Utter independence and solitude drain us of our energy. This is why we all go through life seeking close friendships that provide us with much needed emotional support.
Quite often, we find it in our romantic partners. After all, did we not choose to share our life with them? The problem, however, arises when we opt to seek comfort elsewhere.
It’s quite natural to have a friend of the opposite sex, although some may argue that such a friendship always hides forbidden desires of some kind. If such desires do exist, then you are participating in an emotional affair.
So, how do you know when you’ve crossed relationship boundaries? Isn’t befriending a person an innocent act since it lacks sexual infidelity? After all, you’re simply having conversations. That can’t cause harm to any of the involved parties. Or, can it?
What Is An Emotional Affair?
Essentially, an emotional affair is one that lacks physical intimacy, and is rather marked by a strong emotional connection.
If you find that you’ve reached a higher level of intimacy with your friend instead of your current romantic partner, what you’re experiencing isn’t simply a platonic relationship.
Furthermore, if you can’t seem to talk to your partner about how much you appreciate your friendship with this person, it’s probably because you perceive it as much more.
Perhaps your partner isn’t at all aware that you have conversations with them, or they know of it superficially because you don’t dare to reveal any words you exchanged with them. This is because you realise how inappropriately meaningful they are to you.
Besides, your partner would instantly recognise that you seem to share something they can’t quite name, but what definitely lacks in your relationship. Let’s be frank – you wouldn’t seek another person if you managed to find all you desire in your romantic partner.
10 Warning Signs Of An Emotional Affair
One rarely knows when they are in the middle of an emotional affair. It may last for years without them realizing how much it is weakening their relationship.
However, they mostly sense that something is not quite right. So, if you harbor doubts about the true nature of one of your friendships, you’ve come to the right place.
If you closely observe your own behavior when you’re in the presence of your friend, you will eventually gain clarity. There are numerous signs of emotional infidelity that can assist you with that. Now, stay with me and let’s take a closer look!
1. You feel sexual attraction.
You may attempt to conceal the truth from others as well as from yourself, but you can’t disregard the feeling. The intense sexual chemistry is all the confirmation you need.
When you gaze upon them, it’s not a friend you see. When you poke fun at each other, you aren’t just enjoying their company. The sexual tension is quite evident, even though you refuse to fully admit it.
You dislike feeling like a cheating partner, so you convince yourself that you aren’t flirting, but rather participating in harmless, friendly teasing.
2. If you’re sad, you come to them.
Do you find yourself unable to confide in your partner? Can you not be vulnerable with them?
If your friend is able to offer you what your partner isn’t, it’s natural for you to start seeking them out whenever you’re in need of empathy and support.
Regardless if it is an everyday struggle or a life-changing traumatic experience, you’re uncomfortable sharing it with your lover. Why? Because you know you won’t get neither validation nor understanding from them.
3. You fear your partner will find out.
Have you ever taken a walk with them and deliberately refused to mention it to your partner? Do you never tell them about the length and the nature of your conversations?
If so, it’s due to feelings of guilt.
You’re not concerned that the friendship might be ruined. You’re rather concerned about how you would explain your actions. Concealing something is the first sign of its inappropriateness.
You would rather continue receiving the best of both worlds. As long as you hide it, you don’t have to deal with your faulty relationship nor the fact that you’re hurting both of them because even if your partner has no clue, they can sense it.
4. You complain about your partner to them.
You aren’t quite ready to confront your partner about what upsets you. Serious relationship problems are clearly present, but the other side is ignorant of them.
Maybe you feel neglected by your partner while your secret close friend understands what you’re going through perfectly.
You feel as if talking to them is a solution to your problems, but the truth is – your problems are only becoming more enormous by the day.
Everything that drove you to become an emotional cheater is still there, and moreover, other issues have appeared as well – lies and disrespect.
5. You always find a reason to reach out.
Are you the one who usually reaches out to them first? Do you somehow always find an appropriate topic to converse about?
Perhaps you’re not fully conscious of your actions, but a part of you is aware of how wrong they are. This is why it’s not particularly easy to start a conversation with them. So, you look for the perfect excuse, trying not to appear too eager.
