This article, with questions that are answered, contains more information about the Affair Addiction Withdrawal (Formerly termed as “Other Woman/Other Man Withdrawal)
Does the same type of Other Woman Withdrawal occur if the affair was only an emotional attachment affair and not a physical affair?
The answer to your question is yes–it’s the same kind of grieving, because affairs are not about sex, they’re about emotional connections forged, and emotional needs that were getting met during that time. It makes no difference because the grief over the broken connection is purely emotional in both cases. However…
They are withdrawing from the way the affair partner makes them feel, so the withdrawal should be the same, right? Or is there less guilt in an emotional attachment affair, so therefore less withdrawal?
They’re fighting an emotional addiction that says they “need” this, “want” this, and because it’s been “removed” (breakdown of affair in full), they’re left “craving” this feeling they were once able to associate with the affair partner.
I don’t know that there is any “less guilt” in an emotional attachment affair. Betrayal is betrayal, regardless of whether it ever crosses the sexual line or not. The emotional connection is present in both types of relationships, therefore the guilt is the same, because there is an emotional betrayal in both cases. The physical affair, if it happens, will only exacerbate the betrayal because it becomes two-fold then, as the shattering of the vow of fidelity, will follow the shattering of the vow of exclusivity at that point.
You really would think that the withdrawal from the addiction in an emotional attachment affair wouldn’t be as bad, but it’s usually the opposite, because emotional attachment affairs, as a whole, are harder to release than physical affairs—and that might be because the emotional fantasy in the emotional attachment affair, is harder to pierce than the physical affair.
In the physical affair, sex changes everything–perception, and perspective. In nearly all cases, this crossing of the moral line, drives the betraying midlife spouse into a temporary breakdown. The realization of what they have done, pierces them that first time they cross the sexual line, after their mind begins to process the magnitude of what they have done. The left behind spouse might not ever know, because the midlife spouse may never speak of this.
You do have a great many midlife spouses who would never have considered physically betraying their marriage, but given the wrong time, and the right temptation, and they’ll fall into a pit of sin, that becomes very difficult to climb out of.
Conversely, in the emotional attachment affair, the couple hasn’t lived together, hadn’t seen each other’s ‘warts’ etc., and their associations are mostly conducted across the miles. These “long-distance” relationships make it much easier to maintain the fantasy. However, in time, it is usually the affair partner who gets tired of receiving emotional “crumbs” from such a long distance. So, they start pushing for more than just the time on the computer. They become dissatisfied with long-distance communication without the eventual face-to-face that they expect to also get.
Either way, when the affair ends, that type of “all about ME, make ME feel good, make ME feel special, give ME all of the attention,” supply will be cut off, and the emotional addictive qualities of the same, will be craved, the battle NOT to go down that road again, would be fought–just like with a drug addiction.
If the affair is an addiction about how good the affair partner makes the midlife spouse feel, is this addiction one that can be slowly weaned from?
Actually, no, because the ending is so emotionally violent in all circumstances of the affair. The midlife spouse might claim they broke up on a mutual agreement, but they’d be lying about that, because immature, childish teenage relationships are always tumultuous at best.
The midlife spouse often ends the affair all at once, because the affair partner does or says something that tips the scales in favor of the affair ending. Freedom looks better than a clinging, begging affair partner, who is pushing for more than the midlife spouse wants to give.
After all, the midlife spouse was using the affair partner for what they were giving the them, the affair was all about them, and how it met their needs. When the affair starts pushing the line of demanding a commitment, it often becomes more trouble than its worth.
Most midlife spouses who are tempted into an affair, never had any intention of leaving their marriage forever. It’s one of the reasons, you’re advised to back off, don’t confront them about it, detach, and distance yourself from the sin of the midlife spouse, to let the affair run its course. If you pursue, expose, and act vindictive, the affair partner begins to look more attractive than you do, because they don’t have to do or say anything, but just be there.
So, the advice is to leave it alone, because you can’t do anything about it–you don’t have any control over the choices the midlife spouse is making. You only have control over how you will choose to deal with this knowledge. You can choose to walk your journey forward, leave it alone, or constantly pursue, and drive the midlife spouse even further away from you.
