Can you cheat without being physically intimate?
It all started with an innocent friendship, a simple flirty comment and WHAMO! Chemistry takes over and your internal world ignites on fire, you get excited, and your mind races a thousand miles a minute. Emotional affairs don’t include physical intimacy….it is basically all emotion.
Here are a few items that constitute an emotional affair:
- The Relationship is Hidden: A key factor to understanding the difference between a good friendship and an emotional affair is when the relationship becomes secretive, hidden, and out of your partner’s view. You tend to step outside to speak on the phone, send a text message when you go into the bathroom, you delete messages/photos/texts, or you keep their phone glued to your hip at all times.
- Emotional and Mentally Consuming: Emotional affairs can become consuming both mentally and emotionally. The thoughts and emotions no longer consist of your partner; you tend to be all about this other relationship. It can feel as if you are “alive” again, looking forward to talking to the other person again. Thinking. Wondering. Day Dreaming.
- Emotional Reaching: When you have exciting news, feeling worried about work, or upset about a family member, you no longer reach to your partner for comfort. You reach out to this other person for emotional comfort and closeness to share your emotional world with them. They are the first person you reach to for comfort, and then later down the list you reach to your partner…(or not even at all).
- The HIGH: Often this new relationship creates an “emotional high,” a euphoric feeling. People tend to find more energy, willing to stay up later to talk on the phone/text/instant message chat, and can survive on less sleep because of this rush they get from the relationship. The excitement and flirtation is emotionally and physically arousing.
- Flirtation: It might have started with an innocent friendship flirt, but now flirtation comes out more than it would with anyone else. Your mind gets consumed with endless flirty comments and humor that you haven’t had for a while. The fun flirty chats are exciting and you can’t wait for the next time you chat with them.
- Talking about them: Emotional affairs you might catch yourself talking about this person more frequently and they run across your mind more often. You bring this person up in conversations you have with others and you can’t stop talking about them in a positive light. Every topic seems to have a relationship with this “friend” of yours.
- The Held-back Thoughts: You hold back from sharing your thoughts or interactions that you have with this person. You have so much to say about this person, but you don’t say a thing. Something inside holds you back on bringing them up in conversation…kinda like your body is sensing something more than a friendship is occurring.
- Crossing the Line: Having an emotional affair is also when you cross the line with sharing appropriate information. Crossing the line with information is opening up and sharing intimate things with this person where your partner is often the only one you do this with. You send intimate photos, sexting, or flirty comments where this would only happen in the past with your partner. You text message constantly throughout the day.
- Dreams: You dream more of this person and the dreams have crossed into more intimate dreams where you are getting closer either emotionally, physically…or both.
- Ditching Responsibility: Emotional affairs can also include ditching work or responsibilities to spend time with this person either in person or over electronics. This isn’t the case for everyone. Some people are able to stay on track with daily responsibilities, while other people get distracted where responsibilities are pushed aside and put on the back burner.
- Internal Justifying: You justify your actions because “at least I am not having sex”…an emotional affair doesn’t include sex or physical intimacy, the one-night stands, or the weekly hookups. The innocent friendships that start off with a flirt grows into a deep emotional connection…and then you might find that you justify the relationship to make it okay.
Are you and your partner dealing with the aftermath of emotional cheating? Come see me!
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653