By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Emotional affairs may be more common than we realized.
Many couples who come for relationship or marriage counseling have been arguing about the nature of one of the partner’s interactions with another person. Almost every client I’ve worked with who was in a relationship would agree that engaging in sex with someone other than their partner qualifies as an affair. What they don’t always agree about is whether a relationship with a third party has crossed the line and become an emotional affair.
It’s probably more common for women to become concerned that their partner’s friendship with another woman has become an emotional affair. Men are likely to dismiss these relationships as simply friendships and not having been an affair, so long as actual intercourse has not taken place.
Developing an overly close friendship with someone other than your romantic partner can damage a relationship. Here are some of the signs that your friendship has turned into an emotional affair.
Do you sometimes think about the “other” when talking to your spouse?
Having become so close to another person that during conversations with your spouse you are imagining what that other person would say or feel. This is a strong indication that they have him become more important to you and your spouse.
Do you, even a bit, wish your mate was more like someone else?
If you come to idealize the “other.” If you are thinking they are preferable to your mate or that they would be a better partner, this is likely to damage your relationship with your mate. Comparing your partner to others and wishing they were more like someone else is an early sign of an emotional affair in the making.
Do you imagine what you’d do if free to pursue someone else?
Daydreaming about what it would be like to be with that “other” suggests you’re already establishing an emotional relationship with them. The more you fantasize about being with the other, romanticize the possibility of starting a new relationship, the more you’re likely to withdraw from your current relationship. Even if you don’t leave your partner, imagining being with somebody else distances you from your partner.
Does your present lover know the stranger exists?
One key characteristic of emotional affairs is the need to hide your relationship with this other person from your primary partner. If you must keep secrets, those secrets are reducing your emotional closeness with your current partner.
What do you imagine your mate would think if he/she overheard you talking with this special person or read your email?
Having secrets that you share with the “other” and then being concerned about what your partner would think if they knew about this conversation suggest your relationship with this other person is inappropriate. Having to keep secrets from your partner is damaging to a relationship.
Does the arrival of a new message give you a rush?
You remember the rush of excitement you used to feel when you were first starting your relationship with your current partner? If messages from your “friend” start to give you that same rush of excitement, you are moving dangerously close to turning that friendship into an affair.
Can you sense the “sex of things” even if you haven’t acted on it?
Have you ever felt a craving for something? Remember how hard it is to say no to that temptation? If you are starting to feel those sexual attractions when you’re around your friend you’ve moved into a high-risk area. Even if you never actually engage in physical sex your friendship has become a source of mental and sexual stimulation and is becoming an emotional affair.
Do you lie to disguise any aspect of the new relationship?
If you have to tell your partner lies to facilitate or maintain your relationship with the “other,” this is a clear sign that relationship is turning into an emotional affair.
Is the mental and emotional space devoted to the stranger enlarging?
The larger a role this stranger plays in your life, the riskier the relationship is becoming. When the mental and emotional space the “other” occupies begins to exceed the space in your life taken up by your current partner, you’ve arrived at an emotional affair.
Do you engage in secret phone calls with the other?
Engaging in secret communications, phone calls, texts or emails, which you don’t want your partner to find out about, says this is an affair.
Have you arranged meetings in a park, coffee shop, restaurant or the like?
Do you and this “friend” have to arrange secret meetings away from other people? Do you have to be dishonest with your partner about when and where you’re meeting this other? It sounds like your friend has become more than a friend.
Do you share confidences not offered to your spouse?
One of the most damaging aspects of an emotional affair is when you begin to share confidences with your friend which should have been reserved only for your partner. Lack of loyalty to your spouse or making your friend your primary loyalty, are incredibly damaging to your current relationship.
Is your sexual desire for your mate now smaller than before you became preoccupied?
If your relationship with your friend has resulted in less sexual desire for your mate, it’s damaging the relationship. If your new friend reduces your desire to be emotionally close to your partner, or if your interest in spending time with your partner has declined, then your friend is taking on an increasingly more significant role in your life.
Are photo exchanges part of your new, hidden life?
Exchanging photos, particularly those which make you look attractive, or sexually explicit photos is often the last stop on the trail which turns an emotional affair into an actual physical one.
So, what do you think? How many of the signs of an emotional affair do you see in your friendship? How many of these signs of an emotional affair do you see, or suspect, are part of your spouse’s relationship with a “friend?”
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.