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5 Steps To End An Emotional Affair

In case you missed my last blog, 8 Signs You May Be Having An Emotional Affair, it explored how sometimes innocent relationships turn into something more; and how to know if you may have crossed the line.   The response was pretty exciting.  I have received several comments, emails, and messages about the topic, and I welcome them all.  What I discovered was many people with very different thoughts and opinions.

Some readers identified the benefits of emotional affairs, while some discussed the consequences.   As a result, readers left me with the idea of covering what I think will be a controversial topic – questioning if infidelity can actually help a marriage.  For now, as promised, we can look at ways to end an emotional affair.

Emotional affairs can be messy.  Unlike a one-night stand, or a random hook-up, they are often rooted in much deeper feelings.  It may be difficult to get out of a sexual affair, but getting out of an emotional affair can be just as difficult, if not more.

If you are of the opinion that emotional affairs are harmful and wish to end one, it may be difficult but not impossible.  Here are some steps you can take to get out of an emotional affair, and lower your risk of ever having another.

  1. Think it over.  Do the benefits outweigh the risks?   If you’re looking to end an emotional affair, it’s likely you’ve already identified that the risks outweigh the benefits.  Ask yourself some tough questions.  What do you stand to lose?  How may your actions affect others? Only the person actually involved in the affair can answer these questions.
  2. Identify the reason the affair began.  I think identifying why the affair began is important.  Did you seek out the other person?  Were you looking for something that was missing in your relationship?  Was it a friendship that turned into something more?  Were you looking for excitement or a change?  Once you are able to identify why the affair began, it is easier to begin the work that will help you move forward.
  3. Take responsibility.  While you may not have started with the intentions of having an emotional affair, it is important to take responsibility for how it got there and your part in allowing it to continue.  By taking responsibility, some choose to admit their affairs.  I suggest doing this with caution.  You may wish to have a third party, such as a counselor involved.  If you choose to come clean, make sure you are doing so in a safe environment.  When emotions run high, things can quickly escalate.
  4. Let go of the person you are involved with.  This sounds obvious and simple, but can be quite complicated.  If you are truly looking to end an emotional affair, it is best to stop all communication.  Some people prefer some type of closure. Whether it’s one last meeting, conversation, or an old school letter/email; if you prefer closure, it’s best to say what you need to say and walk away.
  5. Know that letting go will be difficult.  Remember, emotional affairs can be very intimate and it is likely that you are very attached to person you are involved with.  You may initially go back and forth with your decision.  Once your decision is final, you may even experience feelings of grief and loss. Understand that these feelings are normal and don’t be afraid to talk about them with someone you feel you can trust.

It is often easy to see the negative effects of an emotional affair on a relationship, thus leading one to consider ending it.  However, as some readers suggested, is it possible that an emotional affair can help a relationship?  Interesting food for thought… stay tuned!

5 Steps To End An Emotional Affair

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on August 19, 2015.

Donna M. White, LPC/I, CACI

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APA Reference
White, D. (2019). 5 Steps To End An Emotional Affair. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 May 2019
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