The Affair You Don't Know You're Having
Too Close for Comfort continued...
Even after you've recognized your emotional affair and the damage it's
causing your marriage, slamming on the brakes is easier said than done. Says
Stosny, "Many emotional affairs turn almost obsessive simply because you
never had sex to consummate your fantasies." It took months for Rebecca to
tear herself away from Lyle, even after her husband came across an e-mail from
Lyle and called her out on their too friendly exchange. He demanded that she
show him all of her e-mails with Lyle, which she did, and asked her to stop
talking with him. She agreed, but secretly maintained contact. As time went on,
though, she says, "I became riddled with guilt and grew increasingly aware
of how my time and energy spent on Lyle was taking away from my family, from
myself. But I couldn't help myself." In fact, she still hasn't completely
cut ties with Lyle. "We still e-mail now and again," she says. "I'm
just more guarded with him."
As tough as it is, quitting the relationship cold turkey is the best way to
move past an emotional affair for real and for good. "Setting boundaries
for continued contact will only raise the taboo level and, along with it, the
excitement, the obsessions, and the motivation," says Stosny.
The aftermath of an emotional affair can have an upside:
"Failing your own values can make you more committed to them in the
future," says Stosny. So consider the experience a wake-up call to what is
missing not only in your relationship but also within yourself. "I realized
that if I can't talk to my husband the way I talk to Bobby, then there's a big
problem that I need to fix first in my marriage," says Toni. And while
Stosny and Neuman say it's not imperative that you admit your affair to your
husband — in fact, you may even hurt him needlessly by doing so — some women
don't feel like they can fully move on unless they come clean. After she cut
things off with Bobby, Toni opted to tell her husband about the situation.
"He was hurt that I'd been sharing personal thoughts with another man,"
she says, "but he was mostly relieved that nothing physical had
happened." The couple is in the midst of trying to find a marital
counselor, and Toni is hopeful she can rebuild her marriage.
Severing your connection to the other man — whether or not you ever tell
your husband about him — is only step one. You also need to funnel all the
energy you were putting into your affair back into your marriage. And while
setting aside more time to spend with each other — away from kids and other
couples — is important for patching things up and maintaining intimacy in your
marriage, it's just as crucial to adopt a new attitude toward your guy.
"Emotional connection is a mental state," says Stosny. "You
choose to feel connected to your husband. You decide to be loving and
compassionate toward him. You will feel emotionally bonded and sexually
stimulated with your husband because you've committed yourself and all your
positive energies to him — and he'll definitely pick up on the vibes you're