Emotional cheating involves having an emotional intimacy outside of a committed relationship without the consent of one's partner. Divorce occurs less often for emotional then sexual cheating; but the betrayal of affection and trust may lead to marital distress and conflict. If emotional cheating has occurred in your relationship, facing the secret together may repair the damage done by the betrayal, suggests Ryan Seedall, professor of family, consumer and human development at Utah State University.
Raise the issue of emotional cheating. Ask your spouse if he is emotionally involved with someone else. The alternatives are not good: brooding, attacking, distancing, cheating back or hiring a detective. Communication about worries and doubts in the relationship can help you avoid unnecessary worry. You may detect and address issues before they become more difficult to resolve. If you have been emotionally involved outside of the marriage, raising the issue can relieve the stress of your spouse potentially finding out about it. Discussing it with your spouse can help you get a perspective on why the relationship happened. Whether your partner responds with attack or a listening ear can help you determine what you need to do next.
Identify unmet needs by understanding the motives for cheating. Fun, sex, romance, respect, frustration, companionship, understanding, self-confidence and job advancement are motives addressed by Seedall. If you were the cheater, awareness can help you self-monitor to avoid emotional entanglements that can damage your marriage in the future. If you are the spouse who was betrayed, awareness of your partner's motives can help you empathize and help provide a context where both you and your spouse feel more satisfied.
Ponder your spouse's strengths. How you think about your partner will guide your decision about the future of your relationship. If you decide to stay together, your awareness of your partner's strengths will provide you with more satisfaction in your relationship. If you decide to dissolve the marriage, your awareness of strengths in the other will help you fairly negotiate the uncoupling process and continue to cooperate in rearing any shared children.
Invoke forgiveness. Forgiveness increases couple-friendly behaviors in the injured spouse, enhancing the probability of reconciliation, notes Julie H. Hall, professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo. If you are the spouse who has cheated, the forgiveness process starts with your apology and taking responsibility for the betrayal. If you are the injured partner, it is easier to begin letting go if you receive an apology.