Fill Relationship “Holes” to Prevent Another Emotional Affair

prevent an emotional affairThey lurk at the back of your mind. They barge in when you’re having a pleasant moment and they keep you up at night. Worrisome questions prevent you and your partner from rebuilding trust after an emotional affair.

No matter how many times your partner has apologized for cheating and showed you how many real changes are in process, questions likes these can ruin it all…

“How do I know he won’t cheat again?”

“What made her have the affair in the first place?”

“Is there something about me that caused my partner to turn to another?”

These are upsetting questions and they’re understandable. It’s normal to want to know why your partner had an emotional affair and also to want to prevent another one from happening.

Unfortunately, when questions like these come up, your reaction can put even more distance between you and your partner and that’s the last thing your healing relationship needs.

When a question like, “Will my partner have another emotional affair?” comes to mind, it brings with it emotions like fear, anger and anxiety. You watch your partner with suspicion (even if there’s no proof) and you pull away.

It’s nearly impossible to repair intimacy and trust with troubling questions like these dominating your thoughts, but they are normal because of what happened. Your partner DID have an emotional affair. You aren’t making that up! You don’t want to go through the same pain again and so you unconsciously defend yourself and hold back.

It’s important to be wise as you’re rebuilding trust. There are no guarantees about what the future holds. A second emotional affair might happen…or it might not.

It’s equally important to remember that your actions today help pave the way for your future. If anxious questions are your primary focus, they will grow and so will the distance between you and your partner.

Instead, take these 3 steps to healing and rebuilding trust…

1. Inquire.

As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s essential for you both to understand what was going on in your relationship before and during your partner’s emotional affair. You can do this individually or as a couple.

Remember, for the purpose of this exercise get curious and inquire without blame. This is about learning in order to move forward together– not about blame. If your partner has not taken responsibility for having the affair, this is something to talk about at a different time.

For now, focus on what your habits were during the time before (and during) the affair. Think about how you felt and what you were spending most of your energy on then. Try to be as factual as possible.

2. Find the holes.

As you do this inquiry, you’re probably going to notice patterns emerging. Maybe one (or both) of you was very busy with an ongoing project at work. Maybe there was a disagreement that never got resolved. Maybe your relationship was running on auto-pilot.

Look for the gaps or “holes” in your relationship that are possibly still there. These may be because of temporary situations or could result from unhealthy dynamics that have always been present.

Relationships holes can feel like: neglect, disrespect, ignored, dissatisfied, unacknowledged, resentful or another emotion. They are holes because they are places where you and your partner have been torn apart in some way.

Just identify the holes and don’t try to analyze or assign blame for them. It’s likely that you each contributed to the holes forming in your relationship. It’s also likely that you and your partner may see different places of separation because you each have a unique experience of your relationship.

3. Fill them.

Essentially, the holes you find in your relationship reflect unmet needs. To rebuild trust and move closer together again, you and your partner can start to fill the holes. Don’t make it your partner’s job to make you feel a certain way; instead, do what you can to provide yourself with nurturing care.

Then, make requests and create agreements with your partner to address your needs. For example, if you need to feel respected, regularly nourish yourself with respectful thoughts and actions AND ask your partner to speak to you with kinder words when you two have a disagreement. When making a request, be specific and ask for what you do want. 

This is a process, so be sure to notice and appreciate any improvements. Build on them and know that you’re moving together in the right direction.


Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches, authors and speakers.  Find out what the “Magic Relationship Words” are and how you can use them in your communication to create closer connections with your partner, spouse or lover.

You can check them out here: Magic Relationship Words

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16 Responses to Fill Relationship “Holes” to Prevent Another Emotional Affair

  1. forcryin'outloud May 17, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    It’s hard to inquire, find and fill the holes when communication is the problem. I hate to be “negative nancy” about the post but my H no longer wants to communicate about his EA (not that he was ever chatty about it to begin with). He has made vast improvements on many levels, but he has never had a desire to deal with the whys he committed the betrayal. I believe in my gut that is how he pretends the OW didn’t matter so he can live with his guilt. I just find it peculiar that for someone, the OW, to be so important, interesting and worthy of causing destruction for at one time, now is as important as the trash to him.