When you finally start talking, though, it is as effortless as a conversation can be. You devote a lot of time to them, and you always return to them because talking with your partner simply can’t compare.
6. You have a strong emotional connection.
It’s fairly evident how connected you two are. You invest your emotional energy in each other practically every day.
This is not because you don’t desire such closeness with your partner. You’ve just witnessed many times by now how they don’t possess the ability that your friend does. You may be in love with them, but that makes no difference.
Love isn’t always enough. What you seek is primarily friendship, and you’ve found that with your emotional affair partner.
7. You’re practically best friends.
When you are in this person’s company, you feel utter peace. There is no awkwardness nor pretense in order to please each other.
You get along so well because you’re similar. You never have to worry that you will upset them with your teasing. It rather excites them, and they excite you right back.
You share the same sense of humor, make each other’s day by sending hilarious memes, and offer tenderness when your day isn’t all that enjoyable.
Essentially, you are like two best friends who are sworn to secrecy. You fear losing one another, so you both stay silent.
8. You feel jealousy.
Do you ever witness them flirting with a coworker, and suddenly get filled with anger? You know you’re taken yourself, and you have no right to them, but you can’t bear to see them interested in someone other than you.
Worst of all, you can’t even tell them what a dreadful feeling that is. You can’t tell anyone. You might be acting like a couple without actually being one, but you never express your inner desires. You suffer in silence.
You feel as if your actions don’t count as long as you don’t turn them into a confession. But really, everything you do is a confession.
9. You get slightly possessive.
Do you get oddly upset when they don’t return your phone calls, or when they reply to your text hours later? Why do you think that is? Why do you need their presence so much?
You never really verbalize your emotions, but they become evident in what you say next. You feel as though you possess your affair partner the same way you possess your romantic one.
When they slip away from your fingers, you feel powerless. You know they aren’t quite yours, and they can do as they please. This is why you simply turn your distress into a witticism, secretly wishing things were different.
10. You’re close, yet distant.
Since you’re spoken for, eventually you realise that you’re not the only relevant party. This forces you to distance yourself from your friend, and to treat them as you would any other.
You yearn for closeness again, but you’re very well aware that you can’t have it, at least not how you once did.
If this decision represents an enormous issue for you, then the affection you feel for them is greater than you think. What you need might just be a close reevaluation of your romantic relationship.
Emotional Affair Stages
Emotional affairs are truly a complex occurrence. They are never easily dealt with. They are caused by relationship issues, and they bring additional ones along with them.
What is it like being in one? How do affair partners act? How do they end their affair?
Well, essentially, there are four stages of an emotional affair. If you want to know more about them, do continue reading.
1. Something is lacking in your relationship.
The presence of another partner firstly requires an unfulfilled need. They are the ones who ensure that your needs are met.
Perhaps your partner is too cold, and you’re in need of an empathetic individual who can understandingly listen to you. Or, perhaps they just don’t understand your sense of humor.
Either way, you are exhausted by the lack of something you desire so much that you are ready to look for it elsewhere.
2. You start reaching out to someone else.
Forming a new friendship has finally fulfilled all your needs. You’re in a committed relationship with your partner, all the while receiving the things they’re unable to give you from someone else.
There are no boundaries established. The intimacy you feel is at its highest level. Hesitation of any kind is non-existent.
You rarely admit that this is wrong simply because you’re unaware of its seriousness. You may care about both parties, but just not enough to do right by them.
3. You set boundaries with them.
You finally admit to yourself that what you’re doing is wrong, and you take action towards remedying it.
You’re having a hard time abandoning your friend, but you do lower the level of closeness. You think all issues will be solved by distance, but you don’t realise how confused your friend must be, and how, technically, you are still an emotional cheater.
You don’t realise that the best option would be ending the friendship, or breaking up with your primary lover.
4. You abandon one of the relationships.
You can’t do it anymore. Hiding how you feel takes strenuous efforts, and you’re finally prepared to sort your problems out.
