What is an Emotional Affair? Cheating in Your Heart
There’s a world of difference between emotional affairs and friendship. An emotional affair can ruin your marriage. These signs of “cheating in your heart” are from Dr Phil McGraw.
If you think emotional cheating is a problem in your marriage (ie, your spouse has a close friend of the opposite sex), read The Emotional Affair: How to Recognize Emotional Infidelity and What to Do About It by Ronald Potter-Efron and Patricia Potter-Efron. You’ll discover what it means to have an emotional affair, and learn steps to discovering the roots of the problem, making changes in your relationship, discussing the issue with your partner, and recovering from the breach of trust and intimacy.
For every sign of infidelity, there may be more signs that you’re missing. According to Dr Phil, every problem in marriage can represent several other problems that you don’t see. “For every rat you see, there are 50 you don’t,” says Dr Phil.
Here’s what he says about affairs of the heart…
Emotional Affairs Vs. Innocent Friendships
On this show, Dr Phil featured Amanda and Randy. During their 11 years of marriage, Amanda had five emotional affairs (including an involvement with a psychiatric patient when she was a nurse. She lost her job over that one).
Here are the basics of emotional affairs, including what they are, why people commit emotional infidelity, and how to recover from emotional cheating.
It’s an emotional affair — not just an innocent friendship — when there are:
- Long phone conversations, emails, and online discussions
- Love letters
- Meetings and conversations that are kept secret from the partner
- Connections, confessions, and discussions that are kept secret
Reasons people have emotional affairs:
- Infatuation addiction – they like the “tingly feeling”
- Fear of intimacy – they don’t want to be vulnerable with their partner
- Desire for new attractions and conquests
- Attraction to power and exhilaration
- Rebellion against the marriage or relationship
- Emotional fixation at a teenage level (emotional immaturity)
For more reasons behind infidelity, read Why People Cheat in Relationships.
The good news, Dr Phil says, is that an “affair of the heart” doesn’t have anything to do with the spouse. The bad news, he says, is that the “affair of the heart” doesn’t have anything to do with the spouse!
People who have emotional affairs have their own personal reasons, which have little to do with their partner or spouse. This doesn’t absolve the partner of all responsibility; it means that the partner may have little control over the reasons for the emotional cheating.
Tips for overcoming “affairs of the heart”:
- Don’t discuss the affair in front of the children, family, or friends
- Recognize that there is a point at which you have to let go of someone you love
- Protect your children from toxic relationships
- Acceptance on the part of the person having the emotional affair that he/she needs help
- Decide what you want and make a commitment to doing it
If you’re struggling to overcome an emotional affair and want to be closer to your partner, read When You Feel Alone in Your Marriage – Emotional Disconnection.
Sometimes, one partner thinks the friendship is innocent – there’s nothing wrong with having lunch or coffee with his opposite-sex friend! All they do is talk, and neither are attracted to the other. And he may be right: the friendship is totally innocent.
But, if his partner is upset or threatened by the friendship, then it needs to end. I think we need to do all we can to help our partners feel supported, loved, and secure – even if that means letting go of innocent friendships.
Have you or your partner had an emotional affair? How did it affect your relationship? Comments welcome below.
Related to Your Search
If you’re not sure if your relationship is good – or worth saving – read 10 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Relationships.