While my husband and I were in bed one night, I laughed aloud at something someone had texted me.
“Who are you talking to?” he asked.
“Oh, just Laura,” I said and tilted the phone so he could see the screen.
“Who’s Laura?” he asked.
“I work with her.”
Except “Laura” wasn’t a Laura at all. “Laura” was actually a Simon. To avoid my husband questioning me about why I was texting another man throughout the day, I’d put his name in my phone as one of a woman.
Sounds shady, right? Trying to keep a secret from my husband? But what if I told you Simon and I had never touched? No sex, no kissing. None of that. Would that still be so wrong?
Well, yes, and I’ll explain why more later.
I had filed for divorce from my husband three months before this, after I’d discovered he’d stolen from his job, but he and I were now in this weird sort of together phase. We were sort of still preparing to divorce one another, but we were still sharing a bed. He didn’t wear his wedding ring.
I’d ask myself every day, am I going to stay or leave? I didn’t know, and because I didn’t know, I just went through the motions of our shared life.
Then Simon came into the picture. He’d been a co-worker for years, but after we’d gone on a work trip together, I’d learned a lot about him that I liked. We started texting after work. He brought me books to read, and when I was upset with my husband, I reached out to him for comfort.
While my marriage had been slowly dying for months, it bit the dust as soon as that affair began. Simon and I didn’t touch each other once before I was officially separated, but it was an affair nonetheless.
If you are curious whether a relationship you have is an emotional affair, pay attention to these signs:
- You tell the outside person things that you don’t tell your partner (think intimate, personal things).
- You feel more irritable toward your partner after connecting with the outside person.
- You turn to the outside person for comfort.
- You start to wish your partner was more like the outside person.
- You try to prevent your partner from seeing texts or emails between you and the outside person (Remember the name change in my phone earlier?).
- You want less sex or more sex. When you do have sex, you find yourself thinking about the outside person during.
- You stop communicating with your partner beyond just sharing information (“I have to take Bobby to school” vs. “I got mad at my boss today.”)
- You feel like your relationship with the outside person is an “escape.”
- If your partner questions you about your relationship with the outside person, you get defensive about it.
- You say inappropriate things to the outside person, whether it be talking about sex, saying “I miss you,” or calling them pet names.
Emotional affairs can creep up on even the happiest of relationships. While some are started strategically, more often than not, they are made up of a lot of small unconscious boundary slippages. What started as a “friendship” slowly becomes more and more important than the romantic one until it replaces it in importance entirely.
In my situation, I was hurt and vulnerable when someone came into my life that paid me a great deal of kindness and attention. It didn’t take long at all for me to realize that I needed that over the painfulness of my dissolving marriage.
There’s a distinct difference between emotional affairs and friendships, and it has everything to do with boundaries. If you’re still unsure, here are some things for you to think about:
Am I oversharing with this outside person? Am I sharing with this other person intimate details of my relationship that my partner doesn’t even know about? Am I getting something from this outside person that I’m not getting my partner?
How do I feel when I’m around them? Do I wish for something more physical?
If my partner saw the interactions between me and this friend, how would they feel? What about if they heard or read our conversations? Would it make them uncomfortable? Would they feel hurt or betrayed?
How would you feel if you found out your partner had an outside person in their life that they were engaging with the way you are with your outside person? Hurt? Betrayed?
Potential or almost affairs (which emotional affairs can sometimes be called) are always indicators of something wrong. It could be because your relationship needs to end as was the case with mine, or it could be a sign that something needs to be addressed in your partnership or in yourself.
If you want to remain in your committed relationship, it’s important to stay aware of your boundaries and not let yourself unconsciously slip into something that you aren’t prepared for the consequences of.
Previously published on Psiloveyou.xyz.
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