    I get the posting couple’s logic, but this recovery business is VERY MESSY. I have to agree with EG that I’m not sure how in-tune this couple is to the fall out of infidelity.

    • Doug May 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

      Just a thought, but perhaps he is not really pretending but has come to the realization that his relationship with the OW was pure fantasy and is feeling quite a bit of shame, embarrassment and yes, guilt. The easiest way for him to deal with it is to push it under the rug.

      • Linda May 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

        Well said Doug and I have a feeling that the comment was meant for me as well as forcrying’outloud. lol

        I believe that as a BS we understand the devastation affairs cause. Before facing an affair most of us believed that infidelity was a deal breaker however upon discovery must of us had to make difficult decisions concerning our families and how we would precede with this information. Simply put there was a lot at stake and it was not a time to only think about how this was affecting us.

        Unfortunately most cheaters enter affairs without thinking about the consequences or the long term effects. They are only thinking about how good they feel and while the AP may appeared to have it all they really weren’t thinking about changing the whole life for them. Yes they may have fantasized about it but in reality it was just a pipe dream. I really don’t think they even thought about “risking it all” they were just having “fun”.

        I think most of us put way too much emphasis on the relationship and the AP because we know what the cheaters were risking. We cannot understand how they could have done this to us. However if you talk to a cheater those risk factors rarely enter their minds, they were not thinking about us. So after the affair comes to light and reality sets in it is easy for them to discount their affairs and the AP. As Doug said it relieves the shame and guilt.

        • forcryin'outloud May 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

          Linda – thanks for the additional input. Your “having fun” comment struck a cord. I recall my H telling me he thought he could act like he was 16 again and get away with it. He never considered the burden it would place on our entire family much less his own mind.

          • Linda May 18, 2013 at 9:25 am #

            forcryin’outloud, this may be off topic but I also feel that when the BS is dealing with the details of the affair we tend to romance the information rather than see it for what it really is. The cheater diminishes the information trying to convey it was no big deal. We then neglect to see the affair the way an outsider would view it.

            When Doug would say things like “it was fun” or we talked about traveling here and then my emotions would take over and I really wasn’t processing what he was saying, I was feeling bad about myself so the conversations would center on how wonderful the OW most be for you to plan a trip with her, rather than you jerk how could you have done such a thing.( I think my exact words were “if you ever plan a trip with another woman I better be dead or living with my new, rich husband somewhere. Not while I am at home cleaning your house, doing your laundry and sleeping in your bed!) Once in awhile my logical thinking takes over and I can express my anger. Something I am not very good at but I am making an effort to do better.

      • forcryin'outloud May 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

        Doug, I agree and appreciate your point of view. I get stuck in the place that he sees their reconnection (she was his HS GF) as an act of immaturity and betrayal not infidelity. And maybe thats just semantics.

  2. AnnaB May 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    That has crossed my mind several times: how is the OW nothing to him now, whereas for 18 months she was everything to him? I sometimes wonder if he is just trying to make me feel better by saying negative things about her. It’s depressing to think that I will probably never know. My H is vey apologetic and remorseful, but he finds it hard to be honest about her. I do ask a lot of questions about their time together and he has kept a lot from me. I just think that if he lied to such a huge extent for at least a year and a half during the affair, how on earth can I believe what he says now? DD was 17 months ago and I seem to have regressed a bit regarding trust and also my anger. The whole situation is SO TIRING!!

