Emotional affairs, although lacking physical contact, are detrimental to a marriage. In the "Redbook" article "Are You Having an Emotional Affair?" Steven Stosny, Ph.D., states that emotional affairs generally stem from feeling emotionally isolated. It can be challenging to end an emotional affair even when you've come to realize that ending it is the best way to save your marriage.
In the "Woman's Day" article "Are You Emotionally Cheating?" Peggy Vaughan notes that emotional affairs break down trust by deceiving the spouse. You spend emotional and physical energy and attention on this person instead of on your spouse. Denial often keeps people involved in emotional affairs as they tell themselves that because there is no sex involved, they are doing no wrong. Secrets build over time; admit to yourself now what the relationship means to you and how it's affecting your marriage.
End the Affair
To bring yourself back to the reality of your marriage and prevent further damage, break off the relationship completely, rather than setting boundaries to continue it with decreased contact. This is easier said than done. Stosny writes that because emotional affairs don't include sex, they can have an obsessive nature because they are built on fantasy and feelings. You have shared a great deal emotionally with a person other than your spouse, and the desire to continue may overpower any feelings of guilt you have.
Nurture Your Marriage
Look at your marriage and figure out what is missing that the emotional connection with this other person filled. Determine what the emotional affair provided for you on a personal level as well. Through an honest evaluation along with a commitment to end the emotional affair and sever all ties with the other person, you can work toward channeling your emotional energy into your marriage. Although it is a personal decision whether you choose to tell your spouse about the emotional affair, recommitting yourself to your spouse through love and compassion will likely spark a positive vibe in your marriage.
Take up a new hobby or activity or invest time in a project that you haven't had a chance to finish. Allow yourself to feel loneliness. Therese J. Borchard, associate editor at Psych Central, recommends that sitting with the feeling rather than turning to thoughts of the person who filled the empty space can help heal the space in your heart. Try writing in a journal, taking a walk in nature or getting out with friends and family members who have a positive influence. Allow yourself to grieve the loss and feel pain even though you may feel guilty about having engaged in the emotional affair in the first place. Your heart needs time to heal.