It would be nice to believe an emotional affair could strengthen your primary relationship. In certain circumstances, if dealt with openly and considerately, it could infuse passion and renewed interest in that relationship. But most emotional affairs are kept secret. And secrecy inevitably causes conflict.
In a survey by Relationup, an app that provides relationship advice, 72 percent of men and women considered an emotional affair just as damaging to a relationship as a physical affair.
Here are seven ways an emotional affair can wreak havoc on your relationship:
Emotional affairs are often secret. Communication takes place without the primary partner knowing, and blatant lies or lies of omission are told to conceal the interaction. It can feel empowering and exciting to have a secret—something that is just yours—especially if you feel like your life has become too intertwined and interdependent with your partner's. But that adrenaline rush you get from keeping the secret is not worth the aftermath of distrust and broken intimacy when you are discovered. Don't confuse excitement with love.
Even if the "new friendship" is revealed to the partner, the tendency is to downplay it. Often, people are not transparent and don't explain the full extent or nature of the time and conversations being shared with this other person. People eventually believe their own own lies and fool themselves about the extent of their involvement. Once the affair is discovered and there is a confrontation, the minimization and lies continue. The partner in the affair will defend their behavior, and to maintain the ruse, they may attempt to make the primary partner feel guilty for being jealous or overreacting.
Security and trust are instantly eroded when a partner stumbles upon the fact that his lover has a new confidante he knows nothing about. So, primary partners turn into detectives, searching for the truth. Accusations fly and snooping behavior begins. This is exacerbated if there is a history of betrayal in the relationship or if the primary partner struggles with feelings of insecurity to start with.
4. Snowball effect:
Emotional affairs often start out innocently enough. But they progress to something more dangerous over time. An innocent connection can easily turn into constant texts, emails, phone calls, lunches, and other in-person get-togethers, most often occurring when the partners are otherwise occupied with their own things.
5. Reinforcing the negative:
People often find that when they are in emotional affairs, they contrast the qualities of the new person with their current partner. In general, primary partners don't look very good in comparison with the eager, interested new person who is not hampered by relationship baggage. Reinforcing the negative can create even greater dissatisfaction with the primary relationship and drive a bigger wedge between two people.
6. Putting your energy in the wrong place:
Emotional affairs take time and effort away from your relationship. It would be infinitely more productive to put that energy toward rebuilding that type of intimacy in your primary relationship.
7. Sharing of yourself:
Emotional affairs involve the sharing of one's most intimate thoughts and feelings. Some partners consider this to be more intimate (and more of a betrayal) than physical intimacy.
Your partner does not have to be the only person in your life who fulfills your emotional needs. In fact, relationships are more successful and healthy when each partner is nourished by supportive friends and confidantes outside of the primary relationship. But this only works as long as you keep these friendships transparent and aboveboard. In this way, they'll continue to enhance your life and not erode your relationship. If it turns out that your partner can't handle you having parts of your life that are just yours, that's something else to deal with.