Emotional infidelity: a strong psychological attachment…
Betrayal in a marriage can be of many kinds like financial secrets, substance abuse, gambling or threats or violence. All kinds of betrayal have an adverse affect on quality of life and marriage. Infidelity of any kind in a marriage severely strains it. It leaves the partner feeling helpless, betrayed, lonely, confused, angry, inadequate, anxious and sad. It also makes the partner who was infidel feeling guilty, helpless regret and confused. Not all the times infidelity leads to termination of a relationship.Sometimes it does end it but at other times while the couple work on the underlying relationship issues, they emerge stronger together than before.
There are many kinds of infidelity: it could be sexual affair, cyber affair, relationship or emotional affair.
One of the biggest reasons for infidelity is dissatisfaction in relationships. Most people need a relationship that fulfills their needs of companionship intimacy which is both emotional and physical, security and stability. If there are unmet needs affairs of different kinds of affairs take place. An affair could also happen if there is lack of communication of needs to each other, falling out of love or growing apart, for too long prioritising their partner and avoiding individual needs or having an affair as they think that they deserve it due to their power and position. It also takes place due to difficulty in being honest towards your partner, lack of admiration, respect or connection, or loneliness. At the same time it is not necessary that a dissatisfied relationship always leads to an affair. Sometimes an affair can be a result of a person’s low self esteem, sexual addiction, opportunity and lack of self control or emotional/mood disturbances.
What is emotional infidelity?
“I do not understand why you are so insecure, she is just a colleague!”, “He is just a friend…”, “You are getting paranoid I cannot fire her!”, “You want me to stop talking to the opposite sex?”, “It is a good friendship, there is nothing sexual about it!”, “Stop talking about it all the time. If you keep suspecting and asking questions, it would damage our marriage!”. Emotional affair is a kind of affair where there is no sexual intimacy involved but a person gets attached to another person of the opposite sex outside the marriage. A spouse is uncomfortable about a particular relationship that he or she has with a person of the opposite sex. But the partner denies it saying the nature of the relationship is not wrong. It begins as innocent friendship and then travels the dangerous terrains of infidelity. A person has a flirtatious way of talking to this friend, usually there are long hours spend in chatting of different kinds, phone, chat or SMS. They share things which they have long back stopped sharing within their marriage.
You feel it is fun, satisfying and easier to spend time with this friend compared to with your spouse.
You start keeping secrets from your partner. It is very harmful to the marriage as the person is no longer investing in his/her marriage but in this attachment relationship. If you are trying to hide your chats or conversations with your attachment figure from your spouse, you are crossing your boundary of fidelity in a relationship. Mostly in such cases the one who has been betrayed keeps wondering if it is really in his/her mind or there is seriously something wrong with the relationship she/he is witnessing. Many a times the person having an emotional affair is able to justify it as there is no sexual intimacy involved. Mostly the reason for is to fill an inner void. This can later lead to physical intimacy. Even if an emotional infidelity doesn’t lead to physical intimacy it is still as devastating as a full fledged affair, for the relationship and the betrayed partner to come out of it is as difficult as well.
How serious is the infidelity?
It depends on the perception of infidelity by the partner who has been betrayed. It is the betrayed partner who determines the level of pain – hurt he/she feels and the motivation to be able to cope up with the loss the individual feels. In marital problems everyone has to take care of and protect their spouses’ feelings. Hence if your partner feels betrayed, abandoned, threatened, insecure you have to listen to her/him and understand the same. Do not simply take it as nagging. Emotional infidelity can cause serious damage to the relationship.
How healthy is it to be close friends with opposite sex?
It is healthy as long as you are not slipping out of the boundary you need to maintain with friendships once you are married or in a serious committed relationship. In the beginning friendships are innocent. Then they turn into harmless spending time together and sharing of everyday activities. This leads to spending more time together on phone or chat apart from frequent meetings. It looks harmless as it is not turning into physical intimacy. But it starts getting uncomfortable to share your encounters or chats with your spouse. This begins to be needed to kept a secret.
