Most often when one thinks of an affair or cheating, the assumption is that a spouse or partner has committed a sex act with someone outside their marriage. However, this is not always the case. Cheating [7 Signs of a Cheating Spouse] can take many forms, as I have written about in previous blogs. The truth is emotional affairs can be more damaging and more difficult to recover from than physical affairs. [My Spouse Cheated, now what do I do?] One reason is because the couple in the affair are sharing more than just their bodies. They are sharing intimate thoughts, dreams, ideas, emotions and their heart. When in a monogamous relationship, it’s also fun, taboo and forbidden.
I have learned in my own recovery and while working with clients that there is a secret among women that most men are not always aware of. It involves two simple things that are rarely discussed, and I am not sure why. However, the two things are time and attention. Generally, this is often more true for women than men but can be true for both.
Most emotional affairs begin with dissatisfaction with their current relationship. An individual may believe they deserve to be happy, and someone else will make them happy. They lean away from their spouse or partner. There is an awareness of others around them at work, the gym, ministry, community events, bars, or social clubs, etc. The first meeting may be innocent, but then meetings become more regular and intentional. The conversation that started with a simple hello eventually shifts to sharing about their day, struggles, and eventually feelings.
The workplace or office is a great place for emotional affairs to occur, as the person is assigned to work with or works alongside the individual for a real purpose. This is where a lot a time is spent together and attention is given to one another. Working meetings, lunches, dinners and travel happen for the sake to get a project done. As the couple becomes more comfortable with one another, joking and flirting moves to sharing personal information, such as feelings about their work stress, life, children and spouse. And finally, they may express feelings toward each other.
The man may or may not have any sexual interest in the woman; however, the woman and other women in the office are all aware of what is going on. The man is giving this woman his time and attention, and she’s probably enjoying it. He is most likely enjoying it as well. Both are getting their emotional needs met at work so that when they get home they may begin to become distant from their spouse since their emotional tanks are filled.
Now, the workplace is not the only venue emotional affairs occur. In our practice, I have seen an increase in emotional affairs thanks to social media and technology. I am not anti-social media, but I do believe it can make a good person better and a hurting, lonely person more vulnerable. I have had personal friends and clients who have been married 10 to 20 years that have rediscovered people they dated in high school, began to reconnect with them and eventually leave their spouse or partner. There is something so emotionally and chemically powerful with their first love that they will leave their spouse and children to recapture those feelings.
Many physical affairs start out as emotional affairs. However, not all emotional affairs become physical. Not all individuals having an emotional affair desire to leave their spouse or partner. Most have a difficult time even admitting they are having an emotional affair. Intimacy anorexics have a great deal of denial and [So you Married an Intimacy Anorexic] are well known for emotional affairs that do not become physical. [Take the Intimacy Anorexia Test] Here are some things to consider if you might be having an emotional affair.
- Seeing this person is the highlight of your day, and you long to see them again.
- You feel excited, happy, and alive after spending time with them.
- You flirt, laugh and joke with them.
- You act differently around them in voice, tone, and body language than with others.
- You give them special treatment, such as cards, emails, flowers, or gifts.
- You have spent time together with them outside of work.
- You have not told your spouse or partner about this person.
Here are some things to consider if you think your spouse is having an emotional affair.
- They are excited to leave home and get to work.
- They have been emotionally and/or physically distant with you.
- Intimacy/sex has declined.
- They become defensive when you ask them about work.
- They become defensive when you ask them about individuals at work.
- They become defensive when you ask to see their phone, computer or internet activity.
- They hide or deny you passwords or access to email, social media, or credit card accounts.
If you or your spouse are having an emotional affair, do not panic. There is hope, and restoration is possible.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.