How to Forgive Emotional Cheating

Three Parts:Talking to Your PartnerUnderstanding the AffairMoving On

Emotional infidelity (cheating) differs from regular infidelity in that you may not have a sexual relationship with someone when you have an emotional affair. An emotional affair is when you have a close friendship with someone who you are also sexually attracted to and you may or may not act on your feelings.[1] In other words, the affair is based on emotional intimacy, bonding, and sharing with someone outside of your relationship. If your partner has engaged in emotional cheating with someone and you want to move past it, then there are several things that you can do to help repair your relationship.

Part 1
Talking to Your Partner

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    Ask questions about the affair. It is likely that you have lots of questions about your partner’s emotional cheating and you need to get answers to those questions. Knowing the whole story may even help make it possible for you to forgive, but avoid asking for details about sexual encounters or other intimate moments. These details can create more trauma for you. Some questions you may want to ask include:[2]
    • How did the affair begin?
    • What did it do for you?
    • Why did it continue?
    • Was alcohol involved?
    • Was there any other motivation for the affair?
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    Express your feelings to your partner. Not only will you need to identify and feel your emotions yourself, you will also need to express your emotions to your partner to move forward in your relationship.[3] Set aside a time to sit down with your partner and tell him or her exactly how you feel. If your partner also wants to move forward, then he or she should be willing to listen to you.
    • You may want to consider having this conversation in the presence of your therapist if you are worried that you might become too emotional.
    • Tell your partner if there is anything standing in the way of forgiving him or her. For example, has your partner convinced you that he or she is sorry? Does your partner need to work on certain behaviors? Make sure that you express these things to your partner.
    • Ask your partner to listen to you until you are done talking. Explain that it is important for him or her to hear everything that you have to say without interrupting you.
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    Request that your partner cut off all contact with the person. If your partner has not already cut off contact with his or her emotional confidant, then request that he or she do so. It will not be possible for you to move forward if the emotional affair is ongoing.[4]
    • If your partner works with the person, then it may be necessary for him or her to request a transfer or find a new job in order for you to be sure that the emotional affair is not continuing.
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    Ask your partner to be more transparent. In addition to requesting that your partner cuts off all contact, you will also need to ensure that your partner adheres to some other rules to help rebuild the trust that he or she lost.[5]
    • For example, you may request that your partner allow you to have access to his or her emails and/or social media accounts, request that your partner call you at specific intervals while he or she is out, or tell you where he or she will be.
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    Forgive your partner if/when you are ready. After your partner has started to rebuild his or her credibility, you may start to feel ready to forgive. Don’t rush yourself to forgive or you may not mean it. Wait until you feel ready to tell your partner that you forgive him or her.
    • When you are ready to forgive your partner, you can tell him or her. You can simply say, “I forgive you.”
    • Keep in mind that forgiveness is important for your well-being. By forgiving your partner, you are giving yourself permission to stop holding on to the anger and frustration that you feel over what happened.[6]
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    Adopt a forgiving attitude. After you have forgiven your partner, there are certain things that you may and may not do in order to demonstrate your forgiveness. The most important thing to remember is that forgiving does not mean forgetting. It just means that you are choosing to let go of your anger and resentment about the affair.[7]
    • For example, after you have forgiven your partner, you may still feel hurt and you may sometimes ask questions about the affair. However, you will have to avoid lording the affair over your partner or using it as a defense during arguments.

