Sometimes you're more than just friends. But is it an affair if you're not having sex?
What's an emotional affair?
An emotional affair is a close friendship with someone you're attracted to. It differs from what we usually call an affair (lots of sex and sneaking about) because there isn't any sex involved, not even any kissing. You'll spend hours talking, teasing each other and flirting a bit, even more hours daydreaming about your 'friend' and less and less time engaging with your partner. An emotional affair takes place in the heart and in the head, but it's a strictly hands-off relationship.
Unfortunately, emotional cheating can have just as much of a negative impact on a relationship as sexual infidelity. In the eyes of an emotional cheater their new friend is the most fascinating person they've ever met, so their partner seems dull or flawed by comparison and the relationship suffers from a lack of attention. The emotional affair, with all the sharing and closeness involved, can make a partner feel more betrayed than a drunken one-night-stand would.
Spotting the signs
The line between a normal friendship and an emotional affair is a blurry one, especially if your friend is cute. Remember, finding someone attractive is normal, it's what you do about it that makes the difference. So here are some of the signs that point to you being more than mates:
Remember, finding someone attractive is normal, it's what you do about it that makes the difference.
- Daydreams: How much headspace does your friend take up? If you're planning future conversations or living in an alternate-daydream universe where the two of you can be together, then you're on a slippery slope.
- Real dreams: If they're invading your thoughts while you sleep then your subconscious could be trying to tell you something. Dreams are odd though, and one-off appearance from someone you've never looked at before is unlikely to mean anything.
- Lust: Let's be blunt here, would you shag them? Yes? Thought about it a bit too often? You're heading for trouble.
- Secrets: You might not have lied outright, but do you keep quiet about just how much time you spend with your friend? About how often you talk to them or what you talk about? Chances are you know in your heart your girlfriend or boyfriend wouldn't like the whole truth.
- Lies: This is the next step on. You've started to ignore the truth to make your friendship look more acceptable to your partner. You're deep into affair territory now.
But we ARE just friends
If none of the above applies, then great. It's absolutely possible to have very close friends of the gender you find attractive. It's even possible to have close friends you find attractive - harmless flirting can brighten up a dull day quite nicely. Keep your partner in mind though. If you're acting in a way you wouldn't want them to see, it might be time to re-examine how you feel about your friend.
Freeing yourself from an emotional affair
If you think you might be caught up in an emotional affair, you probably need to take a very long look at your relationship with your current partner. Try and forget about your friend as you do this. There may be something lacking in your relationship, causing you to seek out what's missing with your friend. Once in a while two people will meet and just fall for one another, but it's rare, and the majority of people having affairs are seeking something they can't get at home. Think about this and then go for one of the following options:
- Leaving your partner: You might realise that your relationship is over, for a variety of reasons, and that it wouldn't be fair to you or your partner to stay together. Don't expect to fall straight into the arms of your friend though, especially if they're in a relationship too. Before starting anything new you'll need time to recover from the loss of your former partner.
- End the friendship: You need to work on things with your partner without any distractions, so you'll need to go cold turkey and stop associating with your friend. This will be difficult, as the person in question obviously makes you very happy. There could be further complications if you work together or share a house. But try to focus on your partner's good points. Remember why you got together in the first place. Start paying them more attention and you could find your relationship blossoms again.
- Wait it out: Making new friends, even platonic ones, can be a very intense experience. It's possible that, given time, your feelings will calm down and you will be just friends. Make sure you spend lots of quality time with your partner. You should also talk to your friend about your partner in a positive way and try to avoid too much alone time with them, especially if you're drinking. This choice may sound like the easy option at first, but you'll need nerves of steel and cast iron willpower to pull it off.
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