  3. Recovering May 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    I understand the frustration of them thinking that the OW is trash or nothing now, because it REALLY bothered me for a while… a LONG while… How could he RISK EVERYTHING to do something so destructive for someone that he now thinks is a horrible person? The answer, honestly, is simple… the OW stroked his ego, and he liked it, and to deal with his guilt he in his head turned you into the bad guy so he wouldn’t have to actually look at what he was doing while he gloated and bathed in the attention of the OW. They didn’t really know the PERSON of the OW, just that he seemed like her knight in shining armor. Now that the whole thing is over and the ego stroking is gone, they get to actually SEE the OW as she really is – because now they have to face who THEY really are (unless they aren’t accepting responsibility for what they did). They realize that a good and decent person doesn’t do this to someone they love, or WITH a married person, and the loathing that they feel about themselves can now be projected onto the OW. I have actually come to appreciate that he despises the OW, because now he sees her for who she IS, and not what he “thought she was”. She is a liar and a cheater… someone who cares about herself above all others, her own children and husband included. Someone who cannot accept responsibility for their own happiness and life. Someone who expects the world to fall at their feet because for some reason she is deluded enough to believe that the world is here to serve HER!! HA! My husband sees now how he allowed himself to be sucked in by his own cowardace in not being strong enough to face his own demons, and he hates how awful she was is now reflecting how awful he was. This only reitterates that it was all a lie. So ladies, take it for what it is worth… as long as he is accepting HIS part in what he did, allow HIM to despise the OW… Trust me, if he is a GROWN UP he knows how dumb he was to ever think she was great too!!! My husband is embarrassed beyond belief. I swear if it were to come out that he had an affair, much less with HER, he would just die of embarrassment because since the affair was discovered, he finally started to hear the things about her that others said that he just ignored before. Now he feels like a complete dumbass… to which he should!!!

    Also, I wanted to add that my husband doesn’t think he needs to delve into the “why’s” of the affair… but to be honest, I don’t really need HIM to! I am the one who has told him why, and you know how I can do that? Because I DO know him! The fact that he had the affair I will NEVER be able to reconcile with the man I know, but I know now what he needs more than he does… I was just too busy to see it before thought it is clear as day now, and in his effort to make things up to me, he is trying his hardest to tell me what he needs NOW. He has changed his habits, and we have new ‘rules’ for our marriage, and I have gained back much of the control the whore and my husband took from me. I am responsible for what I do, and HE is responsible for what HE does. If he cheats again, I will be fine. I will hurt, and I will live. I will go on without him. I have made it clear that while I said this before the first affair, I didn’t know REALITY then, so I stayed. Now I KNOW. He has to CHOOSE us, even when it’s easier not to… Cheating was a choice…. Love is a better choice that they have to choose EVERY DAY, good or bad. I am trying to believe that my husband has learned his lesson… I had my AH HA moment the other day when I met my husband for lunch and I was complaining about not sleeping well (still have bad dreams about this sometimes) and he told me that he didn’t sleep well either. He had had a bad dream about me finding videos on the internet of the OW and her family having great family time and how I forced him to watch them and yelled at him the whole time about how he was destroying another family by what he was doing and how the children didn’t deserve that (he never planned on leaving me, just thought I would never find out – his words, not mine). He said he felt awful for what he was doing to the family, and he knew he deserved me yelling at him because I was right. HE FINALLY GOT IT! This world isnt all about HIM and what HE wants, and that what he did affected so many more than what he even THOUGHT about! He NEVER considered the OW’s kids or husband… had that idea that that wasn’t his business and didn’t care… just like the OW was to me, though she tried to actually get my husband to leave me for her… He had REAL guilt and shame!! I was shocked, because though this is what I have desired for the last almost 2 years, I thought it was an act most of the time… that he was telling me what I wanted to hear… but this time I just KNEW… He gets it… He hates her for doing what she did to her family, just as he hates himself for what he did to us. He doesn’t understand how he could have ever thought she was anything more than slime when she hit on him in the bar… he knew her from work, knew she had a family… can’t believe he EVER thought of her in THAT way… he is disguested with himself and marriage have definitely become a sacred thing to him. He even makes comments now about strangers on TV and changes the radio or TV if things demeaning relationships or marriage come one… and that is all of his own doing!!! He is becoming a better man than he ever has been… So let them badmouth the whores!!! Its them seeing REALITY, and who the whores REALLY are… Just maybe they ARE back in the real world!! 😉

    • Doug May 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Well said! I guess I should have read your comment before posting to forcryin’outloud’s 😉

  4. Strengthrequired May 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Recovering, I’m so happy to hear your h has finally “got it”. That’s great.
    I would love to hear my h turn against cousin it. Would absolutely love it, after all what she has done, it’s a dream of mine. I think maybe I need a bit more time for my h ah ha moment.
    I would love to see my h finally realize that she wasn’t thinking of his children at all, just herself and her children’s future with my h. So for him to finally see how even her family (parents, sisters) didn’t care for his children either, due to them pushing them together as well.
    I am looking forward to the penny dropping, because I dream of him seeing what I see when it comes to her and her family.
    You are right we were the bad guys, because they needed someone to blame for their failings, and they were unable to do that at first, fantasy land was a far better place to be.
    So once the fantasy is over and the ah ha moments finally show, then I say let the ow be the bad person, as that is what she is.

