The Truth About Emotional Affairs

Woman sitting in front of computer

It might have started with a conversation over the Internet, or with a seemingly innocent friendship in the workplace. Maybe it began as an uncomplicated thought: Unlike my spouse, this person really understands me.. What can it hurt? I need a little excitement in my life.

These romances may seem harmless — perhaps even "safe" alternatives to cheating on your spouse. The truth is, such relationships venture into dangerous territory; they may not initially lead to physical involvement, but they can still devastate marriages.

Not Just a Harmless Romance

"A new crisis of infidelity is emerging in which people who never intended to be unfaithful are unwittingly crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships ... ,"American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. www.aamft.org/families/Consumer_Updates/Infidelity.asp asserts the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

The statement is backed up by alarming statistics conducted through a national poll. While the findings showed that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had sexual affairs, it was also revealed that an additional 20 percent of married couples have been impacted by emotional infidelity.

Focus on the Family's Hope Restored marriage intensives

If you or a couple you know are in a hopeless place, Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored marriage intensives can help.

There's help available now

Impact of the Internet

Traditionally, the workplace has provided the most potential for extramarital affairs. Now, online communication has opened the floodgates for other opportunities to develop romantic entanglements.

"The Internet is a dangerous place," said Jim Vigorito, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist. "People can begin [a relationship] at an innocuous level, and then it can progress to something more."

What starts out as an emotional outlet can often lead a person down a slippery slope. Because the Web entices users with the lure of anonymity, one may be more prone to share personal issues with others — issues that they wouldn't normally talk about in person. With barriers down, a deep level of emotional intimacy can develop between two people quickly.

Not Just "Innocent Fun"

As prevalent as these affairs are becoming, they are not always easily identified or even seen as harmful. One reason lies in the lesser degree, or absence of, guilt and shame that often accompany extramarital sexual encounters.Dave Carder and Duncan Jaenicke, Torn Asunder: Recovering From Extramarital Affairs (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 222-3. The spouse entangled in the relationship may justify it as "innocent fun" due to the lack of physical contact. The impact this may have on a marriage varies according to the couple. In Vigorito's opinion, to women, the betrayal of emotional infidelity can be as debilitating as that of physical infidelity. Even though physical boundaries have not been crossed, "you're taking your best communication outside of your marriage, and then there's not much left to bring to your spouse."

Contributing Factors and Warning Signs

A number of factors can lead to having an emotional affair. Certainly, communication or conflict resolution issues can lure a spouse to look for companionship elsewhere. Extramarital relationships can also attract those wanting to escape stressful situations, pressure and responsibility associated with family. And as with other temptations like pornography, the pursuit of fantasy undermines the presence of reality.

Digital Pornography Addiction: What you need to know and where to find help

So how can you recognize an emotional affair? These signs may indicate that a relationship has gone too far:

  • You share personal thoughts or stories with someone of the opposite sex.
  • You feel a greater emotional intimacy with him or her than you do with your spouse.
  • You start comparing him or her to your spouse, and begin listing why your spouse doesn't add up.
  • You long for, and look forward to, your next contact or conversation.
  • You start changing your normal routine or duties to spend more time with him or her.
  • You feel the need to keep conversations or activities involving him or her a secret from your spouse.
  • You fantasize about spending time with, getting to know or sharing a life with him or her.
  • You spend significant time alone with him or her.

 

Put the Pieces of Your Marriage Back Together

You  may  feel  that  there is  no  hope  for  your  marriage  and  the  hurt  is  too  deep  to  restore  the  relationship  and  love  that you  once  had.  The  truth  is,  your  life  and  marriage  can  be  better  and  stronger  than  it  was  before.  In  fact,  thousands  of  marriages,  situations  as  complex  and  painful  as  yours,  have  been  transformed  with  the  help  of  professionals  who  understand  where  you  are  right  now  and  care  deeply  about  you  and  your  spouse’s  future.  You  can  restore  and  rebuild  your  marriage  through  a  personalized,  faith-based, intimate  program  called,  Hope  Restored.

Get Started>>

Copyright © 2006, Monika Lewis. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Avoiding and Ending an Affair