If he or she is the first person you think about when you wake up or the last person you think about at night, romantic feelings may be developing. If you find that you are spending more and more time with a friend or co-worker – so much so that you end up spending less time with your partner… then you are engaged in emotional infidelity.
Emotional infidelity also known as an affair of the heart is referred to as the behaviour in which a married person or someone in a committed relationship engages in or encourages emotional intimacy with someone else (a third party). Emotional infidelity is often considered just as damaging as physical cheating, because sometimes it promotes the possibility of future sexual intimacy. Emotional infidelity is a real concern for many people. In a 2015 Chapman University study, researchers found 65 per cent of heterosexual women and 46 per cent of heterosexual men were likely to be more upset by emotional infidelity than sexual infidelity.
Marriages require maintenance and good communication to keep them healthy and strong. Some couples have difficulty sharing feelings, either sad or exciting, with each other. They often give off the vibe that seems to prove they did not go into marriage with total commitment. This is also why they seem tremendously cautious about making true emotional commitments to each other. Instead, they keep a safe distance and seldom share their deeper feelings. They may get along decently. However, these couples function more like business partners than best friends. Yes! They just don’t dig very deep emotionally.
Many people in these relationships often grew up in homes that de-emphasised the world of emotions. They don’t hug much nor show affection openly. Their children would have received little encouragement or training about emotional intimacy. A predictable result is that these children would be attracted to relatively non-emotional or unexpressive potential partners.
One may ask why these partners would ever get into an emotional affair when they appear disinterested in emotional intimacy. The answer is that sometimes people change. Perhaps they develop a vague sense that they are missing something important. Then they observe other couples sharing emotional intimacies and apparently feeling good about it, resulting in their desire to experience the same feeling as well.
Instead of engaging in emotional infidelity, the right thing would be for one to approach his or her partner and try to ask for what they lack in their relationships. But many in this situation do not, because they have built up years of rules and habits against that kind of sharing.
Instead of engaging in emotional infidelity, the right thing would be for one to approach his or her partner and try to ask for what they lack in their relationships. But many in this situation do not, because they have built up years of rules and habits against that kind of sharing. In their relationships, passivity has dominated their responses and determined their relationship outcomes. This pushes them to continue in their old, familiar, but now unsatisfying, routines. Meanwhile, they go looking for someone new with whom they can meet their newfound yearning for emotional closeness.
Here is an example of a client I will call Sarah. She knew something was missing in her marriage. She and Bryan used to be passionate about each other, she said, but after 13 years and three children, she felt removed. Bryan never asked her about her day or what she felt like doing. She was no longer attracted to him, and they rarely spent time together. Instead, she threw her energy into raising their children and her job as a banker. Their relationship became boring. She started to feel isolated and frustrated. Then Peter came along. He had been at the bank longer than Sarah and mentored her when she first got hired. He was very engaging and captivating. They started to do lunch together, and lunch led to phone calls and text messages, as their conversations went from professional to deeply personal. Sarah thought about Peter all the time, and stated she hadn’t felt this alive since she and Bryan dated and got married. She always looked forward to seeing Peter and enjoying his jokes.
For someone to know whether or not he or she has moved from a friendship to something more, these few signs are indicative of an emotional affair:
Before getting married, couples should ensure they are connected emotionally, as well as are physically attracted to each other. It is always good to treat a partner mindfully, affectionately and with respect. If not, he or she will turn into a strayer, looking for where affection is readily available.
If he or she is the first person you think about when you wake up or the last person you think about at night, romantic feelings may be developing. If you find that you are spending more and more time with a friend or co-worker – so much so that you end up spending less time with your partner. If you find yourself comparing him or her to your partner. If you find yourself sharing intimate details that you only share with your partner or even haven’t shared such with your partner. If you hide the relationship from your partner and are afraid he or she will not understand the relationship or will feel jealous; then you are engaged in emotional infidelity.
Some people often discuss their relationship difficulties with someone else, particularly with persons who might be of a romantic interest. Engaging in such an act is detrimental and often leads to emotional situations that turn out bad in the end. If both individuals involved are secretly texting, emailing, or calling each other into the late hours of the night, there’s a good chance their relationship has gone beyond the scope of a typical friendship. This is when people start fantasising about what it would be like to touch the other person or to start having romantic dreams about them, this may be a sign that a person is unconsciously developing romantic feelings.
Before getting married, couples should ensure they are connected emotionally, as well as are physically attracted to each other. It is always good to treat a partner mindfully, affectionately and with respect. If not, he or she will turn into a strayer, looking for where affection is readily available. Marriage is a lifetime commitment, which requires both parties to be deeply connected. If you find yourself on the verge of an emotional affair, keeping an open line of communication with your partner is often an effective first step in addressing the situation. Still, sometimes your personal effort might not be enough. If you find yourself complaining to a friend or co-worker about your partner, you may need the perspective and insight of a marriage and family therapist, who can help both of you process and share your feelings, as well as your perspective, while guiding you towards a solution.
Chinna Okoroafor, a licensed psychotherapist, writes from Colorado Springs, CO, USA.