Now, as the affair is going through a series of breaks, as the relationship is gasping for its last breath, it doesn’t mean that the couple might not try again one more time, or even multiple times, because breaking up is hard to do. However, the midlife spouse who knows this isn’t going to work, is often pestered to the point of harassment by the affair partner who tries to lure them back in, bring them back, and the midlife spouse goes back, out of guilt over “hurting” the affair partner, only to have their certainty that this is NOT going to work, confirmed once more, and in time, there is a final break.
The midlife spouse doesn’t know to expect the grieving process to hit them–the first feeling they have upon total breakup, is a relief that they have rid themselves of someone who was nothing but trouble. Then, all of a sudden, they start realizing feelings they never thought they’d feel come forth. A real and rending emotional grief overtakes them, as the broken connection cries out for relief, and it cries loudly for the person that once held the other connected end.
As I’ve described before, it’s a suffering of an emotional connection that is sent to its “death” that demands to be faced, processed, resolved, and purged in full, and it takes TIME to grieve the loss of that connection.
If you think about teenagers, with all of their dramatic relationships–they do this same thing, falling into a deep pit of grief, that brings on a deep depression, that some don’t have the strength to face, while others will enter the struggle, and give it everything they’ve got, so they can come through. Some of these teenagers have been known to either try to commit suicide over unrequited love, or successfully commit suicide, because they don’t think they can face the future alone.
However, IF the midlife spouse will stay the course of this grieving process, and do the inner work required, in time it would lessen. Eventually, that “head and heart connection” would be purged in full, clearing the midlife spouse of the “want” for that person.
The only aspect that won’t be processed in full at that time, would be the guilt and the shame, for mistreating the affair partner. However, that’s about human beings in general, because the midlife spouse would need to forgive themselves, for what they’ve done. Self-forgiveness will not come overnight. For some, that process will extend beyond the end of their midlife crisis before they can accomplish this.
Every person is different in how they will choose to respond or react to this breakdown of the affair–whether they break it down, or the affair partner breaks it down–there is always drama that precedes the breakdown of an affair. Once the emotional break is made, that sends the affair to its death, there is always a grieving process that follows. The affair addiction withdrawal process (Other Woman/Other Man Withdrawal) will often cause people to mistake it for the actual Stages of Depression, AND/OR Withdrawal, when it’s not the same. This grieving process takes place in the Stage of Replay, where all of the running behaviors take place. Food for thought.
For example, let’s say you’re a smoker who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. You decide to smoke just one less cigarette a day for two weeks. Then, you smoke two less cigarettes for two weeks. And then gradually increase the number of cigarettes you cut back on and/or the time frame between the steps-down. The withdrawal, then, is less shocking and intense than “cold turkey”.
It’s always “cold turkey” when the affair is broken down. Because of one partner that begins to change, and turn away, and the other who isn’t ready to end the affair, rebelling against this unwanted change, a breakup, is always an all of a sudden thing. There is no gradual turning away–it doesn’t happen that way, because you’ll always see the partner who is being abandoned/left, creating a lot of immature drama as they begin heavily pursuing, arguing, and trying to trigger guilt and shame in the midlife spouse for being “unfair” to them.
They’ll scream and cry, “Oh, I ‘luv’ you so much, Babee! Please come back to me! I don’t want to lose you! I missed you so much, I cried all night last night!” There is always heavy drama attached to the breakdown of an affair, and usually a final fight ensues that brings it to a more complete end.
This is not even close to what it’s like to quitting the smoking of cigarettes. This is not a man or woman against an inanimate object that can’t argue back. These are two human beings in the throes of a “true luv” affair, with one that’s had enough, and is wanting to leave, while the other is crying, begging, and even stooping to the point of attempting to commit emotional blackmail against the leaver. It’s a desperate attempt to “keep” them, because the one who is being abandoned “luvs” the leaver so much.
It’s an extremely emotionally immature relationship if you think about it.
Could it be the same with regard to the affair and affair partner? Once the affair is exposed it’s a game changer. For those that want to keep the A hidden: suddenly you can’t go away together on weekends as much or stop for drinks after work as often or even talk on the phone or text as much. Time together gets less frequent and fewer and farther between. Add, possibly, to that reality setting in, masks slipping, the left behind spouse looking more appealing, etc, and the relationship just slows down “naturally.” More simply put, do these affairs ever just fizzle out? And, if that does happen, is it detrimental to the purpose behind the affair – that is, resolving unresolved issues? Or can issues be resolved even if the affair fizzles?
