Do you know the dangers of an emotional affair? When we hear the word “affair”, a variety of different things may come to mind. Many of us associate this with a physical relationship. That is not always the case, but excluding the physical aspect of an affair does not automatically eliminate all damage. Here are some things to make note of about emotional affairs:
The “Just Friends” Myth
The line between emotional affair relationship and a friendship can become blurred and difficult for people to distinguish between—especially in cases when the emotional affair originally held intentions of casual friendship. Emotional bonds in friendship strengthen over time, similarly to those in a romantic relationship. When those bonds begin to lean into romantic territory or even start strengthening to the point where there is detraction or distraction from the marriage, it becomes an emotional affair. When a “friendship” needs to be protected and hidden from the partner, there is quite clearly more to the situation than pure friendship.
They’re Harder to See
Because emotional affairs may not involve any type of physical contact at all, they can completely fly under the radar. Phone calls, text messages, and social media are easy to access and extremely easy to hide. Someone can fairly easily begin to convince themselves that they aren’t doing anything wrong when there isn’t any physical relationship happening outside of the marriage. If this secondary relationship is important enough to create defensiveness and a need to protect it, there is cause for concern and it should be examined.
And Easier to Justify
The amount of excuses I have heard clients give surrounding emotional affairs is astronomical. “At least I didn’t let things go too far”, “but I didn’t really cheat”, “we truly were only friends”, and more comments like these are prevalent. It may feel harmless to the offending partner, but the pain and damage can be just as impactful in these types of situations. Remaining diligent in protecting the marriage while navigating future relationships and interactions is absolutely crucial.
Rebuilding after an emotional affair is no small journey. Because of the nature of an emotional affair, boundaries may be assumed to be less black and white while building back trust. That is not the case. These boundaries and expectations—as with any affair— must be discussed and agreed upon in order to help the betrayed partner build back to a comfortable level. A seemingly extreme level of transparency is going to be necessary in rebuilding trust and intimacy, just as with any type of affair.