Most people might define an affair as physical, but in reality, emotional affairs can be just as damaging to a relationship, according to psychiatrist and author Gail Saltz, in a Daily News article titled, "How to Cope With an Emotional Affair." Separation is not usually the answer, however. The best way to recover from an emotional affair is to work on your relationship, and in most cases, that means staying together and receiving counseling.
The Heart of the Matter
Emotional affairs can be devastating because the heart is involved. A man who becomes attached to someone who is not his wife or girlfriend usually has strong feelings for that person. Even though he did not physically cheat on his wife or girlfriend, she may feel like he cheated with his heart -- which, for some, can be even worse than physically cheating. Not only that, but emotional affairs are often a prelude to physical ones, according to author and relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis in a Huffington Post article titled, "The Truth About Emotional Affairs."
Spending time with someone is the best way to become emotionally connected, which is why -- if a person who has had an emotional affair wants to save his relationship -- couples should not separate after an emotional affair. Instead, they should spend time together to re-establish the bond that first drew them together. Seeing a counselor together is a good way to do this. The counselor will be able to guide the couple in exercises designed to recapture their emotional intimacy and physical intimacy as well, as it is likely that physical intimacy has declined in the wake of the emotional affair. If the couple does separate, they shouldn't stay apart for too long: Absence doesn't always make the heart grow stronger. They should at least make an attempt to attend counseling together if they want to save the relationship.
Although most couples going through an emotional affair should stay together, the partner who had the affair should stay far away from the person who triggered it. This can be tricky if she works with him. The best course of action is to be honest. A wife who became emotionally attached to her co-worker, for example, should tell him that she is trying to save her marriage and will no longer have lunch with him. She should block his texts from her phone, unfriend him on social media, delete his emails and do everything she can to avoid any kind of contact with him.
The Danger Signs
Emotional affairs are tricky. A person indulging in an emotional affair finds it easy to tell himself that he is just friends with the other person, but that can be a slippery slope. One key hint that things might be getting too intense is if the man feels like he needs to start hiding the friendship from his significant other. Instead of telling his wife or girlfriend that he went out to dinner with his friend, he tells her that he worked late at the office. If he is hiding emails and texts and lying about his whereabouts, it's likely he is getting sucked into an emotional affair -- and he should put a stop to it immediately if he wants to save his relationship.