Wifey Wednesday: How to Stop an Emotional Affair

How to Stop an Emotional AffairIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

On Monday I wrote a post about why affairs happen–we let seasons of distance become seasons of carelessness, and we find ourselves emotionally bonding with someone else, which can lead to more. I really should have saved the post for a Wifey Wednesday, but it came to me and so I just wrote it!

Since then I’ve received a number of emails from women who didn’t want to leave a comment saying basically, I’m in that very situation. There’s a guy I’m attracted to. What do I do?

I want to address this today in two steps. First, we’ll look at how to keep distance in your marriage to a minimum; and second, we’ll look at how to handle this guy that you’re attracted to.

1. Stop an Emotional Affair by Keeping Distance in Marriage to a Minimum

You cannot eliminate distance in a marriage, so don’t feel guilty when it happens. There are months, for instance, which are rather dry for us in the bedroom because I travel a lot, and instead of cooperating and doing-that-thing-that-prevents-sex-once-a-month while I’m gone, which would be very convenient, it seems to hit right when I get home. And then by the time I leave again for the weekend, it’s over.

Or perhaps we’re just busy with the kids, going away a lot on weekends for tournaments. This doesn’t happen all year; the way our household is set up, life is absolutely nuts every October/November and March/April, but the rest of the year is doable. So it’s kind of seasonal, and we know it.

You can’t prevent it. You can also have distance because your parents are sick, and you have to spend weekends traveling to help them. Or your husband has extra work.

As much as possible, make sure these are only seasons in your life, and not the whole life. When those seasons are over, celebrate together! Go away for a weekend. Have a few date nights in a row, even if it means you don’t see the kids.

And when you are going through it, try to keep communicating. Call as much as you can. Text. Pray. Keep up to date with your spouse’s schedule so you at least know what they’re doing, and tell him what you’re doing, so you can pray throughout the day or think of him. Send emails every morning telling him what you’re praying for him about. Let him know that you want him home, and you want to be home.

Sometimes in these seasons of distance we start getting annoyed at each other, because we’re busy, and we want him to pick up the slack. Or we’re mad at him for leaving us with the kids. As much as possible, try to stop that. Realize that this is just a season of distance, and it is more important to get through that season with your relationship close than it is to change the way you manage the household or the way he works. The time to address the discrepancies in your life–if you honestly work harder than he does, for instance, or if he leaves you more often than is necessary–is not during the seasons of distance. It’s when you’re reunited again and you’re comfortable together. If you start a big confrontation when you’re already not close to each other, it can drive you both apart right when you need to cling to each other.

If you have real issues, by all means deal with them. But hold them until you’re at a place in your marriage when you really can.

2. Dealing with a Guy You Feel Attracted To–and Preventing a Full-Blown Emotional Affair

Let’s say you’ve been going through a season of distance and you’ve met a man that you feel quite close to. You’ve been sharing some stuff about your marriage, and he’s been sharing some stuff about his. You feel quite bonded to him. You like being around him. You feel like a young girl again, all giggly and desired and in love.

What in the world do you do?

You don’t want to wreck your marriage, but you don’t want the feeling to go away, either.

I know that you feel a lot more connected to the other guy. That’s only natural if he’s the one that you’re really talking to. But you can’t grow your marriage if you continue to confide in him and not your husband. You’ll be expecting your husband to act like this other guy, and that’s not fair. You also probably have an idealized picture of the other guy. He makes you feel great, but what makes you feel great is the intimacy from talking to him, not the day to day interactions. If you were to actually end your marriage and get together with this guy, you’d have the same problems you do in your current marriage. What makes you feel so close to this guy right now is that you don’t have to deal with the reality of life. You just have to deal with sharing emotions, and that’s a very intense, intimate feeling, but it can’t be sustained.

You’ve got to figure out how to get back with your husband, and give up the dreams of these feelings. It’s not realistic to have those same feelings for your husband again, because those tend to occur when a relationship is starting. But they’re not sustainable.

Cut off, as much as possible, your communication with this guy.

Or if you do keep talking to him, don’t talk to him about your husband. Stay on neutral ground. Don’t share stuff that will allow an intimate attachment to grow.

