away from your spouse.

You begin to look forward to seeing your assistant, making sure you are looking your best. Those everyday compliments transform into late-night chats about home life and work stress. Your assistant is overly compassionate and nurturing, something you haven’t felt from your spouse in years.

Although you notice desires begin to arise, you tell yourself that you respect your marriage too much to jeopardize anything. As the months pass, you begin to celebrate special moments in your life with your friend at work exclusively.

Your wife thinks you are constantly working late, but you are spending time at the office working with your assistant and swapping stories. Your assistant takes emotional priority over your spouse and you begin to feel a greater intimacy with her.

One night you get in an argument with your spouse. She doesn’t remember something you told her that was important to you. Suddenly, you remember it wasn’t your wife you shared these feelings with, but your assistant at work. You are not sure how your appropriate relationship turned inappropriate, but you now recognize that it has to stop. You want to make things right.

Here are some common signs that you are in an emotional affair:

  • You feel you have to hide your conversations with your friend from your spouse.
  • You begin to send more flirtatious messages to each other.
  • You find ways to spend more alone time with this person.
  • You desire to spend more time with this person and make sure you look your best if you know you will see him or her.
  • You compare your spouse to this friend, noticing your friend has qualities your spouse lacks.
  • You share personal issues with your friend because you see them as someone you can trust.

Step 2: Have a conversation with someone.

Now, that you have identified what’s happening as an emotional affair. The next step is to have a conversation with someone, admitting to the emotional affair.

If you are comfortable talking to your spouse about what’s been going on, this might be the ideal place to start. If you don’t feel safe sharing with your spouse yet, enlist the help of a pastor or Christian counselor to support you as you prepare to share with your spouse.

You might be afraid of the outcome of sharing this news with your spouse. Guilt and shame could be overwhelming right now and you are still confused exactly how your friendship became something more. Telling someone will help bring freedom into your life and put you on the path toward healing.

Broken places in your marriage can be restored as you learn more about root problems. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” There is power in talking to a pastor or a Christian friend of the same sex and asking for prayer.

It’s important to share, but you still might be wondering how to begin a conversation of this nature. You can start by saying something simple like “I really got caught up in a situation that went too far emotionally. I would like to tell you about it now.”

Your goal is to share with someone (spouse, counselor, or pastor) what has been happening and then work toward discovering what led you to enter into an emotional affair. A Christian counselor can offer ways to ensure you avoid going down the same path in the future.

Step 3: Find a Counselor

It would be beneficial to find counseling individually and with your spouse. Individual counseling will help you uncover why the affair began and continued over time. A Christian counselor will walk you through different aspects of marriage and what a healthy marriage looks like to you.

You might be dealing with a past hurt that you carried with you into marriage. Individual counseling can help make you healthy and whole which will then contribute to a healthy marriage.

If you are the one who just found out your spouse had an emotional affair, counseling is a safe place to share your current feelings. You might be dealing with anger or bitterness that can be talked through with a professional before beginning a dialogue with your spouse.

It is helpful to have a conversation with a counselor about ways for you to regain confidence in yourself and your marriage. Meeting with a counselor will grant you clarity and help you move forward in a healthy manner.

Marriage counseling is vital at this point. A Christian counselor can help you both navigate your emotions so that you can understand where things may have taken a turn in your marriage. Counseling sessions are meant to equip you with the tools to communicate with your spouse.

It’s difficult to recover from an emotional affair without understanding fully why the affair happened, what maintained the affair, and how to prevent an affair in the future. A Christian counselor is trained to work through the deepest of pains and more complicated of emotions.

Step 4: Forgiveness

After going through the previously mentioned steps, you might be at the place where you are willing to work on forgiveness.

You will likely have to decide what forgiveness will look like for you either as the person asking for forgiveness or having to forgive. Some people need a verbal apology and explanation of what was wrong and how they will not do it again.

Other people don’t value a verbal apology and would rather see proof of changed behavior. The two people in the marriage should discuss what the offense is and how the future will be different. Trust-building is an important part of this step.

Forgiveness is unique to each individual so understanding what your spouse is needing from you in order to forgive is helpful.

