Infidelity Counseling & Emotional Affairs

We Are Here To Help Save Your Marriage

Regardless of the reasons and context of an affair, it hurts and trust is significantly broken. Unfortunately, while divorce feels like a solution, about 80% of couples who separate due to an affair eventually regret that decision. Living without closure and resolution can be equally painful. If you are considering infidelity counseling, then you probably at least want to attempt to repair it and understand why this happened in the first place. More than half of the couples who come to Marriage Quest® for couples counseling do so to deal with affair recovery or come to make a decision about their marriage after and affair.

What Are The Two Main Types Of Infidelity?

The two types of infidelity are Emotional and Sexual. Infidelity is also known as an extramarital affair or adultery. When you hear the word infidelity or affair you probably think about sex. Of course, some affairs are based solely on sex, however many are not sexual and are all about the emotional connection.

Most affairs start with a need for emotional intimacy and connection, and then evolve into a physical or sexual relationship. Both types can be painful, and some spouses report that an emotional affair is actually more hurtful than a short-term physical encounter.

Sexual Affairs

Sexual affairs require physical contact of a sexual nature where the people involved are aroused and deriving some sexual pleasure. It does not have to involve intercourse, but what psychotherapist Joe Kort calls “outercourse”. Some people consider sexting, emails, online messaging, or long-distance sexual exchanges to be a sexual affair too. This is a bit of a gray area, and rather than clearly defining the experience, it is more important to focus on healing the relationship between the couple.

Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs are categorized by an intimate connection with a “friend” that often results in emotional distance from one’s spouse. It can include flirting, playfulness, intimate messaging, and quality time with the affair person. This type of affair can lead to a sexual affair, but in many cases it stays non-sexual. It feels good to have someone who really listens, laughs at your jokes, is playful, and shows genuine interest in you, especially if this is not happening with your spouse. Most people report that a lack of intimacy with their spouse as the main reason the emotional affair started.

What Percentage Of Marriages Survive Infidelity?

While experiencing infidelity might feel like the worst possible event in your marriage, the research shows that about 75% of couples who seek professional help after an affair report significant higher relationship satisfaction than the years leading up to the affair. This is because an affair is usually a symptom of other issues within a marriage that have built up over time. While the offending spouse has significant broken trust in the marriage, a healing process is possible.

Helping a couple finally address these root causes will increase deeper feelings of connection, sexual intimacy and satisfaction, and overall emotional intimacy. It also can help make the family system healthier. We have seen many couples whose affair, incessant arguing, or freeze out leave their children anxious or depressed and often struggling with health or behavioral challenges.

How Long Does Infidelity Trauma Last?

The short answer is it will be faster if the couple addresses the root causes of the affair, and it will take much longer to heal infidelity pain if they are avoiding the topic or argue frequently. However, it is different for every couple. Some spouses can recover and forgive immediately during their marriage retreat. Others require weeks or months to finally achieve closure and peace.

The good news is that while the destination and goal is ultimately closure and reconnection, many couples report being satisfied just to be moving in a positive direction. This takes the pressure off of having to move on as quickly as possible and allows them to focus on a more authentic pace of healing.

Why Do People Have Affairs?

Most people have affairs because they are seeking something that is lacking within their current marriage. The research also shows that spouses who have an affair have attempted to create those desired qualities within the relationship, but have been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. If you are wanting to stop an affair, the first step is recognizing that you are causing harm to yourself and your spouse by continuing the extramarital relationship. The second step is to identify what needs you have and work to nurture those within your marriage. This is often a difficult conversation that requires professional support.

Why Do People Cheat On People They Love?

Our brains can skew the sense of risk when emotional connection or sex is our reward. It can seem much riskier to discuss a sexual fantasy, express a vulnerability, or heal from past traumas with a long-term romantic partner than it is to talk to someone new who shows interest in you or even simply seek that comfort with a stranger. The reality is that seeking those experiences outside the marriage will cause much more damage, but in the moment, emotions and desires get in the way of logical thinking and overpower rational thoughts about future consequences. Of course, there is often the element of conflict avoidance.

Additionally, some people cheat on their spouse because of the thrill. This sense of excitement can either be the taboo of the affair itself, or the exhilarating experiences with the person outside your marriage. Interestingly, after helping many couples discuss their inner desires, it is amazing how much more receptive spouses are to their partners’ needs than the partner anticipated.

I Am Having An Affair And Want To Stop

Many people who are having an emotional or sexual affair want it to end, but can’t seem to stop it. Sometimes it is because the excitement is addictive; sometimes it is for other reasons such as fear of being fired by a boss or losing work from a business associate. Whatever the reason, it is useful to weight out the pros and cons and make a solid decision. This can be a good use of a therapist. Hopefully you can see the value of putting an end to it and working on your relationship with your spouse. Investing in your marriage can be priceless in the long run.

Is Watching Porn The Same As Cheating?

Some people use pornography as a way to take care of their physical needs while avoiding a full-blown sexual affair with another person. While it may feel like a betrayal to some people, it does eliminate physical contact with another sexual partner. That should be a relief, but it may still feel threatening and upsetting too. As always, it is useful for you to talk about what feels comfortable, uncomfortable, or threatening, and explore the reasons why together.

Can porn be a healthy part of a sex life?

Yes. Many couples enjoy pornography as a part of their mature marital sex life. Some people watch porn alone as a turn on before sex. Some couples enjoy watching sexy movies as part of their foreplay. The issue usually occurs when porn use is a secret and one or both partners feel ashamed or betrayed. Being honest about the reasons for using porn can help you and your partner explore a new phase of sexuality and intimacy with each other that would otherwise likely be a source of pain and distance.

