‘A great relationship doesn’t happen because of the love you had in the beginning, but how well you continue to build the love till the end.’ Relationships, specifically romantic or marital relationships, form a significant part of our lives. However, relationships are not always a bed of roses, and sometimes, infidelity can get in the way. Cheating doesn’t only involve physical relationships. Many times, a relationship might go through a phase of emotional infidelity. Emotional infidelity involves having an emotional affair with someone other than a partner or a spouse and includes a lot of emotional energy invested in the other relationship. While it might be a little tricky to recognize this phenomenon, some signs might indicate emotional infidelity.
What Exactly Is Emotional Infidelity?
The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines infidelity as “the situation in which one partner in a marriage or intimate relationship becomes sexually or emotionally involved with a person other than the partner’s spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend [partner].” Emotional infidelity emphasizes more on the emotional part of this definition. A partner who is in an emotional affair with someone tends to attribute the dynamic roles of their partner onto the other person while mimicking the intimacy of an actual relationship.
Also Read: Can you be in love with someone and cheat on them? Why do people cheat in a relationship?
How Common Are Emotional Affairs?
It isn’t easy to evaluate the exact statistics of the prevalence of emotional affairs. Many people in affair surveys are not honest to themselves as well as to the interviewer, and affair surveys cannot measure what is denied. However, based on the available statistics, about 35 percent of wives and 45 percent of husbands report having emotional affairs, according to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. These might not be exactly accurate; however, people dealing with the emotional affairs of their partner are clearly far from alone.
Effects Of Emotional Infidelity
Relationships, especially romantic relationships, have a stronghold on both the partners’ emotional health and well-being. And more often than not, the foundation of a long term relationship is laid based on the emotional intimacy. Therefore, something like an emotional affair can be pretty devastating to the person who is cheated on. According to the APA, Infidelity has been linked to significant adverse emotional and behavioral consequences, especially for the individual who is cheated on. Signs including decreased self-esteem and increased risk of depression and suicide. Additionally, it is one of the common causes of divorce or relationship dissolution.
Identifying Emotional Cheating
The definition of emotional infidelity largely depends on the boundaries set in a particular relationship as to what constitutes intimacy and what is okay to pass as a good friendship. These boundaries vary on a large spectrum of culture, experiences, environment, and many other perceptions. Therefore, the onus lies in effective and clear communication followed by the willingness to forge mutually agreeable boundaries since the beginning of a relationship to protect it from the possible turbulence that an emotional affair on the part of any partner can cause.
Also Read: Always be alert to observe any toxic communication in your marriage; it is also a sign of emotional detachment or infidelity.
Causes Of Emotional Infidelity
While not definite, it is important to note and address the possible causes of emotional infidelity that might be already present to a smaller or greater degree in the relationship.
1. Unmet Needs
Human beings have a variety of needs in different hierarchies. And while one can fulfill some of those independently, some of these needs gets fulfilled solely in meaningful and healthy relationships. This includes the physical needs as well as emotional needs of feeling love, belongingness and safety. Romantic relationships become a primary source of having these needs met. Therefore, if some needs remain unfulfilled, it can lead to people finding other ways and means of fulfilling them.
2. Major Life Changes
Whether it is a pregnancy, a job change, a marriage, the demise of a loved one, or any other change which is perceived to be life-changing, it can bring about a lot of emotional and behavioral variations in a person. This can become difficult for the partners in a relationship to navigate. And can cause one or both members to seek emotional intimacy elsewhere. However, preparing for changes that can be anticipated and dealing in a healthy way with the changes which turn up unexpectedly might allow a couple to support each other and protect their relationship from major harm.
3. Unhealthy Social Relationships
Marriages and partnerships are primarily social institutions and, therefore, require and demand social support. Unfortunately, the lack of healthy friendships, supportive social relationships, and the weak guidance of social support systems can cause couples to crumble; hence under pressure they seek relief in unhealthy ways. Therefore, it is crucial to invest time and effort in creating genuine social relationships that can be our shoulder to lean on when times get tough.
8 Emotional Cheating Signs You Are Dealing With An Emotional Affair
While there are no specific signs to define an emotional affair due to the subjectivity of the definition; instead there are some red flags to look out for.
1. Unhealthy Emotional Roles
Emotional roles vary from relationship to relationship. And the emotional role of a spouse or a partner is irreplaceable in a healthy relationship. However, in an emotional affair, these roles are seen to be attributed to the participants of the affair, which causes the deepening of the emotional intimacy shared between the participants.
2. The Actual Relationship Suffers
Romantic and marital relationships demand emotional investment from both partners for an extended period of time. Whenever this emotional investment drawn into a relationship with someone other than one’s partner, it can cause partners to drift apart, neglect each other, have their needs met from the affair or engage in fights and conflicts or even cause separation.
3. The Relationship is Confusing
Emotional investment in an affair, you can’t call it or confuse it with genuine friendship. An emotional affair often involves the partner engaged in it to see the other person in place of their actual partner. As a result, they tend to actualize all emotional intimacy with this other person.
4. Deception and Secrecy
This is an extremely common and equally dangerous facet of emotional infidelity. Whenever a person is in an emotional affair with someone knowingly or deniably, start harvesting . The person engaged in the affair might recognize it as inappropriate. Hence, may foster paramount secrecy and deception with their partners, thereby deepening the issue.
5. The Mention of the Other Person is Uncomfortable
Usually, people in a romantic relationship can gauge the direction of their relationship. Therefore, even if they deny the existence of an emotional affair, the mentions of the other person might be uncomfortable to them as well as to their partner. They may lie about the time spent with that person, delete texts or call history. In general, even avoid the mention of that person while discussing their daily activities.
6. You do not Feel Connected to your Partner
Relationships thrive on a genuine connection after the initial ‘spark’ has died down. An emotional affair significantly hampers this connection. When one does not feel connected to their partners at all, it further causes the relationship to spiral towards destruction.
7. You Ignore your House
An emotional affair robs a person of intimacy with their partners and their entire home. When your romance starts seeming more important than your family, spouse, kids or home; it is a massive red flag and a sign that you should stop in your tracks and re-evaluate.
8. Your Overall Life Suffers
Unhealthy relationships and unhealthy ways of coping never helped anyone. An emotional affair is no different. It can cause many lives to suffer not only yourselves but also to near and dear ones.
While it might be easy to assume that emotional infidelity will never affect you or your partner. But chances are, there might be sometimes when it may come knocking. During these times, it is essential to have a safety net of respectful communication, an open-minded approach and a strong willingness to make that relationship work. Either on one’s own or with the help, try to address the issue before it even begins; and avoid navigating an extremely rough patch.