You don’t have to face emotional affair recovery alone. Contact a Christian counselor to begin your journey toward healing and restoration today.

Photos
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What is an Emotional Affair? Identifying and Protecting Against It

When we think of affairs, we often think of soap opera scandal, and of husbands and wives jumping into bed with each other. But many types of affairs actually occur on a purely emotional level.

Maybe you’re wondering, “What is an emotional affair?” An emotional affair is when a spouse is getting their needs met by someone of the opposite sex who is not their own partner. And it happens a lot.

What is an Emotional Affair? Here are Some Examples

So, say a husband has a real interest in music but the wife has never been at all musical. Sensing a lack of interest from his spouse, the husband may join a community music group. There, he meets an attractive woman, and they get on well. He realizes that he shares a common interest with this woman and that she appreciates his talents more than his own wife does.

He starts looking forward to spending time with the woman, as he enjoys the company and appreciates being encouraged and built up in his abilities. He starts to think about her more and more, and begins trying to figure out a way that he can spend time with her alone.

Or maybe it is a wife who is very artistic, but her husband has no interest in her work. She has a group of artsy friends who she likes hanging out with. A handsome man joins the group and his artistic ability is incredible. She is impressed by both his looks and his skills.

The pair begins to bond over their shared love of certain famous artists and begin to meet up so they can work together on different projects. The wife starts to work her schedule around the man so that they can spend more time together. She also begins to take longer to get ready for when she meets him because she wants to look good for him.

Identifying Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs always develop outside of the spouse’s awareness. They increase gradually and become more dangerous over time, as bit by bit the two people grow closer.

It is worth thinking regularly about any people you might know who meet a need in your life that is not being met by your own spouse. If you realize you have been engaging in an emotional affair, don’t beat yourself up.

It is, however, time to deal with it by being open and honest with your spouse. Don’t rush in and accuse your spouse of neglecting your needs, but think carefully about how they are feeling, and be cautious with your words.

In a marriage, very little is ever beyond repair. Yes, you might have got a bit lost along the way, but with the right help, you can get things back on track.

How To Re-Engage With Your Spouse

Re-engaging with your spouse is an absolutely essential part of recovering from an emotional affair. This can be difficult if the affair has been going on for some time behind the spouse’s back. You must both be willing to work on engaging with each other once again.

If you are both committed to fixing your marriage, here are some key steps you can take:

Get Into Counseling

Marital disconnection is often deeply rooted in past trauma. In order to identify the triggers for the emotional affair in a safe and secure environment, it is worth getting some counseling. This will give both parties a chance to voice their frustrations and concerns with a trained therapist who can help decipher exactly what is going on.

Set Healthy Boundaries

After being married for a while, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of feeling as if you never get your own way. Both partners should be allowed to say “No” in any given situation without a massive relational fallout.

When disagreements do arise, it is important not to engage in knee-jerk reactions that only serve to heighten emotions and bring about more strife. Setting personal boundaries in terms of individual decision-making is absolutely essential, and these must be respected at all times.

Ask For Needs To Be Met, But Be Able to Hear “No”

Related to the last point, a healthy marriage is one in which either partner is allowed to ask for their needs to be met, but is also allowed to say “No.” This may be a crucial element in protecting your sex life. If you say “I think we should have sex,” and your partner responds “No, I don’t want to right now.” That should be taken as a final answer and you should not push it any further.

By allowing each other to express how you feel, you are showing honor to each other as respected adults, and are ridding your marriage of coercion and unhealthy power dynamics. You must always seek to work toward a mutually-respectful relationship where you are both fully listened to, steering clear of the parent-child relationship in your marriage.

Work On Pairing Action With Emotion

Reintroduce some emotion into your marriage. If you are leaving for work, don’t just slam the door without as much as a wave goodbye. Leave a few minutes spare to hold your spouse, to tell them how much you love them, and to kiss them properly.

Try and get off autopilot when it comes to showing affection. Be sacrificial with your time and spend it willingly to reconnect with your spouse in a physical way.