And then talk to your husband about how you can feel close again. Don’t expect to feel totally close to him again right away. Just say that you want to do stuff together like you used to. Try to figure out a schedule where every now and then you each can become your priority. Go watch sports events together, or take hikes, or go biking, or take a cooking class, or anything that interests you. Take an investment course, or set yourselves a goal that you work at together, like figuring out how to spend only $600 a month on groceries and still eat great, or how to save money for Christmas presents, or anything that’s a shared goal.

Just talk to him and figure out what you can do together and what projects you can start together. Stop trying to make him act towards you the same way this other guy does, because it won’t work. What the other guy is offering you is actually something false, because it’s an intimacy without any responsibility, and that’s always more intoxicating than real life relationship. I find that what women often want is to keep that feeling alive, they don’t actually want to live with the guy on a day-to-day basis, and so you’ve got to find a way to build a great relationship with your husband again.

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Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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  1. as someone who has experienced this what i do know is that if you value your marriage, you have to sever all ties with the other guy…nothing else works. and you must be honest with your husband about what caused this in the first place; the gravity of the situation and him seeing his shortcomings and if both of you are willing usually puts you back on the right track.

    • Thanks for that insight! I would agree that severing ties is best, but it can also be difficult if it’s a work situation or something. You may still have to interact. I have known people who have left jobs over it, though, and if that’s possible, it’s likely a good idea.

  2. I think that a lot of people forget how their relationship with their spouse started. Of course, some people meet and it is fireworks from the start- but for many people it is a gradual process. Friendship, attraction, love. When we have friendships with those of the opposite sex, we are on a slippery slope.

    My husband and I have a few “rules” in place for our home. #1 We don’t have friends of the opposite sex. Sure we have couple friends, but I don’t go out to lunch with Mr. X and hubby doesn’t talk on the phone to Mrs. X. We hang out with them as couples, but not independently with the opposite sex. #2 If Hubby is home alone and wifes’ friend stops by, she does not enter the home (and the reverse). Why put yourself in a position that something could be misconstrued? #3 All email/facebook/etc.. passwords are shared.

    I know that some people think we are extreme in our “house rules” but it works for us. One last think that I do personally is pray that I would have no attraction to another man. I think often we can feel that little twinge of possible attraction when we first meet someone and we just brush it aside. I specifically pray that God would take any feelings of attraction away at that moment to never reoccur. So far, so good!

    • That’s great that you and your husband have been open about this and talk about it and make guidelines. I totally agree with the personal guidelines–it just often gets tricky in a work situation. But all the more reason to call your spouse at work sometimes!

    • Lance Leander L. Cembrano says:

      Proof that there still are people in this world who are dedicated to making their marriage work and last. 😀

  3. You said this:

    Cut off, as much as possible, your communication with this guy. Or if you do keep talking to him, don’t talk to him about your husband. Stay on neutral ground. Don’t share stuff that will allow an intimate attachment to grow.

    I think when the situation has gotten to the point where you feel the kind of connection to another man that you should be feeling with your husband, cutting off communication “as much as possible” isn’t gonna cut it. It has to be severed completely. Because once the connection has been made, seeing and/or trying to roll back the interaction to a place before you started feeling inappropriate feelings for this person is all but impossible. It’s awfully hard to un-ring a bell.

    And yes, I know this may mean asking to be reassigned at work or changing jobs altogether. But the marriage is worth it.

    • In principle I agree with you, Terry, but I also know leaving a job instantaneously isn’t always possible. Or what if it’s a person in your husband’s family? or a neighbor? While eventually it may be possible to move, or switch jobs, in the interim it may be difficult. And I just don’t want to give women the idea that “well, I can’t cut off contact, so there’s no point in trying to change things.” No, you can still make your relationship formal and distant if you need to keep seeing the guy for a time. Maybe that’s a cop out, but I’m afraid of setting up a situation where, because you can’t do the best, you feel like you have an excuse to not do anything at all, if that makes sense.

