Samantha De Bono Counselling Bromley

Bromley & Harley Street

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Are you having an emotional affair?

By Samantha De Bono

Having friendships with people outside of your relationship is normal.  We should all have friends!  However, a friendship that you feel the need to keep away from your partner has the potential to cause a lot of damage.  Just because you're not having sex with your friend does not mean it's not a threat to your marriage.

The hallmarks of an emotional affair:

1. Your partner doesn't know about your friend.

2. You lie about who you're meeting/messaging.

3.  Your friend comes under a different name in your phone contacts.

4.  You're secret about interactions that take place with your friend.

5.  Your friend knows more about your partner than your partner knows about your friend.

6.  You have no desire to introduce your partner and your friend.

7.  You would feel uncomfortable spending time with your friend and your partner together.

8.  You are physically attracted to your friend and you have physical chemistry.

9.  You delete your message interactions.

10. You start to feel a dependency on the highes that come with this friendship.

Emotional affairs are on the rise due to the social context in which we live our lives.  It's so easy now to be in contact with an ex we were in love with in our teens, a person we went to school with and strangers that enter our lives through social media.

We spend a lot of time at work with colleagues and travel away from home, so even when we are committed to our relationship, we spend a lot of time as individuals which can be a challenge to keep our feet on the ground and stay focused on what really matters - our partner and everything we have built together.

Emotional affairs usually start with a friendship where there is an attraction from the beginning, so over time the boundary becomes blurred. The infidelity aspect of an emotional affair is defined by the level of emotional intimacy you share with that friend - information, details, vulnerabilities and emotion that you would only have shared with your partner before this friend came along.

If you wouldn't want your partner to hear these conversations or exchanges, then you can be sure that you have crossed the boundary between an open and innocent friendship to an emotional affair.  If this level of emotion is shared and you find you are physically attracted to your friend, then there is a very high risk that the emotional affair will escalate into a full affair (the one you believed you were avoiding).

However, not every emotional affair leads to a physical one. Some people are able to maintain that boundary and never cross that line.  These are the individuals that become incredulous when confronted about their emotional affair. They often feel indignant that their partner could think such a thing, despite the fact that they have kept their friendship away from their partner and have still committed infidelity. 

An emotional affair can be as painful for all parties as a physical affair. Don't make the mistake of minimising the magnitude of feelings and loss of trust that your "friendship" has caused. Believing that your partner should not be upset because you don't/didn't have sex with your friend is not realistic. Getting angry and exasperated because your partner feels insecure or jealous about your relationship with your friend, is not not fair. Your friendship that you keep to yourself and do not include your partner in, is not your partner's problem, it's yours!

Emotional Affairs can be difficult to end, possibly because there is a feeling of "why should I, I'm not doing anything wrong". However if you want to give you and your partner chance, you have to bring your emotional affair to a complete stop. Unfortunately it can't be done in half measures, for example meeting less and messaging less won't work because the anticipation will increase, giving rise to the false feeling that you cannot be without each other, that, in turn is likely to intensify the emotional affair and possibly cause it to cross over into a combined emotional and physical affair.

For your marriage to survive, your emotional affair needs to end and a direct conversation is required where you clearly state that you need to prioritise your family/partner/marriage and in order to do that, you have to end this friendship.