What is Infidelity?
When you are in a monogamous relationship, any type of physical or sexual encounter is clearly recognized as cheating. However, infidelity can be and often is more widely defined; for example:
- Any intimate act that you and your spouse or partner have declared off-limits
- Not being upfront about interactions with particular individuals
- Keeping secrets of any kind
- Some couples agree to not be in touch with exes
- Hiding your marriage or relationship from others
- Becoming emotionally connected with someone and keeping a sexual option on the table
- Cyber relationships
This is by no means an exhaustive list as countless variations exist. But all of the above descriptions can point towards you having an emotional affair.
What is an Emotional Affair?
The simplest answer is that it involves everything except physical intimacy. However, if you and the person do meet in person, there may be hugging, touching, and more but alway short of a sexual encounter. In person or not, an emotional affair carries with it the promise or possibility of sexual contact. That’s part of what separates it from friendship. In today’s online-driven culture, our devices allow us to “meet” so many more people and to keep it far more private than real-life interactions. Thus, the incidence of emotional affairs may now be greater than ever.
3 Sure Signs You’re Involved in an Emotional Affair
Do you find yourself obsessing over someone other than your partner? This fixation could include:
- Thinking about them
- Finding reasons to see them or connect online with them as often as possible
- If you meet in person, you dress a certain way and rehearse—over and over—what you’ll say and do
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Hiding this connection to the point of straight-up lying to your partner (and others)
- Comparing this new person to your partner in a way that lifts the new person’s status
There are countless songs and movies written about those early days of falling in love. A common thread is fixation. These feelings and thoughts can be exciting; however, they spell trouble when conducted secretly by a spouse or committed partner .
2. Boundaries Crossed
With fixation comes behavior you will likely regret—the crossing of forbidden boundaries. Ask yourself:
- Have I shared intimate details about my partner with this new person?
- Am I avoiding any mention of this to my partner?
- Are my partner and I spending less time together? Are we intimate less often now?
- Am I giving the best of me to someone else?
As you can see, emotional affairs can cause just as much psychological pain as a one-night hookup. Perhaps, in some cases, this is a deeper form of betrayal.
3. Fantasies, Dreams, and Plans
In this scenario, you have begun to imagine a new life with another person. Your emotional affair partner is unburdened by the realities of real, everyday life. Being with them, you tell yourself, would be “so much better.” You fantasize about them—sexually and romantically.
If This Sounds Like You, Now What?
As stated above, emotional affairs are nothing new. They are far more common than most of us realize. In today’s high-tech culture. They are also easier than ever. So, if you’ve gotten involved in an emotional affair, you’re not alone. There are steps that you can take:
- Recognize what you’re doing
- Reduce contact with the other person
- Seek professional help
You may even wish to talk with a therapist before coming clean to your partner. From there, couples counseling can help make it more of a team effort. Each case of emotional cheating has its own set of circumstances and underlying factors. Therapy can be your avenue towards deeper understanding and recovery.