Are you struggling to put the past behind you? What if I gave you a simple instruction manual on how to forgive an emotional affair?
It's common knowledge that the lies, deception and subsequent broken trust caused by emotional infidelity is much more difficult to forgive than the damage done by a casual one night stand. It's normal for you to have trouble moving forward when your wife has fallen in love with another man and wants him more than she wants you.
If you're unable to let go of the distrust, the hurt, the frustration and the blame, then this short guide is for you. As you continue reading, you're going to learn how to forgive an emotional affair and finally move forward to a better marriage.
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 help rebuild your trust, you'll want to read How to End an Emotional Affair.
Still here? Great. Let's talk about you.
Here are nine tips to help you forgive emotional cheating:
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.
As I will emphasize as you continue reading, this is NOT to excuse your wife or to make light of the immensity of her wrongdoing. There's no denying that she shattered your trust and damaged your marriage. But, recognize that she was 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 chances are at some point she blamed you for it. Even if she now feels remorse and accepts responsibility for her actions, you still may hold onto some of that self-blame. "If only I'd been a better husband," you might say.
Your wife's emotional infidelity had nothing to do with you. Even if your marriage was not perfect (they never are), seeking love and fulfillment outside the marriage is completely inappropriate and unfaithful.
However, just because your wife has no excuse for her actions doesn't mean that you can't feel empathy.
You see, what makes an emotional affair so dangerous is that it is 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... If you're not careful, you can easily cross the line of emotional cheating without realizing it.
This is why so many women deny emotional cheating and, as unbelievable as it sounds, feel like they should be allowed to continue the affair (they might call it a friendship) even after it's exposed.
In short, even though your wife doesn't have an excuse for the way she treated you, there may be some comfort to be had in that she probably didn't deliberately initiate 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 on your shoulders. It's like an ominous, foreboding cloud of pain and hopelessness hanging over you and your marriage.
You need to escape.
That doesn't mean leaving the marriage or your wife, but it does mean spending time on "you".
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".
Make Use of Friendships
Another very powerful tool that you might not even realize is at your disposal is fellowship.
Spending time with your friends away from your wife will give you clarity, confidence and most importantly, happiness.
Whether it means hitting the gym with your workout buddy, grabbing a few drinks at your local bar, or going on a camping trip for some serious man-time, start being more social. I guarantee it will help you gain perspective on your marriage and soothe the aches that come with emotional infidelity.
If you don't have any friends that you would particularly want to spend time with, then enroll in a class of some sort. Guitar lessons, spinning classes and church gatherings are all satisfactory examples of opportunities to be social. The important thing is that you get away from the house and spend some time having fun with other people.
Write It Out
One of the most powerful therapeutic tools you can use to aid in the process of forgiving 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 but can't.
I have used this tool personally and it is extremely helpful. You will experience an immense amount of relief if you can just get all of that stuff off your chest and onto a piece of paper. You can either write a pretend letter to your wife saying anything and everything you want to say to her (don't pull your punches), or you can simply set a timer and let everything on your mind flow onto paper.
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 Grief
This one may seem odd, but hear me out:
I know that this is very difficult to see right now, but no matter what happens to your marriage I can promise you that in a year, in two years, in five years, you will look back and see that what you're going through right now actually made your life better.
Maybe you don't believe me. In fact, I'm willing to bet you don't. But the fact of the matter is that happiness would mean nothing without grief.
So don't shy away from the sadness. Attack it head on, and hold on to whatever faint glimmer of hope you can get your hands around. 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 probably 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 disorienting turbulence of the motion is to establish a vision for your future marriage. Or if you don't see yourself staying married, then your future life.
Imagine what your perfect marriage looks like...
Imagine having a loving relationship with your wife, and enjoying her constant adoration both physically and emotionally.
Imagine freedom from the currently looming mistrust and uncertainty.
Imagine being a confident man.
Imagine enjoying life.
It may even help you to get out a piece of paper and intricately describe what your dream marriage looks like. Then, you can keep this perfect marriage with you, and whenever you're feeling down or unsure about where things are going, you can refocus on exactly what you want.
This is like goal setting for your marriage. When you set goals, you are 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 does not save marriages, and it is an unreliable tool if you're counting on it to work miracles. For every good marriage counselor, there are 10 that have no idea what they're doing.
However, one of the primary reasons I don't like marriage counseling is because most marriage counselors are much better therapists than they are at fixing marriages.
So, while I don't like marriage counseling, if you are having serious trouble letting go of trust issues, don't be afraid to at least consider independent therapy. Although I will warn you - shop around. Don't just pick up a phone book and visit the first one you see. Get recommendations from friends and family so you don't inadvertently rely on a quack.
I won't say much about this... I think you can probably tell for yourself better than I can whether you would 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 is 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, or in one week, or even in one month.
It's very important for you to know this upfront:
It will likely take a year, if not years, for you to fully trust your wife again. It's not easy to rebuild the honesty.
However, that doesn't mean it will never happen. You CAN trust your wife again. However, 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, just like with any infidelity, is a long one. I hope that the resources I've provided for you in Emotional Affairs 101 will help make that journey as short as possible, but in the end it will still take hard work and time.
I also recommend you check out this article I wrote about getting through the pain and hurt that accompany emotional cheating. Check it out below...
Recommended reading: How to Survive an Emotional Affair
Whatever you do from here, I wish you the best of luck, and thanks for reading!
With much manly love,