Part 2
Understanding the Affair

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    Find a therapist who can help you. Seeking the help of a qualified therapist is essential to recover from emotional infidelity. Look for a therapist who has experience with couples counseling. You and your partner may need to see the therapist together and individually in order to work through all of your emotions and relationship issues.
    • Make sure that you find a therapist who has experience working with couples who are recovering from emotional infidelity.
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    Examine your partner’s reasons for cheating. While you may be tempted to condemn your partner’s actions and refuse to see his or her side, this will make it harder for you to forgive. Instead, you will have to spend some time thinking about why your partner cheated. If you do not know why your partner cheated, then you will need to ask.[8]
    • People cheat for a variety of reasons. For example, some people cheat because they are looking for a distraction from something unpleasant, such as the death of a loved one or financial troubles. Other may cheat because they come from a background where infidelity is accepted or even encouraged.[9]
    • Ask your partner to consider the motivation behind the emotional affair. What happened that may have motivated your partner to develop emotional intimacy with someone else? Why did it continue?
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    Consider your partner’s professional and personal environment. Some people are more likely to cheat because they are surrounded by temptations at work, with friends, and in other situations. Consider your partner’s work environment, social life, and other interests. How might these settings have contributed to the affair?[10]
    • For example, perhaps your partner works in a night club with lots of attractive young people. The combination of working late nights, having plenty of alcohol on hand, and being surrounded by attractive people might have contributed to the affair.
    • If you think that your partner’s work or social environment played a role in his or her affair, then you will have to discuss the possibility of a career change or making other changes to prevent another affair.
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    Identify any part you may have played. Although you may see yourself as blameless (and you may be) in your partner’s cheating, it is possible that his or her actions were in response to something you said or did. Consider whether it might be possible that your partner engaged in an emotional affair because his or her emotional needs were not being fulfilled.[11]
    • For example, you might decide that your part in why your partner started confiding in someone at work was that you did not make time to listen to your partner when he or she wanted to talk. Or perhaps you may decide that you listened, but that you did not respond in ways that made your partner feel heard.
    • Try to pinpoint any part that you may have played in your partner’s affair and look for opportunities to change your behavior. For example, if part of the reason for your partner’s affair was that she felt like you never listen to her, then resolve to be a better listener. Put away your phone, make eye contact, and ask questions to show that you are paying attention.

Part 3
Moving On

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    Allow yourself to feel your emotions. The first thing that you need to do in order to move past your partner’s emotional affair is to acknowledge how you feel. You may be experiencing a range of emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness.[12] Give yourself permission to feel these emotions and deal with them one by one.
    • Writing about your feelings may help. Try taking 15 to 20 minutes per day to check in with your emotions and write about them.
    • You may also feel the need to express your emotions in other ways, such as screaming to express anger or crying to express sadness. Allow yourself to express your emotions in appropriate ways. For example, you might scream in your car while driving on the freeway alone or have a good cry when you are at home.
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    Try to focus on other things. You may find yourself dwelling on what your partner did to you, but this will not help you to move on. You have a right to feel the way that you do, but dwelling on your partner’s betrayal will only hurt you. Instead, try to distract yourself with engaging activities, such as:[13]
    • Meditation. Meditation is an excellent stress relief strategy.[14] It can help you to dispel unwanted thoughts and focus on the present instead. Try taking a meditation class to help you develop this skill.
    • Getting more exercise. Exercising is necessary for good health. It can also help to relieve stress and distract you from worries about your affair.[15] Try to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day. For example, you might include 30 minutes of walking, running, biking, dancing, or swimming into your daily schedule.
    • Making plans with your friends. Getting together with a friend can help you to relax and forget about your problems for a while. Go to see a movie, have dinner, or grab a cup of coffee.
    • Picking up a new hobby. For example you might try weight lifting, knitting, or cake decorating. Choose something that is fun and engaging for you.
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    Think about how you want your relationship to be. You may have an ideal vision of your relationship with your partner, or at least a vision of how it could be better than it is now. Think about this vision and try to identify what needs to happen in order to get there.[16] What needs to change? What specific things do you or your partner will need to do differently?
    • For example, if you want your relationship to be more honest and open, then you and your partner might agree to only tell each other the truth, even about little things. Or, if you want your relationship to be more spontaneous, then you and your partner might agree to surprise each other once every week, such as with a small gift or a surprise date.
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    Forgive yourself. Before you can forgive your partner, you need to forgive yourself for any resentment you are feeling towards yourself. If you have identified something specific that you think may have caused your partner to have an emotional affair, then use that as part of your statement of forgiveness.[17]
    • For example, if you think that taking on extra hours at work may have played a role in your partner’s emotional affair, then forgive yourself for putting work before your relationship.
    • You might say something like, “I am human and I made a mistake. I put my career ahead of my marriage and my partner turned to someone else for companionship. I am upset that it happened, but I am willing to forgive myself and move on.”
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    Know your limits. Although it is possible for a relationship to recover from infidelity, there are situations where this is not possible. Sometimes affairs continue or there is simply no trust left in the relationship.
    • If you cannot seem to get past your partner’s affair or if the affair is still going on, then it may be time for you to move on.
    • Keep in mind that recovering from an affair takes time and persistence. If you and your partner are both willing to work on the relationship, then it may be even stronger in the end.[18]

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Categories: Cheating in Relationships | Guilt and Forgiveness