Feeling a deep connection with an old friend that you just can’t fight? Finding that your work wife just “gets you” like your legally binding one doesn’t? Or perhaps you’ve notice your partner pulling away without an explanation? Well, you (or your significant other) might just be in the midst of an emotional affair. We’ve spoken to Lysn psychologist Breanna Jayne Sada to find out what is an emotional affair, when does a platonic relationship cross the line and what are the signs of an emotional affair.
What is an emotional affair?
To put it really simply, an emotional affair is when a member of a relationship starts expending more emotional energy towards someone outside of the relationship than his or her romantic partner. Rather than involve sexual intimacy like the well-known form of cheating, emotional affairs are based on emotional infidelity. This can sit somewhere between seemingly innocent flirting and support seeking through to downright obvious emotional infidelity where a person is very aware of what they’re doing. Emotional affairs can often be the start of the slippery slop towards a physical affair.
Like any affair, an emotional affair will often prioritise someone else other than your partner. You may seek out comfort, support and fun from this person instead of your romantic partner. It will typically involve lying and deceiving your romantic partner. Ultimately it is very dangerous and damaging to a relationship to start keeping secrets or betraying your partner whether these actions be emotional or physical.
Is an emotional affair cheating?
For some people an emotional affair is just as damaging and inappropriate as a physical sexual affair while for others an emotional affair can be considered harmless.
It is important to note that for some people these behaviours do constitute cheating even in the absence of physical or sexual contact. For other people these behaviours may be cause for concern but may not fit their definition of cheating. It is always a good idea to have these discussions with your partner so boundaries are clear for all parties early on in a relationship.
RELATED: What Counts As Cheating?
What are the signs you might be having an emotional affair?
Often during an emotional affair intimate information is shared between parties that you would not normally share with anyone except your partner. People may start keeping the friendship or the extent of the friendship a secret for example lying about who they are texting or calling or going to coffee with. Often there is also a sexual attraction that may or may not be discussed between the friends. Someone will start sharing thoughts, feelings and behaviours with their ‘friend’ instead of their partner. Someone may start prioritising time and energy towards their friend and neglecting their partner. Just like a physical, sexual affair people may start planning when and where they will be able to see the person again and this may often involve secrecy and deceiving your partner and other friends. The danger exists because of all these behaviours you start withdrawing both physically and emotionally from your spouse putting the relationship in jeopardy.
What are the signs that your partner might be having an emotional affair?
Some signs are actually quite subtle and on their own may not point to an emotional affair but in conjunction with other signs and in context may be cause for concern.
1. Your partner is withdrawn
Typically, someone having an emotional affair will become withdrawn from his or her spouse both emotionally and physically. This isn’t just for a day or a week, it would be ongoing and may seem like this occurred with no catalyst.
2. Your partner is distracted
Your partner may seem preoccupied whether that with what’s happening on their phone, or making excuses to not spend time with you.
3. Your partner is dishonest
They also can be consumed with spending time with the other person and are likely to be thinking about them quite often – they might also go to lengths to hide these facts from you. Like a sexual affair deception and dishonesty are good indictors that something untoward is happening, so catching your partner out in a lie about whom they are with or talking to may be cause for concern.
How do you end an emotional relationship?
In most interpersonal relationships, honesty is the best policy and when ending an emotion affair the rule is no different. First it is about being honest with yourself. Acknowledging that the time, attention and affection you are showing another person is causing damage to your relationship and not attributing this to other causes can be difficult but is a necessary first step to ending the emotional infidelity. Being honest with the person who is the subject of your emotional attention is also important, in some cases this might mean completely disengaging with the person because there may be sexual tension increasing and in some cases it may just mean reducing the time with, speaking to and seeking out the person. You can let them know that you are trying to strengthen the relationship with your partner and this will be an emotional investment as well as a time commitment and therefore the nature of your relationship with them will need to change. Being honest with your partner about what you need from the relationship that you may have been getting from outside the relationship is a way to ensure the strength of the relationship is sustained. This might be things like companionship, validation, fun and emotional closeness.
How can you repair your existing relationship after you or your partner has an emotional affair?
Like any affair an emotional affair results in a damage of trust between you and your spouse. Trust does not need to be an absolute concept and once trust has been broken or damaged it is possible to repair this if both members of the relationship are committed to doing so. If both partners are committed to repairing the relationship other foundational qualities will also need to be worked on as well. A good romantic relationship is grounded in friendship putting in the effort to have fun with each other, engage and validate your partners interests while they do so with yours can help do this. Sharing fears, worries and achievements with each other are important ways of building emotional intimacy with each other. Making the effort to schedule date nights and scheduling time with each other and prioritising these events over time with others or work and other commitments are great signs to each other that they are your priority especially in a rebuilding phase after an affair. Ultimately reminding each other about the companionship, friendship and support you offer each other is vital to repairing the relationship especially if these had started being sort in other people.
Some people might not even be aware that their behaviours are hurtful or inappropriate to their partner, especially if there has been no physical or sexual infidelity. That is way early on in a committed relationship it is important to establish an understanding of what you and your partner are comfortable and not comfortable with in regards to relationships with others. Establishing clear boundaries for example not prioritising friends or sharing intimate details with friends or lying can help partners identify their inappropriate behaviours early.
RELATED: 4 Crazy Signs She’s Cheating On You