When people think of the phrase “having an affair,” they think of a person having a sexual relationship with someone other than his or her spouse. But one can also be guilty of “emotional infidelity.” This can be just as hurtful to your spouse and just as damaging to your relationship, even if you think you’re “just friends” with the other person.
Most affairs, physical or emotional, start out as benign friendships. But if there’s something lacking in a marriage, a person may be feeling vulnerable and needy, and without realizing it, may start looking elsewhere for relief.
Take a close look at your relationship with this other person and ask yourself if your friendship has any of these qualities.
Signs that it’s happening
- Is there sexual chemistry between you? Do you find yourself fantasizing about the other person?
- Are you sharing intimate conversations with this person that you’re not having with your spouse or significant other?
- Are you contacting this person when you’re not together, maybe to share a funny comment or to say “just thinking of you,” particularly at odd times?
- Is this person frequently on your mind?
- Are you making an effort to find ways to be with this person, and you don’t want your spouse around?
- Do you feel like this person “gets” you?
- Are you starting to compare your spouse to this person, and your spouse comes out less favorably?
- Are you keeping this a secret from your spouse? If your significant other walks in while you’re typing an email to this person, do you quickly hide the email and bring up a different page?
These are all signs that you are beginning to switch your emotional attachment onto another person from the person you’re actually committed to. This is extremely damaging to a relationship, because your emotional energy is being given to someone else and being taken away from the one who should be receiving it.
Your spouse, when he or she finds out, is going to be very hurt. Many people guilty of an emotional affair deny any wrongdoing and attack their spouse for being “too sensitive,” or reading something into the situation, or being controlling. This makes the hurt even worse.
What to do about it
What can you do if you suspect you’ve fallen into an emotional affair? First, you need to care more about your spouse’s pain than about your pleasure in this relationship. Next, you have to recognize that you’re only seeing the best side of this person. You have your spouse 24/7, warts and all. You’ve idealized the other person, but remember that person has warts, too, you just haven’t seen them. Finally, you have to recommit yourself to your spouse or significant other, and either adjust your relationship with this other person or end it completely.
Remember, you loved your spouse very much once, and you probably still do. You should be putting your energy into nurturing your relationship at home, not elsewhere. If there is something that needs work in your relationship, commit to fixing it. If you need help, I’m here for you. I’ve helped many couples work through these kinds of problems and become closer and more in love afterwards than they were before. Sometimes, the exploration in to what is going on in the relationship can lead to a parting of ways. Which ever way your relationship goes, clarity and honest are the route to a more authentic life. With work and a renewed commitment to the relationship, love can grow and become deeper as you face your challenges together.