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How To Recognize And Prevent Emotional Affairs

Kyle and Korissa have been dating for about two years. They’re the average couple who go out occasionally, have disagreements, and do their best to keep each other happy. Lately, Kyle and Korissa been having communication issues that result in them arguing about petty things on a regular basis. At Kyle’s job, a new woman named Ashley was hired. Because Kyle is the team lead, he must train Ashley on her position. Everyday Kyle and Ashley spend time together at work. They talk about their interests, hobbies, sports, and family. Kyle would even share the problems he was going through with Korissa. After two months of spending their work day together and sometimes hanging outside of work, Kyle realizes he has feelings for Ashley but hasn’t acted on those feelings. Every time him and Ashley talk, he feels as if she understands him, relates with him, and that they have a lot in common. He doesn’t want to tell Korissa because he thinks she would be upset.

What should Kyle do?

Many situations happen like this all the time in relationships, whether the people are dating or married. The scenario above is an example of an emotional affair. An emotional affair is sharing intimate thoughts and emotions with someone other than your significant other. An emotional affair is spending so much time with someone else that you find yourself thinking about them regularly or randomly, sending flirty messages or flirting in person, and having conversations that you would normally have only with significant other, similar to the beginning stages of getting to know someone when dating. An emotional affair can also be having sexual fantasies and finding yourself wanting to spend more time with the person.

But Is That Always Bad?

“Why is emotional affair bad? It’s not like I’m having sex with the person.” Sex isn’t the only form of cheating. An emotional affair may also be a form of cheating, because of the withholding of certain information from your significant other so that he/she doesn’t know about it. If you find yourself hiding your whereabouts, who you are with and specific conversations from your significant other, then you are already on the verge of having an emotional affair. An emotional affair is unacceptable because loyalty, trust, and respect are being broken.

How would you feel if your significant other was connecting on a deeply intimate level with someone else while shutting you out from his or her personal life? It doesn’t feel good if someone you care about is neglecting you for another. Also, it can lead to sexual feelings or can put you in a situation where you may “accidentally” kiss and or have a sexual encounter with this person because of being in the moment. Because we are human, sometimes we act out of emotion and with substances like alcohol, mistakes happen. Even if it was an accident, some things should never happen, primarily when we can prevent them.

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Prevention

1.    Boundaries- Be aware of how close you are with the person. In Kyle’s scenario, he shouldn’t be disclosing information about his and Korissa’s relationship with another employee in an effort to connect emotionally. Although It’s okay to receive advice or to vent; it would be wise that you avoid doing so with the opposite sex of a ‘potential match.’ By potential match, that means someone you may find attractive, feel a ‘growing emotional’ connection with or is conveniently single. There also shouldn’t be any flirting.

2.    Respectful conversations- Make sure the conversations between you two are appropriate. Things that you share with your significant other should not be shared with other people. Conversations should be friendly and brief. Also, be aware of how long and what time the conversations are being held. You should not be talking on the phone or texting throughout the night.

3.    Share with your significant other- Anytime you may find someone interesting and start to form a relationship that’s friendly, tell your significant other about the person. That way he or she won’t feel left out. Also, talk to your significant other about the many things going on in your life. Do not withhold information that may result in a fight later. Whether it’s something you like or dislike, thoughts should be shared.

4.    Appropriate places- It’s okay to hang out with someone, but does your significant-other know about it? Is it just you and the other person hanging out alone? You shouldn’t be hanging out with someone of the opposite sex while at their place or yours. In Kyle’s scenario, he shouldn’t be hanging out with Ashley outside of work. Their relationship should be strictly co-workers.

When you develop an emotional affair, it can be difficult to stop seeing or speaking with the person. You have now formed an emotional connection with this person, and everything that involved your usual routine included him or her in it. Going throughout the day without speaking or seeing him or her can make your entire day seem off. It’s essential to be aware of how we share our personal lives with people other than our significant other.

If you find yourself having too much hangout or talk time with an opposite sex ‘friend or coworker,’ that’s a sign to back off and ask yourself, “Would my partner feel comfortable with this?” “Would I act the way I’m acting or say these things I’m saying if my significant other was here with me?” or “How would I feel if I saw my significant other behaving this way?” By catching yourself in little moments like that it will eventually become a habit, and our habits become our lifestyle.

So, what should Kyle do about the emotional affair he is having with Ashley? The answer is simple. Kyle needs to tell Ashley he cannot see her outside of work anymore and from now on they should only discuss work-related things. Ashley may ask why, and Kyle can say it’s not appropriate to address personal issues and hang out with a co-worker while he is in a relationship, at work. There is no need to go into further detail; he can leave it at that. Ashley may feel hurt, but that’s not Kyle’s problem. Kyle should then make the time to talk with Korissa and together figure out how they can work on improving their communication.
**- The names in this article are fictional.

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Kori Hayles, M.S. Counseling
Kori Hayles, M.S. Counseling

I am Kori Hayles from North Side Minneapolis, MN. I am in my master's program, to obtain the degree of Professional Counseling w/ an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. My goal is to restore broken families within our communities.

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