Answering the Question..."Is My Partner Having an Emotional Affair?"
By Susie and Otto Collins
Let's say that you are in a heterosexual love relationship
or marriage and your partner has a close friend who is of
the opposite sex.
Of course, you want your mate to have
friends and a happy social life, but how can you tell if the
friendship is starting to, or already has, become something
What are the signs of an emotional affair?
Is there really such a thing as an emotional affair?
Traditionally, infidelity or cheating has mainly pertained
to sexually or physically intimate behaviors that a person
has with someone while already in a committed relationship
with someone else.
Creating a relationship with another person that does NOT
include sexual interaction shouldn't be considered
an affair...right? Not necessarily.
June's husband Kris recently found an old friend of his on
the internet. In fact, this woman was Kris' first love as an
adolescent although he never dated her. The two of them
recently happened upon one another on a social networking
site and have started re-connecting online ever since.
Kris told June about finding his first love on the internet
and he's even been honest with June about how much he's
enjoying chatting with the woman.
At the same time, Kris reassures June that there's nothing
inappropriate going on. He tells her that she shouldn't
worry. But June is worried. How can she tell if Kris is
falling into an emotional affair with his first love?
It seems to June that Kris is spending more time online than
he used to. He is also increasingly more vague when he talks
about his communications with the woman. June doesn't want
to seem jealous or controlling, but she is
secretly afraid of losing Kris and doesn't know what to do.
What are the signs of an emotional affair?
There are specific signs that you can look for if you are
trying to determine whether your partner is having an
emotional affair. These might include: secretiveness about
interactions with the other person, a stronger emotional
bond than the love relationship or marriage, a preference
for the friend instead of the partner, feelings of sexual
attraction underlying the friendship.
Some of these signs may be evident to you as you observe
your mate and some may not be as clear. While trying to make
observations of your partner's behavior can be useful in
figuring out whether or not he or she is having an emotional
affair, we encourage you to look at a different
Rather than placing most, or all, of your attention on what
you see (or think you're seeing) in your partner's
interactions with this other person, we highly recommend
that you look more closely at your own interactions with
How connected do you feel with him or her? On what levels do
you two tend to connect? Sometimes when the emotional
connection is weak or seems lacking in a person's love
relationship, he or she will look outside that relationship
to fulfill emotional intimacy needs.
It can be quite powerful and informative to take as
objective a look as you can at how close you and your mate
are and address those gaps within your own relationship.
What are your needs?
In the face of her fears that Kris is having an emotional
affair over the internet, June begins to take a closer look
at her relationship with Kris. She knows that their
relationship isn't perfect and she's aware that on certain
levels, they both hold back from one another.
June starts to think about ways she could open up more to
Kris. She begins to explore her own blocks to connecting
As you start to gain a better understanding of how
connected you and your mate are and become more aware of the
blocks to emotional (or other) intimacy that exist in your
relationship, you might feel a shift. This movement toward
your partner could help him or her to see that there is no
need to go outside your relationship for those unmet
We are absolutely NOT saying that the partner of the person
having an emotional affair is to blame. There are always
complex dynamics at work in relationships and within
What we are saying is that when you address unmet needs in a
relationship-- your own and
your partner's-- you have a greater chance of heading off
something like an emotional affair or another form of
Get in touch with the needs that you have as well. You may
need to feel like your efforts to move closer to your mate
are being met with openness and appreciation, for example.
If you choose to, share with your partner the ways that you
are shifting your own attentions and priorities to address
these relationship gaps. You can even make requests of your
mate. June, for example, might ask Kris to turn off the
computer a little earlier than usual so that the two of them
can spend time connecting.
You can set boundaries when it comes to your mate's
interactions with this friend. Try not to phrase the
boundary as an ultimatum or a threat, however. Keep the
lines of communication open and speak about what you want in
your relationship more than what you don't want to happen
(or happen more) between your partner and this other person.
An emotional affair can feel just as hurtful as other forms
of infidelity. You and your partner might need to bolster
the health of the trust in your relationship in the face of
an emotional affair.
Keep it honest, open and maintain your focus primarily on
the interactions between you and your mate. Stay in
touch with how you feel and allow that to guide you.
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