When you think of an affair, you most likely think of secret, sexual scandals between your partner and someone else. But affairs are not limited to sexual infidelity; you can betray your partner through an emotional affair as well. Emotional affairs can be equally, if not more, damaging than a sexual affair. It is essential to understand what an emotional affair is, and how to handle one if it exists within your relationship.
What is an Emotional Affair?
In order to identify if your marriage is suffering from an emotional affair, it is essential to understand what it is. An emotional affair exists when your emotional needs are being met outside of your relationship with another person that satisfies your needs.
Rather than sharing and expressing emotions with your partner, you are sharing them with someone else (possibly a friend or coworker). Sometimes emotional affairs can be confused with close friendships, but the level of emotional connectivity between you and the other person can reveal an emotional affair.
If you long to be with your friend or coworker more than your spouse, you may be involved in an emotional affair. Although emotional affairs do not typically involve sexual encounters, it can still be extremely damaging to a relationship.
Signs of an Emotional Affair
Before determining if you or your partner are engaging in an emotional affair, it is essential to know the signs. The following are often signs of an emotional affair:
- Frequent Contact: If you find yourself contacting your friend or coworker often (like several times throughout the day), you may be caught up in an emotional affair. This poses a problem if you are spending more time and energy contacting your friend, rather than your significant other.
- Discussing Personal Issues: Discussing personal issues with a friend can be fine, but it becomes a problem when you are consistently confiding in someone else instead of your partner. This could be damaging to your relationship, and lead to an emotional disconnection.
- Secret Texting/Emails: Behaviors such as hiding your messages, or frequently deleting emails or texts so your partner doesn’t see them is a red flag that an emotional affair may be occuring. Other behaviors, such as making private phone calls, or using other means of communication (like social media platforms or texting apps) secretly may indicate an emotional affair.
- Spending Much Time Together: You may find yourself hanging out with another person much more than your partner. This can include dinner dates, spending time at each others’ homes, going out to the movies, or hanging out at bars. If you are spending more time with the person in question than your partner, it may be time to distance yourself from that person.
- Providing Significant Emotional Support: Emotional support is a huge part of a romantic relationship. Giving more emotional support to someone else, rather than your partner, this is a problem. It can cause poor communication and emotional disconnect between you and your partner.
- Constantly Thinking About Another Person: If you are spending time with your partner, but notice that you are constantly thinking (or fantasizing) about being with someone else, you may be experiencing the effects of an emotional affair.
It is important to understand these behaviors, and to recognize whether you may be having an emotional affair. If you happen to be experiencing any of these thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, you can always reach out for help through marriage counseling with your partner to take steps in restoring your relationship.
What are the Effects of an Emotional Affair?
If you or your spouse are engaging in an emotional affair, these actions do not come without consequences. Participating in an emotional affair can have a negative impact on your relationship, such as:
- Unmet Emotional Needs: An emotional affair can lead to your partner feeling emotionally starved and neglected. By giving your emotional support to someone else, you may cause your partner to become emotionally disconnected to you.
- Poor Communication: When your partner no longer feels emotionally connected to you, your ability to have strong communication will suffer. Your interactions may turn hostile, or you may avoid each other altogether. When communication fails, it becomes harder for you and your partner to be on the same team.
- Insecure Relationship: If an emotional affair is haunting your relationship, this can cause your partner to become insecure when they are around you. They may not feel safe and secure in your presence, and they will begin to feel insufficient and unwanted by you.
Find Solutions Through Marriage counseling:
Whatever damage that has been created by an emotional affair could be repaired by making time to attend Marriage counseling with your partner. Marriage counseling can help you and your partner to rebuild your emotional connection to each other. Marriage counseling can help identify the emotional disconnect that causes an emotional affair to occur. Marriage counseling can help to restore trust and confidence between you and your partner, reestablish your ability to effectively communicate with one another, and help you and your partner to set boundaries to avoid an emotional affair in the future.
If you believe your relationship is suffering from the effects of an emotional affair, there is a possibility that you can rebuild your relationship. Hard-work, perseverance, and goal-setting are key in reversing the effects of an emotional affair, and with proper communication and counseling, you can find a solution to a healthy, trusting relationship with your partner – like the one you used to have.
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Emotional affairs can be equally, if not more, damaging than a sexual affair. It is essential to understand what an emotional affair is, and how to handle one if it exists within your relationship.
Dr. Melissa Estavillo is a Licensed Psychologist and founder of Biltmore Psychology and Counseling. With over 7 years of experience, she specializes in both individual and couples therapy in Phoenix, AZ. She integrates complementary methodologies and techniques stemming from Emotionally Focused Theory, Psychodynamic Theory and Other Evidence Based Practices to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client.