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From the outside, an emotional affair seems innocent enough.
It's just a platonic friendship —a really, really, close friendship with someone who happens to not be your partner. Nothing physical has happened, even though you've thought about it. But hey, you're allowed to have relationships outside of your romantic one The thing about friendships where you become emotionally invested in someone else, however, is that you could slowly detach from your actual partner. Rachel Sussmana New York-based d therapist and relationship counselor, says that emotional infidelity can be just as damaging—sometimes more so—to a relationship than a physical onewhether it's with a co-worker, old flame, or a Facebook friend.
Rhonda Richards-Smithan LA-based psychotherapist and relationship expert, agrees that there are multiple layers to affairs. While sex can be more final, she points out that emotional affairs can escalate to physical ones after serious feelings have already been established.
Unsure about how to recognize the s of an emotional affair—or how to address them? Whether you might be having an affair or your partner could be, both experts weigh in on what to do. Odds are that you already know that you're platonic friendship verges on romantic, even if you won't admit it to yourself.
If you're unsure of what constitutes as emotional intimacy, she says these are good indicators that feelings may run deeper than you think. This is common of an emotional affair that occurs early on in the friendship, Richards-Smith said. You want to spend more time with them, so you go out of your way to make sure you're working on the same project at work or sitting next to each other at a meeting.
More thought is spent on picking out your clothes or putting on your makeup, with the intent of impressing a certain someone. Richards-Smith says this is especially common if that other person is a co-worker. If you're texting, ing, or DMing, and then going back and deleting those messages, something's not right.
If you're looking for emotional fulfillment in someone else—and exhibiting the above s—it could be because you're not getting the attention you'd like from your ificant other, or you're unsatisfied with your sex life, says Sussman. Sometimes typical life stressors can lead someone to emotionally stray, like problems at work, planning a wedding, or a big move.
When it comes down to it, according to Richards-Smith, the affair stems from some sort of unmet need in your current relationship. If you notice that some of these s sound familiar, how do you even begin to address it? Richards-Smith lays out three steps:. She says it's the most difficult key, but acknowledging that you're becoming emotionally involved with someone new only helps get to the root of why you've strayed in the first place. Have a conversation with yourself, or maybe even involve a family therapist.
Figure out what you're getting from the new friendship that you feel like is lacking between you and your current partner. Once you know what you're missing, be open and clear with your partner about it.
I need you to communicate. Richards-Smith says that, ideally, you should be the main source of support for your S. But if you're beginning to compete for their affections, there are a few s to look out for if you suspect their emotional affections are focused elsewhere. Your partner name-drops their new friend frequently in conversation and "you might see them texting or on the phone with that colleague, a lot," says Sussman. They seem to frequently compare you to their new friend. You've noticed that they confide in you less and less.
You no longer know what's bothering them, or what's getting them excited about their day.
Suddenly, their social media presence has hit an uptick. Richards-Smith says "attention seeking behaviors" like posting more about themselves, or the new friendship, are common. They could spend more hours at work, the gym, or they have a random uptick in business trips or drinks out with colleagues and friends, says Sussman. When you notice these s, your first instinct may be to lash out at your partner. But before you do that, take a breath, and evaluate your situation.
As hard as it may be, both experts have tips on how to calmly speak with your partner. As long as the individuals involved are willing to make it work, there's hope. It's all about being clear about your expectations and observations so they can be honest about theirs.
And if you have difficulty with adapting to this language, a family therapist can always help. Though it can be difficult with factors like kids and jobs, this should be a priority. Turn off your tech and focus on one another. Richards-Smith says certain locations can trigger the tensions that weigh on a couple. Be conscientious of that. These tools are meant to help couples get past an emotional affair. But Richards-Smith says to always be realistic. Sometimes, the needs of either partner can't always be met. Are they gonna stick it out and keep going, or are they gonna part ways?
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How to Recognize Emotional Cheating — and What to Do Next