healing from an emotional affair

By Doug

I was reminded this weekend of a valuable lesson about recovering and healing from an emotional affair.  A lesson that certainly was obvious, but one that I had lost sight of.  As usual, I need to explain by telling you a quick story.

Linda and I had a great day together on Saturday.  The day started usual enough with both of us doing some chores around the house.  Later, we dropped our daughters off at a friend’s house, and Linda and I proceeded to head outdoors for a very nice hike in the woods.  We both love the outdoors, and it was a beautiful Fall day, and it just couldn’t have been any better.

After the hike we went to a place that had an outdoor bar, had a few beers and some chicken wings, and enjoyed some nice conversation.  We then scurried home to sneak in a little bedroom time before our girls got home.  All in all it was a very nice, yet simple day together.  Just how we like them!

When we got up Sunday morning, I could tell right away that something was wrong with Linda.  So I asked her, and she said that though yesterday was great, she continues to think that these were the sort of days that I had with Tanya, and she is having a hard time getting those images out of her head. 

Further, she stated that she is afraid to leave herself vulnerable for fear of getting hurt again.  Basically, she is hesitant to fully commit and be comfortable and safe for fear that I will either have another emotional affair or possibly even leave her.

Our Hike in the Forest – A Metaphor for Our Affair Recovery Journey

I was frustrated (though calm) and made a comment about how I wished that these little episodes after we have a great experience together would soon end. 

See also  Debunking Some Marital Affair Fantasies

She then made a comment (here’s where the reminder comes in) that I needed to remember that it took a while for me to get out of the fog and fully come back to her after my emotional affair, and that she was patient, and that I need to have the same patience with her while she goes through this recovery process. 

Her feelings were not about me personally and that I am doing all the right things, but she just needs time to work through this.

So whether the victim, or the cheating spouse, be sure to remember that recovery and healing from an emotional affair takes time.  In fact, Dr. Robert Huizenga on his website says it can take two to four years to get over an affair.  I’ve learned you can’t rush it.

So if you are the cheating spouse, be sure to be patient and understanding of his/her feelings, response to triggers and fears of what the future holds.  Give him/her the opportunity to come fully back to you.  Your spouse deserves your patience.

If you are the victim, be sure  to read and gain knowledge of affairs, garner support from someone who has your best interests in mind and be sure to communicate with your spouse on what they can do to help you in your recovery process.

After our discussion, I had to run an errand, and while in the car I thought to myself that there probably isn’t a worse thing that I could have done to Linda and our relationship than having the emotional affair.   The pain and misery caused by affairs can be overwhelming.   It just stands to reason that recovery can also be overwhelming, and I need to do what I can to give Linda what she needs to completely heal.

See also  Reader Involved in Emotional Affair

Linda made one other statement that I wanted to pass along… “Though healing from this has been painful and long, there have been a lot of good things that have come out of it.”   She’s talking about our relationship and how we have renewed our love for each other after the affair.  Keep that in mind as your journey continues.

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    18 replies to "An Important Reminder About Healing From an Emotional Affair"

    • Last2know

      Oh Doug, I really thought this was going to be easier by now but it doesn’t seem so. My H recently interviewed for another position at work (promotion) but he was not selected but he should have been. That company Like most promotes the “yes” people. Anyway he is taking it very hard and it scares me. Becuz OW still works there too and she knows how much he wanted this since 2 yrs ago. I asked him last week if he had heard from her and he said no. he is very angry about this but he has always hated his boss, why he would to be working one step closer to him is beyond me. But going through all if this is very unsettling and I am afraid he wants to talk to her. Even if he feels that way he would never tell me. It’s just another insecure time. Gosh you guys really did a number on us. I have that rock in my stomach this morning.

      • Linda

        Last2know, Up until now you have been a pillar of strength around here, but I can understand how the thought of this situation can effect you. I would take the initiative on this one if I were you. What I mean is that you need to become his “rock” or his go-to person for venting his frustrations and sharing his feelings. If he isn’t opening up to you about how this is effecting him, then get him to. Listen to him. Comfort him, and perhaps try to talk about things or do things that are not work related so as to take his mind off of the situation. Chances are he has no intentions of discussing this with the OW, but I know that there is always a bit of uncertainty in the back of the victim’s mind, that their spouse may relapse. Try to brush those feelings aside as best you can. If I remember your situation correctly, you and he have made great strides and are doing wonderfully. He knows his boundaries and is very remorseful. He loves you and wants to be with you. Remember that as your day progresses.