You either converse with your partner in order to improve your relationship, or you abandon them to start a new relationship with your friend.
Either way, there are no more lies. You find your peace, but one of your partners is bound to suffer greatly.
Is An Emotional Affair Adultery?
The answer is yes.
I’m certain that when you hear the word ‘affair’, what instantly comes to your mind is sexual intercourse. This is, after all, the most discussed type of adultery, and utterly unforgivable at that.
The idea that your lover is physically involved with another person makes you feel as wretched as one can feel. You feel there is no worse form of tracheary than a sexual affair. However, when you come to experience emotional infidelity, you see how wrong you were.
I don’t wish to compare one painful situation with another. I am merely here to show you how emotional cheating can be just as hurtful.
Sex doesn’t necessarily involve emotional intimacy of any sort while an emotional affair is a much deeper connection with someone who’s NOT your partner.
Think about it. You get so intimate with your friend that you share with them all you somehow can’t reveal to your partner. And, you don’t even confess that this friendship exists in the first place.
Cheating implies concealment, and it’s not only sex that you can conceal. If you find yourself more connected to your friend than your lover, you have a problem.
Is Texting An Emotional Affair?
The answer is YES, assuming the relationship involves all we had previously mentioned. Truth be told, this new ‘digital’ era of texting and social media made emotional affairs more accessible than they were before.
It isn’t that relevant, though, which means you sustain your emotional affair. You can meet up regularly, or do nothing but text each other. It’s all the same – you’re cheating on your partner.
Not looking at someone’s eyes while talking doesn’t alter the fact that you’re exchanging details which are specifically meant for your primary lover.
So, if you’re ever tempted to text someone something “sensitive” thinking it will have no harmful effect, I plead with you to think again.
You aren’t just friends. You are rather giving that person hope all the while knowing you will never want any serious involvement with them. Moreover, you are disrespecting your primary partner to whom you should offer all of your affection.
Do Emotional Affairs Turn Into Physical Affairs?
They usually remain emotional precisely because people see no harm in them as they do in sexual affairs. At other times, however, they turn into a physical one.
It’s hard to say because each situation is very specific. People cheat a lot, but as we’ve established, they aren’t always ready to face themselves. They are guilt-ridden, so they don’t proceed to the next level.
If they do proceed, however, it’s because the sexual desire towards their affair partner has become stronger than the guilt, or else the guilt is nonexistent altogether.
How Common Are Emotional Affairs?
You’ve either started it yourself, or you surely know someone who has. A lot of people engage in conversations with others thinking it lacks meaning, so they simply proceed.
Perhaps a woman is texting a guy who is very clearly infatuated with her. He constantly compliments her, and sometimes even directly expresses his feelings. She thinks of him as nothing but a friend, which she tells him, unbothered by his love for her.
She doesn’t mention it to her boyfriend in order not to hurt his feelings, but she continues to talk to the guy, bringing their connection to a whole new level.
I apologize for informing you, but you are, in fact, having an emotional affair.
This is why it’s so common. People perceive it as merely a talk when it’s really infidelity.
Is An Emotional Affair Love?
You may be inclined to think that someone’s tendency for emotional cheating is a sign of a lack of love for their partner. Your reasoning is valid as well as true in certain situations. However, this can get far more complex than that.
Essentially, an emotional affair happens due to two possible reasons:
1. You’re not satisfied with your current relationship, although you love your partner.
A person can enter an emotional affair even if they’re in love with their partner, but their relationship has many underlying issues. They are aware of the issues at present, but they don’t see them as deal-breakers.
Instead, they seek solutions OUTSIDE of the primary relationship. Both confrontation and abandonment are options they refuse to opt for.
2. You’re satisfied with your relationship, but seem to love someone else.
In this case, there’s nothing in need of fixing in your relationship. You just have feelings for someone other than your partner. Since it’s an affair of the heart, you can’t help but constantly seek them out.
You don’t depart from your lover because you care for them. Causing them pain is the last thing you want, but you’re completely unaware that that is inevitable whichever choice you opt for.
