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What You Need to Know About Emotional Affairs
An emotional affair generally starts innocently enough as a friendship.
Here's information about what an emotional affair is, how an emotional affair differs from a platonic friendship, warning signs of an emotional affair, how to protect yourself from an emotional affair, etc.
Through investing emotional energy and time with one another outside the marital relationship, the former platonic friendship can begin to form a strong emotional bond which hurts the intimacy of the spousal relationship.
Whi...le there are those who believe that an emotional affair is harmless, most marriage experts view an emotional affair as cheating without having a sexual relationship.
Emotional affairs are often gateway affairs leading to full blown sexual infidelity.
"About half of such emotional involvements do eventually turn into full-blown affairs, sex and all."
For some individuals, the most hurtful and painful consequences of an emotional affair is the sense of being deceived, betrayed, and lied to. Any part of one's life that is essentially kept a secret from a partner is dangerous to the trust between spouses.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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What is an Emotional Affair?
An emotional affair is when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage, but also receives emotional support and companionship from the new relationship. In an emotional affair, a person feels closer to the other party and may experience increasing sexual tension or chemistry.
If you believe that a person's emotional energy is limited, and if your spouse is sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with someone else, an emotional affair has developed.
Although... cheaters are often guilt-free in an emotional affair because there is no sex involved, their spouses often view an emotional affair as damaging as a sexual affair.
Much of the pain and hurt from an emotional affair is due to the deception, lies, and feelings of being betrayed.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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How is an Emotional Affair Different from a Platonic Friendship?
A platonic friendship can evolve into an emotional affair when the investment of intimate information crosses the boundaries set by the married couple. An emotional affair is opening a door that should remain closed. One of the differences between a platonic friendship and an emotional affair is that an emotional affair is kept secret. Another key difference is that people involved in an emotional affair often feel a sexual attraction for one another. Sometimes the sexual attraction is... acknowledged and sometimes it isn't.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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Comments From the Marriage Forum on Emotional Affairs
Members on our previous marriage forums have been discussing emotional affairs. Here are some of the comments from the threads.
~~ From B.: "It's a relationship with a member of the opposite sex where you wouldn't feel comfortable with your spouse knowing all the details."
~~ From J.: "It's a term I might use to describe an extra-marital or an 'extra-committed' relationship that has not escalated to physical sex."
~~ From I.: "I strongly suspect it's so... nebulous and worrisome a term that it creates more strife than it can actually help dissolve..."
~~ From I.: "But if the married person is simply grabbing lunch with an opposite sex friend, chatting about innocuous subjects, and now and then catches a movie with the friend -- basically acts exactly the same with this friend as with same gender friends -- then he or she can still be committing an emotional affair if his or her spouse just doesn't like men and women hanging out together. That radically changes the dynamic and renders the term 'emotional affair" very problematic to me."Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Warning Signs That You May be Having an Emotional Affair
Here are several warning signs that you may be having an emotional affair:
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- You are withdrawing from your spouse.
- You are preoccupied and daydream about your friend more and more.
- You are not interested in being intimate with your spouse, either emotionally or sexually.
- The amount of time you and your spouse spend together is less.
- When confronted about the apparent emotional affair, you respond, "We're just friends."
- You find yourself anticipating when you can communicate or be with your... friend again. Alone time together is important to you.
- You are sharing your thoughts, feelings, and problems with your friend instead of your spouse.
- You find reasons to give your friend personal gifts.
- Your friend seems to understand you better than your spouse does.
- You are keeping your friendship a secret from your spouse.
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Quiz - Are You Having an Emotional Affair?
If you answer "yes" to more than 3 of these questions, you are courting disaster in your marriage by being in an emotional affair.
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- Are you experiencing repetitive hostility and conflict in your marriage?
- Do you feel an emotional distance from your spouse?
- Do you find it difficult to talk with your spouse?
- Are you sharing more with your friend than you are with your spouse?
- Do you think your friend understands you better than your spouse?
- Are you sexually attracted to your friend?
