Have you gotten too close with someone who isn’t your significant other?
You probably don’t think that you’re cheating, but you might be kidding yourself.
Whether it’s a close male friend or your “work husband,” just because you aren’t doing the nasty with them doesn’t mean that you aren’t cheating on your partner.. emotionally.
The term “emotional affair” is often used to describe a bond that exists between two people that mimics the closeness and emotional intimacy of a romantic relationship while never actually being physically consummated. It’s also sometimes referred to as “an affair of the heart” You might think it’s harmless but it can actually damage your relationship.
Emotional affairs often emerge from friendships or working relationships and progress towards greater levels of personal intimacy and attachment. What makes the emotional affair different from a regular, platonic friendship is that the emotional roles of the participants in an emotional affair can mimic those of an actual relationship. This can include confiding personal information and turning to the other person during times of vulnerability or need.
But it’s normal to turn to your friends in times of vulnerability and need, right? This is one of the problems with an emotional affair… the way you feel about that person generally will dictate exactly how much more you are telling them than what you would tell a friend. The person having an emotional affair may confide more in this “friend” than in their partner and may share more intimate emotional feelings and secrets than they do with their spouse. The time that they are investing emotionally into a relationship with someone besides their partner means their existing partnership may suffer.
When either or both people are already in a committed, monogamous relationship, emotional affairs are considered to be a type of chaste infidelity. It can be quite hard to address because the boundaries that are being crossed aren’t physical – they are personal.
Unlike platonic friendships, when you’re having an emotional affair there is sexual chemistry between the two people and there’s often fantasies that play out in one or the other’s head. The unfaithful partner may be spending inappropriate or excessive time with the other person. They may not tell their partners about the amount of time they’re spending with their “friend” and may actually lie about what activities they are doing when they are with this person – just like how someone who is physically cheating may lie. They may also have lots of secretive communication with the other person, like text messages, emails and Facebook messages. These are all red flags that something is untoward.
Even if there’s no physical intimacy involved, this deception can show that the partner who has become emotionally invested in someone else knows they are doing something that could undermine their existing relationship.
How to tell if you’ve crossed the line:
1. You spend a lot of your emotional energy on the other person.
You share things with them you don’t even share with your partner, including your hopes, dreams and secrets.
2. You dress up for the other person.
3. You find ways to spend time together.
And you often go out of your way to do so, and that time is important to you.
4. You feel guilty.
5. You tell them about problems in your marriage or relationship.
6. You keep the amount of time you spend with the other person a secret .
This includes the time you spend chatting on Facebook, texting, emailing, calling on the phone etc.
8. You are flirting with them and you know it.
9. You fantasise about the other person.
Even when you’re with your partner.
Can your relationship recover from this?
Even if you haven’t slept with this other person, you’ve still cheated on your spouse emotionally. You’ve given this person your heart and closed off a part of yourself to your partner. You need to understand that you crossed the boundaries of trust in your relationship and you should evaluate and recognise what you were getting from this other person that may be missing in your primary relationship.
If you have problems in your relationship, you need to talk to your partner about what they are, and work together to improve them. Be clear with yourself that you are still committed to your partner and that you want to make your relationship better than ever.
As for your “friend”, you will need to change the dynamic of that relationship so you can once more focus on your partner.
This will mean reevaluating and changing how much time you spend with them, what you tell them and how often you communicate with them. Don’t share your personal life with them and save this for your partner.