Secrets break marriages. You start enjoying conversations with your new found friendship the way you have not been enjoying with anyone else. You might share your frustrations, anxieties, disappointments, hopes or dreams, these are the things you do not any longer share with your spouse. Deep friendships outside the marriage take time and energy away from your marital relationship. You have limited time and energy and in case you spend it elsewhere you would not be able to invest in your marriage. Also once your emotional needs are met outside your relationship it would be hard to connect with your spouse. It is essential to have boundaries in any relationship.
Steps to take in case of emotional infidelity:
To begin with as the spouse who has been betrayed do not keep questioning yourself in anyway, particularly in an emotional infidelity you would find yourself wondering if what you believe about your partner is true or you are getting crazy. You have to believe in yourself and trust your spousal instincts. Emotional infidelity feels naturally threatening do not feel guilty. It hurts you to see your spouse intimate with someone else. If you feel emotionally abandoned do not doubt yourself.
- It is certainly important to end the attachment relationship outside your marriage or limit it to a professional scope if you cannot help. This should be done keeping in mind that if it comes in the way of your marriage or you feel like spending more time with the attachment figure then you should try and switch jobs or change workplace.
- Identifying your feelings, name them and being able to communicate the same to your partner without blaming or criticizing them is the most important step. Your partner should be able to listen to you and validate your feelings if not you should ensure he/she does. Here ‘you’ statements should be avoided and the focus should be on ‘I’ statements. Sometimes it is difficult to identify and express your feelings as it brings back the associated pain of being hurt badly. But at the same time lack of expression would lead to expression in ways that are harmful for the individual and the relationship.If not bottling up of emotions leads to depression.
- Maintaining transparency and allowing your partner to be able to know your plans, where you are and giving him the privilege of finding it out the way she/he would feel reassured is very helpful in regaining trust and building lost intimacy. It certainly feels very confining and frustrating to the partner who has betrayed but it would help him/her to remember this is a phase and would not last lifetime. Whatever the betrayed partner needs for the rebuild of trust should be considered fair by the betraying partner. Going further any dishonesty would turn out to be a second betrayal.
“If you are trying to hide your chats or conversations with from your spouse, you are crossing your boundary of fidelity in your relationship…”
- It would be helpful not to talk about the situation with your friends and family once you have decided to rebuild your relationship. Your loved ones would have good intentions but at the same time everyone has different perspectives and you will feel further confused and anxious. If you have to talk, do it with your partner or counsellor.
- If you find yourself thinking about your partner and his/her attachment figure and the time they might be spending together, practise to STOP your thoughts and replace them with thoughts that help your goals with your partner. Visualisation is powerful in this context. Finding yourself wondering why your partner did this to you comes in the same category as you must have discussed this enough with him/her. A counsellor can help you with the same.
- If you have any feelings of guilt or shame you have to work towards them by identifying them and then holding your partner accountable for emotional infidelity and while you do so honouring yourself through the progression.
- In order to rebuild trust the partner who has betrayed has to be truly remorseful. Blaming the relationship problems for the emotional infidelity is very unhelpful particularly in the beginning as it would be naturally perceived as an act of defence. Expressing regret as much as it is required to reassure your partner of your commitment is advisable.
- You should take help of breathing and relaxation exercises in order to manage your anxiety and stress.
- Regular time every day/week set aside to talk to your partner in order to understand the progress made towards rebuilding trust should be helpful and brings in common goals and accountability. This also is very reassuring. This should be extended to see how you can spend some time together apart from just talking about the relationship like doing things you did earlier. This could be taking a walk, checking on each other, sharing about your day, planning some mutual interest activities together, etc;
- There is no hurry to look at forgiveness. You will automatically see yourself forgiving when you can trust your partner and feel secured in the relationship.
- Remember having an affair of any kind is a way to avoid problems in relationships rather than dealing with them.
Couples and Individual counselling to deal with emotional infidelity
Counselling will help the individuals/couple process their feelings on the situation at hand. It helps them understand their individual needs from the relationship and formulate goals for future accordingly. It will help them decide whether or not they can continue to be married. If they chose to continue then a counsellor can help them understand their commitment towards the relationship and also work on rebuilding trust. In case the couple wants to separate it can help them express their feelings towards each other while processing it in the presence of a counsellor and break up with less remorse and heartache. Counselling will help you deal with the loss of your committed partner.