When we think of affairs, our minds usually jump to the worst case scenario – sordid, physical interactions that betray trust and tear apart families, moments of indiscretion that have huge, lasting consequences…
But not all affairs are like this. In fact, some “affairs” don’t even include any physical contact at all – but can still be just as damaging to your marriage. These “emotional affairs” might not include sex, but can have devastating effects on your relationship.
What’s worse is that, unlike a physical affair, many people might not even know that they are falling to the activities of an emotional affair, or realize when they’ve crossed a line.
Emotional affairs are, to put it briefly, an intimate mental and emotional connection with someone other than your spouse.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have close friendships or develop bonds with other people, but when you’re seeking emotional support and connection from someone of the opposite sex, and NOT turning to your spouse for those needs – there’s likely a problem developing.
…And because of how easy it is to communicate with text messages, Facebook, and other technologies, temptation has never been higher to look to other people for support. Even casual conversation with an acquaintance or coworker can develop into something else – often without you noticing.
With this in mind, we wanted to cover five important warning signs of an emotional affair:
1. You Share Deep Feelings
If you have a friend of opposite sex, and you find yourself getting in-depth with your conversations – wandering into territory about fears and hopes, what you look for in romance, or talking about sex or making innuendo-laced jokes – you’re setting yourself up to build a connection with this friend that you SHOULD be building with your spouse.
The temptation is very real, and because it might feel new and exciting, those feelings can overshadow the underlying knowledge that the conversation is less than appropriate.
Keep yourself in check and pay attention to where you conversations are headed – no matter who you’re speaking with.
…And if there’s someone in particular that you talk to in this way, take a good look at what your actions might be doing to your marriage.
2. Your “Friendship” Is Kept Secret
If you feel even just a little bit guilty about a “friendship” you have with a member of the opposite sex, you’re likely wandering into dangerous territory. If you feel the need to keep it a secret, you may already be involved in an emotional affair.
Keeping it a secret is practically an admission of guilt because, well, it shows that you know that this relationship would hurt your spouse.
Keeping secrets from your spouse is already a bad practice, but being less than honest about a relationship is an added layer of potential hurt – and can damage the trust they have for you.
If you hesitate to be totally forthcoming about a “friendship,” there may very well be a problem. If you wouldn’t gladly let your spouse read text messages (or any other communication) between you and this other person, you’ve probably crossed a boundary into intimate territory.
3. You Think About Them Often
We all know the feeling, and at one point, it’s the feeling you had for your spouse – that romantically interested, “on your mind around the clock” feeling of a budding relationship. If you’ve got even inklings of such feelings, you’re well into an inappropriate emotional relationship.
This is a product of some of the issues mentioned above – sharing deep feelings and secretive conversations, as well as any flirty interaction, can have this effect on anyone, and if allowed to continue, you can develop something of a crush, even if you’re already married. It’s in our psychology, but we don’t have to allow it to happen…
You are in control of your actions, and the more you interact with someone tempting you into an emotional affair (intentionally or not), the more you will think about them… and this cycle will continue until it unravels your marriage entirely.
4. You Wish Your Spouse Was More Like Him/Her
This is a dangerous sign that you’re getting way too close to your “friend.” When you start wishing your spouse were more like this person, it means a couple of things:
• You’re already thinking of your “friend” in a romantic way, and beginning to imagine a romantic relationship with them.
• You’re actively comparing them to your spouse, and because of the newness of this fling, you’re likely only thinking of the complaints you have about your husband or wife.
Affairs generally happen because of an unmet need in the relationship, and these kinds of thoughts will typically highlight that missing emotional need.
Unfortunately, though, it can be easier to look for those qualities in someone else instead of stepping up and addressing the problem directly. This is a major part of the temptation for emotional affairs – in the moment, it’s easier turn to someone else than it is to face up to problems in your marriage (especially when you might have to admit your role in the issues).
If you’re having these thoughts, stop yourself and rethink what’s actually happening. The complaints you may have about your marriage will NOT be solved by looking to someone else… That will only make them worse.
5. Talking To Them Makes You “Feel Alive”
This is how you know things have gone much too far…
If you feel invigorated when you talk to this “friend,” if you look forward to it throughout the day, if you’re tempted to constantly check your phone or emails for the next correspondence, you’ve officially invested your emotions in someone OTHER than your spouse.
When you’re thinking of someone else in this way, it means your spouse isn’t currently holding that place in your heart. This compounds because your attention is elsewhere AND you’re likely neglecting your spouse emotionally because of it. This cycle will only drive you further apart, and make your emotional affair all the more tempting.
You can notice this in yourself if you take an honest look at your own behavior – and if it’s happening in your relationship, you may very well be on the road to ruin.
The good news is that an emotional affair is not a death sentence for your marriage. To survive, however, you have to stop the developing intimacy with your “friend,” come clean about it to your spouse, and take a good look at what’s missing from the marriage that caused you to seek an outside connection in the first place.
The first step is to cut off the communication you’ve been having with your “more-than-a-friend” (if we’re going to call them by a realistic name). Once you’ve ended the emotional affair, it’s time to start working on repairing your marriage – and while everyone’s scenario will be a little different, it begins with figuring what was missing that caused you to stray… and talking openly and honestly about what you can BOTH do to improve the situation.
An emotional affair can be devastating, so be aware of the warning signs. If you’ve already started down this path, stop before you go too far!