      • leaving a job instantaneously isn’t always possible. Or what if it’s a person in your husband’s family? or a neighbor? While eventually it may be possible to move, or switch jobs, in the interim it may be difficult.

        I see your point. Sometimes it may be more complicated than I made it sound.

        I initially thought your admonition to cut off communication “as much as possible” seemed to offer a little too much latitude. Of course this sis a blog and you only have so much time and space. When I said sever completely I was thinking things like in the case of a neighbor, stating clearly that you can no longer communicate with him unless its an extreme emergency. All communication must go through your husband.

        If it’s a husband’s relative, same thing applies. No communication when husband isn’t present. Period. While I appreciate that sometimes a complete severing may be difficult, I’ve learned that sometimes we need to be crystal clear. Especially since we’re dealing with a situation where an emotional investment has been made and our sinful minds are prone to look for any loophole it can find when our emotions are ramped up.

        • I do think it also depends on how far the relationship progressed. If it was simply that you were starting to have feelings for someone, then stopping communicating anything remotely intimate is appropriate, but saying “I can never talk to you again”–if you haven’t ever actually said out loud that you are attracted to him, or gone down that road–may be extreme. If, on the other hand, you were texting each other constantly, then you should cut off contact. So it kind of depends.

          But I do think that we women need to be as careful as we can, and draw firm boundaries around us (and our husbands should do the same). Our big weakness will always be opening up too much emotionally to another guy, and if we feel ourselves going down that road, we have to put a stop to it.

          • I found this website and it completely hit home for me. A few weeks ago, after my husband shared a certain dream with me that he had about his brother, I realized that I started acting different around my brother in law. I now have been having dreams about him and seem to take more notice when he is around. I feel terrible. I have been learning how to bind my thoughts and cast them out of my mind in Jesus name. No body knows the feeling I have but God. I have never made any attempt to flirt or tell anyone. The worst part is that I enjoy the feeling I get when he is around and find myself wondering when the next time we will see him. I can not cut off ties because not only is my husband best friends with his brother, but he also works for us and only lives 15 min away. We see him quite often. He is a lot like my husband in many ways, but seems to be better at lending the extra hand here and there with our kids, which doesn’t go unnoticed by me. I love my husband and cant believe what has happened to me… :( any thoughts?

    • But I think you’re right. I could have been more vehement about it.

  4. For 15+ years of our marriage I’d worked with only women. When we moved to a new school where my colleagues are mostly men, I found myself struggling with attraction and “crushes” that I hadn’t experienced since high school. I did not discuss this with my husband, as he would have taken it very personally. Instead, I sought out older women to talk with and hold me accountable. I needed support adjusting to the newness of the situation and the sudden increase in male attention.

  5. One step I’ve taken, because electronic communication can be so secretive, is to include my husband’s email address in the cc: line (or the bcc: line) when I need to send an email to a man. Whether it’s to my pastor, a family friend, or whoever, if there is anything even remotely personal in the email, it goes to my husband as well. (Confirming to my boss that I will be at this or that meeting, etc. is not even remotely personal, so hubby doesn’t get those emails.)

