Unlike what Hollywood movies might suggest, not all affairs are driven by intense sexual desire shared between two people in a heated moment of passion.
Emotional affairs are betrayals of the relationship that might not have crossed the boundary of a sexual nature, but a betrayal of an intimate emotional nature.
While sexual affairs are a bit more black and white, you either did or did not cross a sexual boundary, emotional affairs can blur the lines by starting subtly. Oftentimes you don’t recognize that you are crossing over the line into an emotional betrayal of the relationship.
Here are 12 subtle signs you may be slipping, or have slipped, into an emotional affair and why couples therapy could be helpful for you.
1) You find yourself confiding in your friend more than your husband/wife/partner about your day.
This can make it feel completely innocent and feel like you aren’t crossing any boundaries.
‘I’m just talking about my day with a friend’ or ‘they are just really easy to talk to’
When you start to confide in someone outside of your relationship instead of your partner, you may not realize it, but you are slowly and subtly starting to build an emotional connection with this friend over your partner.
2) You discuss negative feelings, experiences or intimate details about yourself with your ‘friend’, and not with your partner.
This one is so important and often overlooked.
Why does this matter? – Negative feelings create vulnerability.
When we share our vulnerability with someone and the person on the receiving end of that vulnerability embraces and validates us, it creates a real sense of connection, trust and safety. These are building blocks for intimacy and emotional connection.
When the negative feelings shared don’t go to a partner but go to a friend of potential sexual interest, we are subtly adding to the development of a a deeper emotional connection that could build to an affair.
3) You start to talk negatively about your partner with your ‘friend’.
If you are having troubles in your relationship a subtle sign of having an emotional affair is bringing your relationship issues to a friend that has the potential of being a romantic partner instead of your actual partner.
Not only does it not address the problem with the person you are in the relationship with, but it also creates an even deeper bonding opportunity with your ‘friend’ because they can become the person of emotional support that you turn to when there is problems in the relationship.
This likely doesn’t remain a one time conversation, it ends up being a series of conversations that continue to build a sense of trust and intimacy.
4) You’re not transparent with your partner about the extent of your ‘friendship’.
If you start to find yourself leaving out pieces of information about your friendship to your partner, you are subtly starting to keep aspects of the friendship a secret, keeping secrets is a sign that in some way you feel you have crossed the boundaries of the relationship.
Even the simple and innocent fact that you recently saw this friend for coffee, if you feel the need to keep this a secret, there is something inappropriate or suspicious about the behavior that you don’t want your partner to pick up on.
5) You wouldn’t feel comfortable if your partner had overheard the content or tone of your conversations with your friend.
This is a sign that you know that there is something to hide and that you are actually starting to cross over into inappropriate behavior or boundaries of the relationship.
What is it about what is being said, or how it’s being said, that you wouldn’t want your partner to witness?
It is important to notice this red flag before something starts to go too far.
6) You wouldn’t want your partner to witness the body language from across the room or on video tape.
Body language accounts for a large portion of how we communicate and convey the message of our words.
If you wouldn’t want your partner to pick up on the subtle touches, body proximity, leaning in, smiles, flirtatious laughter, fun, hand touching / holding or eye gazing that’s happening in this friendly relationship this is a sign that your body language could be speaking more than your words.
Which brings us to…
7) You act/touch/speak differently in front of others verses when you are alone.
Do you recognize the difference of how you behave in front of others versus when you are alone as being more fun and enjoyable? If so, there is clearly an element of your interaction you wouldn’t want people to see because they would be suspicious or judgmental. This may be a sign that you are far too caught up in the excitement of the flirtations and don’t want to or cant stop the slippery slop into the emotional or physical betrayal.
8) Unidentified sexual tension with your ‘friend’
All the subtle and obvious flirtations build up sexual tension in the “friendship” over time.
Just by ignoring the attraction and sexual tension, by not calling it out by its name, the longer it can go ignored. The more you deny the sexual tension the more time the sexual tension has to build and you start to slip further down the slippery slope of crossing over from an emotional affair into a sexual one. If you are able to acknowledge ‘i’m becoming sexually attracted to this person’ you have a better chance of correcting your behavior.
