What Is Emotional Infidelity?
According to statistics, approximately half to almost 95 percent of all who cheat cite emotional dissatisfaction as a motivation for stepping out on their wives. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to a growing phenomenon known as emotional infidelity, a non-sexual, yet troubling trend in among couples dealing with infidelity.
Emotional infidelity is an affair of the heart that is ultimately more complex than a sexual affair. Emotional infidelity describes an intense emotional intimacy with someone other than one’s committed partner or spouse. This person usually is an acquaintance, friend or coworker with whom an emotionally unsatisfied partner shares his or her feelings on a regular basis.
Emotional affairs start off innocently at first. Two affair partners may become good friends, innocently sharing lunches, taking business trips, and indulging in the heartwarming and aggravating day-to-day aspects of their lives at home.
At first, such things appear to be a normal occurrence within the acceptable evolution of a friendship between people, particularly if the affair partner is a coworker. The more you get to know someone, the more details you share about your life and vice versa. The problem with emotional affairs, however, is that emotional cheaters feel a greater sense of intimacy with the other person than with their current partner. An emotional cheater shares a greater continuum of their emotional spectrum and perspective with the other person instead of their boyfriend or girlfriend. The deep-seated, most private, quiet and most vulnerable sides of you are no longer the property of your spouse, but are instead handed over to another person who doesn’t share a commitment with you.
M. Gary Neuman, author of Emotional Infidelity and The Truth About Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It, is a licensed marriage counselor who has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show several times to discuss the impact of sexual and emotional infidelity on relationships. During an appearance on Oprah, Neuman expertly discusses the lethalness of emotional infidelity.
“An emotional affair happens when you put the bulk of your emotions into the hands of somebody outside your [relationship]. We only have so much emotional energy; the more of it we spend outside of our [relationship], the less we have inside [of it]. After a while, we simply do not have enough emotions and love and caring and time for both [people].”
Why Do Emotional Affairs Occur? At the root of it all, emotional affairs are created to meet a key emotional need that has gone unfulfilled within the primary relationship. Maybe a wife feels her husband doesn’t listen to her enough, so she has weekly lunches with the warm-spirited gentleman in your department who pats her hand and tells her how sweet and beautiful she are. Or his girlfriend doesn’t appreciate the extra things he’s done around the house or his attempts at being more romantic, so the girl in the apartment next door comes over regularly and chops it up with him over a plate of one of her home-cooked chicken Alfredo, reassuring him that he’s a great guy. Whatever the lack of emotional satisfaction is, this affair becomes a second relationship, an emotional love affair that works as filler for their somewhat more distant, but ever present current one.
Can He Fall in Love with Her? Absolutely. The perfect recipe for turning an emotional infidelity into a sexual infidelity is accessibility, chemistry, an underlying emotional weakness or need, and a consistently increasing build upon the relationship. Remember, in an emotional infidelity, a person is already emotionally withdrawing from their primary relationship and funneling their energy into the affair, whether they consciously realize it or not.
It’s said that women are somewhat more susceptible to the emotional affair, wanting the relationship to move from friendship to true love, fantasy to reality, whereas men tend to compartmentalize their emotional affair, adding it to their lives, but not truly interested in moving on with her. Despite what is assumed, emotional bonds and emotional infidelities aren’t the sole property of either gender. Either sex in an emotional affair can feel overwhelmingly passionate feelings toward the other person, to an extent that your relationship with them can suffer – or even end when they chase what they feel is a better deal.
What are Signs of an Emotional Love Affair?
- Going out to dinner or other places with their friend without telling you.
- Purchasing personal gifts with extra justifications.
- Withdrawal from you (the main partner) and the relationship.
- Showing decreased interest in sexual or emotional intimacy.
- Increased preoccupation with spending time with their friend; looking forward to the next time they will see them.
- Wondering what life “would be like” if they were seriously involved with the other person.
- Insisting that the other person is just a friend – even when they refuse to let you meet them, or begin limiting contact between the two of you.
- Feeling like the other person understands them more than their spouse or girlfriend.
- Sharing more thoughts, feelings and time with the friend than the partner.
- Keeping the friendship a secret from you, the spouse, of all people.
Can I Stop Emotional Infidelity? Can I Save My Relationship? Confronting emotional infidelity, like any other infidelity, isn’t easy, but it is possible. You can begin by expressing your feelings about your partner’s relationship with this other person, and explaining why it doesn’t sit well with you. Perhaps talking to your partner about how you notice they seem more animated when they speak about that person or seem withdrawn from you after coming in from hanging with them will allow them to see that they may have been taking you and your relationship for granted while giving their energy elsewhere. It may also help that you remind them that they probably would not be okay if you displayed the same behaviors toward someone of the opposite sex.
After you’re done, ask them if there is something you haven’t provided them that their friend does. Listen with an open heart and mind; perhaps there are things you can do better to enrich the emotional intimacy of the relationship you have right now. Be aware things take time, and will require patience, persistence and faith to bring your relationship back on its proper course.
If, however, you decide not to confront emotional infidelity, be aware that you are passively allowing your partner to become more attached with another person, someone who may eventually take your place in his or her life. If you decide that you simply are not interested in working things out, and that this information doesn’t bother you, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the significance of your partner in your life, and prepare to move on.