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.
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