    • Jeffrey Murrah


      I am glad you had the courage to share that story. A harsh reality is that the affair is not ‘completely’ over until you remove the fantasies. That means the fantasies for both spouses. That is part of the process of taking it out by the roots. The fantasies are the roots, and they often only go kicking and screaming.

      • Linda

        Jeffrey, you are absolutely right, and I feel my recovery has been easier these last couple months because Doug is finally letting go of most of the fantasies regarding the affair and Tanya. It has been very frustrating that it has taken so long and I constantly wonder why that is. However when he lets go of the illusion I am also able to let it go. I have lived with images in my head for two years and that is difficult to let them go without help from Doug. I keep telling him I wasn’t there, and its not that I want to know all the details, I just want to know that reality with me is better. Maybe I am asking for something that is impossible to give, I am putting him in a no win position. It is hard to compare the excitement and newness of an affair, to a long term marriage, but I believe for both of us to completely recover the fantasies need to go away. But how?” Linda

    • Jenn

      My husband had an emotional affair from Sept 2009 until July 2010, and I am having such a hard time getting past it. I know in my heart I’ve forgiven him, but it seems like he would be doing more to show me he loves me, to reassure me, and to make me feel like his #1. These past 3 days have been awful. Like your wife, we had a wonderful weekend getaway where we enjoyed each other’s company, but now that we’re back home, it’s ‘normal life’. I hear songs almost every day that he played with her–I found the lyrics he wrote to her in an email once. I look forward to reading your journey–does your wife have a separate blog about getting through it? I don’t feel like I can trust my husband with my heart because of what happened–and it happened at the worst possible time, when it really should not have…..

      • Doug

        Hi Jenn, Thanks for commenting and sharing your story. Linda does not have a separate blog, but posts regularly on here as well. Take some time and read through the site. You might want to check out the posts on triggers. Just search for it in the upper right corner, as there are many posts on he subject. Glad to hear that your husband is back and that you are working to save your marriage.

    • Deflated

      As both my husband and I go through the rebuilding process, I too have experienced the flashbacks. Even though his EA partner is 1500+ miles away and it lasted a short duration (3-4 mos.) the pain, anger and hurt feels just as deep as the EA/PA’s that had longer terms. Maybe I should consider myself fortunate that my husband’s EA was short lived–I actually wished it never happened but it did.
      We have been getting along better than we ever have and my husband tells me he has never experienced love the way he does now and feels he knows me better now than before. I didn’t realize I was a closed book.
      I feel that this experience as painful as it has been has also allowed me to open up and deal with my insecurities and vulnerabilities. It has allowed both of us to truly express our thoughts and feelings. We are both learning something new about each other–good and bad.
      We have started couples counseling and the first session went well. We are both committed more so to our relationship then ever. And as we both work towards renewing, rebuilding and falling in love all over again we know that my ability to trust & feel secure with him again will be the only thing to slow our progress. As I told my husband in our therapy session, I am tired of the unknown, I am tired of my insecurities…etc…which I have had prior to our marriage & I realize now that it contributed to my closed book-I’m never letting you in completely attitude which I thought doing would protect from being hurt by anyone—boy was I wrong.
      Now it will be up to me to open up as I never have before and yes I know I am taking a risk but it is a risk I feel is worth it.
      My husband told me last night as I dozed off to sleep in his arms that I complete him. At that moment, I had a glimpse of what “secure” feels like and you know what–I loved it.
      The flashbacks are less and less…and I look forward to the day in which they are completely gone.

    • exhausted

      Something similar happened to us a week ago. It seems as though we are living simultaneous lives. As I read your posts, we seem to have similar emotions. Although, in our case, the OW has made a presence in our lives recently, very disruptive to recovery. I was going to the doctor before my last chemo, I woke in an anxiety attack the night before. I really needed my H to go with me to the Dr. but I was afraid to let him come with me. I was afraid that he would go to her if it was good news or bad. I told him that the single most thing that I could do to help our marriage was the single most thing I could not do. It was fear. I went by myself. I felt as though he had been a support for her in a difficult time and I was afraid to share mine with him. How sad! He was devastated.

