How to Forgive an Emotional Affair

How to Forgive an Emotional AffairAre you struggling to put the past behind you?

What follows is a simple guide on how to forgive an emotional affair.

It’s common knowledge that the lies, deception and broken trust caused by emotional infidelity are near impossible to recover from. They can be just as hard to forgive as a physical affair.

It’s normal to have trouble moving forward if your wife has fallen in love with another man, so don’t think less of yourself for being here reading this.

If you’re unable to let go of the distrust, hurt, frustration and blame that all come with emotional cheating, then this is for you. As you continue reading, you’ll learn how to forgive an emotional affair and begin moving towards a better marriage.

9 Tips to Help You Move Forward

This guide is all about you and the things you can do for yourself to enable forgiveness. If you want to learn about what your wife should do to start rebuilding your trust, check out this guide about how to end an emotional affair.

Still here? Great. Let’s talk about you.

Here are nine tips to help you move forward:

Understanding Infatuation vs. Love

It’s very important to recognize the difference between infatuation and love.

Infatuation is Temporary – It is not based on trust, commitment or true love. It’s more like an addiction than an actual relationship… The other person makes you feel good, so you like being around them. There is even a word to describe the chemical reactions in the brain during infatuation: Limerance.
Love is Resilient – it remains even after the other person has hurt you (as you’re experiencing right now), it is an acceptance of flaws and it is unselfish. Love is a true relationship built on friendship, support, and attraction for the other person.

Let me be clear: this is NOT meant to excuse your wife or make light of her wrongdoing. There’s no denying that she shattered your trust and damaged your marriage. But, recognize that she was only infatuated with the other man, whereas she truly loves you.

I hope that makes sense.

Empathize, But Don’t Excuse

If your wife had an emotional affair, then at some point she probably blamed you for it. She may have even told you it was your fault when confronted about her relationship.

Even if she feels remorse and accepts responsibility for her actions now, you may still be holding onto some of that self-blame. You might say, “If only I’d been a better husband, maybe she wouldn’t have been driven away.”

Let me make this absolutely clear:

Your wife’s emotional infidelity had nothing to do with you.

Even if your marriage wasn’t perfect, seeking love and fulfillment outside the marriage is wrong. Not ifs, ands or buts about it.

However!

Just because your wife has no excuse for her actions doesn’t mean that you can’t empathize with her mistake.

Remember, what makes an emotional affair so dangerous is that it’s not clearly defined.

  • With a physical affair, you make a conscious choice to have sex with another person.
  • With an emotional affair, the relationship begins as a casual friendship and innocuously moves towards romantic entanglement

Believe it or not, it’s possible to cross the line of emotional cheating without realizing how far you’ve strayed. This is why so many women deny emotional cheating and sometimes even feel like they should be allowed to continue the “friendship” after it’s exposed.

In short, your wife doesn’t have any excuse for the way she treated you, but you can still find some small comfort in that she probably didn’t deliberately choose to have an emotional affair.

Work on You – Try to Enjoy Life Outside of Your Marriage

Right now, your wife’s emotional affair feels like an enormous burden. Many men describe it like an ominous, black cloud of pain and hopelessness hanging over you and your marriage.

You need to escape.

That doesn’t mean leaving the marriage or running away from your problems, but it does mean spending time on yourself. Get some time to yourself; be a little selfish.

On Husband Help Haven, I frequently discuss the idea that the best way to get your wife back is actually to let her go. This is a very similar idea… One of the best ways you can learn how to forgive an emotional affair is to work on recovering your lost self-esteem.

Make it your primary goal to look in the mirror and say “I am happy with ME, no matter what the rest of my life looks like”.

I highly recommend you read 9 Essential Traits of a Good Husband (get it at the bottom of this post) for more information about reclaiming your confidence and your position as the leader in your marriage.

Spend Time with Friends

Similar to the last tip, getting out and spending time with your friends can give you the clarity, confidence and peace of mind you need to get through this rough time in your marriage.

This will be different for everyone. For you it could mean…

  • Hitting the gym with your workout buddy
  • Grabbing a few drinks at your local pub
  • Going on a camping trip for some serious man-time

Whatever you do, the important thing is that you get out and be social. I guarantee it’ll help you gain perspective on your marriage and soothe the aches that come with emotional infidelity.

“But Stephen, I don’t have any friends to hang out with. What do I do?”

Enroll in a class of some sort. Guitar lessons, spinning classes and church gatherings are all great examples of opportunities to be social. The important thing is that you get away from the house and spend time enjoying yourself with other people.

Write It Out

One of the most powerful therapeutic tools you can use to aid in the process of forgiving an emotional affair is writing. Write out everything that you’re thinking, everything that you’re feeling, everything that you want to say to your wife.

The reason that journaling is so powerful is because it gives you an outlet. It lets you get everything off your chest and onto a piece of paper.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Write a pretend letter to your wife saying anything and everything you want to say to her. It’s okay to be mean here; just get it out.
  2. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Just start writing words, no matter what they are. Let the pen or the keyboard start flowing until the timer goes off.
  3. Write a third-person story about your marriage, describing what happened to you and why.

