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3 clear signs you’re having an emotional affair

By Harriet Piercy

Nov 9, 2020

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To onlookers, emotional affairs are innocent. It’s just a purely platonic friendship, right? A really, really intimate relationship without the physical intimacy, with one person who isn’t your partner. We’re not simply talking about a best friend here though, in fact, it’s much more than that—‘it’s complicated’.

Let’s get one thing straight here before we delve into the complex grey areas of relationships, you are allowed relationships outside of your romantic one—that should go without saying. If your partner reacts with jealousy towards every ‘other’ person in your life, you’re in for a toxic ride and there’s no doubt about it. Run. I know I would, like an antelope on steroids.

That being said, emotional affairs do, unfortunately, haunt more than most people would like to imagine. They silently emerge into even the most solid of relationships, sometimes even more so than broken ones. What is an emotional affair exactly? And here are three clear signs you’re involved in one.

What is an emotional affair?

Essentially, an emotional affair is a friendship at its core, however the connection between who you may be in an emotional affair with is drastically different to the connection you would have with an actual friend. The connection is usually instantaneous when these two people meet too, inside jokes, sometimes flowing texts, a subtle flirt and much, much laughter with each other, and no one else. This sounds like the start of a very promising relationship, doesn’t it? Well, the problem here is that you’re already in a relationship with someone else.

Unlike a platonic friendship, there’s sexual chemistry between the two of you, and there’s definitely a couple of fantasies playing out in your heads too. You’re also probably sharing a few of the secrets that you’re meant to be keeping between you and your actual partner. Sometimes you won’t even realise that any of this is even happening. Either you will realise it eventually, or your partner will become suspicious as you spend the energy that they used to receive, elsewhere. This is where the fine line between an unhealthy obsessive jealousy and an honest deflation of trust are almost unrecognisably blurred.

Over time, your mind may become more invested in the imagining of what ‘could be’ with this person, but what you’ve got romantically with your sexually intimate lover is also good. Taking the plunge into a decision that doesn’t have a guaranteed outcome is too much of a risk, so you keep the two relationships different enough to significantly deter any unwelcome questions from your official partner, or external nosies. The reality is that sometimes, emotional cheating can be far more damaging to all people involved than physically cheating, but today’s society seems to reflect that the opposite is true.

3 clear signs you're having an emotional affair

Signs that you’re having an emotional affair

Odds are that you will most definitely know when you’re involved in a platonic friendship that’s verging on a romantic one, even if you don’t want to admit it. If you’re questioning your feelings, here are some tell tale signs to help you face the music.

1. You make excuses to be around them

You go out of your way to include them in your day to day activities, or position yourself physically near them in any social gathering. If you can’t be around them, you consciously or subconsciously make continuous contact with them via text or social media.

2. You call them first

If you’ve simply had a bad day or when something big happens in your life, you instinctively call to share the news with the person in the emotional affair with you first, over your partner. Because this person really ‘gets’ you.

3. You’re hiding the evidence

If you’re texting, emailing or DMing and going back to delete those messages, you’re probably being shady. A clear red flag of an emotional affair is feeling the need to lie to your partner over something that shouldn’t be lied about, if in truth you were the ‘friends’ you claim to be. Ask yourself, would your partner be okay with specific interactions you’re having with this person? If not, then re-evaluate your options.

Typical life stressors can lead any one of us to emotionally stray, but it is important to stay honest with ourselves in terms of how we deal with our circumstances, first and foremost. Acknowledge that you are transferring emotional baggage onto another relationship, and decide on the platonic truth of that relationship based on the question of your own feelings. If they were to be romantically involved with someone else, would you be jealous even if you yourself were in a relationship already?

The tricky thing about relationships is that there are no direct blueprints to follow where all parties involved are guaranteed to be happy, but toxic behaviour is most definitely avoidable. As the saying goes, no matter how hard you try—you just can not have your cake and eat it too. If you find a love that is worth being monogamous for in the first place, the strength of that love really depends on whether or not you are honest with yourself, because that will in turn allow you to be honest with your partner too, and probably your life in general.