      I told him I was not trying to punish him, I just could not do it. I went to his work before my appointment.( This was huge for me, since they work together) I told him I needed to see him before I went to the doctor. I wanted him to know I loved him and needed him. He acknowledged the hurdle it was for me to go see him at work. I have reserved a spot for him at chemo. No one has gone to the Dr. with me but I still can’t be vulnerable and let him into my chemo life. When I am brave, I will let him into that part of my life. I am too wounded because I have discovered last year, that he would drop me off at the doctor and then go meet with her to ” talk about how distraught” he was over me. How does one get past this?????

      • stupidandtrusting

        exhausted – I also am going through chemo while trying to move beyond my husband’s two year EA. I feel such a double whammy and my depression has become more real than I had anticipated. I did meet with my psych and talked about things I might do to help me get beyond the painful feelings. One way I had dealt with this pain has been to shut him out of my cancer, the last thing we should be doing and one thing that could drive him back to the OW in my opinion and also our counselor’s thought. I have always been the strong one, the person who took care of everything and needed no-one. Well, he needed to be needed and I did and do need him. No excuses for him here, if he needed to be needed, he should have shown or articulated that but I also need to be open to exposure as well. He said when his drama queen would call him all upset about some BS or other, he didn’t give a damn about her problem or the solution to her problem or even about her, he cared that someone believed he could help. It was not one bit about her, it was about him and what he needed. So now, I hope by including him, I am showing him that I do want and need his support.

        We have had some amazing times in recent months and yet, after these amazing times, I often crash downward – I know this is fear. It is so tempting to close all the doors and windows and protect myself from further hurt. I have been strongly advised against doing this and yet it is so damn hard not to do just that – this means facing fear, opening my heart and TRUSTING. This is what I now need to work on as well as better management of triggers. I don’t know the magic answer as to how 🙂

        I have had my husband with me for each of my appointments and I am glad I did. It made me feel cared for and helped him be more aware of exactly what is happening. At first, I didn’t want him to be a part of the chemo process, he became so distraught that I wouldn’t give him the chance to show his love and care. It has been a good thing – I have seen a side of him I never thought possible and though I can never call cancer a gift, I can say that the experience of including instead of the reverse has allowed me to see him more clearly than ever. His regret is palpable, his heart is broken. I am not sure I would have seen this so clearly if I had shut him out of the most important battle of my life. I absolutely plan to win that battle as well as the battle for my marriage.

        We need all of the reserves and strength and support we can muster to beat cancer. If we exclude our husbands from this, we are adding more stress to our own recovery. The statistics regarding stress and cancer and recovery are not to be minimized . I hope you will give it a chance. I have worked hard to separate my cancer from the “rest” and it is damn hard. My husband really sees being there for me and taking care of me as a gift he can give to me and to me only. Isn’t that what we want right now…something that is just about us, without “her”?

        I say give him a chance to be with you for this, if not for his sake, for your own. Don’t deprive yourself of what you could have from this man you love.

    • Jane

      Great advice Doug. Thank you. Yes, I have been reminded of this over and over again as I witness my husband’s continual pain over what I’ve done. This line really wrings true for me: Basically, she is hesitant to fully commit and be comfortable and safe for fear that I will either have another emotional affair or possibly even leave her.

      That is where my husband is. He doesn’t want to get hurt again and no amount of my words can reassure him that I’d never do it again- I can simply just never do it again and hope that one day he trusts enough to give me his full heart again.

    • Jill

      My husband had an emotional affair after I became depressed. He felt neglected and started talking privatetly to a coworker about her horrible husband and he shared his miseries. They chatted when spouses were not around and frequently texted eachother outside of work. He even admitted to me that he had feelings for her but agreed he would no longer talk to her; however, he says it was a friendhsip that went oo far but that he fixed. It does not seem fixed in his heart as he still has feelings. So what do you do when your husband fails to admit he had an emotional affair and hence won’t let you heal because he fails to acknowledge it. He believes if he uses that term then it is only his fault and I play no part in the state of our marriage. I want him to acknowledge it so we can take steps to heal together including my part in the marriage. Why is this so hard for him and what do I do? He think I shouldn’t hurt because there is nothing to hurt about — he is not talking to her!

      • Doug

        Jill, It’s obvious that he is in denial, and he needs to educate himself about affairs and come to terms with his actions. I would venture to guess that deep down he knows that what he has done is not appropriate. You need to somehow get him to open up so that you both can discuss your feelings and the issues that led up to his EA in the first place. Then you can work to move towards healing and rebuilding (reinventing) your marriage. Just because he is not talking to her does not mean that he hasn’t hurt you.