Honestly, I have not seen an affair simply “fizzle” out yet. Remember there are consequences for sin against God, Self, Spouse, and Marriage, and having severe difficulty disentangling oneself from an affair, is a major part of those consequences. If it were so easy for someone to get into an affair, and then come out of an affair, everybody would be having affairs.
Whatever you sow, you shall reap, and the sowing of corruption is the easy part, but the reaping of the harvest that surrounds that corruption is what should make the decision to get entangled in an affair to be thought through twice, and more.
However, the midlife spouse isn’t thinking through to the consequences of their actions, and Satan never throws temptation out there all at one time. He eases the would-be adulterer into the sin, one step at a time, and once in, the difficulty in getting out is worse than going in.
So, the affair, “fizzling” out, is really not an option, because it makes it too easy to do it again. Extracting oneself from a sinful situation, needs to be extremely prolonged, extremely painful, and suffering the pain of trying to come out of what was so easy to fall into is an incentive that should teach the sinner that sin is never worth the time they have put into it.
Sin will always take the midlife spouse farther than they ever wanted to go, and cost them more than they ever wanted to pay. They’ve hurt themselves, but that realization won’t come until they’re strong enough to be brought face-to-face with their sin, and called into Self-Accountability once their eyes are opened. This happens later, as they grow into this emotional place that dictates they have sin to account for–and it’s not just sin against God. It’s also sin against their Self, their Spouse, and their Marriage they have to face. More food for thought.
Therefore, there really is not a “natural” way to bring an affair to an end, that I would know about. An angry and vindictive left behind spouse who seeks to expose the midlife affair is only going to cause the two people in it, to form an alliance of “Us against the World.” I’ve seen this described more times than you’ll ever know. The left behind spouse won’t listen, exposes the affair, then is left reeling in shock, when the couple only binds that much more tightly together, to “protect” each other.
The midlife affair is not your “normal” affair–it’s more of a parent/child relationship, with the “child” (midlife spouse) protecting the “parent” (affair partner). You can’t do one thing about it, because the midlife spouse’s heart and mind is completely turned away from the left behind spouse.
There are short times of clarity, where guilt, and shame, will cause the midlife spouse to “notice” the left behind spouse, to be kind for a short time, then the hateful actions, the neglect, the turning away from them begins again. This is because the left behind spouse means nothing to the midlife spouse while they are in an affair, except as someone who is an anchor, only there for the purpose of being controlled, so the left behind spouse won’t move or go anywhere, unless the midlife spouse says it’s OK.
That’s clearly seen in the controlling behaviors shown on the midlife spouse’s part, and when you recognize it, then you can take steps to change the controlling dynamic, and break free of it. You don’t have any control over whether or not (or even when), the midlife spouse is going to end the affair, so you can speculate until sundown, but that won’t the change the situation.
As far as the issues go–once the midlife spouse has finished with the affair partner, the issues that drew them to the affair partner, go into the process of settling, but this will still take time to finish. I suspect that these issues are completely settled (if not so painful, they’re buried for a time), during the affair addiction withdrawal process, because that would be part of the unfinished emotional business associated with the affair partner the midlife spouse so callously discarded when ending the affair.
To explain this another way: Whether it’s an emotional affair, OR a physical affair, because the midlife spouse became emotionally different they chose someone who was just like them, and the opposite of the left behind spouse.
When the “heart and head connection” that held them with the affair partner is shattered, there is a grieving process that is navigated through that is all about the “death” of that relationship, the breaking of that connection, and the loss of how the affair partner made them feel–an emotional addiction to those feelings. The affair is an emotional drug, and when that drug is removed, the feelings of the addictive withdrawal begin. This takes time, because the midlife spouse has to process this past relationship and what it meant to them.
People have asked why the midlife spouse does NOT grieve through, nor process the left behind spouse and the marriage that died, because of their wrong actions–two reasons:
(1)The midlife spouse is NOT emotionally, nor mentally “finished” with the marriage, nor the left behind spouse.