What Is An Emotional Affair Or Micro-Cheating?

An emotional affair is an overly close relationship with someone other than your spouse that is usually kept a secret. While emotional affairs do not involve sexual contact, they can be equally or even more painful to the unsuspecting spouse. People engaged in these relationships are often hesitant to stop them because they swear that “they are just friends” and it is not an affair. None the less, the involved spouse gets a charge out of the relationship. It is easy to see how their spouse would be jealous of that, a relationship described as easy and comfortable where time flies by.

Emotional Affair Examples

Examples of emotional affair activities can include:

What Are The Dangers Of An Emotional Affair

Emotional affairs often start with the best intentions of making a friend. As is the case in many normal marriages, couples often “divide and conquer” as a way of managing the many responsibilities that they encounter, such as work, school, kids, household projects, and chores. 

While most people know intellectually that marriages take time and work, emotionally they are distracted by “life” and working on their marriage becomes a lower priority. Before you know it, years can pass and spouses can feel estranged and lonely and begin to question their compatibility and happiness together. 

At any point during the process of “growing apart” a spouse is vulnerable to an emotional affair. In fact, they may be vulnerable to a sexual affair as well. We often refer to this as triangulation. This is where a third party, making a triangle, connects to one spouse and in essence gets in the middle of the marriage. Couples become vulnerable to triangulation when their bond and attachment weakens or was never very strong to begin with.

How To End An Emotional Affair

Ending an emotional affair requires acknowledging that the relationship is inappropriate and then setting clear boundaries about future contact and behaviors. Keep in mind that although the affair is inappropriate, it is fulfilling a personal need for one person. Therefore, to successfully end an emotional affair, that partner’s desires and emotional needs must be addressed within the marriage. 

Complications exist when the third party is connected through someone’s job such as a co-worker, office assistant, the nurse, dental assistant, employee, or a partner in business. Sometimes this needs to be navigated carefully because of sexual harassment and other workplace laws. We have even had to refer clients to lawyers on occasion to handle the legal ramifications.

At the conclusion of an emotional affair, some people want to keep the affair a secret. Others need to come clean with their spouse. There are pros and cons to either decision, and it is best to discuss the situation with a professional before picking a path that cannot easily be walked back.

Can A Marriage Survive An Emotional Affair?

Yes. An emotional affair is a sign that something was missing in the relationship, so the goal of any counseling is to nurture those qualities within the marriage and to clean up any history that may have contributed to the marital disconnect.

Additionally, the couple must reconnect at a deeper level to begin healing from the current situation and to prevent future affairs. They must find ways to be best friends and good lovers again. They need to develop fun activities that nurture their relationship. If they’ve been sexless for a while it will be important to build a sexual bond again.

How To Deal With Infidelity?

After the initial shock, the spouse that discovered the affair is often feeling a lot of intense emotions that are usually very painful emotions: anger, hurt, betrayal, resentment, anxiety, fear, and depression. It is common for the injured spouse to want to know all of the infidelity details, but we discourage sharing those details. It is rarely if ever useful. Keeping the dialogue positive and discussing what each of you wants from the other person is the focus of our work.

Whether the injured spouse wants to know the details of the infidelity or not, there will be a continual search for signs of an ongoing betrayal, lies, and deceit. Successful relationships happen when spouses can put their swords down and find peace in knowing that both partners have some responsibility for the situation and both are committed to changing things. Professional help from an infidelity therapist just makes good sense. In virtually all cases of infidelity communication is a problem. There is also a need for additional work such as:

Frequently Asked Questions

A friendship does not include secretive meetings, calls, emails, or texts. Most true friends have some contact with your spouse. It is not an exclusive and private relationship.

Emotional affairs are platonic. They do not include any physical or sexual aspects. That would be a sexual affair.

Only meet in public places with them, don’t go out alone together if possible, and don’t offer them a ride home especially if you have had some alcohol to drink. Being alone together and having alcohol or other relaxing substances can leave you more vulnerable to a sexual affair. Structure for success and avoid the temptation. In addition, work on your attraction with your spouse so you are less susceptible to straying.

Some people are better off keeping it a secret especially if it was a one-night stand, while others need to confess and deal with the fall out. Sometimes coming clean opens the door to useful conversations that lead to a stronger marriage. If you are on the fence about opening up, consider talking with a professional about the pros and cons for you and your marriage.

That’s a great question and one that we have helped many people explore for themselves. It’s good to understand that 80% of individuals who divorce after an affair will regret that decision. Therefore, it is extremely valuable to get a profession opinion regarding your specific situation. It’s important to consider if the affair indicated a lack of compatibility or was it just an exciting adventure without much consideration for anyone else. That is one of the questions we will help you answer.

For some people who catch their spouse watching porn it feels like a betrayal as if it were a full-blown affair. It can be hurtful and leave them feeling abandoned. For other people, it seems like a better option than an emotional or sexual affair with another person. Either way, it is useful to have a healthy conversation about what is comfortable and what is not comfortable for you. There is no right and wrong, and every couple must agree on the sexual boundaries within their relationship.

A Marriage Counseling Retreat Is Your Solution

We work to learn the causes of your extramarital affair, and to establish rules for the future. Trust must be rebuilt gradually and by working together an opportunity exists for you and your partner to rebuild and actually strengthen your marriage.

Usually by the second day of our couples retreat it becomes obvious to all concerned how the rest of our time should be spent. Our commitment is to get to the truth in a loving and peaceful way. Finger pointing and blame is never very useful. Couples learn to take personal responsibility through effective communication exercises. Remember… affairs are often just a sign of a deeper underlying problem. If addressed appropriately, adultery can be the crisis that your marriage needs to change for the better.

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