The classic definition of an affair has always involved sexual interaction. Sometimes there is an emotional connection or sometimes it is purely physical. But the increase in technology has made communication easy and the world has become a small place. People now connect and reconnect digitally all day long and becoming close to someone doesn’t require physical proximity.
The ability to so easily stay in touch and in very private, covert ways has also made it easier than ever to have an affair. Not necessarily a sexual one, but an emotional one. Some might argue that these are even more harmful to relationships than the other kind.
Emotional affairs are far less deliberate than physical affairs. They often start as simple friendships. But when the friendship escalates to the point you are investing more time and energy into it than into your existing relationship things have crossed the line.
People involved in emotional affairs will often deny it, claiming that it is nothing more than friendship. They will claim that without sexual interaction there is no threat to their spouse or marriage. This is simply untrue. Often they don’t themselves even recognize the damage they are doing.
So how do you know if you have moved from the friend zone into the affair zone? Ask yourself some of the following questions.
• Do you think about your friend often and in overly fond ways?
• Do you feel a sense of excited anticipation when thinking about your next communication?
• Do you discuss things with your friend that you should be discussing with your partner?
• Do you ONLY disclose the things about your relationship and partner that bother you rather than discussing the positives?
• Have you discussed intimate details of your relationship issues with your friend rather than with your partner?
• Have you found yourself withdrawing from your partner, finding less interest in talking with them and spending time together?
• Do you feel guilty about, or like you have to hide the amount of time you spend communicating with your friend?
• Have you had to repeatedly clarify in your head or to others that the two of you are “just friends?”
If the answers to most of these questions is “yes” then you have changed zones, and not for the better.
Why An Emotional Affair Is So Detrimental
Some may think that an emotional affair is no big deal. In fact, some still argue that it isn’t an affair at all. After all, you haven’t broken any vows or been unfaithful, have you? As a matter of fact, you have. By sharing that level of intimacy with someone outside your relationship you have betrayed your partner.
An emotional affair can be far more damaging than a physical one. Sexual pleasure has a finite duration whereas an emotional connection or bond outside your relationship can be long-lived and seen as an even greater form of betrayal. And emotional affairs create a slippery slope into a physical one. Neither type of affair is acceptable and both will do severe damage to your relationship. It is hard to say “it didn’t mean anything” when the entire betrayal was about finding a deeper connection with another person outside your relationship.
If you have found yourself edging closer and closer to someone that isn’t your partner it is time to pause and evaluate both relationships. Just because there hasn’t been any physical contact does not mean that you are in the clear. Remember, if you feel like you have to hide something you have probably crossed the line.