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Surviving Emotional Affairs

Emotional Affair?

Answering the Question..."Is My Partner Having an Emotional Affair?"

By Susie and Otto Collins

Let's say that you are in a heterosexual love relationship or marriage and your partner has a close friend who is of the opposite sex.

Of course, you want your mate to have friends and a happy social life, but how can you tell if the friendship is starting to, or already has, become something more?

What are the signs of an emotional affair?

Is there really such a thing as an emotional affair?
Traditionally, infidelity or cheating has mainly pertained to sexually or physically intimate behaviors that a person has with someone while already in a committed relationship with someone else.

Creating a relationship with another person that does NOT include sexual interaction shouldn't be considered an affair...right? Not necessarily.

June's husband Kris recently found an old friend of his on the internet. In fact, this woman was Kris' first love as an adolescent although he never dated her. The two of them recently happened upon one another on a social networking site and have started re-connecting online ever since.

Kris told June about finding his first love on the internet and he's even been honest with June about how much he's enjoying chatting with the woman.

At the same time, Kris reassures June that there's nothing inappropriate going on. He tells her that she shouldn't worry. But June is worried. How can she tell if Kris is falling into an emotional affair with his first love?

It seems to June that Kris is spending more time online than he used to. He is also increasingly more vague when he talks about his communications with the woman. June doesn't want to seem jealous or controlling, but she is
secretly afraid of losing Kris and doesn't know what to do.

What are the signs of an emotional affair?

There are specific signs that you can look for if you are trying to determine whether your partner is having an emotional affair.

These might include: secretiveness about interactions with the other person, a stronger emotional bond than the love relationship or marriage, a preference for the friend instead of the partner, feelings of sexual attraction underlying the friendship.

Some of these signs may be evident to you as you observe your mate and some may not be as clear.

While trying to make observations of your partner's behavior can be useful in figuring out whether or not he or she is having an emotional affair, we encourage you to look at a different dynamic instead.

Rather than placing most, or all, of your attention on what you see (or think you're seeing) in your partner's interactions with this other person, we highly recommend that you look more closely at your own interactions with your partner.

How connected do you feel with him or her? On what levels do you two tend to connect?

Sometimes when the emotional connection is weak or seems lacking in a person's love relationship, he or she will look outside that relationship to fulfill emotional intimacy needs.

It can be quite powerful and informative to take as objective a look as you can at how close you and your mate are and address those gaps within your own relationship.

What are your needs?

In the face of her fears that Kris is having an emotional affair over the internet, June begins to take a closer look at her relationship with Kris. She knows that their relationship isn't perfect and she's aware that on certain levels, they both hold back from one another.

June starts to think about ways she could open up more to Kris. She begins to explore her own blocks to connecting with him.

As you start to gain a better understanding of how
connected you and your mate are and become more aware of the blocks to emotional (or other) intimacy that exist in your relationship, you might feel a shift.

This movement toward your partner could help him or her to see that there is no need to go outside your relationship for those unmet

We are absolutely NOT saying that the partner of the person having an emotional affair is to blame. There are always complex dynamics at work in relationships and within individuals themselves.

What we are saying is that when you address unmet needs in a relationship-- your own and
your partner's-- you have a greater chance of heading off something like an emotional affair or another form of infidelity.

Get in touch with the needs that you have as well. You may need to feel like your efforts to move closer to your mate are being met with openness and appreciation, for example.

If you choose to, share with your partner the ways that you are shifting your own attentions and priorities to address these relationship gaps. You can even make requests of your mate.

June, for example, might ask Kris to turn off the computer a little earlier than usual so that the two of them can spend time connecting.

You can set boundaries when it comes to your mate's interactions with this friend. Try not to phrase the boundary as an ultimatum or a threat, however.

Keep the lines of communication open and speak about what you want in your relationship more than what you don't want to happen (or happen more) between your partner and this other person.

An emotional affair can feel just as hurtful as other forms of infidelity. You and your partner might need to bolster the health of the trust in your relationship in the face of an emotional affair.

Keep it honest, open and maintain your focus primarily on the interactions between you and your mate.  Stay in touch with how you feel and allow that to guide you.


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Relationship Coaches Susie and Otto Collins
PO Box 14544, Columbus, OH 43214
Contact Susie or Otto about Relationship Coaching by calling 614-459-8121.
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