When a partner is physically intimate with someone else during a marriage, there are often irreparable and devastating consequences as soon as the relationship is discovered. An emotional affair is different. It can take months before enough has happened between your spouse and the other person to finally warrant calling their connection an affair. Even then, your partner may claim they are not doing anything wrong because the relationship is not physical. The result can be a painful, dishonest, and alienating dynamic that drags on, eroding your self-esteem and destroying your marriage. After the divorce, you may find yourself so emotionally depleted that it’s hard to know how to move forward. Recovering from your ex’s emotional affairs will take time, but it is possible.
Identifying Your Ex’s Affair as Infidelity
While you were married, you probably noticed signs of your ex’s affair. It could have started with a feeling that something was “off” between you. Maybe they weren’t as engaged, or there was sudden secretive behavior. The late nights at work or mentioning their “friend” may have become all too frequent. When you tried to address these issues, your ex’s response may have been to deny that anything was going on or accuse you of being untrusting. It may not have been until after the divorce that your ex officially started a relationship with their “friend.”
Under these circumstances, it may feel like your ex’s infidelity was somehow less legitimate than a physical affair. Make no mistake. It was an affair. Just because your ex waited to call the other person their romantic partner doesn’t make it any less of one. Further, even if your ex never has a physical relationship with their emotional affair partner, they were still unfaithful. Acknowledging that you have a right to feel betrayed and hurt by your ex’s extramarital relationship is an important step towards honestly processing your experience.
Get Everything Out
Moving on after your ex’s affair can seem impossible. Especially if they never admitted to the behavior. It can also add insult to injury if your ex moves on with their affair partner. Denying the pain won’t make things easier. Do what you need to do to attend to your emotional well-being as you manage your feelings about the divorce. Let yourself feel everything you need to, whether it’s sorrow, rage, jealousy, or resentment. You also don’t have to endure this alone. If you need support, talk with people in your life you feel you can trust and lean on. You may also want to meet with a therapist who can help you navigate your emotions as you go through the healing process.
Letting Go of What Can’t Be Changed
You may feel like you didn’t deserve what happened, and it wasn’t fair. This perception can intensify when you know your ex has moved on with their emotional affair partner. Feeling this way is understandable, but dwelling on the inequity of your situation won’t change the past. You can’t undo what has happened, but you do have control over how you look at the situation from now on. This doesn’t mean you have to forget or deny the affair. However, you can choose to shift away from agonizing over what you can’t change to focusing on healing and building your new life.
Forgiveness for Yourself
On the surface, asking you to forgive may seem like an unfair and offensive request. Forgiveness after infidelity and divorce is not about excusing a cheating spouse’s behavior or negating your feelings. Reaching a point of forgiveness after divorce is a process that involves releasing yourself from the resentment of the past so you can move on with your life. There is no perfect timeline for forgiveness. Each person’s process is their own, and it will happen according to the time that is right for them. By starting to release some of your pain, you can move towards healing from the past.
Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients understand their options during and after Wisconsin separation and divorce and can help you evaluate your circumstances and connect with the right resources.