Emotional infidelity, otherwise known as cheating or having an affair, refers to
behaviour engaged in by one partner that encourages emotional intimacy with a
third party, which may or may not lead to a sexual relationship.
This occurs when a partner is spending emotional or physical energy, attention and
time with someone outside of their committed relationship, resulting in their
partner feeling extremely hurt and neglected.
Although there has been no sexual activity with the other person, it doesn’t lessen
the pain after finding out about the affair.
Dealing with emotional infidelity can be very difficult, however, there are steps
you can take to help you in dealing with the pain. The violation of trust you
experienced can cut deeply. For certain people overcoming emotional infidelity is
much harder than one which is sexual.
While both affair types violate trust, one can have a more profound effect. This
may seem more difficult to overcome because you are the person that you want
your spouse to discuss their life plans and deep feelings with, not anyone else.
Should You Tell Your Partner About It?
Here’s a suggestion. Ask yourself this question: what sort of relationship are you
after? Chances are you want one based on trust from which can be developed a
safe emotional as well as a physically intimate relationship.
This doesn’t discount the fact that it is possible to keep some secrets to yourself or
that it’s necessary to tell your partner everything. But it is healthy to share the
things that are important, things that both of you should know, things that are
relevant and can impact your relationship’s foundation—put another way, the
important things which are essential on which you have based your relationship.
And an affair can have a huge impact on the issue of trust in a relationship.
Sure, it’s difficult to let your partner know that you’ve had an affair. It may not
only hurt them it could also potentially damage your relationship. It’s also hard due
to the fact that you are revealing a failing on your part, something that could make
you look less in your partner’s eyes.
However, if you look at it another way, you have already betrayed them and the
relationship has been compromised by the infidelity. These facts won't disappear,
whether you tell your partner or not. But acknowledging that you’ve had an affair
paves the way to repair any damage you’ve done.
You might think to hide the secret and decide to not cheat again and focus on
improving your relationship, but it won’t be based on a solid foundation. In order
to show your partner due respect, you can let her or him see the cracks as well
because then you can try together to repair the relationship.
Of course, it may be that your partner won’t want to stay in the relationship after
you confess. But it’s not healthy to keep your infidelity a secret in order to salvage
the relationship—because that’s not fair to either of you and just serves to defend a
cracked relationship that will more than likely continue to worsen.
Your partner deserves to be provided with all necessary information so a decision
can be made. You more than likely don’t want an end to your relationship, but nor
do you feel right about your partner staying with you by way of ignorance, due to
the belief that you’ve remained loyal.
Have a Conversation with Your Partner
Also important is to talk about how to work through the problems after the fact –
and ways you can stop them so they don’t start.
Communication plays a key role in a healthy relationship. The main triggers for
emotional infidelity are issues that go unspoken. By keeping your communication
channels honest and open, you are much less likely to feel it necessary to look for
someone outside of your relationship to fill your needs emotionally. Instead, you
can talk to your partner/spouse and let them know your needs or what it is that may
be missing in your relationship.
If, however, emotional infidelity is already occurring, it’s best to stop it before it
goes any further. You choose the actions you take, and if you choose (even on an
unconscious level) to communicate emotions with a third party, you are on the
road to forming a rift in the relationship with your partner.
If you really want to get your life on the right track with your partner, you must
accept that the problem isn’t only about the third party, or your connection with
them, but about the issues in your marriage which you have not addressed and the
needs on an emotional level that haven’t been discussed with your partner.
Furthermore, if you think (or actually know) that your partner is being emotionally
unfaithful, the first thing to do is communicate – to find out the reason behind the
affair which caused them to find comfort with someone else.
This is often a hard step for couples. However, in order to have a healthy
relationship you have to accept that this happened. It’s now in the past and cannot
be changed. Instead, put your focus in the present and future.
Accept the emotions of each other. Try accepting how your partner feels regarding
what happened. The partner who was betrayed will feel angry and hurt and this
might take some time. Allow her or him to express their emotions as needed. Try
not to defend yourself or counter any comments… just accept that your partner is
in need of your support.
Consult a Professional
Overcoming emotional infidelity can seem impossible with some couples, as a
result of the harm that’s been done. Professional counselling can be of help in such
cases. You can explore what went wrong and why, and ways to overcome any
further struggles. This will allow you to kick-start your relationship again.
In cases where children are involved, it is recommended to seek professional help,
because the development of your children has to be taken into consideration.
Sometimes staying in a relationship may not be best for the children, particularly if
the couple keeps arguing and fighting with each other.
Marriage or couples counselling can assist you in understanding why this happened
and help you find a way back together. Working through emotional infidelity can
be very difficult without professional assistance.
Build trust by working together. Make sure you stick to your word and back them
up with actions. This process can take some time, but with the right help and
intentions, it is possible to rebuild your relationship.
Find a counsellor near you here.
If you are wondering why people cheat on their partner read the article here.
Listen to our podcast on redefining your relationship after infidelity here.