It starts out innocently enough. You have issues with your spouse and your best friend isn’t available to act as your usual sounding board. But your officemate is.
You unload. Your officemate listens sympathetically. Then you feel so much better. The next day, you seek your colleague again, telling yourself that his or her perspective helps you understand your spouse better.
But what happens when your officemate becomes your go-to person instead of your spouse?
What happens when you find yourself looking forward to work in the morning because that means you can spend time with your officemate?
Or when you find yourself increasingly annoyed by your spouse because he or she isn’t anything like your caring, understanding sounding board in the office?
Dangerous territory? I’ll say.
What is emotional unfaithfulness?
“Emotional unfaithfulness is the same as actual unfaithfulness,” says Herald Cruz, certified life coach and head of the parenting cluster of the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) of the Ateneo de Manila University.
Melissa Pizaña-Cruz, Herald’s wife of 18 years and herself a life coach, agrees. “When there’s an emotional intimacy with someone else, something becomes lost in your marriage and you’ll be able to feel that,” she says.
Even if the involvement isn’t physical, harboring a relationship with someone you truly like and often spend time with can threaten your relationship, she adds.
Three things expected from a relationship
Explains Cruz: “The mere fact that you’re married means that three factors are expected from both partners: exclusiveness, possessiveness, and permanence. If there’s anyone who was not able to live up to these expectations, then it can cause a lot of stress and heartache.”
Sometimes, affairs begin because the offender is looking for intimacy or a way to feel good about themselves.
“Working on why this is the case can help you get to the bottom of an unhappy marital situation,” Pizaña-Cruz adds.
How to rebuild the relationship
When an affair happens—whether physical or emotional—and the couple decides to work out their relationship, Cruz says the following should occur:
The unfaithful spouse must be genuinely sorry.
The unfaithful spouse must be willing to prove he or she is worthy and can be trusted again.
The wronged spouse must learn to forgive.
“Trust is something that you build through time,” explains Cruz, just as he calls forgiveness a “process.” “There will be a breakthrough, but this takes time. Only out of forgiveness can trust be rebuilt,” he says.
Pizaña-Cruz adds that if the offender is willing to change, he or she must practice transparency. No more hiding texts and emails, she says. “You have to be transparent and accountable for your lives and to each other.”
When do you seek counseling?
If you feel you cannot solve the problem yourselves, Pizaña-Cruz suggests counseling.
But, counseling works only if the affair is over. If an affair is active or ongoing, “nothing the counselor will say will make the offender break up or end the affair,” she warns. “Whoever is having the affair usually lies through [his or her] teeth.”
What to do in such a situation?
“We can begin with individual counseling in the hope that the person who came to us will change and there is a positive effect on those around him because of the change that happened,” Cruz says. “Then, the other spouse will begin to be more open to couple counseling.”
If both of you are willing to work on your marriage, there is always hope for healing.
For counseling and other inquiries, contact: Center for Family Ministries (CeFaM), Spiritual Pastoral Center, Ateneo de Manila University Campus, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Tel. 426.4285, 426-4289-92. Email firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>.