Engage in Healthy Dating Behaviors

Make a list of places you want to visit, restaurants you want to have dinner at, or walks you want to take together. Go on some dates! Reconnect in a romantic setting. Compliment your spouse when they have made an effort to look nice for you. Buy flowers, take them on surprise trips, and just make them feel special!

Find Your Spiritual Practices As A Couple

Find a way of connecting with God as a couple. Be creative and wise in this. For example, if you both struggle to stay awake after getting into bed, scrap the bedtime Bible and prayer time. Agree to get up an hour earlier and do it first thing in the morning. Go to Church together, hang out with Christian friends in the community and spur each other on in your faith.

Put Your Spouse First

Prefer your spouse over others. If your friends ask you to come and hang out with them, check with your spouse before saying yes. See if your spouse wants to do something that evening, and let them know that they take priority over anyone else. Similarly, if you sense your spouse could do with a bit of time on their own, make it clear that you are totally okay with this.

Stay Alert, Protect Yourself From An Affair

Keep your eyes open to any possible threats to your marriage. Perhaps an attractive man or woman has just joined your small group, and you find your eyes lingering on them for a moment too long.

Catch it early. Let your spouse know of any potential snares and figure out ways to combat them. If you are highly attracted to someone, be wise and don’t hang out with them on your own, no matter how plausible you deem the reason to be.

If you are worried that someone may have taken a personal liking to you at work, talk to them about your spouse in a positive light – this will kill any potential emotional affair!

Be tuned in to your emotional state when you are around people. If you feel a fluttering of the stomach when you see someone who isn’t your spouse, take note of that and be sure to avoid spending too much time with this person.

These are just a few tips and tools for reconnecting with your spouse and protecting yourself against an emotional affair. Remember why you married your spouse, keep your wedding vows close to your heart and mind and be bold in tackling the difficult things of marriage together as a couple that is united under the protection of God.

Photos:
“Telephone Mobile to Call”, Courtesy of Niek Verlaan, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “The Waiting Game”, Courtesy of Louis Blythe, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Boundaries”, Courtesy of Thomas Smith, Unsplash.com; CC0 License;”Dinner Date”, Courtesy of Jack Finnigan, Unsplash.com; CC0 Licens

Top Three Excuses for Having an Affair – and How to Deal with Them

References “Intimate Allies” by Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III and “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller

Marriage is about integrity. As a covenant first and foremost with God, one should keep that promise despite their spouse’s shortcomings. Marriage should be a journey about the husband or wife that you would like to become with God’s help. This journey should not be disrupted just because of dissatisfaction with your spouse.

Three (Sinful) Excuses for Having an Affair

Here are the top three excuses people give for having an affair:

1. My spouse let him or herself go.

Some people believe that the person that they married should generally continue to be the same throughout married life. They rationalize that if they knew that their spouse would end up becoming a lazy slouch or balloon into somebody physically different then they would not have gotten married.

But why do people decide to “let themselves go” in the first place? For many husbands and wives, this occurs because they feel underappreciated and so they are no longer willing to make the effort to look and act the way they did when they were still dating.

In many cases, it is a passive-aggressive move to show that they are unhappy with their partner. The end result is that the other feels that they are being driven away or they believe that they have made the wrong choice, so they search for someone more “ideal,” leading to that person having an affair.

2. I haven’t felt this way in years.

Blame it on Hollywood or people’s obsession with romantic love, but many today wrongly believe that true love should always mean having butterflies in your stomach whenever you see your loved one.

Sadly, this feeling does not last and neither do the romantic dates as couples, particularly married couples, choose to prioritize practicality over needless spending to impress.

This is why when a disgruntled spouse meets somebody new and those romantic feelings are stirred up again, they believe that perhaps they have truly found the one meant for them. Happy fantasies of finding their “soul mate” are brought to the forefront and they drift further and further away from their spouse and into the arms of another.

3. I don’t love them anymore.

Emotions are fickle. One minute you are on cloud nine and another you are down in the dumps. This is particularly true in romantic relationships that are not centered on God.

Once the romantic feelings have ebbed away and the annoyances begin to pile up, it is very easy for people to feel that the love is gone. The spouse’s passive-aggressive behavior (or even outright aggressive behavior) simply reinforces the fact that the love has disappeared, making the person open to outside temptations.

