Emotional Affairs 101
Those involved in an emotional affair are often in denial. They don't think they're having an affair at all. The denial keeps them guilt-free, and they feel they don't have to give it up. They tell themselves, "It's just a friendship."
So how do you know if your relationship has evolved into an emotional affair?
- When most meetings and conversations are kept secret from your partner.
- When you say and do things with someone you never would do in front of your spouse.
- When you make a point to arrange private talk time with them.
- When you share stuff with them that you don't with your partner.
Most people are not looking for an affair when it starts. They find themselves interested in a person, and it becomes a slippery slope. They start to depend on these friends for the emotional highs and good feelings they provide during the day. The secrecy adds to the excitement and the attraction. As the intensity of attachment and involvement rises, so does the likelihood that the affair will become sexual.
Are you wondering whether you are having an emotional affair?
- Do you avoid telling your partner how much time you spend or talk with the other person?
- Do you tell this person more about your day than your partner? Do you even tell him about your marital dissatisfaction?
- Do you "ready your appearance" to see him?
- Is there a sexual attraction (spoken or unspoken) between you?
- Would you feel guilty if your partner saw you together?
It's easier than ever before to get involved in and stay involved in an emotional affair. Many men and women work together, travel for business together and forge close relationships. You can keep in touch by phone, text or instant message. Many affairs begin via the Internet. Social networking sites have allowed people to reconnect to friends from their past, as well as find new people interested in developing a relationship.
With all the availability and temptation, how can you protect yourself from drifting into an emotional affair?
- Don't flirt. Flirting leads to attractions and warm feelings you will start to crave.
- Be aware when at work and on the Internet. These are high-risk places where emotional affairs typically start.
- Look out for the state of your marriage. You are more vulnerable to an affair when you are dissatisfied with your current partner.
- Don't go out alone with an old lover. If you have nothing to hide, include your partner.
- Don't hang out with others who cheat. Your moral compass can be swayed if it gets reinforced by the behavior of others.
Once you have gone down the road of an affair, there is bound to be a lot of pain all round, as well as a good helping of guilt. Most marriages don't make it back from an affair, but a small portion do. It takes a lot of work to rebuild trust and move forward from the hurt.
We don't always appreciate the value of a true relationship until we are about to lose it. If you have had an affair, you need to own up and take responsibility.
- End it! No halfway. No kind of. No being just friends. It has to end, or you will still be involved in it and will not be able to build back your partner's trust.
- Take responsibility. No one else got yourself in this mess but you. You need to own it in order to get past it.
- Figure out why you did it. Was your marriage failing? Were you looking for self-esteem? Were you repeating the pattern of a parent who cheated? In order to repair your current relationship and avoid another affair, you need to understand what drove your behavior in the first place.
- Be trustworthy. The biggest obstacle to your relationship surviving is the betrayal. You must be thoroughly open and honorable to build it back. You will need to do what your partner needs (like coming home right after work and breaking off all contact with the other person).
- Rebuilding trust after betrayal takes time. You will have to be patient. Don't expect your partner to just bounce back.
Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz , author of Anatomy of a Secret Life: Are the People in Your Life Hiding Something You Should Know? , is a regular contributor to The Today Show , MSNBC.com and O, The Oprah Magazine.