- Have you ever noticed that your partner isn’t as sincere to you as they used to be?
- Do you feel a lack of interest from your spouse and perceive that they spend more time with someone else?
- Do you think that their feelings and thoughts are entirely detached from you, but your spouse doesn’t feel bad at all?
If the answer is positive to any of these questions, you may think that your partner is cheating on you, but sometimes you could be mistaken. Instead, you may be experiencing an emotional affair. Unfortunately, it’s no less harmful to your relationship, and even worse – losing an emotional connection can be a deeper problem than physical intimacy.
Everybody agrees that cheating is the worst experience for married couples. Betrayal destroys trust between partners, breaks the emotional connection, and devalues all the energy that the couple has invested in building their relationship. That’s why many people believe that there’s hardly anything worse than cheating on your spouse. However, you may even change your mind after finding out what an emotional affair truly means.
Let’s discuss the signs of an emotional affair together, differentiate it from a simple friendship, and determine whether your relationship is in danger.
What is an Emotional Affair?
Imagine that you met a new person at work and instantly felt that you two get along very well. You start talking about your hobbies, continue discussing your problems, and finally feel an emotional connection with this new friend. You start text messaging with each other, dreaming and thinking about each other all the time but still consciously think, “He/She is just a friend, it’s nothing bad, I would never cheat on my partner.” But what happens in your unconscious mind?
You like it or not, the truth is that you are at the initial stage of an emotional affair, and things may get more serious. At first glance, it can be difficult to differentiate this condition from a friendship, but actually, there’s quite a big difference.
An emotional affair is defined as a close relationship with someone who isn’t your primary partner. It means that all emotions, thoughts, and behaviours of a person are focused on someone else. He or she invests all of their energy outside of a current romantic relationship or marriage. This may or may not be accompanied by sexual tension, but what thing is for sure – you feel chemistry or intimacy towards someone that is not mainly your partner.
As a famous British author, John Le Carre, once said, “betrayal can only happen if you love.” But actually, betrayal is all about small details that your partner keeps away from you. That’s why an emotional affair constantly undermines the relationship and sometimes even has a more severe impact than a physical one.
But keep in mind that, unlike physical cheaters, the emotional cheater is not the only guilty one in your relationship. The fact that they share intimate thoughts with someone else and not feel as close to you as they used to be is not just a one-time thing and has deeper roots in your relationship. Therefore, your past actions can also play a role in your current state of feeling deceived and abandoned. And this only makes things worse…
Signs of an Emotional Affair
If you doubt that you or your partner may have an emotional affair, you should carefully look at the signs of this condition. Even if you believe that you feel connected with your spouse the same way you did before, or they say that they love you to the moon and back, you should be careful with the signs of an emotional affair.
Why so? Because behaviours always speak louder than words, and this is why you should watch out for the actions first. So, if you are not quite sure whether you are having one or not, here are some signs of an emotional affair:
- Spending less time with your spouse – the first and most obvious sign of an emotional affair is that you don’t have a desire to spend as much time with your partner as you can. The same can happen on the other side. An emotional affair is usually accompanied by a reduced amount of time spent together, and you may even find yourself or your partner finding artificial excuses to be with another person instead.
- Avoid sharing your feelings and thoughts – one of the main signs you are in love with someone is that you have an inner requirement to share everything you feel or think with them. But once you feel that you prefer to share your thoughts with another person, you should consider this a sign of emotional detachment from your spouse.
- Discussing personal things with someone else – generally, there are many people around that often ask us how we feel, what our concerns are, etc., But we don’t share our actual problems with random people. Most frequently, our partner is the person that we trust and discuss personal things with. But if you noticed that you’ve already found someone else, things may end up a little bit complicated.
- Detecting lies or secrets – emotional cheaters often find themselves avoiding sharing details about this new person with their partner. In this case, lying can be unintentional, but somehow you may feel that you don’t want to tell your spouse things about your meetings, conversations, or texts with your friend. Or you may notice that your partner is deleting messages from the phone or leaves the room when someone calls. All of these are signs of an emotional affair.
- Comparing your partner to someone else – an emotional affair is usually accompanied by idealizing the one person and comparing them to everyone else. As a result, your partner may look worse in your eyes without having any particular reason. That’s the time when emotional cheaters get more critical of their partner and start to compare them with another person, sometimes even out loud.
- The phrase “We are just friends” – the person that emotional cheaters are having an affair with is usually their close friend. This can be someone that they’ve just met or a long-time friend, but in any case, initially, they think that they have the right to spend all their time with them because “they are just friends.” Actually, it’s just an excuse. Deep down, they realize that it’s something more than just a friendship. But are not aware of what to call it yet.
How an Emotional Affair Impacts Your Marriage
An emotional affair is considered one of the most dangerous things for marriage. Therefore, if you are thinking of saving your marriage, you should definitely be aware of its signs. Sometimes people think that an emotional affair can’t cause any severe problems. “It’s just an emotional thing; there’s nothing physical; it won’t go any further.” However, psychological research proves otherwise.
In fact, emotional problems are a fundamental reason for splitting families. Everything starts with losing an emotional connection with a partner, and only after that, people start thinking about establishing a physical relationship with somebody else. Of course, cheating can happen without any more profound reasons, as it ultimately depends on your partner’s personality. Some people are just cheaters with their nature and don’t like to stay with one single partner for a long time. But if you are already in a marriage, you should respect your partner. However, once people lose an emotional bond with their partner, they immediately start thinking of unfaithful actions.
Keep in mind that an emotional affair is not necessarily a prerequisite for a physical one. However, although most emotional affairs don’t cross the line of physicality, they can seriously damage your marriage as time goes by. The reason is simple – intimacy and feelings involved in emotional affairs can be more intense than those in physical affairs because people invest all their energy and emotions.
Emotional Affair vs Platonic Friendship
Sometimes people find it hard to differentiate an emotional affair from a simple friendship. And yes, at first glance, it DOES look like a platonic friendship. But a friendship is way too different from having an affair with someone, and there are many significant differences.
So, what is platonic friendship at all?
Platonic friendship is a pure feeling towards someone who is identified to you as a friend. This relationship looks like a romantic one, as both sides feel attraction towards each other. But it’s different because it’s completely free of sexual tension and drive. Therefore, platonic friendship is absolutely based on emotions, and there’s no space for physical desire. That’s how it relates to an emotional affair.
However, platonic friendship has the potential of evolving as an emotional affair. Once a sexual desire takes place, there’s no way of remaining platonic.
How to differentiate an emotional affair from a platonic friendship?
The key difference between these two relationships is that an emotional affair is always a secret from your partner, while platonic friends generally talk about each other. But most importantly, both sides of an emotional affair acknowledge that they feel sexual tension towards each other. However, they are also aware of the fact that none of them wants to cross a line.
Even more, you may have some fantasies about this person with or without realizing it. But if you daydream about them, that’s a sign that physical desire is involved. None of this happens with platonic friendship, and that’s why it’s considered a pure relationship.
Now you probably acknowledge what emotional affair truly means. As Honore de Balzac said, “Love is a game in which one always cheats.” Yes, he was a wise man, but society has drastically changed after it. Therefore, if you notice the emotional affair’s warning signs at its initial stages, the chances are high that you can save your relationship.
So, try to be honest with yourself and act in a proper way if you recognize signs of emotional cheating in your or your partner’s actions.
- How long do emotional affairs usually last?
There’s no specific time of emotional affairs duration, but average emotional affairs last up to 6-18 months. Sometimes it can be as long as 2-3 years, but generally, it ends more quickly. The reason is that serotonin, dopamine, and hormones released in our brains reduce intensity after a few months. Considering that these emotions are responsible for feeling emotionally close to other people, the affair usually ends after a few months.
- Can emotional affairs become physical?
Yes. An emotional affair is frequently considered as an initial stage of a physical affair. Because it involves intense sexual desire, people often end up having turned it into a physical affair. However, it doesn’t always become physical, and it entirely depends on the personality and aims of the people involved.
- How do Emotional affairs usually end?
Most of the time, emotional affairs end tragically. Usually, one side loses emotional involvement, finds another person, or acknowledges that they are doing something wrong to their partners. The main reason why emotional affairs end is that people avoid communicating with each other about their feelings. As a result, it often turns into a disappointment.
- How do I know if my partner’s having one?
If you observe at least three signs of emotional affair in your partner’s behavior, he or she may be having one. Emotional cheaters usually spend less time with their partners, stop sharing their feelings, thoughts, and concerns with them and lie about minor details. They frequently spend time with someone that they call a friend.
- Is it more toxic than a physical affair?
It depends. Sometimes it can be more toxic than a physical affair because the physical one is more easily detected. Besides, emotional cheaters hardly acknowledge that they are having an affair with someone else. If this continues for long, and they keep proving that they have the same relationship with their partner as before, an emotional affair can get more toxic.