Seriously, even if you’re not a writer, do not underestimate how much this tip will help you forgive an emotional affair. Some things just need to be said, even if you’re only saying them to a piece of paper.

Embrace the Pain; Let Yourself Mourn

This one may seem odd, but hear me out:

Life comes in seasons. The most joy and personal growth you’ll ever experience will come after a period of seemingly endless unhappiness.

From pain comes happiness.

No matter what happens to your marriage, I can promise you this: in a year, two years or five years, you’ll look back and see that what you’re going through right now actually made your life better.

I know this is difficult to see right now, and maybe you don’t believe me. In fact, I’m willing to bet you don’t. But, the fact is that happiness means nothing without grief.

Don’t shy away from sadness. Attack it head-on, clinging to whatever faint glimmer of hope you can get your hands on. The pain that you’re experiencing right now is NOT permanent. You will move forward. You will forgive your wife’s emotional affair, and you will be better because of this time of trial.

Have a Vision for Your Marriage

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Right now your marriage feels like a complicated maze of emotions, mistrust and pain. Most men find themselves swaying back and forth like a pendulum between hopeful optimism and crushing depression or rage.

One of the best ways to combat this turbulence of emotion is to establish a vision for your future marriage.

Imagine what your perfect marriage looks like…

  • Imagine having a loving relationship with your wife, enjoying her constant adoration both physically and emotionally.
  • Imagine freedom from the looming mistrust and uncertainty.
  • Imagine being a confident man, never having to doubt your wife.
  • Imagine enjoying a long life and growing old with your woman.

It may even help you to get out a piece of paper and intricately describe what your dream marriage looks like. Then, you can literally keep this perfect marriage with you. Whenever you’re feeling down or unsure about where things are going, use this vision to refocus on exactly what you want.

This is goal-setting for your marriage. When you set goals, you’re much more likely to reach them because you always know what you’re working towards. Apply this principle to your marriage and to your life.

Don’t Be Afraid of Independent Therapy

As I’ve said plenty of times on Husband Help Haven, I really don’t like marriage counseling. I know for a fact that it doesn’t reliably save marriages, and for every good marriage counselor, it feels like there are 10 that have no idea what they’re doing.

However, while therapy won’t save a marriage, it does have its uses… Like helping you forgive your wife.

If you’re having serious trouble letting go of distrust for your wife, please consider independent therapy. Although you should definitely shop around to find someone you’re comfortable with… Get recommendations from friends and family so you don’t inadvertently rely on a quack.

I won’t say much more about this. You can probably tell for yourself whether or not you’d benefit from therapy. If you think you would, go for it.

Trust Comes Slowly, Don’t Be Surprised

This is one of the most important things to understand if you’re serious about forgiving an emotional affair.

Your wife shattered your trust. She didn’t just break it… It’s in hundreds of little pieces scattered all over the ground. You’re not going to be able to pick up the pieces and glue them back together in one day, one week, or even one month.

It will likely take a year, if not years, for you to fully trust your wife again.

However, that doesn’t mean trust will never happen. You CAN trust your wife again; just don’t be surprised if you think you’ve crossed the threshold of trust only to find that you still have a long ways to go.

The journey back from an emotional affair is a long one. I truly hope that the resources in Emotional Affairs 101 will help make your journey as short as possible, but in the end it will still take lots of hard work and time.

If you have any further questions, then I recommend you check out this in-depth course:

Recommended Resource:
How to Forgive an Affair and Move Forward

No matter what you do from here, I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

You’re always welcome at Husband Help Haven!

With much manly love,
– Stephen

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 13 comments
Audrey - last year

Dear Stephen,

I am not a man seeking to forgive his wife of an emotional affair. I am a woman and I am not married. I do however have a boyfriend and I too have been recently crushed by the incomprehensible weight of his hidden secrets and lies when I caught him in his emotional affair. So far it has been an aweful emotional roller-coaster between thinking I can pull through and we can work it out, and complete dispair from the back-stabbing pain.

I needed/need help forgiving him for straying and forgiving myself for pushing him away and it has been beyond difficult. Your article is the first I have read that has made any sense as it has shed light on a simple healing process. I will share this with my boyfriend in the hopes that we can both take away from it. Thank you for your advice. I think it will make a huge difference.

Reply
lola - a few months ago

I am having an emotional affair with a married man

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    Stephen - a few months ago

    You should stop interacting with this man immediately, and you should tell him it’s because he is having an emotional affair and he needs to return to his marriage. Emotional affairs destroy marriages. The fantasy of what you could have with this man is just that – a fantasy. An actual romantic relationship would not be fulfilling, and it will never live up to whatever you’ve built it up to be in your mind. There are better men out there for you than a married man who is willing to go to another woman when the going gets tough in his marriage. He needs to figure out his own issues, and his relationship with you is allowing him to avoid them. If you continue to be this man’s emotional affair, you will have the weight of a broken family and marriage on your shoulders. Cease contact immediately.