  6. I found myself in a situation early on in my marriage where I was definitely headed into an emotional affair and I know 100% had I not come to my senses it would have eventually developed into a full blown affair because the man was totally willing to take things to the next level. My marriage was rocky from the beginning (after 10 years it ended in divorce due to unfaithfulness on his part.) Before getting married I had always been very comfortable being “one of they guys.” I just seemed to get along with men better than women. I have always been the good Christian girl who never had any other intentions other than friendship (and I mean that in all honesty.) When I got married that mindset didn’t change. I began to develop a friendship with a man (who was also married.) Just like any other story of this nature brief encounters turned into longer conversations, then come the excuses to make phone calls, etc. I began to find myself attracted to him and it really bothered me but I was soooo unhappy in my marriage and the attention made me feel better about myself but I knew it was wrong and it ate at me. My husband and I attended a marriage conference and one of the speakers briefly mentioned emotional attachments with people of the opposite sex and how they are a trap. It was like a light went off and I realized what was going on. As soon as we got back home I started seeking the Lord on this matter and He showed me ways to get out of it. I immediately stopped the unnecessary communication. We ministered together (yeah, ministered!) once a week and before I would get there early and sit in his office and visit before we began. I stopped doing that. It really didn’t take long to break the attachment and my eyes were opened to how hard he was still pursuing me. Also once he realized I had basically ended our “relationship” he started pursuing other women and I saw over and over how he engaged in inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex. He eventually lost his job because of an affair and after that was all said and done I found out he had had several affairs. I thank the Lord that my eyes were opened to what was going on. I really learned a lot about myself and how I relate to the opposite sex. Now that I was married it was not appropriate for me to have close relationships with other men. My husband was still not (and never did) meeting my emotional needs (or any other for that matter) so I let the Lord do it which is what we are supposed to do. Ladies, guard your hearts and set boundaries in your relationships. I know some jobs require you to spend a lot of time around men, maybe one on one but she very mindful to keep things professional. Don’t discuss each others personal life. Be honest with yourself, if you find yourself comparing someone to your spouse (and the spouse isn’t winning) that is your first sign of DANGER. Also, social websites can be such a trap, use wisdom there as well! I promise you that once you cut off the communication it doesn’t take long for the blinders to come off. Let the Lord meet the needs that your husband isn’t. After going through all this, I had to repent for friendships I had with married men while I was single. I didn’t think anything about it at the time but it was wrong.

    Ephesians says that a wife should submit to HER OWN HUSBAND, not your friends husband or your co-worker or an old class mate you reconnected with on facebook.

    Eventually my husband was unfaithful to me and my marriage ended but through it all I did the right thing and honored the Lord and lived in purity. I know I will reap what I sowed and one day the Lord will bless me with a Godly man and I will have the marriage I deserved. Also, knowing how it feels to have been cheated on it breaks my heart to think that I was EVER in a situation where I could have put another wife and family through that.

  7. This post was like a mirror of my past. I too was in a situation like this. The difference was I was dating and continued to have a relationship with an ex boyfriend. I could never understand why I remained connected to him but know I felt content in his presence. By NO means was my current relationship lacking so I would have like to believe. On the contrary, my current boyfriend and I was in a long distance relationship in which he wasn’t always around. My ex had always been very passionate and showered me with attention. He made me feel so emotionally high that my legs were weak. The issue with him was he ddidn’t want to commit and settle down, basically I had been giving him all the milk and honey for free so why buy the cow or harvest the bees…. My current boyfriend found out and was very hurt, that was two years ago. His main question was “WHY” and at first I could answer that, but now I can. My ex knew I wanted a commitment, he also knew from conversations (problem #1) that I felt lonely and desired to be showered with love and the need yo be desired…..my man could very well be attentive to my emotional and physical needs over 400 miles away. Likewise, my ex began to cue in on I deserve to be cherished and if my new love felt ANYTHING for me he would see that. Over a period of nine months we carried on a secret emotional and physical relationship. Once it was found out I did just what you speak of I severed ALL ties, and like one of the other readers said my ex pursued me with so much force and persistence that I considered filing a complaint. There were phone calls to my phone, emails, Facebook messages, repeated calls to my children’s phones, as well as, never before, unannounced visits, no to mention a marriage proposal, yes aproposal. Eventually, the contact started going to my boyfriend to tell him details of the relationship. After relocating, changing everyone’s phone numbers and all the last draw was someone writing to I insinuate another relationship between us, until they (because by now he had friend helping to “oust” out relationship as revenge) that in fact my boyfriend and I had upgraded our relationship and gotten engaged, and the reason the didn’t see him visiting me anymore was because WE had relocated to another state, not he just stopped visiting. In the end the contact still occurs through emails from time to time, however now we just flag them and go on with our day. One thing I learned was that I due to my need for attention I chose to continue a relationship through selfishness and almost paid a heavy price and lost the love of my life.

    • Tabitha, thanks for sharing your story and being honest about your own weaknesses and mistakes. That helps so much!

      I just want to highlight for other readers some of the positive steps from your story that you took:

      1. You confessed
      2. You were honest about why you did this and accepted blame
      3. You and your boyfriend/fiance/husband got on the same page about how you were going to handle this ex, and made the decision to change phone numbers together
      4. You are still honest about any incoming communication and you don’t let it bother you anymore.

