Many couples have this debate. Your husband or wife may have a friend of the opposite sex that they talk to and occasionally see for lunch. Or, it’s someone your spouse just met. And most disagree at what point the spouse is getting a little too close to someone outside of the marriage.
In this blog, we’ll look at how to define this type of relationship, and 3 steps to bring the emotional connection back home and save your marriage.
The Emotional Energy Expenditure
It’s one thing to have a long-term friend of the opposite sex with whom your spouse shares confidences. You may not like the idea, because there’s always that potential for something more, but if the friendship predated your getting together, generally it’s something you accepted from day one.
But let’s say you discover your husband or wife has developed a close tie with someone, maybe a coworker or hobby/activity friend, and that relationship has crossed a line from friendship or a working relationship to one of a more intimate nature. Suddenly, you’re having doubts about what’s really going on between them, and suddenly you wonder why do men cheat: what makes them cross the line?
For some spouses, it may lead them to do things they wouldn’t normally do, like try to hack into emails or personal cell phones to learn what’s going on. If you have found yourself doing this with your spouse, you probably have a whirl of emotions occurring, such as guilt for becoming a “spy” in your own home.
There are a host of other emotions that happen when you learn that your spouse is forging a strong bond with someone outside of your marriage. It can leave you feeling angry and sad, as you ask, “Why not pull closer to me?”
You may wonder, “If all they’re doing is just talking, why does it trouble me so?”
The reason you’re feeling threatened is because your spouse is expending emotional energy with a person that isn’t you. They are building an intimate connection with someone outside of the marriage when, by rights, that connection should be built with you.
Your husband or wife may not have a physical relationship with this other person, but if they are bonding intimately through talk, then their relationship has more than likely crossed the line into the realm of the emotional affair.
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How Emotional Affairs Hurt a Marriage
The intimacy that rightfully belongs in your marriage is being thinned out, diluted. They are sharing their deepest, innermost thoughts and feelings with someone else, which is bound to create a strong emotional connection.
But this means they aren’t sharing those deep feelings with the person they pledged their life to, and your relationship’s foundation is weakening. If one spouse goes outside of the marriage to seek fulfillment, even if the fulfillment is “only” emotional in nature, it’s a form of cheating on the marital bond.
This is why couples argue over how to define these types of relationships. But a common hallmark of a relationship that is clandestine is the lack of transparency. If the phone calls are taken in private, or information isn’t shared, then your spouse isn’t being transparent for a reason.
Maybe at heart, they feel some level of guilt. They’re getting some sort of rush from the attention, and they fear losing that rush, while at the same time not necessarily wanting to jeopardize their relationship with you. They feel “special” with this other person, and they know deep down that this really isn’t right, so they go to the trouble to hide their actions.
Bring the Emotional Connection Back Home
So what do you do to save your marriage and prevent a physical affair from happening, on top of the emotional affair? First, your spouse needs to own up to the fact that this is an emotional affair. It’s very simple: are you sharing an emotional bond with a member of the opposite sex outside of our marriage? Are you sharing your deepest feelings and thoughts with this person?
This is an emotional affair. Once it’s accepted by both spouses that this is what’s happening, it’s time to work on rebuilding intimacy with your spouse once again.
Step 1: Assess Your Emotional Connection
Even if your emotional connection has been crippled, it’s no excuse for either partner to make a bad choice and seek comfort outside of the marriage, even if it is to just get their feelings off their chest. Eventually, those hurt feelings feed upon themselves, and the person in the emotional-affair situation may subconsciously “justify” their actions by deepening the divide between you through arguments and other negative behaviors.
Look at your emotional connection. Has there been a breakdown in communication? Do you see signs of neglect, of not making the effort to make one another feel special? Make the effort in these areas to rebuild intimacy.
Step 2: Assess ALL of your Communication
There are two types of communication: verbal and non-verbal. You need both in order to have a stronger intimate connection with your spouse. Verbal communication is easy to understand: you talk, in a supportive way, to one another.
Non-verbal communication is about spending time together, how you behave without the words. It’s those little actions you do, such as go to the movies and hold hands, or a touch on the shoulder as you walk by.
Strengthen both of these communication bonds to save your marriage. Try different methods to deepen your connection and make each other feel special. Couples should be in one another’s corner, so find ways to demonstrate that.
Step 3: Keep at It: Communication is a Skill
If your communication has devolved to the point of grunts and nods, you will need to be patient as you work to turn things around. Communication erodes over time, so don’t be surprised that it takes time to build it back up again.
You will need to do things differently than you have been. If it has been a nod “hello” in the morning, then tomorrow morning, try “Good morning. How did you sleep?” It may feel awkward at first for both of you, and you may even meet with some cynicism or a smart reply, but most new skills don’t feel right at first.
My best wishes for you as you rebuild the emotional connection with your partner.
Do you suspect your spouse of having an emotional affair? Or are you in the midst of one?
What fulfillment do you think your spouse is getting out of the emotional affair?
What is it you and your spouse need to do to find fulfillment once again in your marriage, to deepen that emotional connection?
Please share your thoughts and experiences regarding this aspect of saving your marriage.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,
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