- Gender and Relationships»
Infidelity and Emotional Affairs
Infidelity in all forms is hurtful, but the emotional affair can be just as painful to a marriage as full sexual affair. It is the loss of trust, the holding of secrets and the lies that hurts the most no matter how far of a line you have crossed or haven’t crossed.
Many people believe that it is not cheating as long there is no sexual contact, but marriage experts would disagree with this theory, as many physical affairs can start as these so called “affairs of the heart”.
What is an emotional affair?
Betrayal is not all about the sex, it can be a deep betrayal of the heart, of the love that was perceived to exist and the trust that comes with that.
Unlike a physical relationship where the betrayal of having sex with another person, is a known conscious act, making where the line to cross into infidelity easy to see. An emotional affair isn’t always so easy to distinguish. It can be complicated by a genuine friendship, which makes it difficult for both those that are involved in this type of infidelity and their spouse’s to identify what is really happening before it is too late.
But knowing the warning signs of when a friendship is starting to cross into something more, can be a great way at not only identifying if your or someone you know is having an emotional affair, but it can also be a good way to safeguard any new friendships that may develop in the future from crossing into this dangerous territory.
Signs that you are having an emotional affair with a friend or co-worker
1. When you take time to prepare your appearance before you know that you will see them, make up and perfume or cologne are more often used
2. When there are aspects of the friendship that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with or having your spouse know about, or even going so far as to keep the friendship itself is a secret
3. You find yourself looking forward to seeing them again, and hoping for alone time is a sure sign that your friendship may mean more to you than you realise
4. Strong defence of your friendship “we are just friends” is a common line used
5. Innocent so called “safe” flirting and banter, which can so quickly turn into the beginning feelings of sexual tension
6. A feeling that your friend understands you better than your spouse, they “get you”
7. You share your thoughts and feelings and any problems that you may have (including in your marriage or relationship) Even waiting eagerly to tell them news and happenings in your life (sometimes before your spouse) confiding everything to them, trusting them the same or more than your partner with your feelings
8. Giving your friend personal gifts, that are of value to the both of you are intimate reminders of a relationship building
9. Intimacy between you and your partner lessens, as you first emotionally withdraw than sexually withdraw
10. Daydreams and fantasies are sometimes or always filled with thoughts of your friend over your partner or spouse
11. Jealousy of any romantic interest your friend may have, outside of spending time with you
12. Mentally or verbally comparing your friend to your spouse or partner, perhaps feeling disappointed that your spouse may not have the same qualities
13. You start lying to your spouse and possibly others about how much time you are spending with your friend, going out of your way to down play their significance to you and your day
The dangers of the emotional affair
What starts out innocent enough, can indeed have far reaching consequences that many people don’t realise as the friendship grows deeper. But when you start to place your time, emotions and intimacy with somebody else you are indeed sabotaging the very relationship that you promised to uphold.
The biggest danger of an emotional affair is the fact that it is emotional. It can build slowly like a thief in the night unknown to all, as slowly the love you felt for your partner gets transferred to your friend, to that member of the opposite sex that knows you so well, that person that you can’t stop thinking about until before you know it you have fallen out of love with your partner and in love with your friend. A lot of physical affairs start this way as co-workers and acquaintances become more than “just good friends”
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Another danger of the emotional affair is that it can happen even when you are in a happy relationship; it doesn’t necessarily need there to be trouble in paradise for this type of affair to occur. So a lot of people are not looking out for it, nor are they guarding against it, happy to enjoy the friendship for what it first appears, often times unaware of their changing feelings until it is too late.
One of the hardest things for those involved in the emotional affair can be trying to end it. Even without sex the bond that has been created is a true emotional connection that goes beyond the physical act of cheating, and ending all contact with the one person that they have come to believe truly understands them, right or wrong can be a very daunting task.
This person, this friend has been fulfilling their emotions needs away from their long term relationship for some time, and many emotional affairs take months to end, even when the spouse has been told otherwise.
This bond and connection can also create what many believe is a stronger relationship then the one they are currently in, leading to a high risk of marriage or relationship break down without some serious work and commitment revaluation.
Damage of the emotion affair
So many times those involved in an emotional affair make the excuse that because they have not physical cheated that it is therefore not the same and is somehow less harmful, less hurtful. This however is far from true.
The same degree of deception is used in the end as is used in the more traditional affairs, with many half-truths told, lies and cover ups used. All of which breaks the faith and trust of marriage, creating all the mistrust, insecurities, anger and heartbreak that accompanies the pain of infidelity.
By giving your time and affection to another, you have taken it away from your partner or spouse. Intentional or not, you have caused them pain, sometimes even more than a causal meaningless fling would have. By having an emotional affair, you give if not your whole heart, than a piece of it that should have be kept reserved for your spouse or long term partner. And it may require more than a simple sorry to heal the hurt caused.
It is possible to heal a relationship after the damage of an emotional affair, but the first thing that needs to happen is for the emotional affair to be acknowledged for what it was and for the “friendship” to end, then and only then can true healing have a chance start.
But healing after the affair can be a difficult road for some with many couples needing time to think over what they truly what now that this has happened in their relationship, and this is not only natural but healthy.
The use of marriage counselling or relationship therapy to help them deal with the causes of the affair and maybe move on, past the betrayal of this ever growing type of infidelity, can be of great help to many, and should be seriously considered if this type of affair has affected your relationship.