You know now that your "friend" is a lot more than that.
You've crossed boundaries. You are having an emotional affair.
You also know that what you really want is to feel happy in your marriage. You don't want to leave your husband for the affair partner, but you are not sure what to do now.
First of all, if this situation is your reality right now, I want you to hear this:
I understand what you are going through. It is emotionally overwhelming and scary. You might feel like you are drowning. The feelings of shame and guilt when facing your husband probably make it hard to be at home right now. It sucks. I am truly sorry you are feeling this way. I want to give you hope that you can overcome this and create the relationship you want with your husband.
Emotional affairs are destructive for relationships. Period. Just because the physical aspect is not involved doesn't mean they don't have similar (or worse) effects. And yes, I have heard many say, "it's not physical, so what's the problem?" The problem is that the attention, emotion, and energy that should be going into your marriage is going into another relationship. In your emotional affair, you are giving your best time and self to your affair partner.
You're turning your back on your husband as he sits on the far side of the couch. You're tuned into your iPhone and tuned out of marriage.
What can you do to end the emotional affair and reconnect with your husband?
1 | Cut off the emotional affair. The first, and most difficult, step is to cut off the affair completely. This means putting a stop to all communication. I've heard from many clients they feel like they can still maintain a "friendship" with the affair partner. Think about it - how did the affair start in the first place? What I've seen time and time again is if the communication is not completely cut off, the affair soon resurfaces. If you want to give your marriage a fighting chance, cut the emotional affair off cold turkey.
2 | Apologize. Even if you aren't ready to fully come clean to your partner, which is totally normal, apologize for being absent. Apologize for not being engaged in your relationship the way you should have been, for spending too much time on your phone, and for making your partner feel invisible or insignificant. A genuine "I'm sorry" goes a long way.
3 | Prioritize your relationship and give your partner your best self. An emotional affair makes you turn away from your marriage and towards your affair partner. The first step towards overcoming the effects of the affair is to do the opposite of what got you there - turn towards your husband. Pay attention, stay engaged in conversations, be responsive, and practice the magic of doing small, kind things often.
4 | Put the phone down. Give yourself time to process what happened by being present and giving yourself time to "detox" from communication and the platforms that allowed the affair to happen. Put down your phone, deactivate Facebook for awhile, and only check email once a day. Give yourself the mental and emotional bandwidth to focus on your feelings and marriage by minimizing tech exposure.
5 | Get professional help. This is by no means an easy situation to deal with. Let a trained professional guide you through this process. If you do not know how to tell your partner what happened, or fear for their emotional well-being or reaction, this can be especially helpful. Having a therapist mediate this process can help you get it out in the open, manage emotions, gain understanding, and help you make each other feel heard and validated.
Your relationship can be repaired. You've taken the first step - you've acknowledged that this friendship isn't quite just a friendship. The road ahead will be challenging, but it's so worth it.
Marina Voron, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Co-Founder, and Clinical Director of Nassau Wellness. Marina believes all couples have the power to form a loving and lasting relationship given the right tools. Marina specializes in couples therapy, sex therapy, emotional affairs, anxiety, and communication issues. Read more...