    Reply
Zac - a few months ago

Two weeks ago my wife came to me and confessed to having an emotional affair with another married man. It had only been going on for a short time, and she felt terrible about it, cut it off and asked for my forgiveness. She seemed so genuinely sorry that I forgave her without much effort.

Today I discovered that about a week after she brought all this out, she sought him out again. I honestly can’t figure out how I can ever come to trust her again. I love her, and don’t want our relationship to end, but I have no idea how to move forward. She claims that she just talks to him because she’s “bored”, but he’s been trying to convince her to move into the “physical” affair territory, and she continues to talk to him.

Reply
    Paulo - a couple of months ago

    Zac, you need to make it clear they need to cease contact, period, forever. Call him if you need to, but it needs to stop or your marriage is over.

    Reply
      Stephen - a couple of months ago

      You’re absolutely right Paulo. Contact does need to cease. However, I think Zac can try a softer approach first, but ultimately she does need to stop contact with him. Gently try to get her to understand that this is an inappropriate relationship that can’t continue. Ask her, how would she feel if you spent time privately talking to a woman who openly was trying to sleep with you, even knowing that you were married. How would she feel if you promised her that you’d stop talking to this woman, then went back to her because you were “bored” with your marriage? Unless she is willfully oblivious, this will help her empathize.

      All that being said, if she continues to be repentant, if she does have an attitude like she WANTS the marriage to work, even if this other urge is pulling her away, be patient. Emotional affairs function almost like an addiction., and some relapse is not the end of the world if she comes back to the marriage. On the other hand, if she refuses to end contact, or gets to a point where she thinks she should be allowed to have the “friendship” even against your wishes and the obvious inappropriateness, that’s a bigger problem that warrants a bigger reaction.

      Reply
Stephen - last month

Perhaps she is saying that she is mad at herself that she let herself get into such a situation? I could understand that. After all, no matter the temptation, no matter what your marriage was like, ultimately the decision to stray from the marriage lies on your wife’s shoulders.

I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but that would be the easiest answer I can see from the limited info I have.

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Ayana - last month

Can emotional affair be healed?

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    Stephen - last month

    Yes! It takes forgiveness and a rebuilding of trust. You can make a decision to forgive, but trust will always take time no matter what, even after forgiveness. Time + Trustworthiness + Consistency = Trust.

    The saying is cliche but true – time heals all wounds. In this case, as long as the emotional affair is truly done with, then you can start the healing process.

    Reply
Veronica - last month

Hey I read your tips and am woman my husband is having an emotional affair with woman. His addicted to porn, drinking and smoking his trying to spot his been off it for two weeks now.

But he does not want to stop talking to this woman his struggling to stop. His become secretive does not allow me to touch is phone he drinks to much. Am in pain have lost my confidence what I do? can I apply this steps even if am not the one cheating? ????????????????????

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    Stephen - last month

    To answer your question, yes, you can and should apply these steps for forgiveness… They are intended for the faithful spouse, whether man or woman (although written for men).

    You are in a very difficult spot Veronica, because your husband has multiple obstacles that are all compounding on each other to make things worse than any one of them would be on their own. It is likely near impossible for him to clearly see the true consequences of his actions and the way they are affecting his perspective on life and the marriage. The alcohol makes it easier to indulge in porn, the guilt from porn and alcohol make him want to escape to the EA, and then all of those together naturally pull him away from the marriage even if he never consciously decides he’s unhappy with it.

    At this point, your goal cannot be to fix or change your husband. There are simply too many things going on here that it will be tough for him to really even hear you right now. He has to work through this stuff on his own, he has to want to change on his own.

    My advice right now is to really take care of yourself and focus on keeping yourself stable. Settle in for a bumpy road, because these problems are not going away overnight. Even if he woke up tomorrow and decided to stop everything, relapses in at least one area seem likely. See a counselor if you need to; they can help you develop good self-care. As frustrating and painful as it might be, the reality is that you can’t change your husband’s actions right now, but you can at least partially control how you let them affect you. Only you know where your limit is.

    Good luck.

    Reply
Weight - last week

Stephen,

My wife has admitted to having an emotional affair for over 6 months. With a man she has never come face to face with. Its been via phone calls, and alot of texts. She wants to end it, but claims she is to entangled with working for this man that she can’t do it easily. How much time should i give her to get this stopped ?

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    Stephen - a couple of days ago

    I’m afraid that’s a question that only you can answer. Some men set a pretty quick deadline. Others set no deadline at all. I think the right answer depends a lot on where your heart is at. Generally though, I encourage men to be more patient with emotional affairs than physical affairs, offering lots of forgiveness. Emotional affairs, while just as painful as a physical affair, tend to be easier to recover from than their physical counter parts because both spouses can learn to understand the addiction-like nature of them.

    That being said, again, there’s no definite answer. Think about how long you can endure this and set a deadline if you need to. If you can find it in your heart to offer indefinite forgiveness (provided the affair doesn’t escalate further), great. You know yourself and your wife’s situation.

    Much manly love,
    – Stephen

    Reply

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