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Emotional infidelity usually starts out slyly, with an exchange of emails or a phone call. Perhaps there is a flirtation with someone in the office or attraction to an old friend. Soon what started as a simple friendship develops into something more: an emotional affair that can devastate a relationship.
To make matters worse, sometimes the affair can take on a life of its own, leaving the participants feeling trapped and confused. If you’ve found yourself in one of these situations, you may struggle with how to get out of it and move forward.
Here are some tips on ending an emotional affair.
Break It Off
The first and most important thing is that you don’t continue with the betrayal. Tell the person you’ve been emailing or phoning that your partner is too important to risk losing. Explain that you won’t be calling or emailing, and ask them to abide by your wishes and move on with their own life. If the object of your emotional affair has been a coworker, make every effort to distance yourself from them. Stop going to lunch with him or her. If you regularly hang out with folks from work and your emotional affair is one of them, discontinue doing so. Instead of lingering in their office or getting up to speak to them directly about work projects, communicate as much as possible indirectly or through professional emails. Once you make the decision to end the affair, don’t try to go back to “buddy” status, as it will only confuse the person.
Tell Your Partner
This can be the most difficult part, but coming clean about your emotional affair before your partner finds out on his or her own is the first step toward repairing trust. You may think that because your affair technically wasn’t physical confessing will only hurt your partner unnecessarily. However, a betrayal that is not admitted freely hurts twice as much and makes it that much harder to stay together down the road. Besides that, secrets always have a way of coming to the surface.
No matter the problems you’ve had in your relationship, never blame your partner for your actions. Admit what you’ve done and give your partner a heartfelt apology. Tell them how much they mean to you and how you regret putting your relationship in jeopardy.
Give Your Partner Space
Remember that you’ve known for a long time that you are carrying on the affair, so give your partner the space he needs to process the information. Let her be angry with you and answer any questions she has about your affair.
Understand Why You Strayed
In order to heal your relationship, you have to come to terms with the real reason you went ahead with the emotional affair in the first place. Were you secretly upset with your partner and wanted to get back at him? Were you bored? Feeling insecure? Identify the underlying issue that caused you to stray so you don’t repeat your mistake. A good counselor will be able to help both you and your partner get back on track in a healthy and appropriate way.
Allow Time to Heal
Disloyalty of any type takes a considerable amount of time to mend. Comfort your partner when she worries that you will betray her trust again. Show him how much his love means to you and that you will never take your relationship for granted again.