An emotional affair is the development of a deep connection with someone who isn’t your partner. When the emotional affair began, you probably felt like you really clicked with that person. And probably that they’re an attentive, understanding, loving and caring human being.
Know that you’re born with a brain that is made to respond to such qualities - that's a human given.
In principle, anybody can feel how that kind of deep connection can provoke a sense of longing. All of a sudden, you can find yourself extraordinarily attracted to another human being. It's perfectly understandable that you’d want to seek them out and develop that relationship, perhaps under the guise of friendship at first.
But… when the friendship develops into something deeper, pleasure centres in your brain release highly addictive pleasure-inducing chemicals.
In other words, you become addicted to that feeling of being seen, accepted and loved by this new person in your life.
An emotional affair can happen to anyone, including those already in loving, intimate, committed relationships. And even to those who would never have seen themselves as being capable of betraying their partner or endangering someone else's relationship or marriage.
But it’s important that you realise that emotional infidelity doesn’t just happen. Allowing that friendship to develop into emotional infidelity involves making decisions at every step of the way.
This means that you do have a measure of control over those strong feelings you experience. It’s really important that you realise this if you want to get over the other man or woman.
So, what now? How do you get over your emotional infidelity?
When you're no longer able to feed that addiction, your brain goes into overdrive. It’s constantly searching for ways to satisfy the craving you feel for the other person.
It's just like withdrawal from any addictive drug. You'll experience an intense longing. You'll be anxiously searching for ways to relieve the pain. Ultimately, you'll be utterly miserable if you can't get the fix you feel like you need.
When it comes to emotional cheating, withdrawal may make you feel as though you’ll never be happy again without the other person.
You may well feel torn: part of you might want to do the ‘right’ thing and commit to your primary relationship. It's perfectly possible that you still love your partner. It’s also possible that an exclusive relationship with the other person just isn't on the cards right now, for whatever reason.
The other part of you might be desperately wanting to relieve the pain and stop that unbearable longing by reconnecting with your lost love.
Yet, since you're here, you've either been given a choice or you’ve had to make one. For the sake of this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve decided to stay in your primary relationship. You're going to commit to it and help your partner (and yourself) to heal.
If your relationship was previously relatively stable, chances are you'll eventually settle again. There is the potential for your relationship to become even stronger if you can both weather this storm.
However, if you remain conflicted about your decision, disconnecting from the other man or woman can cause a personal crisis as well as a crisis in your relationship or marriage. In this case, it’s possible that you’ll start to experience feelings not unlike those of a nervous breakdown.
So, here's my advice for getting over your emotional cheating…
First of all, you're going to have to be very sure of your decision.
If you feel you ought to stay with your partner or spouse (rather than wanting to), your heart may not be in your relationship anymore. Your feelings for the other person may have overtaken you, and/or the pre-existing problems in your relationship might now be too great to overcome.
And it would, of course, be most unhelpful if you committed to staying in your primary relationship but still maintained contact with the other person.
For you and your partner or spouse to recover from the (emotional) infidelity, you will need to be honest and transparent. You’ll also need to devote time, energy and attention to your relationship. You cannot afford to be distracted from that.
Therefore, Step 1 (below) is the only way to start the process of healing...
Cut all ties with your lover.
It may sound brutal, but it's the only way to move on from all this. Let me spell it out for you, just in case:
Give your partner access to your phone and email/social accounts if necessary. They may want to see for themselves that you no longer have contact.
You may well feel as if you're losing your freedom and that your partner is in control. However, the sooner your partner feels reassured that you've stopped cheating, the sooner you'll both recover. You'll be wise not to set a time limit on that, though. It could take anything from a few months to a couple of years, depending on both of your relationship histories and how you generally deal with challenges and setbacks.
Accept that you can't just switch off your feelings of love for the other person.
Acknowledge that you're hurting and don't be tempted to try and escape your feelings with drugs, alcohol, excessive gaming, partying or anything else.
Your pain is normal under the circumstances. It is what it is and will subside, unless you keep feeding it.
Feed your brain with new information.
You'll have to stop building all the nerve connections in your brain around the person connected with your emotional infidelity. However, just trying to stop thinking about that person won't work. You have to give your brain something else to do instead. So what better than to focus on your partner or spouse? After all, rebuilding your relationship or marriage is going to take some work...
I suspect you're feelings are all over the place at the moment. So, for further help and ideas on how to improve your mood, read my article on how to deal with depression without medication.
And just in case you need reasons not to continue cheating - emotionally and/or sexually, see my article on dealing with infidelity.
I've prepared a worksheet for you to help you make a start healing your relationship or marriage...
Another way to help you get over emotional infidelity is by helping your partner to heal. To learn a little more about how they might be feeling as a result of your emotional infidelity, read my article: How to survive infidelity.
I know this can be really tough because you're hurting too. You might not have anyone to share your feelings with because your infidelity was most likely a secret. And you might not feel as though you can complain because you’re the one that’s caused all the drama.
Potentially the only person who could have offered you solace is no longer reachable. And now you're having to cope with a partner and a relationship so damaged that you barely know how to put it right again.
I therefore highly recommend you get some expert relationship advice. You’d be sensible to also take this opportunity to address any relationship issues the two of you already had. It might even be that some of those issues - at least in part - contributed to you seeking out someone else to connect to in the first place.
Know that if you're really committed to making your relationship or marriage work, your partner will heal - and you will too.
Learning how to get over your the other man or woman might take a little time and will definitely take some care and effort. But once you've survived this storm and are in a safe harbour again, you can rebuild your relationship and make it stronger than it ever was before.
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