A lot more is said about physical infidelity than emotional infidelity, yet emotional infidelity is equally powerful and just as destructive as a physical affair. An emotional affair is a non-physical sexual relationship characterised by mutually intense psychological intimacy, often accompanied by words or gestures meant to be reserved for one’s romantic partner.
Today, emotional infidelity is enormously supported by modern technology thanks to mobile phones and social networking websites. Julia Cole, a British counsellor and psychotherapist acknowledges in her book, After the affair, that text relationships are a major cause of infidelity in marriage especially with the development of mobile phones and Facebook. She writes that all of these create more chances to connect with other people discreetly, quickly and at any time of the day or night, and when the affair is discovered, they quickly tell their committed partner, ‘It’s just a text – it’s nothing’.
A lot of research shows that most affairs start with seemingly innocuous friendship. No one wakes up one day and decides to be an unfaithful spouse or partner. This is why an ostensibly innocent friendship can make it difficult to recognise when things become inappropriate or unacceptable. And before you know it, the affair is meeting an unmet need in a marriage or relationship. It may begin with confiding in someone else about your relationship difficulties, thus creating a unique intimacy with this person at the exclusion of your partner.
Experts say secrecy is key in an affair because one fails to tell their partner about meetings or conversations with someone else and also behaves with them in a way they would not wish their partner to know. Once this unique bond has been established, one may start testing the waters. For instance, you may send each other flirty texts or suggestive videos to gauge each other’s reaction and see how far you can take the sexy banter. Although riding on this edge can be exciting and may even seem innocent, it is dangerous and disrespectful to one’s partner.
Before long, one begins to feel anxious looking out for texts and phone calls from their new found ‘friend’, perhaps even anxiously checking their phone and responding immediately. This is a clear indication that you may be more emotionally involved than you care to admit.
Although both women and men are aware that infidelity is wrong, men are wired to think of sex majorly in physical terms. Therefore, it is often difficult for them to grasp the degree to which an emotional betrayal in a relationship or marriage can be just as devastating as a sexual affair compared to women. However, no one is totally immune from this misunderstanding.
Ironically, participants of an emotional affair often applaud themselves for what they see as their own admirable restraint such as going for lunch or dinner or exchanging intimate talks via texts and yet being able to refrain from physical intimacy. But the reality is that both emotional and physical infidelities are destructive.
No one is immune to an emotional affair. The key is not to allow shades of grey obscure the fact that there are clear warning signs that you are either getting or encouraging an emotional relationship that is beyond a friendship.
The telltale signs
Some of the telltale signs to watch out for include:
Seeking the attention, approval or affection of this other person.
Confiding in someone else about this person.
Keeping your friendship a secret from your partner or even lying about your interactions.
Feeling anxious to be with the other person rather than your partner.
Going out of your way to repeatedly run into this other person.
Comparing the new ‘friend’ to your spouse/partner.