Being in a committed relationship with someone means that every part of you enters that commitment. While there are boundaries in every relationship that allow for the health of that relationship, those don’t typically exclude a commitment to the other person and their well-being. If you’re in a relationship with someone and they aren’t committed to you or your well-being, it can lead to emotional infidelity, creating an unhealthy relationship.
Part of the typical commitment that people in relationship with each other make is about their emotions. This may take the form of only having and expressing certain feelings with your partner. Part of any person’s world is the things they are feeling, and the commitment to another person is a commitment to let them into your world of thoughts and emotions. Emotional infidelity disrupts all that.
Describing emotional infidelity.
Emotional infidelity can occur in person, or even via vast distances through the internet. Some people discount emotional infidelity as a form of infidelity because it seems harmless and doesn’t necessarily have a physical component. However, emotional infidelity is still a form of infidelity because it’s sharing important parts of yourself with someone that isn’t your partner.
Emotional infidelity may take the form of sharing confidences with someone other than your partner that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t share with anyone else. It can take the form of having constant thoughts about the other person. One can think of it in terms of brackets. There are people in the highest emotional bracket whom you allow to see your vulnerabilities, with whom you share your dreams and fears.
Other people such as acquaintances and strangers are in the lower brackets. You don’t tell these people your deepest, darkest secrets, or your highest hopes, nor do you think about them all the time. Emotional infidelity essentially takes a person other than your partner or spouse and places them in the same or a higher emotional bracket but without the concomitant commitment.
While emotional infidelity may appear innocuous, it isn’t. It has serious consequences on your committed relationship by undermining it. Emotional affairs are often the gateway to sexual affairs, and they take time, commitment, and empathy away from the primary relationship.
Signs of emotional infidelity.
There are several signs of emotional infidelity. It’s always important to talk with your partner about what’s going on in their life and not simply rely on these signs. One reason for this is that a person’s behavior can be explained in more ways than one. However, paying attention to these signs may be helpful and can form the starting point of a conversation with your partner.
Your partner may become secretive with their behavior, which includes hiding their internet browsing history, not letting you see their phone or the messages on it, taking phone calls out of earshot, or hiding financial statements when these were previously accessible. Emotional affairs leave a trail, and a person can attempt to hide that trail by being secretive and shielding parts of themselves and their life from their partner in ways they didn’t beforehand.
Sudden, unexplained changes in behavior and mood.
If your partner begins making an effort in their appearance when they didn’t previously, or they are suddenly excited about going to work when that wasn’t the case before, or they start going on trips out of town more frequently, these may be a cause for concern. Of course, people can have a change in outlook about their life.
Renewed faith, getting older, receiving a serious health prognosis, experiencing trauma, or the death of a loved one can all cause a person to view their life differently, and to pursue life differently. An emotional affair may also have this effect on a person, and so otherwise unexplained changes may be a point of concern.
Unexplained purchases and finances.
Sometimes, emotional affairs result in gift purchases, and these show up on credit card statements. The same goes for higher-than-usual phone bills and related charges such as gas expended on additional trips.
Lethargy in the primary relationship.
Emotional affairs take energy and draw the focus and attention that should be expended within the primary relationship. Sometimes, this shows up as lethargy in the relationship – being closed off and not willing to engage in meaningful conversation. That’s because a lot of energy is being expended in the affair, and the affair becomes the primary venue for sharing thoughts and emotions.
When emotional infidelity occurs, the person having the affair inappropriately shares things with the other person that they don’t or haven’t shared with their spouse, and they may even share details about the problems in the primary relationship. This can lead to emotional detachment within the primary relationship.
Being defensive when asked about the relationship.
An emotional affair is an inappropriate relationship and sensitivity to that fact can make a person touchy when asked about it. If friends or one’s partner expresses concern about the closeness of the relationship, it may result in defensiveness.
Emotional affairs occur for many reasons, but they ultimately undermine the health of the primary relationship. Couples can receive help through couples counseling or marriage counseling in Irvine, California to help them recommit to their relationship and meet each other’s needs.
If you or your partner have experienced an emotional affair, seeking help to rebuild and strengthen your relationship is important. Reach out to our office at Irvine Christian Counseling today for support.
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