An emotional affair rarely ever seems like an affair in the beginning. It could start off as someone sending you a message, asking how you are doing. Yet, if you both start to share your feelings, there is an opportunity to create intimacy—whether that was the goal or not. Without realizing what is happening, you may soon find yourself in an emotional affair.
What is an Emotional Affair?
While emotional affairs do not have physical intimacy, they do cause intense emotions between two people. When these emotions occur in someone who has a committed relationship or marriage, it is cheating.
That said, emotional connections that require zero intimacy are more common than ever, now that we have entered the digital age. People can form relationships through dating apps and social media. Therefore, people tend to have a different perspective on an emotional affair and cheating.
If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s important to understand how you and your partner view cheating.
What Are The Signs of an Emotional Affair?
Do you think your partner is in an emotional affair? Or maybe you’re worried you have overstepped boundaries? Here are some signs of an emotional affair:
- You or your partner are spending less time with one another and more time online, talking to a “friend”
- You or your partner are keeping conversations with someone else secret or are hiding the frequency of these conversations
- Communicating with the online friend is easier than communicating with each other
- Dialogue with your friend has become more flirty or sexual than conversational, and you want to hide it
- You feel unappreciated and look to your friend for validation or seek affirmation elsewhere
How Do Emotional Affairs Start?
Now that you know what an emotional affair looks like, it’s time to discuss how these affairs happen. As mentioned earlier, this kind of infidelity is on the rise, so you might not know what is happening until it’s too late.
The following behaviors are how emotional affairs start:
1. Talking About Emotions With Someone Else
Talking to someone who is 100% invested in what you’re saying always feels good. You get a little jolt of happiness when they nod along. But what if this person isn’t your spouse or partner? What if it’s a coworker, gym friend, or online pal?
Confiding in other people is fine, but if you start to rely on that person and notice yourself slipping away from your partner, you’re treading dangerous waters. It is best to step back.
2. Finding Self-Worth Elsewhere
If you have been together with your partner for a while, be it through marriage or a long-term relationship, comfort is inevitable. This might mean your partner no longer looks at you like they used to. If you find yourself seeking approval from others because you’re not getting it from your spouse or partner, you run the risk of an affair.
It is best to speak with your partner and communicate your wants and desires instead of getting a thrill from someone else. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, try reading some self-help books or speak with a therapist.
3. Looking For Alone Time With Someone Who’s Not Your Partner
Even when the alone time isn’t physical but online in a game or in a chat room or forum, the barriers of emotional and physical intimacy tend to fade. When no one is around to hold you accountable for your actions, you might feel tempted to say or do something that is unfaithful, especially when you’re bored, lonely, angry, or feeling unwanted. This is often how emotional affairs begin—with a private meeting.
4. Avoiding Hard Conversations With Your Partner
How do you think misunderstandings happen? Communicating with your partner is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. If you are feeling lonely, dissatisfied, or unfulfilled in some way in your relationship, you need to speak with your partner.
However, sitting down with your partner and working through conflicts and aggression can be terribly difficult. Yet, ignoring those conversations will lead to bitterness, maybe even hatred. When that happens, you might seek out the help of another, such as a coworker or an online friend for help. Unknowingly, their understanding becomes something you rely upon.
5. Keeping Secrets From Your Partner
Here’s a secret: Hiding the truth and lying is only going to put a strain on your relationship. Hiding habits that your partner might not like, such as gambling or excessive spending, and talking about those issues with someone else who understands? Well, that opens the door to a private relationship.
You need to be open with your partner. If you have a secret that makes you feel guilty in some way, you need to talk about it. Struggling? Meet with a marriage counselor or therapist to get the process started.
6. Criticizing Your Partner
Are you stuck on the negative habits of your partner? Complaining about the things they do wrong to someone else? Connecting with one another over grievances can cause an emotional connection that leads to an emotional affair because you are seeking solace with someone else. This can lead you to gravitate towards the positive traits of someone else while upsetting the relationship you already have.
7. Not Seeking Connection With Your Partner
Life is guaranteed to throw obstacles in your path. Extended business trips, pandemics that shut down everything, appointments, children, work and school functions, extracurricular activities…the list is never-ending. Sometimes, you end up forming emotional connections with other people in attendance at your child’s soccer game or at work, or someplace else.
In the same way these responsibilities open windows for connecting with others, they might keep you from your partner. That is why it is so important to schedule a time to be with one another. Do the things you both enjoy together, so you can focus on the health of your relationship.
Recovering From an Emotional Affair
Emotional affairs, while not requiring any intimacy, can be especially damaging to a relationship. Worse, these kinds of affairs can start off as a benign relationship between two people. Yet, emotional ties can cause lines to blur, and you soon might find yourself attracted to a colleague. By understanding how emotional affairs begin, you can step away before anything unfortunate happens.
Remember, if you feel unhappy in your current marriage or relationship, infidelity isn’t the answer. You can save the relationship by working together and learning how to communicate more effectively. Couples Academy is a unique program designed to give you and your partner insight and skills that strengthen your bond. Fill out the contact form to learn more.