And that is often how adultery begins as that “other person” sympathizes with the pain and disappointment that may be going on in the now fragmenting marriage. As the two become closer emotionally, then the adulterous relationship begins.

What should be done? Choose to love them still

The abovementioned reasons to cheat seem reasonable in the heat of the moment. But when looked at from afar, they are weak excuses. While physical appearances are part of attraction, a strong marital relationship is much more than that.

We will all age regardless of how much we try to take care of ourselves so a couple’s love should be based on a stronger foundation than that. Spouses, however, should still do their best to look good for one another as they did during their engagement period. But it should not be the final basis for love.

As for romantic infatuation, it is a short-lived feeling. In fact, researchers have proven that such a feeling can only last for around two years. After that, romantic feelings fade and all that is left is a broken marriage and a sinful and doomed adulterous one.

And while it would be great to always feel like you are in love, in marriage, what is most important is that we fulfill our covenant to God and choose to love our spouse through thick and thin. It is this commitment to God and to one’s spouse that strengthens the bonds of marriage until such time that the two truly become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

In his book, Timothy Keller shares, “You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” (Keller 104)

Christian Counseling after Having an Affair

Having an affair is a direct violation of God’s commands (Exodus 20:14, Ephesians 5:25). Aside from the damaging effects on the spouse, children and other people around, the adulterers hurt their relationship with God as they pretend that He is not watching or they wrongly imagine that He actually approves of such forbidden love.

As Allender and Longman III state, “Adultery is like the worship of false gods. It allows for the passion that God intended without bowing the knee to the one whom we were called to love. Adultery is not merely sex with the wrong person; it is union with someone who will never require us to face our sinfulness or draw forth out glory so that we are more and more in awe of God. It is intimacy without commitment, flight from the struggle of intimacy without ever facing our part in the loss.” (Allender, Longman III 308-309)

Should a spouse be tempted to find someone new or should a marriage be on the rocks, then Christian counseling can help to repair what is seemingly broken. A professional Christian counselor can help both spouses to air out their grievances in a safe, neutral environment where no one is judged. The goal is not to find out who is wrong but to figure out how to make things right.

If you or someone you know is currently having an affair or tempted to run from married life, seek help soon. As creations of God made in His image, we are all meant to glorify Him in all that we do, including how family life is handled here on Earth. It truly matters to Him that spouses are doing all that they can to make their marriage work.

Photos
“Faded Beauty”, Courtesy of Silvestri Matteo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Ecstasy”, Courtesy of Allef Vinicius, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Indifference”, Courtesy of Jassir Jonis, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Loving”, Courtesy of Phuoc Le,
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Getting Over an Affair: Can Christian Marriages Survive Infidelity?

Possibly the worst betrayal you can experience is having your spouse choose to get his or her needs met outside of your marriage, whether those needs are physical or emotional. Is it possible for a Christian marriage to recover from an affair? What does forgiveness look like? Where is the hope in this situation?

The good news is that there is always hope. But this hope requires a willingness on the part of both spouses, the betrayer and the betrayed, to work through the situation with openness and honesty and a common goal of reconciliation.

Important Steps for Getting Over an Affair

This process of getting over an affair is extremely difficult to undertake, but if there is true repentance, the right form of counseling, and helpful strategies, a marriage can become even stronger than it was prior to the affair.

Ask For Forgiveness

It’s essential that the spouse who strayed asks their husband or wife to forgive them, but it’s also important to consider others who were affected by their sin. This might include one’s children or grandchildren, or other people like extended family, friends, and coworkers.

Humbling ourselves enough to admit wrongdoing is very difficult. It takes great effort and courage, but it’s so important to ask for forgiveness from those who were affected by our selfish, foolish, and sinful actions.

Seek Counseling

Everyone involved in and affected by an affair must walk through the difficult recovery process. This is a time when it’s vital to have someone else walk with us through a difficult season, so a pastor or trained Christian counselor Newport Beach should be involved.

