When you think of cheating or an affair, you probably imagine it only as sexual intimacy with someone who isn’t your partner or spouse. But that leaves a large gray space between platonic friendships and physical affairs, doesn’t it? Turns out, there is something called an emotional affair; and they can be difficult to spot, even for those involved.
However, one of the greatest signs of an emotional affair happens to be the emotional connection between two people. Even without initiating a sexual relationship, you can still cheat on your spouse or partner by forming a strong emotional connection with someone else.
What Is An Emotional Affair?
Also known as emotional cheating or an emotionally charged friendship, an affair of this kind is defined as a person feeling closer to someone outside of their current relationship than they do to their partner. Because of this intense physical connection, an individual may begin to feel chemistry and physical attraction to this “friend.” The result is less energy given to your partner or spouse and more to someone else.
The defining factor is how much you think about the other person compared to your partner, as well as the level of transparency you have about this emotionally charged friendship.
Emotional Affairs vs. Platonic Friendships
Since emotional affairs often begin as friendships, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a very strong platonic friendship and emotional cheating. That said, there are some key defining characteristics to consider.
Firstly, a friendship is a supportive relationship. You may see your friend once a week or just a few times a month—and you’re okay with this separation. With an emotional affair, you are more than eager to see or speak to the individual in question.
This could be an online friend, a coworker, or an acquaintance you’ve met at the gym. However, you can also build a relationship with these people that doesn’t involve any sexual tension.
Emotional Affairs and Micro-Cheating
Micro-cheating isn’t the same as an emotional affair, although the two can overlap. What’s micro-cheating? It’s a small action that crosses a line. If the action would upset your partner or violate their sense of trust in you, it’s micro-cheating. In fact, micro-cheating is often a sign that someone will cheat in the future.
However, the difference between an emotional affair and micro-cheating is that there doesn’t have to be a connection with the latter. Think of micro-cheating as a fixation or obsession with someone, while emotional cheating requires an emotional and time investment.
Does Texting Count?
Yes, texting someone can count as an emotional affair.
The birth of instant messaging and text has made connecting with strangers incredibly easy. These days, it’s so easy to engage in harmless conversation than have it become something more emotional.
However, it only becomes an emotional affair when you text your “friend” more than you do your partner. Usually, you will use this connection to discuss emotions or issues that you can’t tell your partner—or when you’re seeking validation your partner doesn’t give.
Here’s a clear example: Is there someone in your life to who you respond immediately while leaving your partner or spouse on “read” for the rest of the day? That could be an emotional affair.
Does Social Media Count As An Emotional Affair?
Social media is an ice rink. Many platonic connections form over the internet. There are fewer disruptions and concerns when speaking with people on social media. You don’t have to worry about responsibilities, only the conversation. That can lead to idealization, fantasies, and sexual chemistry.
Warning Signs Of An Emotional Affair
What is an emotional affair? A deep connection with someone you may or may not know physically progresses over time. That is why the signs of an emotional affair can be difficult to detect, especially since emotional affairs do not require physical intimacy.
Here are some warning signs of an emotional affair that can help you decide whether you or someone you know is having one:
- Anticipating time to speak with your friend
- Believing that your friend knows you better than your spouse
- Adjusting your schedule to spend more time with your friend
- Giving your friend gifts
- Daydreaming about your friend
- Showing less interest in intimacy with your spouse or partner
- Keeping the communication between you and your friend secret; if your partner saw your messages, they would be incredibly upset
- Responding to questions about the friend in question with denial and “We’re just friends—nothing more”
- Withdrawal from your spouse and home life
- Communicating about thoughts, feelings, and issues with your friend instead of your partner
- Your spouse’s opinion counts for less than your friend’s
- You become more interested in the hobbies of your friend than your spouse
How To Protect Your Marriage From Emotional Affairs
Whether you suspect an emotional affair is occurring or want to prevent such a thing from happening, the most important thing is transparency and trust in a relationship. Breaking someone’s trust is hurtful and will threaten the strength of your union with your spouse. Since you don’t want to wound them that way, communicate with your partner.
While you shouldn’t limit interpersonal relationships to avoid temptation, you should understand the causes of such temptation. If you think about your marriage or relationship and feel hurt, angry, tired, lonely, or bored, something is wrong, and you should consider visiting a marriage counselor. Programs like Couples Academy can also show you ways to workaround emotionally charged relationships.
With a marriage counselor, you can learn how to communicate and engage in healthy conflict. You will also be able to support one another better.
The Bottom Line
Emotional affairs take time to develop and can be a challenge to identify. Recovering from emotional cheating can also be difficult, but you and your partner can work together to either prevent such an affair from happening or navigate the aftermath. Practice open communication with one another and consider marriage counseling, too.
Couples Academy is a unique program that gives couples the tools they need to strengthen their bond and reconcile after struggles, including infidelity. Contact Couples Academy today to learn more about our services.