What are emotional affairs and the various stages of emotional affairs? Emotional infidelity has become so common these days that it is scary, to say the least. Surviving emotional cheating and infidelity in your relationship is not easy. Emotional infidelity scars a person as much as infidelity that includes a physical relationship.
What are the signs of emotional infidelity in relationships and marriages? And how does one deal with emotional infidelity? We had a detailed discussion with our expert Dr. Gopa Khan.
What is an emotional affair?
Emotional affairs are as damaging as physical ones. An affair usually starts with emotional intimacy. It might happen when one of the partners in the relationship is not getting enough attention or they might be not having their needs met. The emotional intimacy might turn into physical intimacy over time. Most affairs start this way, on an emotional level.
I think a hookup and an emotional affair are essentially the same. Think about it, a hookup might turn into an emotional affair too. A one-night stand is different.
What are the various stages of an emotional relationship?
Let me explain it to you this way. Usually, when the client comes to me the spouses are not on talking terms anymore. This is what their relationship has finally become.
Sometimes the husband or the wife comes to me separately and starts talking about how his marriage is falling apart. They talk about how much their spouse has hurt them.
An emotional affair takes off when there is an emotional connect somewhere else. They end up neglecting their spouse, the communication gap starts increasing and they are not just that attentive anymore. That is kind of dangerous, even more so when they don’t realize it.
Then in the next stage, an emotional affair turns into a physical one. This is more common when the spouse is in another city, or even in another country for work and their spouse ends up becoming very emotionally dependent on them.
How to deal with emotional infidelity?
The first thing that one should do is realize that one is getting emotionally attached to someone else because there is something lacking in the present relationship.
1. Focus on the friendship
I think one should keep the friendship in relationships very alive. If you are good friends with your spouse or partner then you can share a lot of things together from a good joke for some adventure sports.
2. Set Boundaries
Another very important aspect is to set boundaries in your professional and personal life. Nowadays in professional interactions, one has to travel with colleagues, attend parties and conferences. You have to maintain a boundary in your professional relationships and in the personal as well.
3. Self-care in a relationship
Both the woman and the man in the relationship must take good self-care. They should not be dependent on the other person at any point in the relationship.
It has been seen in most cases that a person is dependent on their spouse or partner to such an extent that the chances of emotional cheating and affairs increases.
4. Understand the red flags
Another important thing to keep in mind: if you find yourself getting physically/emotionally attracted to another person while you are engaged in a relationship, it’s an indicator that your marriage or relationship is not going well. You are not getting the warmth you need.
You need to recognize this vital issue and start working on the same. On the other hand, it is very important to have your personal space in a relationship. In couples counselling, I also stress the importance of commitment. Celebrating special days together like anniversaries, birthdays, all of that matters.
5. Be open about how you feel
While being in a relationship, it is very important that you be open to your partner about your internal feelings and the conflicts that you face within yourself on a regular basis.
While it is important that you do not become clingy and controlling and do not forcibly impose your feelings on the other person, it is also necessary that you let them know about your true feelings and emotions and also encourage them to do the same.
Having transparency between you two is half the battle won for having a relationship that lasts long.
6. Celebrate your special days together
Forgetting your anniversary, your better half’s birthday or even the day you first met is not a very nice thing to do. Rather it is the remembrance of these minute details that is what builds the base of a stable relationship that can go on for years on the foundation of trust and loyalty.
Could you give us some case studies of emotional cheating that has happened in relationships?
There are many cases, for instance, the office-spouse case I mentioned a few minutes back, it is the most common one I can find.
Mostly what happens is that one of the spouses gets attention from somewhere else and they start enjoying it and get caught up in that attention. They are not realizing that it is going to hurt them back at some point in time or another.
They are oblivious to the fact that they are gradually seeking out an emotional companion at their workplace, which is an artificial environment and living with them is a whole new thing.
People might have not essentially gotten married, or things might have not worked out for them to post an emotional affair.
Complete emotional attachment
An emotional affair in most cases proves to be even more detrimental to the longevity of the relationship compared to an affair that is purely physical or sexual in nature, because what essentially happens in the case of an emotional affair is that an individual starts sharing every single minute details of their life with this new acquaintance they have come across, or this individual they have come to know in their workplace.
It gets even worse, as they start canceling plans with their partner, stops doing the things with them that they once enjoyed and completely makes things off-balance by not partaking in common interests for both of them.
Women are more prone to emotional infidelity
Usually, it’s women who keep looking for an emotional anchor more than men. Numerous women have admitted to having emotional affairs as well, the most common source for the same is the workplace. Some have had crushes in an office that have lasted long, then comes the usual texting game and the emotional distancing from her present partner in the relationship.
For many of them, they felt like they were cheating on their partner and did go through an immense amount of guilt for the same. One woman described having conversations that usually started the late-night and continued till 3 am or more at night. She was distracted; she was unable to thoroughly focus on either her job or her present relationship. In addition to this, she described it as a one-sided relationship, an emotional roller coaster she would rather not go through again. It took years to rebuild the trust between herself and her partner again and to this day, they are happy together as a couple.
In the case of emotional infidelity, the most important thing is understanding that one is getting attached to someone emotionally and crossing the boundaries of pure friendship. Once that is understood then emotional infidelity can be dealt with and one can put a stop to it. But in case of emotional infidelity happens it has more disastrous consequences than an affair. That is something very few people realize.