Are you in a friendship with someone outside of your relationship and are you wondering if you are in an emotional affair. I mean it’s just a friendship, right? How can it be an affair?
For many people, an affair isn’t an affair if there isn’t sex involved. Unfortunately, there is a kind of infidelity where there is no sex but there is something worse – true emotional connection – an emotional affair.
Emotional affairs are, in many ways, more destructive than sexual affairs. Emotional affairs involve having a deep connection with someone who is not your partner, a connection that is hard to walk away from. It involves feelings that are stronger than friendship, feelings that might seem innocent but might actually be leading to something unexpected.
Because there is no sex involved, only emotions, emotional affairs aren’t always easy to identify. They start out, more often than not, as a friendship but slowly evolve to something more.
I am guessing if you are reading this article you might be wondering if you are in an emotional affair and how to tell if you are. You might not want to believe you are, because it’s something that you never believed you could do, but it’s important to know the signs so that you can have some awareness as you move forward.
To better understand if you are in an emotional affair, let me tell you 5 seemingly innocent things that you might be doing that will tell you if you are having one.
#1 – Confidences.
More often than not, emotional affairs start with confidences, things that are somewhat intimate which are shared with another person.
A client of mine told me about when her emotional affair started. She was taking a walk and she ran into a married male friend of hers, one that she had known for years. She had been struggling with chronic sadness and she didn’t know what to do about it. She, for some reason, told him. He told her that he, too, had experienced those feelings and that he had just been diagnosed with depression.
So, began their friendship, bound by the admission of depression. Her husband and his wife never understood how their partners could be depressed. Life was good and the kids were thriving – what was there to be depressed about. But they understood each other. They understood that, even though life was good, people get depressed.
As their friendship grew they started sharing more and more with each other, things that they didn’t feel safe sharing with their spouses. They came to believe that the other person understood them in a way that no one else ever had, certainly more than their spouse did. They grew to rely on that friend more and more for support, turning away from their spouse in the process.
Do you share confidences with your friend in a way that you don’t with your partner? Does your friend know things about you that others don’t. Sharing confidences is definitely an indicator that you might be in an emotional affair and you should be aware of it.
#2 – The need for contact.
My client shared with me that as their friendship grew, so did their need to be in contact with each other. They worked together so they saw each other frequently but their casual hallway conversations turned into coffees and lunches and cocktails.
She said that the feeling that she got when her phone text alert went off was one of anticipation and excitement. When it was him, she was thrilled. When it wasn’t him, she felt anxious and uneasy, wondering where he was and what he was doing.
The worst, she said, were the weekends when there was no communication at all. She felt like, without her friend to talk to, she was adrift.
Have you found that you have more communication with your friend than you used to? Do you find yourself looking forward to talking to them and being disappointed when you weren’t able to? If yes, you just might be in an emotional affair, whether you want to believe it or not.
#3 – Preoccupation.
My client told me that, as their friendship and connection grew, she found herself having a hard time thinking of things other than the time she spent with her friend.
She would think about him first thing in the morning and she would dress carefully so that when she went into work he might notice. She made herself available at lunch time, distancing herself from her other co-workers. At night, during the family dinner, she found herself unable to focus on her family, thinking instead about her friend and a conversation they shared as they sat next to each other on a bench.
Do you find yourself preoccupied by your friendship with your person? Do you find yourself going out of your way to see them? Do you find yourself having a hard time focusing on other things in your life because of your preoccupation?
If you are, this is a sign of an emotional affair that shouldn’t be ignored.
#4 – Hiding things.
When my client first started spending time with this co-worker, she would often tell her husband about their conversations because they were just that, conversations. Conversations that she would have with any other co-worker. When the conversations became more intimate, full of confidences, she stopped telling her husband about them.
She started to lie to her husband about who she had lunch with and who she was texting with and why. She would purposefully not tell him things that she told her friend, wanted to share them with her friend exclusively. She pulled further and further away from her husband and moved towards her friend.
If you are involved in a friendship and you lie to your partner about it, you are, most likely having an emotional affair. How would you feel if your partner did the same to you? Betrayed, I am guessing.
#5 – Physical attraction.
This final sign is one that sneaks up on us.
My client said that after just a few weeks of talking so intimately with her friend she started to feel a deep physical attraction to him. At first, she ignored it, figuring it was a figment of her imagination. This guy was just a friend and having sexual feelings for him was absurd.
But, as the weeks went on, her attraction to him grew. She would find opportunities to touch him whenever she could and when she did she felt an electricity that would move down through her body. It was a feeling that she hadn’t had for years with her husband and the feeling drew her closer, emotionally, to her friend.
Physical attraction isn’t always present during emotional affairs but if you are feeling it, you are definitely more than friends and you should carefully consider your next steps before your friendship gets out of hand.
Knowing the seemingly innocent things that might show that you are in an emotional affair is of vital importance as doing so will help you make conscious choices going forward.
My client said that she never expected the emotional affair to develop. She and her person really were friends and had been for years. For this friendship to grow into what it was surprised and overwhelmed her. And what she realized was that she loved this man and would have walked away from her family because she believed that he was her soul mate. All because of some confidences a few months earlier.
So, take a good look at your friendship with this person. Do you share things with them that you don’t tell anyone else? Do you need to be in regular contact with them or you get anxious? Do you find yourself distracted by thoughts of them and the time you spend together? Are you hiding things from your partner? Are you feeling deep sexual attraction for the first time in years?
All of these things are signs of an emotional affair. Again, I know that you never thought of yourself as a cheater and you definitely didn’t set out for this to happen but emotional affairs creep out of nowhere.
Take some time, right now, to consider if you want this emotional affair to expand into something more. Is it worth blowing up your life for? Whether the emotional affair is in real life or online, it has the power to change your life in a way that might not turn out very well in the end.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.