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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lockdown as we know it is over, and after each of us had all the time in the world to reevaluate our mere existence, it seems like we are now ready to turn over a new leaf. One reflection in particular that all of us took part in during quarantine, in some way or another, was one that focused on our relationships in general, but as we crawl back into the world, we’ve noticed an impressive rise in romantic breakups, the breakup phase of lockdown perhaps—which makes us question if lust is the new love. To find out why so many couples are breaking up during and after lockdown, I spoke to a few people and found common (and a little less common) reasons.
To visualise the three types of relationships I’ll mainly be talking about, I give you, exhibit a) The vase. The strong and sturdy relationship that once held pretty flowers—but knocked off their perches, were smashed into smithereens. Metaphorically. Think of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with gold lacquer. Or in other words, the ones still fixing their otherwise broken relationships.
Then we have exhibit b) The lightbulb. The clear cut moments of truth. The ones that dumped, or did the dumping. The ones that suddenly realised by seeing clearly, they were better off without each other. I feel for them all, but let’s be honest here, if you can’t make it work during an end of the world type scenario, then they probably weren’t the one for you.
Finally, exhibit c) The bathmat. The one we don’t enjoy investing much in, but buy anyway. The soft, comforting luxury of a relationship that rose and fell in lockdown.
So, who dared to enter the no exit zone of their confined spaces for what felt like never-ending months? Who probably saw sides to their partners they wished they could unsee? There was no place to hide, with no pubs to go to, no brunches with friends, no hungover lunches at family gatherings—just two people stuck together, indefinitely.
Bowel movements became part of the entire household’s agenda. And for those of you out there that like a Hollywood wax to feel sexy, I have extra sentiments for you. Life got real traumatic, the at-home wax almost turned into a trip to A&E, and the over-priced epilator you ordered after scrolling through Amazon recommendations is now gathering cobwebs.
Let’s talk to exhibit a) The Vase, who had a slightly irrational, but somewhat humorous reason to break up—in hindsight. This no longer couple admitted that they simply wanted different things for comfort when things got tough, but it took time in the bedroom to realise that this was the case. Let’s just say, the positioning was just not quite right.
One half of my anonymous interviewees confessed their side of the problem. “I just didn’t want to do anal. Ok?” which is fair enough, but is it enough to break up over? They added that “Just because we were experimenting, spicing things up not to get bored, does not mean that I have to sit on the ultimatum of our relationship based on the fact that I won’t voluntarily leak shit onto the sheets… Glad he asked now and not 5 years down the line locked into a house because of a newborn child.”
What really stands out here is “locked into a house,” with a side of frustration over a bed of newly discovered differences. The vase is a stark example, however it is one that stems from bottled up energy, and that can be related to many of our situationships.
The tensions that rose within relationships of all kinds this year aren’t necessarily surprising, a global-pandemic is enough to send all of our stress levels through the roof.
Now, the all-familiar exhibit b) The light bulb. This no longer couple broke up because one of them suddenly had the urge to ‘live their life’ and ‘figure out what they wanted’ when lockdown was lifted. The grass is always greener on the other side, right? A heartbreaking illusion, or a matter of fact.
Last but by no means least, exhibit c) Our dear bathmat. A relationship that rose and fell during lockdown, the good old FaceTime dater. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, there is no space—no space at all, on a FaceTime call for an awkward silence with someone you barely know. Blame the bad signal all you want.
And the excitement of those ‘what’s your favourite’ something or other texts? It quickly wears off. Then, when you finally meet as lockdown lifts, you’ve exhausted all your chat, both forcing fireworks because you’ve spent so much time on the damn idea of this person that you can’t just back out for boredom now.
In truth though, you can just back out. Of anything. Lockdown has made a lot of people realise that you don’t need to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s made a lot of us more patient in day to day tasks but short-fused when it comes to our affection and time, because we value it more than we did before. I guess we have to ask ourselves, is this person better than all that came before? Now, If this was the end of the world, why stay with a pressure to love over a freedom to love? Beats me.