Emotional cheating can be just a devastating to the other partner as an actual affair.
An affair doesn't have to be sexual to undermine a marriage. Whenever one spouse develops a strong emotional tie to a member of the opposite sex outside the marriage, the consequences can be devastating. Known as “emotional affairs,” these extramarital liaisons do not include sexual intimacy, but they are powered by strong feelings and wrapped in secrecy.
Because no sex is involved, it may be easy for the spouse who is having an emotional affair to justify his or her behavior as harmless. But is such a strong attachment outside the marriage really harmless, and if it is, why keep it hidden?
The truth is trust in marriage is based on emotional exclusivity–intimacies shared between two people and no others. The moment one partner suspects the other of betraying that trust, the entire foundation of the marriage may wobble. Indeed there are few betrayals more humiliating than learning that your spouse has shared emotional intimacies with someone outside the sacred circle of two, particularly someone with no interest in preserving your marriage or honoring its boundaries.
Unfortunately, with social media sites such as Facebook becoming widely popular, incidents of emotional cheating have become much more commonplace. A simple click of the mouse can reconnect two people who otherwise would have never thought about contacting one and other. Friendly messages, which at first are innocent enough, often turn into not so innocent dialogues reminiscing about past romances that could have been. People in these situations may eventually even confide to each other about the lack of happiness or intimacy in their current relationships.
In such instances, there is a clear betrayal of trust even though there is no sex involved. If revealed, this type of emotional betrayal can be just as painful and devastating to the other partner.
According to researchers though, emotional infidelity most frequently occurs in the workplace. When members of the opposite sex spend hours each day working side by side together, it is not surprising that emotional attachments can often form and take root. In the realm of work, sympathetic co-workers are natural allies, sharing the same pressures, deadlines, and office community. When they have an opportunity to let off steam around the water cooler or kick back with a drink after work, they may let their chatter drift from office politics to personal matters, actively nourishing an emotional bond.
The same dynamics can alter a platonic friendship between a man and woman. Such friendships, which are often based on a mutual interest or shared history, are possible only when both people honor personal boundaries. Once they start sharing deeply intimate information about their spouses or their feelings, they have breached that safety zone and have committed an emotional affair.
Emotional affairs are often difficult to pin down. If you are worried that your mate has grown too close to a member of the opposite sex, here are a few things to think about:
- Is your mate secretive about who they communicate with online? Do they openly share their email password and Facebook login with you?
- Is your spouse spending more time than usual with a friend or co-worker?
- Is he or she suddenly picking up a co-worker for work, dropping things off at a friend's house, meeting a friend for coffee more often than usual?
- Have the after-work get-togethers become more frequent or irregular?
- Have you been made to feel like an outsider, not welcome in your mate's office, or other social events?
- Do you often feel that your spouse puts a friend or co-worker's needs before your own? And, most significantly, what is your gut telling you?
If you are not prone to jealousy or suspicion and you find yourself feeling both with some frequency, perhaps there is some foundation to your hurt and concern.
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