  5. Hopeful May 17, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Just to add that sometimes the “holes” that need to be filled aren’t in the relationship per se but in the person who chose to have the affair. One could be in a pretty good relationship that is nevertheless sabotaged because of a lack of personal development.

    • Linda May 18, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Hopeful, I agree with your comment. Often times the cheater is lacking the communication skills or ability to voice their needs and be completely honest with their feelings. I think about how this could have ended differently if Doug would voiced to me how he was feeling about our relationship and our life before he began the affair. I really believe I would have been receptive and willing to do anything to make our marriage better.

      Going to the place again is one of my biggest fears. I hope that we both have learned to properly communicate our feelings. I never want to be left out in the cold again, going on with life as if everything is fine, when in reality everything was going out the window. Presently One of the most difficult aspects of the affair was not knowing how Doug was feeling at the time. It really haunts me that I was so naive. However it was his place to speak up and tell me his feelings. I constantly remind him how important tell me when he is upset and use language that I understand. No jokes, off comments, etc. just tell me I am feeling…. so I completely understand what he is saying.

      I takes maturity on both partners to do this. The listener also has to put their feelings and pride aside and receive what the partner is asking. It takes trust on both parties.

      • Deanna Kunkel January 12, 2019 at 12:02 pm #

        Linda with all due respect as I have read this site and find so many of the things you and Doug offer to be helpful, I take great exception to this “Doug had an affair because of his unmet needs in our relationship and inability to communicate those needs.”
        What about your unmet needs to have a faithful, loving, honest, emotionally adult husband? What about his unmet needs justifies his affair? Affairs do not happen because of unmet needs or “holes” in the relationship. If that was the case then every spouse married to one of these con artists would be having affairs as well, as their unmet needs are even greater. No people who have affairs are quite simply emotional children, selfish, and dishonest. Dr. Weiss writes some very good material on how it isn’t a matter of circumstances it’s a matter of character. The basic tenet of success in life is the equation E+R=O. We have events, which are constants that we have no control over, we have our response, which is entirely within our control, and this yields the outcome. Stop with the if our marriage had been stronger Doug wouldn’t have had an affair. No dear if Doug’s character had been stronger he wouldn’t have had an affair and that is the only real truth and reason behind infidelity.

  6. Disappointed May 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    My H has been having anaffair with a friend who is married with kids they meet multiple times each week while her h and I are at work. without revealing what I know, I tried to get him to admit there was someone else. again he lied and went on to say that it would be simpler if there was because it would be clearer. That at least that would be different and exciting. Guess I got my answer – how pathetic: different & exciting. my life in ruins. Went on to say that ow is only one who gave him hope that life could be different and that he wouldn’t feelso dead inside if she was still in his life. but she is….. so why can’t he see HE is the issue, why project all on me?! he is a pathetic, wallowing excuse for a man. and I am even more pathetic for still loving him when I should kick him to the curb.

  7. Strengthrequired May 23, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Dissapointed, they project all the bad back onto you because it’s easier for them to do that, then to admit they did anything wrong. We have all been made out to be the one with the problem, when in actual fact it’s the other way around.
    Your h affair partner will be tooting his horn up that high, that he can’t see straight.

  8. Strengthrequired June 4, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Sorry need to vent.
    How do you fill a hole when the ow uses our surname as her own. It gets me so mad, I hate seeing it, it makes me want to give up on my marriage and let her have my name as I hate her using it.
    It makes me sick, it also has me wonder why the hell she still uses it and hasn’t changed it.
    It makes me wonder why my h doesn’t think she is a crazed psychopath.
    Sorry needed to get that off my chest. Feel better now. Not sure why I look, I guess to see if she has woken upto herself yet.

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