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Say the word infidelity and it will automatically conjure up images of cheating and extramarital affairs. Estimates are hard to pin down but as many as 25 percent of women and 40 percent of men engage in sexual infidelity. So yeah, it’s a natural association. However, infidelity comes in many forms. For example, there’s emotional fidelity.

Are you ready for some shocking statistics? Numbers vary, of course, a recent study demonstrated how common emotional cheating can be. Roughly 79 percent of men and 92 percent of women admitted to having an emotional affair. Looks like this topic deserves a much closer look.

What is Emotional Infidelity?

Picture ongoing closeness to someone who is not your partner. Fine, so far, right? Well, what if it’s something you keep secret? What if you tell things to this “close friend” that you would never share with your partner? It starts innocently — even playfully. There’s no physical contact and your conversation is not overtly sexual. But, over time, you’re delegating more emotional energy to this “friendship” than you are to your relationship.

Generally speaking, this is emotional infidelity. That said, it can obviously be defined differently by each couple. Therefore, the final part of the definition must state that the non-partner connection is something that you and your partner view as a betrayal.

4 Things to Know About Emotional Infidelity

  1. Characteristics

  • Lack of Transparency: These days, the best example of this involves hiding your phone and/or deleting your messages. You would do neither with a close platonic friend.
  • Lying: Eventually, you’ll have to practice some kind of deception to cover up the amount of time and energy invested in this friendship.
  • Betrayal: An emotional affair has you doing things you don’t do with your partner. Again, these steps do not have to be erotic in nature to cross boundaries.
  1. Willfully Oblivious

You’re not (really) flirting. It’s just texts and you appreciate the support. What’s wrong with having a BFF? Because there is no physical contact, your clothes stay on, and no one is saying “I love you,” it can’t be cheating. Since emotional infidelity is so easy to see it as innocent, it can go on long enough to cause more severe problems.

  1. Warning Signs

If any of these behaviors or trends line up with your behaviors, it could be a red flag:

  • When something big happens — good or bad — you tell your friend first
  • You experience a loss of sexual desire for your partner
  • When asked about your phone habits, you get defensive
  • You nitpick and critique your partner (inside, you’re comparing them unfavorably to your friend)
  • Giving gifts to your friend
  • You feel your friend “gets” you more than your spouse
  1. Why?

What leads someone to engage in emotional infidelity? Needless to say, each situation contains some unique factors. Even so, there are common emotional threads, e.g.

  • Needs: You may unconsciously feel your needs are not being met. Connecting with this other person is a “safe” to remedy that perception.
  • Respect: If you feel any level of disrespect from your spouse, you may not feel comfortable directly addressing it. An emotional affair, at the moment, feels like a fix.
  • Control: A relationship feels stifling and you want to be in control.
  • Anger: You’re upset with your partner but have chosen to express it in a passive-aggressive manner.

Now What?

If the above information resonates, you may be involved — in one way or another — in an emotional infidelity situation. You’ll need help resolving this scenario. Individual or couples counseling is the ideal setting to do so. I can help you and invite you to reach out and talk.

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