Is Your Partner Having an Emotional Affair?
Your partner isn't having a sexual affair, but is an emotional affair taking a toll on your relationship?
Jul 11, 2017Sexual Dysfunction
Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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Your partner is not having sex with someone, but they're spending a lot of time just talking, emailing and texting: Does that count as an affair?
Or are they off the proverbial hook? No way, says behavior analyst and infidelity expert Carmen McGuinness. A close, intimate emotional attachment is still considered an affair—an affair of the heart.
It's intimacy on a whole different level—and needs no physical contact to be considered an affair. It's a secret relationship, one in which a commitment is involved, creating a form of infidelity.
It can all happen quite innocently.
Then, it turns a little deeper: How is your marriage, really? Are you happy? Do you remember how special it was between us? Days gone by are relived; beckoning emotions to a different, sometimes better, place.
Without the messy pressures of a committed relationship and without the worries about everyday, mundane-but-necessary things like finances, kids, aging parents and life, your partner seeks solace in a person who is open and able to sit back and have relaxed, unpressured conversations. A person who "gets" him or her. Someone who is available to listen and pay attention.
Emotional affairs are not harmless
A friendship can easily veer into emotional-affair territory. These can wreck relationships. Just like a physical affair, this affair of the heart can break your partner's heart.
Even without any physical contact, these verbal exchanges can grow emotionally heated and quite involved, the bond as close and emotionally intimate as any physical relationship.
"These behaviors are generally regarded as reserved for committed partners and can threaten the marriage or relationship because the partner—not unexpectedly— expected these behaviors to be exclusive to the marriage or relationship," says McGuinness. The implication is that there is dissatisfaction with the nature or level of intimacy in your primary relationship, she says. "And data shows that an emotional connection and intimacy heightens the likelihood of a sexual connection."
Other relationship experts note that emotional affairs are anything but harmless, calling them "a new crisis of infidelity," and a threat to relationships everywhere. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy says that people who never intended to be unfaithful are "unwittingly crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships." Read more about why men cheat.
How do you know?
Read on for some clues that might be a sign or put your partner is having an emotional affair or at risk for one. It needn't wreck your marriage, but it can be painful. And it takes time to build back trust.
What if the affair has already transpired?