While you may be confident that your marriage isn’t at risk for a sexual affair, you may be blind to the very real and harmful risks of an emotional affair. A recent article posted by CNN.com and Oprah.com describes emotional affairs, which lack physical intimacy but do involve some secrecy, deception and betrayal.
Often an emotional affair can begin very innocently with a friendship from work, church or the neighborhood. A flirtatious online relationship can also develop into an emotional affair. Couples who are not emotionally connecting are at greatest risk of falling into an emotional affair with another person. This new connection brings about a fresh excitement, a spark, especially when someone you find attractive shows a sincere interest in you as a person and “gets” you even more than you feel your spouse does.
Emotional affairs may be on the rise. In the CNN article, psychiatrist Gail Saltz says, “Though emotional affairs have always been around, I’m seeing more of them among my clients than ever before. We’ve all grown so used to watching, reading, and hearing sexually suggestive material that there’s no longer an obvious verbal or physical line we think we’re crossing.”
She says a man and woman can be friends, but once they stop telling their partners how much time they’re spending together (including texting, phone calls or other communication), it becomes deceptive. Other signs of an emotional affair include making sure you look your best when you’re together and confiding more in this person than you do your spouse, or sharing that you are unhappy in your marriage or with your spouse.
Saltz says this kind of affair can be as harmful and difficult to overcome as a sexual affair. She advises that all contact with the “friend” needs to end, and the difficult marriage rebuilding needs to occur, ideally with professional help. The betrayal can be extremely difficult on the spouse, and cause a huge fracture in the marriage. The reasons for the affair (disconnect in the marriage) need to be addressed.
Preventing these inappropriate relationships is the best course, starting with maintaining open, honest communication with your spouse. “When a couple can’t express their feelings, concerns, and dreams, they’re both at risk for betrayal,” says Saltz. Secondly, avoid sharing too much personal information, especially with a member of the opposite sex. If you find someone attractive, keep some distance or engage with them only when your spouse is present.
“Any good marriage takes time, effort and emotional energy,” says Saltz, who says any marriage can fall into this trap. Would you risk your marriage with an emotional affair? Is there a relationship in your life that causes your heart to beat a little faster? Beware.