The truth is it’s incredibly rare to find a grownup who has NOT had or tried to have some type of emotional affair at some point in their lives unless they’re a basement troll. For instance, as a teen many of us had a “friend” of the opposite sex who was dating someone else that we tried to get closer to and it was okay because we convinced ourselves “we’re just friends”. In situations like these we are essentially trying to have an emotional affair but we are the “other person”. As a tip, friendship is meant to be about equality and shared power, and situations like these aren’t friendships because there’s a power imbalance. It’s not a friendship if one of the parties is whipped: “You need a ride? I’ll drive you… You’re lonely? I’ll call in sick to work… You need money? I’ll buy you whatever you want.” This is a pick up, not a friend-ship, which are two very different types of transportations and interactions.
As a grown up, emotional affairs like these can develop with coworkers or with our kid’s coach we become a little too comfortable with and find ourselves texting more and more. It can even be argued that we have an emotional affair whenever we put someone or something before our partner like work, a hobby (e.g. video games, or fitness), a ridiculously close best friend, or kids when they’re more of an obsession (these parents are scary attached to their kids). Essentially, whatever replaces our partner as the thing we give our heart to and spend all of our spare energy and time on is the thing with which we are emotionally cheating. No matter what we enjoy doing or who we enjoy talking to, our partner needs to feel important in order to prevent unnecessary hurt and fighting.
Traditional emotional affairs involving another person tend to be more damaging to a relationship because of the sense of betrayal it causes. Being second to work is hurtful, but it’s not as bad as being second to the secretary. Ultimately, if your partner is uncomfortable with the dynamic between you and this other person, it needs to be addressed because even if this relationship doesn’t bloom into a full on affair, the loneliness and rejection it causes can become a major motivator and justification for your partner to start his or her own side relationship or develop a life without you that will eventually lead to breaking up. The other option is your partner will become so resentful and mean towards you for having the emotional affair, you will end up leaving the relationship and blame your partner for pushing you away when, in fact, your actions were the catalyst. Thus, when anyone feels like they’re being cheated on it needs to be addressed because it will likely lead to the end of the relationship in one way or another.
Signs of an Emotional Affair
- You act and/or talk differently to this person (i.e. like when you were a teen and liked someone).
- You’d message or talk differently to this person if your partner was there.
- You find excuses to message, talk, and/or see this person even at the expense of your partner.
- You hide or downplay how much you message, talk, and/or see this person.
- You give this person a different contact name in case your partner looks at your phone.
- You try to delete all this person’s messages to be safe.
- You get surprisingly angry or worried if your partner tries to look at your phone.
- Everything keeps reminding you of him or her.
- When you talk to other people you want to talk about him or her in a good way or complain about your partner.
- Thinking about this person or messages from him or her always make you feel better.
- You vent your frustrations to this person, especially frustrations about your partner.
- You let thoughts of what life would be like with this other person to enter your mind.
- Your partner mentions that lately you seem distant or distracted.
- Everything your partner does annoys you
- If your partner questions your faithfulness you get surprisingly defensive.
- Messages get shared at weird times like late at night and early morning.
- You make sure you look your best when you know this person will see you.
There is no set number of the above that need to be felt in order for it to be classified as an emotional affair, but again, the bigger concern is if the either partner feels like they’re being replaced as your priority because this will likely add to defensiveness and fighting, which will further cause a wedge between the couple. Thus, we will all be happier when we help those important to us feel important to us.
This week may you recheck how well you’re helping your partner feel important.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people