- Is the phrase,... "We're just friends" your rationalization for your close friendship?
- Does your spouse know about your friendship or is your friendship a secret?
- Do you look forward to being with your friend more than being with your spouse?
- When you talk to your spouse about your day, you never seem to mention your interactions with this friend
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Signs Your Spouse is Having an Emotional Affair
Here are some warning signs that your spouse be having an emotional affair:
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- Your spouse starts withdrawing from you or criticizing you.
- Your spouse acts secretive or hides their phone, shuts down the computer screen suddenly when you are around.
- Your spouse seems interested in certain technology or hobbies seemingly out of the blue.
- Your spouse seems to always work extra hours on a "project" with this friend.
- This friend of your spouse gets mentioned a lot. You seem to hear much about this... persons opinions (and yours seems to count less and less)
- Your gut tells you something is going on. You are normally trusting and do not get jealous easily, but this definitely feels "off" to you.
- When you try to discuss any of these things with your partner, it is met with defensiveness or you are made to feel crazy.
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Differing Views on How to Protect Your Marriage From an Emotional Affair
Although there are differing views on how to protect your marriage from being hurt by an emotional affair, we think your marriage is best protected from an emotional affair by the two of you working together to have a marriage built on a strong foundation of friendship and trust.
Some may agree or disagree with the often made suggestion to limit your interpersonal relationships or friendships.
In M.Gary Neuman's book, Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets... to a Great Relationship, he makes some controversial statements: "Insulate and protect your marriage against emotional infidelity by avoiding friendships with members of the opposite sex." Neuman believes that limiting your relationships/friendships is "the single most important thing you can do for your marriage."
One of the reasons some people question this suggestion to limit certain friendships is because it can create a sense of isolation for a couples. Isolating a spouse from friendships is one of the warning signs of emotional abuse. A spouse does not have exclusive, 100 percent rights over a mate's friendships, interests, and sense of space and privacy.
Neuman's other suggestions for protecting your marriage from an emotional affair more acceptable and include:
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- Touching each other five times a day.
- Have a weekly date.
- Have a long discussion with one another four times a week.
- Plan an all-out romantic lovemaking night once a month.
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Affair-proofing Your Marriage
You can affair-proof your marriage by working together to have a relationship based on friendship and trust.
Here are some suggestions on how to build that foundation and keys to protecting your marriage from an emotional affair.
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- Plan on living a balanced life with one another.
- Have dates with each other and create ways to have fun together.
- Don't let irritations build up. Learn how to have healthy conflict in your marriage.
- Communicate on a daily basis with each other. Talk about practical... issues, plans, events, and personal feelings. The little things to talk about are as important as the bigger issues.
- Be supportive of one another.
- Show respect and mutuality for each other.
- Always try to repair hurts quickly and genuinely. An apology goes much further than trying to be right.
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Quotes About Emotional Affairs
Marriage experts generally agree that an emotional affair is harmful to a marriage. Here are some quotes from marriage experts studying the impact of infidelity on marriage.
"The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust." Source: Shirley Glass, author of "Not Just Friends: Protect... Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal"
"It’s easy to deny the seriousness of an emotional affair — but it can be extremely threatening to a marriage." Source: Dr. Gail Saltz on MSNBC
"If there is ongoing interaction with someone with whom you have been very honest in sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings, this can generate a feeling of closeness that stimulates even more sharing—and more closeness, and on and on. Eventually, this relationship can become extremely close and an emotional attachment develops, causing serious damage to the marriage—whether or not it ever becomes "sexual." Source: DearPeggy.com
"Emotional affairs are not any less hurtful than physical affairs. Actually, they pose much more threat to you marriage than a physical betrayal." Source: Lisa Penn on YourTango.comContinue to 11 of 11 below.
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Helpful Resources if Your Marriage is Impacted by an Emotional Affair
Here's where to get professional help:
Self-help/purchase from Amazon: After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, or Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity
You may also wish to reach out to your clergy.
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman