Monday, July 18, 2016

Are you in an Emotional Affair? - A few words on Emotional Cheating

I've been reflecting for a while on something...emotional cheating. It is not as much talked about as the physical cheating because it is harder to be identified and yet according to psychology an emotional affair is as hurting and as draining as a physical affair.  What is an emotional affair?
I will start with two real life examples. For the sake of privacy, I will not share names or point fingers.
First example:
A and D are childhood friends. At some point during their life they even considered being together, but somehow things didn't happen.
Later in life they were still very good friends, both in different serious relations. 
Also, the boundaries between A and D were clear, it was many times that while talking with him, A felt she wasn't fair to her partner. She asked herself - Should I share this with him or should I share it with my significant other? If I want my lover to be also my friend, well, I should switch gears.
With hard work A managed to create a certain complicity between her and her partner and got over the feeling of guilt.
At some point D started having trouble in his relation and started confiding in A about all their problems. It doesn't matter how his partner found out, but she did and she clearly wasn't very happy. It was their breaking point. Also, A knew for sure she wasn't the cause of their separation or the base of the problem, she felt pretty bad about it. After a clarifying discussion with D, she told him to put himself in his partner's shoes... How would you feel if...?
After a lot of discussions D managed to get back to his partner and they solved their relational conflicts.

Also, A and D are still friends, that was the moment when they detached themselves from their emotional connection.
 Second example:
N and V got divorced. A few other things contributed to their divorce, but emotional cheating was one of them.
You know that moment when you find your husband being cheesy with someone on the internet in a way that he has never talked to you? And I was ready to get over it..., even over their affair, but in a couple of years he got back in touch with her and things broke again between us.
He did cheat, not only emotionally, which evolved in a physical affair and he promised that he will stop...and it stopped, but only the physical...
These are examples, so that we are clear on what we are talking about...

How do you know that you are having an emotional affair or your significant other is having one?

Secretiveness - It's clear that if you are not sure how your partner will react or you will feel a little guilty - you will try to hide things. In this DNA age and with all the technology, things become pretty easy. This means ... you may take your phone everywhere with you and not allow your partner to sneak a peak for whatever. You may change phone and computer passwords and/ or delete message, emails, phone call history to hide whatever is going on in the background. If you are innocent, you shouldn't fear hiding anything from your partner that you cherish and love.

Disconnecting - No matter how strong your relation is, if you find that there are things that you can't share with your partner - there is a disconnection. Even more, if you used to share certain things with your partner and now you are sharing it with this person. Do you find that you and your significant other talk less and less about dreams, life, hobbies, even problems? When this disconnection evolves it gets to a point when you will also become more detached from your partner also at the physical level because somewhere deep down in you, also you don't want to admit it, you know the other person has become also an imagined sexual partner and intimacy with your partner feels like an emotional betrayal to your friend.

Emotional energy - Also, it doesn't seem obvious, but you think a lot about this person when you are not connected with them. You look forward for that moment when you will be again in touch with them, be it in person or via internet or via phone. You make sure that you spend time together no matter what and that time becomes very important to you. You slowly become dependent on this emotional connection and spend more and more time with this person and/or more frequently.

Guiltiness - You feel guilty if your partner saw you together or caught you talking, texting, writing to this person. You say things to this person that you would never share with your partner and you fear your partner's reaction. You keep a secret the amount of time you are spending with this person (not necessarily face to face, but emailing, texting, chatting etc.). Your friend or you may cross the line of friendship and you encourage the behaviour and try to hide that. Accidently, you may bring this person into conversation, by sharing their view when it comes to general things and you don't want to make your partner aware of how much you know about this person. You feel the need to give explanations or invent things to get you out of these situations.

Criticism - A certain frustration starts to build in you when you are with your partner. It may seem to you that his/ her demands, needs are unfounded. You have a feeling that your partner is demanding too much of you and you start being defensive - about your time, about your work, about your personal time and you start being critic. You may lash out at her/ him for minor things or become very defensive if your partner is questioning your relation with your friend or is making any negative comment on them.

Virtual interest - Also, this may also not be very obvious (depending on previous behaviour) - you spend more time with your phone or computer. You may check your feeds way too often, text when in a social gathering and glance at your phone when driving. Being online under different form your relation and your addiction to this relation may be easier to hide and maintain. After all, it's just a colleague, a business partner, a friend on social media.

Breaking point - Trust your gut, you will certainly feel when something is not exactly right in your relation. From there, you don't have many options.
  • You either choose to go on with the object of your fantasy and break things with your partner OR
  • You break things with your friend and give another chance to your relation.

These affairs are as hard to stop as they are hard to acknowledge.

Next step: Figure out what made you create this connection in the first place. Is it something that is not working in your relation? Is this something fixable? Do you see in that person something that you lost in your partner? Are you looking to this person because you see in this person something that your partner is lacking? Are you attached to them because you missed the chance to be with them at some point in your life? Do you still want to be with them or do you still care and love your partner?  What does this say about you? Be ready to give up on one or the other. No matter what you choose, you will be hurt and you will hurt - you are breaking a relation. This situation that is going on it is not fair to anyone, not to you, not to your partner, not to your friend. The earliest you decide to deal with this problem, the better - you still have a chance to come out clean in both directions no matter what you choose.