In order to pursue the goal of getting over an affair and restoring the marriage, a mediator is helpful to facilitate conversations that are constructive and authentic. Having an outsider bring their perspective to the marriage can shed a lot of light on what contributed to the breach. This mediator can also provide accountability and guidelines for protecting the marriage going forward.

Share the Hurt Honestly

Getting over an affair requires peeling back many layers of hurt and betrayal in the betrayed spouse: in their emotions, spirit, mind, and body. All of their thoughts and hurts should be treated as important. Each layer needs to be examined so that the pain caused by the affair is evident.

It can be difficult to realize that sometimes the betraying spouse also has legitimate hurts from his or her marriage. This isn’t to justify adultery, but it’s possible that there are struggles that were taking place before the affair that should be addressed.

Listen and Admit to Personal Wrongs

It’s very hard to listen to our faults being described and be willing to admit our culpability. It’s even harder to listen to our wrongs and not respond by justifying our actions. There is a time for explanations, but this is not that time. It is very important to acknowledge that what you’ve done has caused deep pain for your spouse.

Identify Negative Patterns in the Relationship

There were probably negative patterns in the marriage before the affair started. To change these patterns and heal the marriage, the causes need to be identified. Like many marriages, yours may only have been surviving instead of thriving.

A pastor or counselor can help identify some of these negative patterns, such as lack of time spent together, lack of connection over hopes and dreams, preoccupation with daily life over developing intimacy, social media addiction, or prioritizing other relationships. Figuring out these unhealthy patterns is an important part of moving toward reconciliation.

Agree to Establish Healthy Patterns in the Relationship

Once these negative patterns have been identified, it’s time to put in place and work toward positive goals and then to ask what things need to be done in order to effect lasting change.

Establish Intentional Time Together (date night, face-time, and couch time)

For any marriage to thrive, and especially for one to heal from adultery, a couple has to intentionally set aside time to be together. This can be a weekly date night routine, having face-time twice a week in order to reconnect, or having daily “couch time” when the kids know it’s Mom and Dad’s time to spend talking.

Especially if kids are aware that an affair took place, it’s important that they see their parents spending time reconnecting and talking, and even eventually laughing together.

Establish Accountability

It’s crucial to ask a trusted friend or pastor to provide ongoing accountability. This isn’t just for the purpose of preventing another affair, but to ensure that the strategies put in place are carried out consistently. Questions such as “When are you going on a date?” or, “Did you have face-to-face time this week?” can help keep those habits in place.

Forgive, and be Willing to Move On

It’s not helpful to constantly refer to the affair going forward. Once the hurt has been shared and processed, and there’s been forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s crucial to focus on the positive to move forward.

New feelings will undoubtedly arise and can be shared and worked through, but the affair should not be used to shame or coerce the betraying spouse.

Understand that Grieving Takes a While

Even once the adultery has been forgiven, the grieving process is still happening, and each person has their own timeline for grief. Some may recover well within months, and for others, it may take years.

There needs to be an understanding that things are going to be hard and there will be some setbacks along the way, but there’s hope as long as things keep moving ahead and the marriage is being strengthened.

Abide by the Covenant of Marriage

And lastly, let’s remember that the only covenant on earth that we have, apart from God’s covenant with us, is our covenant with our spouse. This isn’t a contract you can cancel at any time; it’s a sacred vow. It’s not a relationship that’s a trap, but a context in which to thrive.

Don’t hesitate to invest time, energy, and even finances in your marriage (such as having a romantic getaway without children). Marriage isn’t an automatic success; rather, it is either invested in or it is not. Especially if you’re trying to help your marriage recover from an affair, you need to be willing to invest in it and make it a top priority.

When you are willing to seek Christian marriage counseling early on in the recovery process, you’ll prevent future heartache resulting from unresolved issues. Being married means living out the parable of Christ’s relationship with His church. So even when it’s difficult, it’s worth our time, effort, and desire.

Photos
“Let’s Sit a While,” courtesy of I’m Priscilla, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Not in Public,” courtesy of Ezra Jeffrey, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Paradise Found,” courtesy of Nathan McBride, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “To have and to hold,” courtesy of Jon Asato, unsplash.com, CC0 License