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The Affair You Don't Know You're Having

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Too Close for Comfort continued...

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 giving off."

Nurturing your relationship is the emergency care it needs to heal. But for long-term marital health, you also need to nurture yourself. Trying out a new hobby, getting involved in your community, or tapping into your spiritual side can help you recover from — and prevent you from having — an emotional affair. "When you have more interests in your life, you have less of a desire to find something exciting and taboo to intrigue you," says Stosny. "Plus, you'll lead a richer, fuller life with less emotionally needy gaps." After cooling things down with Lyle, Rebecca decided to refocus those energies on her guy and the other people close to her. "I can't expect that my husband is going to meet every emotional need in my life, so I'm reaching out to my girlfriends and spending more time with my family." She also recently signed up for a handwriting-analysis class, something she's always been interested in learning about, "just for fun and to get my mind on something else," she says.

For me, my emotional involvement with John ebbed and flowed for nearly two years. It reached a tipping point when I could no longer ignore the fact that my husband and I were fighting more often, no doubt in part because of my refusal to focus on my marriage and on how my own actions were adding to our growing friction. Like Toni, I eventually decided to share my struggle with my husband, who handled it with incredible grace. The conversation wasn't only about me turning to someone else; we also spoke, perhaps for the first time, about what we really expected and needed from each other. It's a discussion that continues to evolve between us. I still think about John sometimes — and how my relationship with him could have destroyed everything I hold dear. Each day, I make a conscious decision to nurture my bond with my husband first and foremost. And as our relationship grows stronger, I realize I'm getting as good as I give.

82% of affairs happen with someone who was at first "just a friend," according to noted infidelity researcher Shirley P. Glass.

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