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Dangerous Liaisons: Emotional Infidelity

Updated on May 9, 2011

emotional affair

They say change is the only constant in life. Today this statement seems quite threatening in the light of the rising number of broken families and divorces. Couples straying towards others, romances breaking up, heartbreak and even murder is common in the name of 'love'. Boundaries seem to continually get blurred in the rat race. If this weren't enough, there’s still more that threatens marriages ( which is I think insufficient to describe the many other kinds of relationships around us today) and other relationships wherein two individuals make a commitment to spend the rest of their lives together. The biggest threat without a doubt today, sometimes one that is even more daunting than a physical betrayal is EMOTIONAL INFIDELITY.

Jane and Jared led busy lives. He was a partner in a successful law firm and worked more than eighteen hours a day sometimes. She had her own small business, a playschool that she ran from her home. They had met in college and had gotten married within two years and had raised two kids, both in college. It was not easy to always keep the passion burning and they did not really feel anything was wrong either. It was only when their kids went away to college that they were actually faced with talking to one another, too much time with each other available for them all of a sudden. That was when John realized that Jane was more comfortable with Paul than she was with him. The fact that she would want to meet him without fail for those lunchtimes when he wasn’t around began to wear on them more than ever. Jane was in an emotionally vested relationship with someone else and while it was not anything physical, it had made it very difficult for him to find the woman he fell in love with and for her to feel the love that made everything else fade away for him like she used to back when they got married.

Sounds like anything you have heard or experienced? Or does it sound like something you may unwittingly be gearing up to deal with? Emotional infidelity is the biggest problem that’s ripping people apart and leading to breakups and causing marriages to fall apart. It is an even bigger danger than adultery, physical infidelity with the other person. People today are so caught up in their own lives and their ambitions for a better life, that they somehow miss the warning signs. Everything seems perfect most of the time. They are just fitting in at work, dressing nicely because they want to, these lunches and phone calls are just that, good times spent with a friend. The boundaries fade away over a span of time and then you no longer realize that the friend who’s with you has someone grown more important than your significant other. This is where you are on the verge of committing or perhaps have already fantasized about moving over that boundary line and want to unconsciously make something more of the emotional relationship you have been having.

Here are some warning signs you want to watch out for:

You feel happier and more in tune with your friend than you do with your partner where you unconsciously or otherwise look for more ways to spend time together.

You share intimate details of your life more comfortably with your friend than you do with your partner.

You feel the regard, approval and appreciation from your friend more than compensates the attention you previously would have wanted from your partner

You begin to have dreams or fantasize about the said friend on occasions when you are with your partner

You discuss things that you dislike about your partner with your friend and not with your partner

You are uncomfortable speaking to your friend, or having your partner around and in on the conversations, emails, messages you may share with this friend.

You share more about your daily life, your work and your challenges with your friend than you do with your partner.

Your body language and your emotions are far stronger than it would be with a casual friend around this special friend, even more than you would react with when around your partner.

These are merely few red flags that should alert you to the fact that you are in grave danger of committing emotional infidelity or already have. It’s always difficult for all of us to deal with not getting enough attention. In fact attention is even more necessary than the air we breathe scientifically speaking. Having an emotional affair and denying it would do more harm than good, so the sooner you cut the strings, the better it will be for you to salvage your actual relationship or marriage.

Dealing with emotional infidelity is important, it doesn’t work by going and shouting out on the rooftops and creating unnecessary tension in your marriage by telling your spouse or your partner you have a thing for someone else. It’s bound to create suspicion, hurt and spread like a cancer that eats away at the fabric of your relationship (unless you are married to someone very strong and capable of handling it maturely). If you think your spouse can take it and you can communicate clearly enough without making it a bigger mess, go ahead. If you can’t then you need to work out things on your own.

First things first: Talk to your spouse about why you have been feeling neglected, unappreciated, alone or upset. This is step one to breaking out of the rut your relationship is in.

Step 2 is to consciously cut down on the time you spend with your friend, it has to be done, there is no other way around this. Talk less on the phone, if it is an online affair then make sure you stop using that ID if you have to and delete it and start fresh. If you want to salvage your relationship, then this is the only way.

Step 3 is to always bear in mind that relationships with those of the opposite thread have to be handled carefully. It is very easy for people to get the wrong ideas and also for you to get pulled along on an exhilarating trip when all those emotions and feelings crowd your head. It’s like the first time ever all over again and that is a potent drug. Walk away, prioritize on what is most important to you.

Step 4 is to keep yourself busy. Find activities or events you will enjoy that will keep you away from looking for comfort in someone else. You can restart dancing lessons, take a walk, churn it out of your system, burn it out.

Step 5 is whether you make it work with your partner or not, you need to decide on what is more important. Would you want to end a marriage or a committed relationship over some fling or is it something more? What is more important to you, your kids? A future together like you dreamt of long ago? Can you pull yourself together? Get help from a counselor if you can’t manage alone and find your way out of it.

Step 6 is to take a vacation or some time out alone with your partner and work on reviving what you know you have both ignored. Give it a chance. All those feelings and emotions that brought you together in the first place are still there. That has to be remembered and rekindled. Relationships are meant to be worked on, emotional affairs are a danger but they will not be the end of your relationship unless you both want it to be that way.

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