Research has helped therapists to understand the arc of how emotional affairs begin, and how they gain traction and momentum. Emotional affairs are friendships that willingly harness the strong headwinds of sexual attraction, eventually sweeping away appropriate relational boundaries and transparency.
Research has helped clinicians to understand the arc of how emotional affairs begin, and how they gain traction and momentum. And how clinicians trained in science-based couples therapy can help. Your EA partner may begin to complain about her husband. You listen gallantly and sympathetically. She continues to lavish you with kindness and praise, and you listen even more sympathetically to her tale of woe.
Eventually, perhaps out of a sense of self-consciousness, the need for reciprocity kicks in.
She calls attention to the imbalance of the relationship. Gradually, you find yourself complaining about your wife. Your co-worker shows increasing levels of kindness and understanding. This pattern of self-disclosure and mutual support continues and deepens over time.
Eventually your significant other becomes. Then you begin to notice an emotional shift. You start to look forward to seeing your EA partner at work. They eventually inhabit your heart and monopolize your attention. You compare and contrast. You show increased impatience and annoyance to your wife. The riptide of an emotional affair is now well underway, pulling you away from your partner with great emotional force. Unless it is admitted, the vast majority of emotional affairs are never disclosed.
Emotional cheating does not register as cheating with men because of the lack of consummation. This is a clear gender difference. Women care twice as much about their partners falling into emotional affairs than men do. Most emotional affairs begin with someone you already know from work, or at work. Men are particularly vulnerable because they do not recognize the warning signs of boundary violations, and they also tend to be more comfortable wandering alone in the garden of their own private thoughts and fantasies.
Men are often unprepared for emotional affairs. They do not understand the risks. Research shows that while this notion might feel obvious, the truth, as My wife had an emotional affair with another man many truths in research-driven couples therapyis far more complex and counter-intuitive.
I am not convinced that the relationship health is exclusively the culprit.
Or even a reliable determining factor. Recent research is clear on this point. Defensiveness is an issue for infidelity research. The idea that an otherwise happy marriage could be decimated by a workplace emotional affair is profoundly uncomfortable.
It is a natural reaction for both researcher and subject to unconsciously defend against the idea. We need to think more deeply about emotional affairs. New thinkers such as Esther Perel are helping to expand our paradigms. I think people not only have feelings for their affair partner…they also fall in love with the person they believe they are becoming with their affair partner.
They feel more alive.
They feel more attractive. These feelings become addictive… and the problem is that they can be experienced at work every day.
Research shows that couples under the age of 30 are at the greatest risk of falling into an emotional affair. Research has also shown an economic correlation to emotional affairs. Regardless of genderthe more money a partner brings home in relation to their spouse, the more likely they are to engage in an emotional affair. The reverse, paradoxically, is also true for men. The more they lag behind, or outstrip their wives income, the greater the chance on infidelity.
But when their incomes are roughly equal, the likelihood of infidelity declines. Perhaps, in some cases, complicated by an abiding sense of narcissistic entitlement. Research also tells us that your personal intimacy report card is also an important risk factor. People who already have a divorce behind them are twice as likely to pursue an emotional affair.
Do you fear that you might be slipping into an emotional affair? Read my earlier post and take our quiz here. Schedule a consultation with our Intake Coordinator, Daniel, to learn how a single private intensive couples therapy retreat can help emotional affairs. Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist.
He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. What are Emotional Affairs?