3 Tips to Help Your Relationship Survive an Emotional Affair

3 Tips to Help Your Relationship Survive an Emotional Affair

3 Tips to Help Your Relationship Survive an Emotional Affair_ichhori.webP

An emotional affair is defined as a relationship in which one or both partners are participating in another important connection with emotional intimacy, sexual chemistry, and romantic feelings, but the relationship has not been consummated.

In many cases, the partner who did not have the affair feels the same level of betrayal and breach of trust that he or she would if a spouse had a physical affair. An emotional affair can feel even more harmful at times because the partner's emotional needs have been met by someone else.

If you or your partner has had an emotional affair, your relationship will almost surely survive and may even grow closer than before the affair.


Emotional affairs do not take place in a vacuum. If one individual seeks emotional fulfilment outside of the partnership, it is possible that that person's needs are not being addressed within the primary connection. Be willing to analyse what was going on in your important connection before the affair started.

"Joanne" and "Jeff," both teachers at an international school, came to visit me for therapy lately because Jeff was having an emotional affair with another teacher at the school, Eileen. When Eileen was splitting from her husband, Jeff became her confidant, and the connection grew from there.

When Joanne discovered the affair, she was enraged, hurt, and felt out of control. She made going to treatment a requirement for the relationship to continue. Joanne had given birth to the couple's first child a year before we started working together. Jeff had described feeling left out and uncared for since that time because Joanne had been obsessed with the baby's demands. He missed the easy friendship and wonderful sex they used to have. However, he never told Joanne about this, so she had no idea how Jeff was feeling.

The context of the relationship, in this case, was the birth of the couple's first child, as well as Jeff's feelings of isolation and exclusion when Joanne's attention was diverted to their child. Because he didn't tell Joanne about it, his emotional needs went unfulfilled in their relationship. Joanne was able to acknowledge Jeff's feelings after this was revealed in therapy, and together they devised strategies for Joanne to meet Jeff's emotional needs and vice versa.


When strong emotions are present, this is frequently easier said than done. Accusations can be levelled, but they rarely help couples overcome their differences.

When I deal with couples, I teach nonviolent communication (NVC), or compassionate communication as I prefer to call it. Couples learn how to identify and express their thoughts and needs to each other without blaming each other, then make a request of their partner, which can be responded to yes or no. People may be heard in a non-defensive way when they take responsibility for their own feelings and needs and convey them directly to their partners, in my experience.

It is a pretty simple model, as shown below:

Observation: Like a video camera capturing the action, I make an observation about what I heard or saw the other person say or do. A video camera does not pass judgement or assign blame; it just records. The sentence begins, "When you do or say ..."

Feelings: I identify the emotion I had as a result of the observation. "When you claim I don't care about you," for example, "I feel hurt and misunderstood."

Needs: These are the common human needs that we all have. Acceptance, love, understanding, teamwork, harmony, happiness, and peace are some examples. "When you say I don't care about you, I feel wounded because I have a desire for respect and understanding," the model now says.

Request: I then make a yes or no request of the other individual, using the phrase "Would you be willing to ?"

In Jeff and Joanne's case, I would ask, "Would you be willing to talk with me more about this without blaming me so I can better understand what you mean?" after the sentence in the third category of the model (needs). This changes the tone of the conversation and might evoke a totally different response than just being informed, "You don't care about me."

When an emotional affair occurs in a relationship, it is critical that both partners learn to express sensitive and vulnerable sentiments without judgement in order to go past the accusation phase and find solutions.


The fundamental issue in Joanne and Jeff's case was that, since the birth of their baby, Jeff had been excluded and hurt by what he saw to be Joanne's inattention. Jeff didn't convey his sentiments to Joanne because he didn't want to feel more exposed. They needed to first recognize the problem before communicating their sentiments and needs to one another.

People may be heard in a non-defensive way when they take responsibility for their own feelings and needs and convey them directly to their partners, in my experience.the

This allowed them to deliberate about viable remedies. "When I come home from work and tell you about my day and you don't listen, I feel hurt and disregarded because I have a desire to be heard," Jeff might have remarked. Would you mind telling me when a good time for us to talk would be if you're busy with the baby?"

Joanne, for her part, would have realised Jeff needed to talk about his day, and she might have been willing to make another time. When Jeff swallowed his feelings rather than expressing them, Joanne had no way of knowing there was an issue, thus no solution could be achieved.

A relationship can survive an emotional affair if both partners are committed to moving on. If you find it too difficult to do this on your own, a few sessions of couples therapy can often jump-start the process.

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