1. Don’t take it, personally.
Since you’ve discovered your partner’s emotional infidelity, you have spent a ton of time obsessing about what you could have done differently. If you had just had more sex, watched him play softball, or listened to her troubles about work, then maybe your husband or wife wouldn’t have had to go out and find someone else.
Why do people cheat? Most emotional affairs are not something that someone goes looking for. They are something that just kind of happens.
A client of mine had been friends with a man for years — just friends — and then, one day, they ran into each other at the supermarket. Both were depressed and for some reason and they confided in each other in a way that they hadn’t confided in their spouses. After that, they continued to share and support each other through their depressive times and before they knew what was happening, they found themselves in love with each other.
Of course, emotional affairs don’t happen in a void. There is often some degree of distancing between partners that opens up a space for someone else to enter. But your partner’s affair is not your fault. It most likely would have happened, whether you listened to your spouse complain about work or not.
2. Don’t suffer in silence.
For many people, once they find out their partner is having an emotional affair, they clam up.
Instead of addressing the issue with their partner, they retreat into themselves, obsessing about the affair, wondering whether it’s still happening and what’s next for their relationship.
They wait in silence, hoping it will all pass and go back to the way it used to be.
What they don’t do is talk with their partner about it directly. They don’t talk about why it happened, if it will continue, what needs to be done about the situation, or how they each feel about what is going on.
If your goal is surviving emotional infidelity, it’s important to talk with your partner about what is happening. You can do so alone or with a therapist, if you need help with the conversation. But you need to do it. Soon.
3. Get some help processing.
Another thing that you must do, once learning about an emotional affair, is to get help processing it. While friends are a great source of support, they are definitively on your side and might not give you the best advice.
It is important to seek out the help of a life coach or a therapist to help you through these difficult times. You will be struggling with guilt, shame, anger, sadness, fear, and many other emotions. If you don’t deal with them, they can fester for a long time, and getting past it will be more difficult for you.
4. Take care of yourself.
When we go through emotionally rough times, we take one of two directions: We either fall onto the couch with ice cream while binging Netflix or we push ourselves really hard to get things done.
Either one is meant to numb the pain that we are feeling but it’s best to not partake in either extreme. Instead, settle somewhere in the middle and take care of yourself.
Make sure you get enough sleep every night. If you can’t sleep, find something that will help you do so. Try melatonin or ask your doctor to give you something a little bit stronger. Without enough sleep, you will find dealing with what you are dealing with more difficult.
Try to eat balanced meals regularly and indulge in only a reasonable amount of ice cream.
Lastly, make sure you get your heart rate up every day. Take a walk or dance around your apartment. Getting your heart rate up is an excellent way to deal with the stress you are under. The dopamine your body will generate from the exercise will help smooth out your emotions.
If you take care of yourself instead of sinking into the couch, you will find surviving emotional infidelity significantly easier.
5. Decide next steps.
As you process your partner’s emotional infidelity, it is important that you start thinking about the next steps.
This is not something that you need to do right away. It is important that you work through your feelings about what has happened first. But, when you are ready, it is important that you consider what you want the rest of your life to look like.
Do you see yourself staying with your partner, working through what happened and moving forward? Or do you think it’s time to cut bait and move on with your life so that you can find the happiness you want and deserve?
I have a client who discovered her husband’s emotional infidelity three years ago. In spite of his repeated promises that he would end it, her husband continued to have a non-sexual but intimate relationship with this woman. My client suspected it was happening and fought constantly about it with her husband but she continued to live with him.
She became obsessed about the relationship. It interfered with her everyday peace of mind, her work, and the joy she should have felt at her daughter’s wedding. To this day, she is still with him and her life is on hold. Her self-esteem is low and her future unsure.
Don’t let yourself get to this point. Make a decision about what you want your life to look like and make it happen. Life is short. Don’t waste it!
Surviving emotional infidelity probably feels impossible and unlikely to you right now, but you can and you will survive.
Think about all of the things that have happened in your life that you thought you wouldn’t survive. Did you survive them? Did you learn from them? Are you glad that you went through some of them because they changed the direction of your life?
This emotional infidelity can be the same. It’s another blip in the story that is your life. And you can survive it!
Try not to take it personally, talk to your partner about it, get help from outside sources, take care of yourself and look to the future. All of these things will help you get through this next period of your life intact.