Question: I am writing for marriage advice. I hope this can be done anonymously. I have been married to a man I love with all my heart for the past 6 years. We have an amazing 3 year old that I am lucky enough to be able to stay home with. My husband has his own business and we are able to spend a lot of time together as a family. I love my family. My issue is that I was engaged about two years before I met my husband. I was the one to break off the relationship. My ex has recently found me on social media and constantly talks about how I am the one that he would always consider his ‘could have been’. I loved this man years ago but I was so young when we were together I couldn’t see what I had. I find myself wondering about the road not taken. I even agreed to meet with him once and backed out. I don’t want to be unfaithful to my husband (who I love) but I can’t seem to shake this old relationship for good. Can you help me figure out how to get this out of my system and remain faithful to my family? Gina, California
Answer: Emotional affairs are trickier to spot than sexual affairs and often harder to let go of. I congratulate you on backing out of the arranged meeting. That decision alone tells me that you spotted the affair on some level. You didn’t say the reasons for canceling the meeting but I can only assume it was for the preservation of your family. Many people have that one person in their past that will always be their ‘might have been’. It is a very bittersweet emotion to carry, especially for over 8 years. Emotional infidelity is something that comes at us so unassuming it is easy to pass it off as friendship until we wake up one day and find ourselves in your shoes. There are four steps to ending an emotional affair.
1. Spotting the Affair – Congratulations you have already done this.
2. Figure out why it happened
3. Deciding what to do
4. Dealing with the Aftermath
If you want to ‘get this out of your system’ the second step you need to take is to find out why you were able to participate in the affair. Surprisingly this is not about your ex. Emotional affairs are more about what is missing in your current relationship than what the ‘other man’ is offering you. You did not say the reason you broke up with your ex, but it is safe to assume that at the time you felt like he wasn’t the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. You have committed yourself to another man, had a child by him, and by your own admission wish to remain faithful to the family you have created. What is missing in the relationship you committed to that allowed this to creep in?
Following through with step three will probably be the most difficult for you emotionally. I am not at all unsympathetic, but this is a case of needing to rip off the Band-Aid so healing can take place. Delete him from any and all social media, if he has your email block his address, if he has your phone number change it. You need to completely isolate yourself from the feelings he ignites so that you can fully appreciate what you have. If this feels impossible compare how you feel about taking this action with how you would feel if your family was broken. Once you cut all ties, focus on your family, and deal with the consequences of your actions.
After you have identified what you were missing in your relationship, have an honest conversation with your husband. Years ago my grandmother had two sayings that you were guaranteed to hear. One of those was “the truth will stand when the world is on fire”. An open, honest conversation about your needs is in order. Let him know that there are areas of your marriage you would like to work on together. If you are determined to keep your family intact and you are still not able to keep your mind off of what might have been it may be time to seek professional help. Sometimes just having someone listen as you spill your thoughts aloud will help clear up things that have been a puzzle for you.
If you are like Gina and have found yourself on the edge of an emotional or sexual affair and would like marriage advice, please fill out your contact information. We would be glad to help you in any way we can.