Emotional infidelity: the devastating, damaging amorous affairs that contain no intercourse in any respect Relationships

Chloe had encouraged her husband to take the new job. “I told him, ‘Life is too short to be unhappy.'”

The effect on him was transformative – but not as she had imagined. “One minute he was a family man, the next he always worked long hours and left earlier.” She found out why that was the case one day when she visited him at work.

“My heart fell when I saw them talking to each other – they were so close,” says Chloe, 49. “That’s when I realized that it was she who had stepped between us. He went to her with problems, shared secrets and longings – all the things that we used to do together. “

Chloe is confident the relationship has never been physical – but 15 years later, it’s still hugely hurtful. They were married for 12 years at the time and had a three-year-old son. “I used to think that pain could only result from physical betrayal – there was no set of rules for this guy.”

AAn emotional affair is characterized by non-sexual intimacy with someone other than your partner that violates their trust and expectations. Thanks to technology that enables covert communication around the clock, it has never been easier to fall into the gray area between “just friends” and “more than friends” – often with plausible denials.

According to a 2015 YouGov study of 1,660 UK adults, 20% of people were unfaithful to their partner. Of these, 15% said their infidelity had no physical component.

When the Guardian published a reader callout asking about experiences with emotional affairs, the responses showed that the consequences of this type of affair are no less devastating because of the lack of sex.

Chloe says she could feel her husband’s relationship with his colleague “eroding” her own, but “it was so easy to duck out of the discussion because nothing physically happened”. Then she looked at her husband’s phone: “His messages to you had their own language and intimacy – I knew we wouldn’t work.”

Not every relationship would be threatened by such a bond: Only 44% of respondents to the YouGov survey said they consider a non-physical connection a fraud. Some people actively make room for others through consensual non-monogamy. Albert, a pensioner who identifies as queer, says he considers an “emotional affair” to be a non-sequence: “It equates the bond with something double-sided – it doesn’t have to be.”

Men tend to question their partner: ‘Do you have sex with this person?’ Women tend to ask, ‘Do you love this person?’

Jealousy of friends or colleagues can also indicate a controlling or even abusive relationship. But in cases where this suspicion is well founded, the truth can only come to light after many painful arguments, denial, and even gaslighting.

The confirmation of her ex-partner’s emotional affair made Anneka, 31, strangely relieved: “I felt confirmed that I was right. I’ve wondered for a long time if I’m just crazy and controlling. “

Anneka’s paranoia was aroused by the fact that her boyfriend at the time was “stuck to his cell phone” but kept it out of her eyes. “I’m pretty sure he wasn’t physically cheating on me – but in my opinion, emotional cheating is almost as bad.”

What constitutes infidelity is specific to each relationship, says Sarah Calvert, a sex and relationship therapist based in London, but secrecy can be evidence enough. “That’s one of the factors – telling secrets and deep, intimate feelings that you don’t want your partner to know you share. It all comes down to this fundamental question: would you be happy if your partner overheard these conversations, or do you know how much time you spend thinking about them? “

Georgina, 40, says her three-year emotional affair with a colleague was “as intense as a physical affair – maybe even more. We haven’t even kissed on the mouth yet. I had never felt closer to anyone. “

Dr. Gayle Brewer, a senior psychology professor at the University of Liverpool, says that when our partner confides in someone else, perhaps with intimate details about our relationship, “we tend to view this as betrayal”.

Conversely, “When we feel that our partner is not listening or not supporting us, we are more prone to emotional infidelity,” she says (although a strong support network outside of the relationship might mitigate this).

It can be a catalyst for quite a seismic change – but restoring confidence takes a long time

The effects are felt more strongly by women, says Brewer. Studies have “consistently” shown that they are more plagued by an emotional affair than a sexual one, while the opposite is true for men.

“Men tend to question their partner, ‘Do you have sex with this person?’ Women tend to ask, ‘Do you love this person?’ And the unfaithful partner will deny the more hurtful aspect. “

Daphne, 25, broke up with her boyfriend over his messages to a former colleague: “They talked like boyfriends and girlfriends. It hurt more than if he had snogged someone drunk while going out. “

When they got back together a year later, her boyfriend struggled with Daphne’s sexual encounters during recess. “He didn’t really have the right to say anything,” she says.

The common perception is that an emotional affair is a precursor to a physical one. “A little chemistry or sexual tension” is typical of emotional affairs, says Calvert, but its underlying cause – the behavior that drives betrayal – may not be obvious. “In my experience, it comes from deeper problems within the relationship or the person – for example unresolved problems from past trauma or a need that is not being met.”

Walter, a father of three middle-aged children, paraphrases “When Harry met Sally”: “Affairs are a symptom, not a cause.” His wife’s emotional affair with a friend has its roots in her sexual confusion and childhood abuse, he says. “I cannot judge them from an intellectual point of view. But I can say that it is just painful when your lover gives her heart to someone else. “

Other readers have linked their (or their partner’s) emotional affair to a variety of factors, including religious upbringing, difficulty conceiving, new parenting, mental and physical illness, the death of a parent, professional impostor syndrome, and a break in a social Network caused by a change of workplace or location.

A 29-year-old described feeling panic about an impending engagement: “I couldn’t explain why – I’d spent the last six years dreaming about our future. But a birthday message from an ex-lover popped up in my inbox and the rest unfolded at a breakneck pace. “

Much more pronounced than doubts about the relationship was the toll that daily responsibility, especially after many years of monogamy, demanded of them.

“The emotional high we both got from feeling recognized as human beings – not parents, colleagues, spouses, or whatever – was addicting,” says Yvonne, 47, who had an emotional affair with her colleague. Clara, 24, repeated many respondents in the description of a man she met through an app and with whom she spoke non-stop for four months: “He was everything I wanted my partner to be.”

If the third is often idealized, that’s not a fair comparison, says Calvert. “It’s like this great fantasy is being created – they seem to understand you, but you don’t see them all because you don’t have a full relationship.”

Confronting what lies at the root of your emotional affair could point the way out of it – and strengthen your relationship, she adds. “Just like physical affairs, emotional affairs provide an opportunity to look at the underlying problems, be it within the individual or the relationship. It can be a catalyst for quite a seismic change – but restoring confidence takes a long time. “

Phyllis, 58, and her husband open their 20-year marriage to polyamory after admitting emotional affairs: “I’m not ready to give up on the person I’m having an emotional affair with, but I’m ready to fix it, what “broke in my marriage,” she says.

Caitlin, 37, says her husband’s emotional involvement with a coworker was “a real kick in the ass for us.” By that time they had worked long hours and raised young children with little joy in life or time for one another. After the affair became known, they moved and decided to change something.

Now their marriage is “better than ever,” says Caitlin. “We remember that we really like and love each other, and we feel good that we’ve been through so much together … I might as well have had an emotional affair; things were so bad. We are grateful that it happened now. “

Even if a relationship doesn’t recover, you can gain more by facing the problems, says Calvert.

Through therapy, Walter found the self-esteem he needed to end his marriage after his wife’s emotional affair. India, 28, says she is much happier after getting divorced. Tanya, 30, also says it was a catalyst to end their 10-year relationship: “I’m enjoying the independence and growth to the fullest.”

As for Chloe, her husband’s emotional affair led to their divorce. “I’ve slowly rebuilt myself by too [the counselling service] Refer to ‘over it’ – and him. ”And she did, later she remarried and had another child. She says her husband’s emotional affair was “I am more adept at doing that. Without her I wouldn’t be who I am today. “

Some names have been changed

Comments are closed.