Emotional Affairs...

I don't have time for the long post I want to write, but...

What do you guys know about emotional affairs?  Anyone here have an experience with them? 

 

Pb.

Pbartender's picture

Ok, so I'm asking, because

Ok, so I'm asking, because it's something my counselor mentioned at our last session.

For those of you who aren't familiar an emotional affair is when someone in a committed relationship essentially develops a "crush" on someone else (that's not necessarily a problem), and then allows that "crush" to grow into a deep emotional attachment, such that it negatively impacts the primary relationship.  Emotional affairs do not normally involve physical intimacy -- except for, perhaps, small touches -- but can very often lead to it.

It's easy to not realize what's going on, even when you're in the middle of one, and it's also very easy to rationalize them as "not cheating" and "harmless".

However, they can be very damaging to relationships, because you're devoting emotional efforts toward the affair which should be going toward strengthening your relationship.  Also, there is a tendency to unfavorably compare you're knowingly flawed SO to your glorified affair-mate.

There's a lot of information about them, if you search the internet.

Anyway, it seemed to me, that emotional affairs are something that could be a BIG problem in ADHD relationships.  Both with the impulsive ADHDers, and also with the Nons who feel neglected.

Also, on a personal level, my counselor brought it to my attention as a possible explanation for my wife's actions, both recent and past.  She suggested that DW might be caught in a cycle of allowing emotional affairs to ruin her relationships.

Once the "honeymoon" period of a relationship wears off, instead of working to keep her current relationship strong, she'd get a crush on a male friend or acquaintance and then she'd let herself fall in love with him but she wouldn't cheat in any physical way and she also wouldn't end the original relationship right away.  The original relationship slowly dies, because she'd be investing more emotional effort in the second guy than her actual relationship.  Eventually, she'd break up with the first guy and then hook up with her new crush and it'd all start over.

The evidence certainly fits that theory...  I can see how I was, unknowingly, her emotional affair in college for years, while she dated a string of "jerks".

My counselor also suggested that marrying me and having kids might have thrown a wrench in the cycle...  She was still having those emotional affairs, falling in love with other guys and flirting with them, but not technically cheating (I can name a half dozen likely suspects off the top of my head).  However, she "felt trapped", to use her own words.  It's a lot harder to get out of being married with kids than just having a boyfriend.

Ugh, I'm done rambling for now.  Not that it would actually change anything between the two of us right now, but it would just be nice to have some sort of understanding of what went so wrong between us. 

I just thought it might be another pitfall for all of us to be aware of.

 

Pb.

I think the brain is the most

I think the brain is the most powerful sex organ there is. Emotional relationships whether real life or cyber life, involves knowing the potential for the physical exists. It is the knowledge of this potential of the forbidden that drives the mind to the heights it does. And perhaps it starts a cycle of desiring that "high" that typically comes with it.

 

Pbartender's picture

And it's such an insidious

And it's such an insidious form of infidelity, because it's so easy to rationalize away...  Either as it being just a friendship, or because no actual physical intimacy is taking place. ("We're such great people, because we have forbidden love for each other, but wont' cheat on our spouses!")

Now, I'm normally a pretty open-minded guy.  It's fun to get attention that you don't normally get from someone of the opposite sex.  It's makes you feel good in all sorts of ways.  At the beginning of our relationship, both of us had made made it clear that we can both tolerate occasional playful flirtations, so long as it never goes beyond that and so long we made sure we paid more attention to each other than anyone else when it comes to flirting.

There had been several occasions, when we started crossing that line...  Either her flirting went a little farther than what was comfortable for me, or she was paying so much attention to some other guy that she starting ignoring me.  Doing my best to not be accusatory, I'd bring up my concerns with her and maybe ask if she had a crush (which is perfectly understandable, and does bother me in of itself...  it happens).

She would get all defensive...  "It's just harmless flirting."  "We're just friends!  Why can't I have my own friends?"  "It doesn't mean anything!"  "I can't believe you don't trust me!"

To her, it was just a very close friendship with a male friend.  In reality, she'd fallen in love with them, and was practically acting like they were dating.  She'd gush about them like a school girl.  She'd ogle their photos on Facebook.  She'd spend hours in text conversations (with phone carefully hidden beneath the table or a blanket so no one can see her texts**).  She'd go out of her way to spend time with them.  And if they were visiting us, they would be the focus of her attention to the exclusion of everyone else.  How does that NOT look like a crush at least, or an affair at worst?

**DD has even noticed, which again is, I think, part of what bothers me the most about it.  The other day, I was joking about DD being permanently grafted to her new tablet...  "You're almost as bad as your mother and her cell phone," I joked (and before you say it, yeah, I realize it probably was an inappropriately disrespectful joke to make about DW to DD...  no excuses, except that it's become a common complaint amongst everyone in our household and I slipped).  She defended herself by saying, "At least I don't try to hide it under a blanket like she does."

Urf.

 

Pb.

***cringe***

This would happen to me over and over and over again in my 20s.  (thankfully this was before Facebook and texting).

Do you know what stopped it?  Knowing what it was.  I went to a Behavioral Therapist who explained it to me.  Just the knowledge that it's a 'thing' that can be labeled stopped it from happening anymore.  AAaaannnd of course lots of shame and feeling incredibly stupid.

I will admit to having an

I will admit to having an emotional affair...or at least I was closing in on it with a work colleague. I hadn't been married a year but my hubby would barely acknowledge my existence. We did nothing but fight. It was hard to ignore someone who already had my respect (and maybe I was a little in awe of him as well)  and was actually attentive. Commenting on how nice I looked that day or remarking how funny or smart I was. I was just desperate for attention. It never occurred to me that we would end up together eventually or that things would become physical. In some ways, it was "safe" because I knew it wouldn't go anywhere ultimately. I have too much morality for it to have become physical not to mention he was married as well and I'm not a home-wrecker.

Eventually I shut it down after I caught myself posting photos on Facebook in an attempt to get comments from the guy.He backed off at the time as well because our co-workers were starting to notice. I even 'fessed up to my husband and I was kind of shocked that he was so hurt. And maybe that was an ulterior motive at the time. I just wanted to get through to him. He only calmed down after deciding to leave and saying, "I need to call him and tell him to come take care of you" and then discovering that I didn't even have the guy's phone number in my phone. But to this day, the effects have lingered. If I had a penny for every time he says, "You're going to end up with an older, smarter guy", I would be rich.

I'm still friends with the guy, and I'll even admit to bawling my eyes out when I left that job. We still trade professional related e-mails now, and while they often wander into a formal detailing of what's been going on in our lives, I am careful about the content (as is he...he always asks after my husband and sends his best wishes).

In the end, I still feel bad for becoming susceptible to someone other than my husband, but most of all, I'm sorry that I hurt him.