Hi, Suzie. My name is Gem and I’m calling from Australia.
I have been involved in an emotional affair online for almost a year. It was with someone that I knew 10 years ago, and we never got together then, because the timing wasn’t right. I had just broken up with one of his best friends. And even though we both liked each other, it was just the wrong time. We couldn’t do that to his this to his friend.
We both moved on.
He got married and had kids. And I’ve now been with my fiancee for the past five years.
He reached out on social media last year, and I was hesitant to accept him as a friend. He tried to make contact and start conversations, but I was very hesitant.
And I remember being upset that this guy and I hadn’t got together the first time, but I was definitely hesitant to be in contact. And secondly, I was really hurt by him all those years ago, as I thought he rejected me.
In time, we started talking every single day via social media and text.
We never called, never rang, never spoke.
I realized how attracted we were to each other. And the conversations were very intensely sexual. And we both wanted to meet, but we knew we couldn’t. So we both felt very guilty for our partners.
But the chemistry and connection were undeniable.
We made three plans to meet. And we never met. We just got too scared and never followed up on these plans.
Last week, I started to become quite upset with him. I think with the coronavirus and everything that was happening, I was in a very emotional place. It was a lot of stuff happening to me, and there was a lot of stuff happening to him.
He was extremely busy.
I would text him and it would take him all day to respond. And I began to think I was losing control of myself and my feelings. And I was hurting and very confused.
I realized I was falling in love with him (even though I loved my fiancee).
But he told me he couldn’t ever leave the situation he was in because of his kids (even though he wasn’t in love with his wife).
I also love my partner and I just didn’t want to leave him. I didn’t want to be the other woman either, who broke up a family. That’s just not me.
So I told them we should stop texting and stop writing to each other.
And even though we said these things before, this time we actually agreed. We just felt there was too much pain and confusion and we should say goodbye.
So I wrote a really beautiful, heartfelt goodbye. And his response was so cold, and so emotionless.
He didn’t even share my name. And he didn’t even say a single kind word to me.
He left a hint in his message at the fact that he wasn’t hurting or angry yet, but he knew those feelings would come.
So I responded to that. And I finally told him that I loved him and that my heart was breaking. And I was so sad saying goodbye. But we knew it was for the right thing. We knew that our timing isn’t right now can we can’t be together, but we’ve prevented anyone we love from being hurt.
And he never replied.
And that was two weeks ago. And I haven’t contacted him… actually, I did contact him once. I had a message that said… he wanted to send me a message. And I took a screenshot and asked him if this was a glitch.
And he coldly responded, “Yes. It’s a glitch. Sorry.”.
So I’m finding it really hard to let go. Grieving… it’s hard too, because I can’t show any emotions. Although I’m really down, my fiancee has been so sweet to me and I can’t tell him what’s wrong.
I’m also starting to feel very angry. I now feel very used by the apparent near and I wonder if I ever meant anything at all, if I was just a way of making sure he was still attractive.
The lack of kindness in his goodbye is really hurting me. And I asked him for closure and I just don’t feel like he’s given it to me.
So I’m just wondering why do I still feel so much for him when I know it’s wrong? And I don’t know if I believe he even feels the same way. Thank you.
Thank you, Gem, for taking the time to share your situation and your question.
I know what you’re going through is pretty difficult right now because, as you said, you’re caught up in the inner world and the secrecy of being in an emotional affair while at the same time going through a very painful breakup…and not being able to show those emotions. I do feel for your sense of isolation and the feeling of loneliness that you have to be also dealing with as you go through the heartbreak.
A couple of things came across in your question and in your situation that I’d like to address first before I get to your real question, which is:
Why are you feeling all these emotions and all this grief and heartbreak when you’re actually doing the right thing for the right reasons?
So, we’ll get to that in a minute. This situation has an interesting aspect to it. And the aspect that seems to be such a factor is the use of the word “timing”.
Several times throughout your question or at least throughout your narrative, you talked about the timing not being right. It puts a red flag up for me as a coach, because when you focus on timing, it really puts the sense of power in the hands of something that you can’t change.
And so it’s almost as if saying, “If the timing were right, then this relationship would have been able to bloom”. And we’re not really sure if that’s the case.
So, I would caution you as you go through your healing process to not focus in and not make it about the fact that it’s not blooming or not going in the direction that you want to.
Do not make it a function of timing…
…because that is outside of your control. And it also puts the power in the hands of something that you can’t really do anything about. So let’s not assume that the timing is the real factor in this.
The other thing I thought would be interesting to maybe tease out for you as you go through your process, is this sensation of having been rejected. Just from your own story, the situation itself did not lend itself to this happening. So I’m not sure how you’re reading rejection into the situation. That would be something interesting to maybe check in with yourself.
The other thing I want to talk about is that you’ve identified in this relationship that there’s intensity and chemistry.