    • Jill

      It hurts everyday because he still works with her. Though he is avoiding her, she still lurks beneath so to speak. Yet, he will not let me talk about the hurt and pain or even let me use the term EA because he feels it undermines his struggle to do the right thing. The label represents to me the seriousness of his actions here and the steps we are going to need to take to overcome this. He is Christian, we both are, and I know this really hurts his sense of self to use the label. So does a label matter or not

      • Jenni B

        Hi Jill, it sounds like your husband’s pride is getting in the way of moving forward. If what he did constituted an EA, then the issue has to be addressed in order for both of you to move forwrad. Have you shared this with any friends? One thing that helped my husband (who had pride issues also–all people who engage in EA’s do so parly for the ego boost) was when a few mutual very close friends held an intervention. You know that if one is in sin, you approach. If that doesn’t work, then two or more are to intervene to set them back on the right track. It is not a “label” it is the truth. I would recommend counseling in the church for both of you. Hopefully he will be willing to do what is necessary to heal your marriage.
        How did you find out?

    • Jill

      He actually did the right thing and told me he was feeling convicted and so he told me he and a friend had gotten a little too close emotionally so they set boundries and stopped it. If it were only that easy though. A few weeks later I saw a text from her asking if he was available to talk now because her husband was in bed. He said he would end the friendship but I would find out from prying it out of him that they were still in communication. Several times of this and I sent her an email on facebook asking her to kindly not have contact with my husband as their “friendship” was not healthy. He was quite mad at me for “ruining things”. She denied having anything but a work relationship although when my husband later went into “end things” one last time, she admitted to having feelings for him and he admitted for her. Now despite the obvious breech here, he will sometimes say sorry and other times say he did the right thing so it is not an issue. Not trusting him, I saw his facebook post with a friend which acknowledged that he didn’t know if our marriage was worth it and he wondered if he even made a move if she would even respond. He did tell the friend he can’t believe he is thinking these things as he does desire to do the right thing. Can’t make him call it an EA and without that can’t really heal! As you all know, this really is the pooper!

      • Jenn B

        Jil, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I dealt with a similar situation with my husband, and this is what they do. They get wrapped up in ‘feelings’ and it becomes an addiction, and I think your husband doesn’t want to admit to an affair because of the connotation of the word. It is cheating, even if emotionally (which many here would say is worse that just a physical A). Unless your husband is a completely open book–you have all passwords (even to work email), he is willing to leave is cell phone home with you, and I’ll even go a next step because this is the ONLY thing that set my husband back on the right track to break free from his EA–I told her husband and he became an extra set of eyes and accountability. This is an affair. I took my husband off of Facebook (this is how he reconnected with an old HS classmate which turned into an affair). Expect battles. Expect that this will be the hardest thing you never thought you would have to deal with.
        But there is hope. Get him to a church counselor, or marriage counselor. If he refuses, you go alone. Don’t badger him constantly, that will push him away, but be firm. Do you know his friends, or do you have any good, close couple friends? If they truly love you both, they will help you through this. I was so ashamed and embarrassed to have to admit this to my friends, but they were able to lift me up when I needed it. I didn’t tell everyone, only a few I knew I could trust 100%.
        There are many good books out there–‘Hedges’ by Jerry Jenkins, ‘Boundaries’ by Henry Cloud, and others.
        I could have written your post, as many others could have. I have 3 D-Days with my husband, after months of promising he was not in contact with her. She contacted him at work when I wasn’t around, and he took lunch hours to go see her–they didn’t work together. *It is a good thing that he told you. He needs accountability right now though–a good small group of Christian guys who will tell him like it is and not allow any BS. Keep praying for your husband also. God will not honor his relationship with the OW, and hopefully it will not affect his job, but some here would suggest he needs to change jobs.
        I finally feel like we are on the right track–the last 1.5 years of my life have been horrible, but we are working…

    • Joanna G

      What if your spouse, once caught in an emotional affair, moves out of the house. He didn’t move in with the OW because she is also married. Any thoughts on whether he will ever want to come back home. Honestly I’m still so confused about the issue — I don’t know if I want him back, but right now he is downright nasty to me. It’s my fault he turned to someone else, it’s my fault he is now living in his brother’s basement, it’s my fault he misses the life he use to have……

      • Doug

        Joanna, it’s tough to tell you whether or not he will want to come back based on the information you provided. However, he is in denial, and is re-writing the history of your marriage, and is deflecting blame back to you. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! He had the affair, not you.

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