9) You wouldn’t want your partner to discover your text exchanges.
Even if the texts aren’t sexual in nature, if you wouldn’t want your partner to discover the frequency, content, tone, emotional support or selfies then this is a red flag.
If you believe it would make them feel uncomfortable, jealous or hurt than you need to recognize that there is more going on in your friendship than you think. If you are willing to continue with behavior you know would be hurtful to your partner you need to examine why.
10) Thinking of your friend more than your partner.
A sign of a healthy relationship is how fondly you think about your partner during the day when you are apart.
Do you notice yourself spending more time thinking about what your ‘friend’ is doing, or being reminded of them constantly throughout the day?
If you are spending your day thinking fondly of someone who is not your partner this might be a sign you are more interested in your ‘friend’ than your partner.
11) Exciting anticipation or daydreaming about the next encounter.
We all experience a certain level of excitement to spend time with friends.
When it comes to a ‘friend’ does your excitement feel a little more intense or elevated than you would typically expect?
Are you feeling more eager to see this friend because of the excitement or comfort you know you will get from spending time together?
If you are more excited for your friend than your partner this could be another subtle sign of an emotional affair.
12) Feeling like you love your friend or that your friend loves you.
Would you rather spend time with your ‘friend’ than with your partner. Do you feel more cared for?
This might seem obvious, that when we love someone outside our relationship this is a sign of a emotional affair, but the reality is that love does not happen overnight.
It happens slowly and if you aren’t paying attention and don’t protect the emotional boundaries of your relationship you might be surprised to find the feelings of love for your friend have suddenly crept up on you.
Why Couples Therapy Could be Helpful for You
The scary reality is anyone is susceptible of slipping into an emotional affair. It can happen so slowly and subtly that the signs can go unseen. If you feel like you, or your partner, have been crossing over into an emotional affair, address it before it’s too late.
Don’t ignore the signs to the point where an emotional relationship shifts into becoming a physical one, or the emotional relationship has developed to the point that you can’t or don’t want to give up the affair partner. Not wanting to let go of the your affair partner is a sign that your emotional affair may have escalated into love.
As soon as you start to notice any of the subtle signs it’s time to consider individual therapy or couples therapy. Both approaches have benefits.
In individual therapy you can explore with your therapist to gain a better understanding of just how the affair began and what subtle boundaries may have been crossed.
Your therapist can help determine how to disclose the emotional betrayal to your partner, assess if the emotional betrayal has created confusion, and if you aren’t sure if you want to end the relationship – how to move forward.
It’s a good idea to seek out couples counselling when you recognize that you want to work on the relationship you are in.
It can seem counter-intuitive but disclosing to your partner that you have started to develop feelings for another person before the relationship has become physical, but this can also create a sense of transparency, hope and trust.
It doesn’t mean that it won’t create a lot of intense feelings or hurt, but couples that disclose the transgression have a better chance of building trust than the couples where the partner finds out on their own.
Couples therapy for emotional affairs provides an opportunity for couples to examine the who, what, where, when and why of the betrayal.
Again, this might seem counter-intuitive, but I have worked with couples that try to ignore the betrayal that has taken place because it can feel too painful to talk about.
The reality is confronting the betrayal in couples therapy can bring healing, understanding and comfort in knowing what happened, why it wouldn’t happen again and what were the subtle signs.
In couples counselling you learn how to turn towards one another again, instead of turning to a friend for comfort. When dealing with hard feelings, you focus on working on the relationship to build up the blocks of intimacy with your partner.
Couples therapy helps you to identify what your needs are from your partner and how to get them met. This reinvests the energy back into your relationship instead of getting your needs met externally.
What Kind of Couples Therapist Should I See?
Most professionals have a general knowledge of how to work with couples. When it comes to working on a betrayal, be sure to ‘therapist shop’ and interview your therapist. Look for someone who you feel comfortable with and that has a strong knowledge of how to work through affairs as there is a more specific approaches.
Receive the Benefits of Couples Counselling in the Kitchener Waterloo Area Today!
If you’re interested in couples counselling in the Kitchener Waterloo area contact us today at Trillium Counselling for a consultation or to book an appointment!