      I think that is wonderful, and it shows that honesty, confession, and full disclosure are so important if we are going to rebuild a relationship. Blessings to you!

  8. Marnie Miller says:

    My ex-husband had an emotional affair when he was 37 years old with the 16 year old daughter of our best friends from church. I didn’t become aware of it for a few months as I was grieving the unexpected death of my father. When my ex moved out of our home, the 16 year old’s parents (our best friends) invited my ex to move into their home where they build him a bedroom so they could “keep an eye on the two of them.” – lol! Everyone lied to my face for 2 years – the ex, the 16 year old, her family. Once the ex got his divorce, he and now 18 year old moved in together and she was eventually disowned by her family. They got married, now have a daughter and it will be interesting to see what happens when she turns 16.

  9. Im not sure how i found this site but i love it. I have been struggling with this same issue lately. Ive been married for 12 years to a man that is so busy hunting, hanging with the guys, fishing, you name it ..he does it. We have had this same issue and continues to be our only problem over the 12 years ..i have felt the lonliness of being a single parent to 2 kids because he is never a participant. Recently i ran into an old boyfriend ..my first love that had gone thru a divorce because his wife was unfaithful..we have kept in touch and there are feelings involved. I know its wrong even though its emotional but its hatd to make those feelings go away. He is a Godly man..he tells me only that he will pray for me and has also said he wouldnt be apart of my divorce. Its strange to me that when i imagine myself being with him ..i see us spending time together and with our kids as a family and him not neglecting me like my husband has..ive always wanted to have a husband that would be involved in church and family..sometimes i feel like i deserve this life because i married for the wrong reasons and settled for not being a priority in the beginning

  10. I’ll be completely honest I had an emotional affair with my my ex. Everything you said about feeling loved and feeling butterflies in your stomach happened . He was my ex from high school and I felt like a teenager all over again. Things were starting to go from a fb message to meeting for coffee. We both expressed thoughts of taking the intimacy to a physical level. We set up a hour and place but I didnt show up. This immense burden of guilt , shame, and sadness came rushing to me. I was in tears and I iust couldn’t go through with it. Iplease dont judge mr or reprimand me. I know I did wrong letting thigs get so out of hand. I still carry this guilt with me .

  11. Im going thru this right bow. I have distance myself from the guy but i cant help but still think of him. My husband shows no emotion to me at all. No passion at all.

  12. I recommend as soon as you feel those feelings, get a handle on it immediately by telling yourself that it is simply not acceptable and feeling this way about someone other than your husband is not something you can allow yourself to even remotely entertain. You have to get a hold of your emotions as soon as you begin to think you may be even slightly attracted to someone else or seeing the start of a possible emotional affair. It’s called self control and we have to use it. Don’t give any body language or looks/glances/signs that you may be attracted to this person and immediately cool your heels. Stay away from temptation and you won’t be led astray.

  13. I ended a emotional affair over a month ago but cannot stop thinking about the other guy. His wife found out after we both agreed to end it before it became physical and every time I accidentally run into her at church or the store, she completely ignores me and walks the other direction. My husband is a wonderful man and does not know about any of this. I just can’t help feeling awful for this guy. His wife is so angry with him and me… I’m wondering if I should apologize to her or just try and stay out of sight while they heal. The other guy and I know we made a huge mistake and he’s desperately trying to make things work with his wife. I just can’t stop feeling guilty and constant sadness of how much he is struggling when it wasn’t all his fault and yet, I can’t bring myself to tell my husband for fear it may break him. Any advice???

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  1. […] Wednesday: Just Say Yes to Sex 2. Why Affairs Happen: Hint, There’s Not Always a Reason 3. Wifey Wednesday: How to Stop an Emotional Affair 4. Wifey Wednesday: When You’re Too Loose 5. 50 Most Important Bible Verses to Memorize (an […]

  2. […] Wifey Wednesday at To Love Honor and Vacuum, where Sheila Wray Gregoire has been discussing emotional […]

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