This week we’ve been talking about what emotional infidelity (also known as an emotional affair) may look like. From my experience, emotional infidelity can be just as damaging—if not more—as a physical affair. Frequently I hear clients claim, “But we’re just friends” when talking about a relationship that appears to cross marital boundaries. It’s not uncommon for clients to get defensive when I call their friendship an emotional affair. I often hear a variation of the following statement: “But we’ve never been intimate/physical/had sex”.
In her book “Not Just Friends”, Shirley Glass writes, “The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust."
Emotional infidelity is so subtle that most people don’t realize they have crossed a line. Read below for some additional warning signs that it may be emotional infidelity:
4. You compare them verbally and mentally to your partner
This is a huge danger sign. You may find yourself tallying all the “positive” and “right” things about your friend, and counting all the “negative” and “wrong” things about your partner. My friend has similar interests and passions. My spouse and I have nothing in common. My friend wants to hear about my thoughts, opinions, and feelings. My spouse could care less and never asks anymore.
You spend time making a case for your friend and building a case against your partner. Psychologically, your brain starts to associate pleasure with the friend and pain with your spouse.
5. You obsess, think and/or daydream about the person
You may find yourself looking forward to seeing your friend, sharing news with them, spending time with them, and thinking about them when you’re apart. The question you need to ask yourself is: Do you feel this way with your other friendships? If not, it’s a sign that the relationship is probably inappropriate.
When you get excited to see someone, the anticipation releases dopamine in your brain, making you feel high and on top of the world. This creates and reinforces toxic thinking patterns (a.k.a. being under the influence of the affair, being drunk on love).
6. You believe that this person “gets” you
Whenever I hear someone say their friend “just gets me”, it is an immediate red flag for me as a therapist. Of course your affair partner gets you! Your emotional affair serves a purpose--oftentimes it highlights the voids or problem areas that exist in your marriage. But, it is an illusion. One of the reasons emotional infidelity is so dangerous to a marriage is because it creates mutual understanding, a strong bond, and deep emotional intimacy.
This intimacy causes your brain to release pleasure neurochemicals, such as oxytocin. This makes you feel love and safety from your connectedness to the emotional affair. You start to approach your marriage with a different perspective—what you are getting or not getting from your partner—instead of looking at what you are/are not contributing to it.
Continue to read this week as we talk about more warning signs that it could be emotional infidelity.
*Source: Warning Signs That It’s Emotional Infidelity- And Not Just Friendship by Athena Staik
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.
Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.