image of a couple struggling with forgiving emotional cheatingEmotional cheating, as opposed to physical cheating, involves turning to someone who is not your spouse or partner for emotional support. This typically begins as some form of friendship, but ultimately grows into something that is more threatening to the intimacy between you and your partner. While there are many different opinions surrounding the severity of emotional cheating, it is ultimately a personal decision for how to manage the consequences and begin the forgiveness process. While some partners agree that emotional cheating doesn’t compare to physical cheating, others believe that it is actually even more catastrophic and detrimental to a relationship. Regardless of which camp you are in, there are three initial steps that you can take if you are hoping to forgive someone for emotional cheating. 

1. Talk about the bigger issues

If your partner found it necessary to seek out emotional support from a friend, colleague or acquaintance, there is probably a larger issue bubbling below the surface. Emotional cheating occurs when someone turns to an individual that is not their spouse or partner for support, guidance, or just emotional closeness during times of need.

If your partner has recently emotionally cheated, and you are looking for ways to cope with the new distrust, consider getting deeper into the initial reasons they reached out for help in the first place. Are there emotional troubles, stressors, or major life events that may have caused this person to reach out for emotional support somewhere else? Is there a chance they are not comfortable speaking with you about the topic?

You might also be interested in: How to Heal After Being Cheated On

2. Know your boundaries and be able to articulate them

What bothers one person may not bother another. We all have different frameworks for what is acceptable and appropriate in a romantic relationship, so what is acceptable to your partner may not be acceptable to you. The goal is to integrate those frameworks into a single foundation from which you can grow the relationship.

While both partners will need to compromise to some extent, it’s helpful to know what your boundaries are when it comes to your partner’s secondary relationships. Of course, we cannot control our partner’s interactions with the world, but when we can articulate what we are uncomfortable with, we give our partner a chance to operate within those boundaries.

3. Be emotionally present when communicating

Emotional cheating tends to occur when one individual is in need of help and the other just may not be fully available or present to deal with the issues. Take a moment to consider this: have you made it clear to your partner that you are ready and willing to work through even the hardest of life’s challenges? Have you been particularly busy with work, kids, or friends? There may be a chance they simply don’t think you have the time to take on their burden.

Carve out time to have open communication where both of you feel free and empowered to share things that may not be easy to talk about. If you are physically available to communicate make sure you are also emotionally available. This means, put down your phone, reduce distractions, and take a few moments each day to truly work through some of the things your partner may be struggling with.

4. Seek out support from others who have experienced emotional cheating

When our boundaries have been crossed by our partner, we might feel shame, confusion, embarrassment, or a host of other uncomfortable feelings. For a time, we may not trust our partner, who may previously have been our primary emotional support. This can leave us feeling isolated and alone. You can be certain, however, that you and your partner are not the only ones who have experienced emotional cheating.

Try finding others who have been through what you’re going through, and see how they handled it in their relationship. This can be particularly helpful if you seek out those who had the outcome you wish for, so, for example, if you want to work through the issue with your partner, find others whose relationships were able to overcome and flourish post-cheating.

5. Consider seeking a relationship coach

Emotional cheating may be a result of having traumatic past relationships, or simply not having a healthy foundation that you can build a meaningful relationship upon. There is no reason to blame yourself for emotional cheating, it may just be a consequence of unhealthy relationship patterns from the past. It is not always easy for individuals to break out of an unhealthy pattern, and even with the most open and honest communication, emotional cheating may have crossed a certain line that you just feel as if you cannot come back from.

Relationship coaches are there as a neutral third party that can help you and your significant other to work through some of the harder moments in life. While there may be guilt, shame, or anger felt towards your partner for the emotional cheating, it is important to take healthy steps to make sure both of you can forgive each other in the long run.

Consider reaching out to a certified relationship coach, such as Jessica Yaffa, for some advice as to how to navigate this confusing moment of life. Coaching sessions can be individualized, or done as a couple, and are targeted to help work through issues with self-worth, toxic patterns, and unhealthy communication tactics. 

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