(2)The processing of the left behind spouse, and the past marital dynamics will not begin until the Stage of Withdrawal, when the past damage that was done during replay will be processed–and it will only be two-thirds of that, with the rest coming in the final stage of the crisis.
During replay, long before number two ever happens, the midlife spouse will be using their rewritten history, to lie, vilify, and crucify the left behind spouse to ease their own guilt. More spewing, lying vilifying, and crucifying will occur as the midlife spouse begins to grieve the lost connection of the affair partner, and the emotional addiction to how they once felt when in the affair. Their hearts and minds are still far from the left behind spouse during this time. There are some people who have wrongly assumed than when the affair ends, marital rebuilding begins, and they couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The midlife spouse acts as if they’ve had their favorite toy taken from them, and they’ll project this upon the innocent left behind spouse. One more thing, it really doesn’t matter who ended the affair, the fact is, this grieving associated with this emotional “death” must occur, (and complete in full), or the “head and heart connection” that once belonged to the affair partner will never be purged-it will remain as unfinished emotional business, and create an additional issue to face, resolve, and heal at a later time.
The grief process, and battle against the emotional addiction must occur, or they won’t be able to move forward, and past the affair they’ve had. You see, when the midlife spouse grieves the lost connection of the affair in full, to the point of purging that connection in their head and heart, it is because they are DONE with the affair partner, and they know there is NO going back to them again. Only after they purge this in full, will their hearts and minds most likely turn back to the left behind spouse again, based on the buried feelings that will uncover as the grieving process comes to a close.
In fact, if you think about it, the grieving the left behind spouse does over the lost marriage is a very similar process to what the midlife spouse does when grieving the lost connection of the affair.
The difference is the left behind spouse is married, and is legally grieving this out(but does not purge this connection, because they are not finished with the marriage), while the midlife spouse is not married to the affair partner, and illegally grieving this out (purges this connection in full, because they are done with the affair partner)…yet, the “head and heart connection” is no different, whether legal or illegal.
With all of the negative emotional cycling the left behind spouse does, the obsession with the midlife spouse, could also be seen as a kind and type of emotional addiction. It is comparable one to the other, if you sit down and really think about it. It’s a kind of addiction that binds the left behind spouse to their midlife spouse, and seeks to control and manipulate them.
At the time of the unwanted emotional bomb drop, the left behind spouse’s connection to the midlife spouse was broken in half, torn away, ripped apart, and after finally accepting that the marriage is dead at that time, the grief over what could have been, but never was, begins. Relationships, and the course they take, aren’t really that different–it’s just the circumstances within that course that are different.
Emotional connections that are broken, (regardless of what kind and type of relationship we’re speaking about), lead to deep and rending grief, bear more similarities, than you realize. On the part of the one who intellectually (head) knows, that it’s ended, but the emotional feelings (heart) feel entangled, and that person is clearly in a lot of pain, this pain must be grieved, processed, and purged of those negative feelings.
On the part of the left behind spouse, their former feelings, and old love is transformed into a different kind of feeling, and a new love, combined with personal, and relational boundaries, that says, “I love you no matter what. However, there is a limit to what I will tolerate from you in your behavior.”
On the part of the midlife spouse, their feelings, and old love has yet to be completely transformed, because their continued immature ways of being, thinking, and doing, have yet to be outgrown. So, they’re going to take more time, than the left behind spouse who often walks ahead of them, without looking back to see if they’re being followed or not, because it’s not going to matter to the left behind spouse who knows they’re going to be just fine going into the future.
As for the midlife spouse, once they discover they can no longer control, nor influence the left behind spouse in any way, and perceive they’ve been left behind, just like they once left the left behind spouse, they’ll find their insecurities triggered.
Because there are still feelings in them for the left behind spouse–though it’s that “old” love still working on them, that they equate with control–they will follow for the wrong reasons in the beginning. But, later, as they continue growing, they’ll discover the same learning the left behind spouse has assimilated much earlier on–that love is a choice, love is unconditional, boundaries must be set, change, growth, and becoming must be achieved in Self……
And this is all about them..and this takes time…
Food for thought.