Contemplate your own reasons and make a decision accordingly. Either way, end the affair.
How Do You Rebuild Trust After An Emotional Affair?
Trusting your partner again after you’ve been emotionally cheated on isn’t easy. However, it isn’t impossible either. If you both put in the necessary effort to strengthen the bond between you, you will eventually succeed.
You’re not obliged to forgive and forget right away. But, you can attempt to understand the primary source of the problem, and how to stop it from happening again.
Here are a few steps you can take in order to accomplish that and rebuild trust in your relationship:
1. Hold yourself accountable.
If you are the one who is emotionally cheating on your partner, you’re probably filled with guilt. While you really ARE the guilty party, holding on to that emotion will benefit neither you nor your partner.
Don’t dwell on self pity. Your focus, then, will be on the past. Isn’t your goal to nurture the relationship you thought was doomed to end?
Instead, simply take responsibility for your actions. Admit that it was you who opted for all the wrong ways to deal with problems. Admit, and then search for ways to retrieve what you have almost lost.
2. Freely express what bothers you.
You do realize that the problems in your relationship arose by you refusing to talk, right? If you do, then it’s time to do things a bit differently.
If you feel that your partner’s actions or words somehow cause you distress, do not suppress it. You’ve seen that suppression brings nothing good.
Know that your emotions are valid, and you deserve to be heard.
After all, you were never guilty for feeling the way you did, but rather for the actions you took BECAUSE of how you felt.
3. Have no more secrets.
Have you befriended a new person? Go and tell your partner about it. Maybe it will take time to earn their trust again, but you can start by never having secrets again.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have no right to a private life. You may be in a relationship, but first of all, you are an individual. It’s perfectly understandable to not want to share certain details with anyone, including your partner, too.
You don’t have to give your cell phone over for inspection. You don’t need to unfollow all attractive people on social media for them to trust you again. These are rather unhealthy methods.
However, if those details involve anything that might disrespect your significant other, then concealing it is not the way to go. You’re allowed to have friends, but if you feel strangely about them, perhaps it’s time to finally depart from your partner.
4. Try marriage counseling.
Seeking out a therapist is not a shameful step to undertake. After all, what’s more relevant than your own mental health?
Converse about how you feel at couples therapy as well as outside of it. Avoiding that is the precise reason why it has come to this in the first place.
Remember that it will be greatly difficult to improve your relationship, but since you’ve taken all these steps, it’s clear how much you care about one another.
The affair may have been a breach of trust, but it is also a chance for renewing your relationship. This time, create a bond that no problem could ever break.
How Do You Know It’s Just Friendship?
Naturally, not every friend has a hidden agenda. It is entirely possible to platonically love someone and not to wish for sexual nor romantic involvement.
If you’re particularly interested in this paragraph, that means you doubt your friendship. You needn’t worry because it’s fairly easy to recognize that you perceive them as a possible partner.
If you desire them, you will just KNOW. For some, however, it may not be so simple. If you belong in the second category, read on in order to figure out how you feel.
Here are some signs of a platonic friendship:
• There’s no sexual tension.
• You’re happy when they have exciting love stories to tell.
• You’ve never thought about a relationship with them.
• You enjoy their company, but you don’t really need them.
• You freely talk to your partner about them.
• Since there are no hidden desires, you’re comfortable with being seen.
• Showing your conversations to your partner wouldn’t be a problem.
• You never compare them with your lover because they have all you need.
If any of these signs seem familiar to you, you can relax because what you feel is platonic love.
It’s not too difficult to differentiate between a friendship and an emotional affair. While the former lacks any romantic or sexual desires, the latter is recognized by them. Still, those desires are never actually acted upon.
This is why it’s called an ’emotional’ affair because it’s strictly concerned with how both parties feel towards each other. The bottom line is they are emotionally connected, but neither party touches each other nor confesses how greatly they want to.
If you have read this article and recognized signs of emotional infidelity in your own life, I plead with you to reconsider your actions. Firmly decide who you wish to form a long-lasting relationship with. This time, choose a way that won’t be so unkind.