On More2Life Radio, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about infidelity, emotional affairs, and so-called “work spouses.” The topic has been especially hot with the news stories of hackers releasing the personal details of 32 million users of several popular adultery websites.
In light of this, PsychCentral has an excellent article describing 8 signs that you, or someone you love might be having an emotional affair. Emotional infidelity is best understood as the tendency for a married person to turn to a person outside the marriage for emotional support. Although most people think of emotional infidelity as involving a person of the opposite sex, Lisa and I argue that it could just as easily be someone of the same sex. Certainly there is nothing wrong with having even deep friendships outside the marriage, but because marriage is a sacrament–and moreover, a vocational sacrament–it has to be our most intimate relationship because it is the primary relationship God has ordained to be the engine of our personal and spiritual growth. ANY other relationship that distracts from our marriage having pride-of-place is arguably emotionally adulterous.
Regardless, because people often have a hard time discerning when they have crossed the line with a relationship outside the marriage, the following 8 signs can be a good indicator of whether your extra-marital friendships with either sex are appropriate.
8 Signs of an Emotional Affair
- Contact outside of “friendly” hours. If you find yourself communicating at questionable hours, this may be a sign. Most friends don’t text at 2am.
- You talk about the difficulties in your current relationship. You may have a close friend or two that you share your frustrations about your partner with. However, if you find yourself sharing all of your problems and concerns with this “special person”, you may be crossing the line.
- He/she dominates your thoughts. You think about him/her when you wake up, when you fall asleep, and mostly anytime in between. It’s important to remember that most affairs don’t start off in the bedroom, they start in the mind.
- He/she becomes the first person you call. You get some exciting news or you’ve had an awful day. Who do you call first, him/her or your partner?
- He/she “gets” you. You’re treading on thin ice when you start to feel like he/she understands better than your partner. This usually leads to increased communication with him/her and less communication with your partner. We are more likely to communicate with someone who we feel “gets” us than someone who does not.
- Spending more time with him/her. If you find yourself finding excuses or creating more reasons to spend time with him/her, this may be a sign. However, spending more time does not just mean physical time. If you are spending more time texting, emailing, or video chatting, this may be a sign as well.
- You start comparing your partner to him/her. Do you ever find yourself talking to your partner and you think to yourself, “he/she wouldn’t respond like this” or “he/she would be more attentive?” Are you often out with your partner and think, “if I were with him/her, I’d be having more fun?” This type of thinking is dangerous because it aut0matically makes him/her the good one and your partner the bad one.
- You lie. Yes, lying by omission counts. So whether you leave out meeting him/her for lunch, deleting messages from your phone, or you just deny communicating with him/her at all – a lie is a lie. If you have to lie, chances are you have something to hide; and if you have something to hide, chances are you know it’s not okay. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT PSYCHCENTRAL
If you find yourself answering “True” to ANY of these 8 signs, you may very well be having an emotional affair. At the very least, you are short-changing your marriage.
What’s the Answer?
The solutions is two-fold. First, the emotional cheater is going to have to start setting some appropriate boundaries on the extra-marital relationship. If the relationship is truly going to be “just friends” then your spouse should be included in it. You should be willing to share your conversations, invite your spouse along, talk openly about the time you spend with this other person and, most importantly, be willing to give much more time and energy to your marriage than to your outside relationships. Which leads to the second point.
You need to work on your marriage. Ending the “affair” isn’t enough. You need to find a way to get the lion’s share of support from your spouse that you have, up to now, been getting from your practical “significant other.” Many people I speak to despair of ever being able to do this. If you feel this way, it is time to seek some new resources and skills. A program like Retrouvaille (a weekend retreat with 6 follow-up sessions for couples who are struggling in their relationships) can at least begin to open the doors to communication. It isn’t a substitute for therapy, but it is a good start and an excellent complement. Another resource could be my book When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love . It is NOT just a book for couples who are struggling, but rather for any couple that wants to learn the 8 habits that separate truly happy couples from those who are either struggling or just getting by. It offers research-based advice in the context of our Catholic faith and spirituality and offers ways for you to grow closer to each other and to God through your marriage.
Of course, there are times when more individual attention is required, in those times, I hope you will feel comfortable reaching out to me through the Pastoral Solutions Institute Catholic Tele-Counseling Practice. I and my associates have over a 90% success rate with marriage counseling and we are here to help if you need some extra support and skill. Feel free to visit my website or call 740-266-6461 to make an appointment.
Emotional infidelity is a common marital trap, but your marriage doesn’t have to get stuck in that trap forever. We can help you find ways to not only leave the emotional affair behind, but also learn how to fall in love all over again–with your spouse.