When it comes to affairs, there are two different types: emotional affairs and physical affairs. Contrary to popular belief, they can be equally devastating. I have spoken to so many people who felt that the pain they felt after experiencing a physical affair is so much more intense than what a person feels when they are the victim of an emotional affair, but the truth is that you cannot compare the two. A physical betrayal is very hard for obvious reasons, but an emotional betrayal carries a different type of weight with it. When a person physically cheats on you, it is a very clear and concrete boundary that was crossed, but when a person emotionally cheats on you, it means that they are or were developing a much deeper connection with someone that isn’t you. Physical infidelity, in some cases, can be chalked up to pure carnal desires whereas an emotional affair means that a person is sharing the deepest parts of themselves of their heart and soul with another. When this happens, putting the pieces back together can actually prove to be considerably harder. But NOT impossible!
I had a client not too long ago who reached out to me to ask about what to do in this situation. He had learned that his girlfriend of 4 years had become way too close with one of her colleagues, and he found their conversations on her phone. He was confiding in this other man about sexual things, but also about deeply personal matters. Personal matters that she didn’t really even talk about with her boyfriend, my client. So he was lost and had no idea what to do.
So I told my client what I am going to tell you, as well. When this happens, the first thing you need to do is to take a step back and analyze the situation. What is it specifically that made your partner feel the need to connect to someone else outside of your relationship? Where is this need to connect emotionally with someone else coming from?
In many cases, there is a sense of neglect that creeps in on either one or both sides of the relationship. In other words, were you or your partner starting to inadvertently neglect each other’s emotional and physical needs? And I’m not just talking about sex. In my experience as a love and relationship coach, many people stray outside of their relationships because they don’t feel heard, understood, or cherished. My reason for telling you this is not to make you feel guilty; it’s to give you all the elements to take into consideration so that we can pinpoint the ideal solutions.
In the case of my client, we dove deep into the dynamic of their relationship to pinpoint where the disconnect was coming from. In the majority of cases when cheating happens, it is the symptom of a deeper problem. In this case, my client came to the realization that he had become so busy with his new job that there wasn’t much time left for their relationship at all. His girlfriend had tried to come to him to talk about how certain aspects of their relationship weren’t working, but he always brushed it off and never felt like talking about it with her.
Unfortunately, she turned to someone else and became very close to him. When this happened, it resulted in a full blown work affair and my client was devastated.
Another common reason that a person is cheated on is because they lose themselves in other things going on in their lives. As we saw with my client above, it is very common for a person to get so caught up with work that their partner barely recognizes them anymore. In other cases, there are so many things happening in a person’s life that they just don’t even think to connect with their partner, and every single person needs to feel cherished. If they don’t feel special to their partner, it becomes dangerously easy to slip into the temptation of seeking connection elsewhere.
Of course, we also have cases in which the person who cheats has a history of doing this and is actually just a narcissist. If you know in your heart of hearts that your partner has a tendency to cheat, then I honest encourage you to turn the page. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important to keep your eyes open and be honest with yourself if you know that this is a recurring “mistake” that your partner makes.
Now, if you know deep down that this happened because there is a disconnect in your relationship that needs fixing, then we can talk about how to bounce back after a work affair.