And those two things, when you combine intensity and chemistry, they can really create… kind of a fog. And I call that fog the emotional fog… or affair fog. And what it is, it’s that when you stir up intensity and then you add chemistry to it, it can give the illusion that you have something that you actually don’t.
The thing with emotional affairs that makes them very challenging is that there’s a lot of stage lighting because they’re not actually based in reality.
So think about it this way. True love and real love is forged in the fires of everydayness. And so…it’s paying bills together, it’s working through problems together. It’s doing things together. It’s those things that creates and lays the foundations (or, I would like to say, layers the foundations) that really create that sense of real love.
An emotional affair doesn’t do that. It’s missing the key component of reality. And that’s where it gets a little bit wonky.
Because…you can’t really say for sure what a real life experience and partnership would be with this person. And so basically, you’re having to fill in a lot of the blanks and imagine that this chemistry would sustain itself in a real-world environment. And I have to tell you, there’s just no way to tell if that would be the case.
So, I caution you not to mistake intensity for depth… or chemistry for love.
The other thing I would like to bring out is that we are in the middle of a pandemic. It’s stirring up a lot of anxiety for a lot of us. It’s creating a sense of urgency for a lot of people. A lot of my clients are going through a sense of, “I have to use it before I lose it.” They’re going through a feeling of, “is this all there is?” There’s this sense of urgency. And so one thing to maybe also consider is how much of that is maybe playing up your emotions and causing some of the sense of neediness or grasping that you might be feeling. Using those words might seem strong to you.
But what is landing from your conversation with me is that you’re having a challenge letting go of a relationship that really hasn’t happened.
Think about that.
Everything that you’re experiencing through the texts, through social media, all of it requires to have taken place in the mind. So we’re not sure how much of this would actually translate with the same intensity and the same depth over any extended period of time with you guys living together.
We just don’t know. The other thing to really focus in on is, is that you both love your partners.
This is important.
That love is forged and comes out and has been layered by real world experience. So, you know your partner, you know your situation, and your love for him is not a mental experience. It’s forged in actuality.
And so, it comes down to the old adage of the bird in the bush versus the bird in hand. So be very mindful at what your mind wants to tell you is going to be the same.
The other thing is…(and I thought this was just so beautifully said and I felt a sincerity with this, so I really want to put a spotlight on it)…
When you said, “I don’t want to be the other woman either.” And that you don’t want to be the person who breaks up a family, it really stood out to me. When someone comes forward with such a strong statement, it tells me that they’ve organized their entire identity and their integrity around it.
So you’re very clear on who you don’t want to be. Very clear.
Maybe ask yourself. Who do you want to be?
If you’re not the woman that breaks up our family, if you’re not the woman that plays the other woman role…who are you?
Chances are, based on the fact that you had the courage to truly break it off, it sounds to me that you’re the woman that’s going to take the high road. You’re the one that is going to make the hard decision, not because it’s comfortable, but because it’s right. And if that’s the case, then you are living in alignment. This breakup is in alignment with your highest values. So maybe keep that in mind as you move forward.
Yes. The heartache is going to be there.
Feelings are feelings. I don’t think we should judge them. I say it all the time. Feelings are not inappropriate. Only actions are. And so, yes, you have to go through the process of healing the feelings. Absolutely. But your actions, what you’re doing today and the decisions that you have made, those are in total congruency with your values. And so I do believe that they will sustain you through this heartache.
So finally, I want to jump into your question, your real, real question, which is: Why is it that you are feeling as much as you’re feeling, even though you know it’s wrong?
Here is the way that I would read the situation.
Feelings are not logical. Sexual emotions are not a hundred percent under your cognitive control. You can be deeply in love. And Chris Hemsworth could walk by and, you know, it might cause the heart to flutter. That does not mean that you are a bad person. The human sex and mating instinct is free. We’re (as the human species) not hard-wired for monogamy.
Monogamy is a choice.
Like being a vegetarian is a choice. And so, yes, you can be triggered. You can be sexually attracted to people. You can even have emotions directed at people other than your partner. That’s all part of being human. The other part about being human is you have the power to override those instincts. That’s the beauty of being human.
And so, this is exactly what you’re doing.
You’re making the difficult decision to choose for what is congruent for you rather than what is emotionally triggering. Yes. This man has your number. He can trigger your chemistry sequence. He can make you feel a certain way. But at the end of the day, you are not at the mercy of those feelings. You can choose to override them for something higher.
He is choosing his family and you are choosing a high path, a high road and a certain particular identity and a way of showing up in the world. And I commend you for that. Knowing… knowing that it is difficult. You feel the way you feel. You’re going to have to go through the heartbreak, but you don’t have to suffer.
Because at the end of the day…
…doing the right thing for the right reasons is the only way that you have true freedom and true authentic-ness in this life.
There you have it Gem.
I hope you found something helpful in my answer. Whatever you decide to do, remember,
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!