“You’ve Got Mail” — adorable rom-com, but also an example of an emotional affair? (Photo: Everett Collection)
Remember the movie You’ve Got Mail? The characters played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would race home from work to check their email, hoping to find a message from their new e-pen pal. Were they cheating on their significant others by sharing intimate details of their lives with each other?
Well, they hadn’t yet met, so many would probably answer “no” to that question. But relationship experts would call their deep conversations the start of an emotional affair.
Today, with so many social media platforms (which also include apps to meet new people, such as dating apps), it’s easy to find yourself in an intense conversation that’s honest, trusting, and revealing with someone you’ve never actually met IRL. Problem is: If you’re in a relationship, even this seemingly harmless act can qualify as an emotional affair.
“I define emotional infidelity as any relationship that occurs outside of one’s primary relationship, where the communication focuses on fulfilling intimate emotional needs, sharing vulnerabilities and fantasies, [or] meeting needs for attention and validation in an amorous way,” Marina Voron, LMFT, co-founder and clinical director of Nassau Wellness, in Garden City, New York, tells Yahoo Health.
So if you’re in contact with someone who’s not your S.O. and you find yourself excitedly logging onto Facebook or check your email to see if he messaged you, be honest with yourself: Is this just a friendship, or an emotional affair? Not sure how to tell the difference? Here are signs your innocent banter may be something more.
1. You keep your “friendship” a secret.
A good test to determine if you’re having an emotional affair is to ask yourself one simple question: Would you hesitate to tell your partner about all aspects of this friendship? “Would you let your spouse read all your texts/emails/DMs with this person?,” Voron says to ask yourself. “Secrecy is the marker crossing the boundary from friendship to more intimate feelings that could lead to an emotional affair.”
2. Talking to him/her makes you feel alive.
“The emotional affairs I’ve worked with have been described as awakening, giving a feeling of being alive, immersive, and almost obsessive in nature,” Voron says. “The amount of communication that occurs between the partners would seem excessive to anyone on the outside.”
3. You spend a lot of time thinking about him/her.
The best way to tell that the friendship is more than just a friendly situation is to consider the amount of time you spend thinking about the other person. “The more you think about the person, the stronger the feelings are,” Seth Meyers, PsyD, a relationship expert and author of Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve, tells Yahoo Health.
4. You start to wish your spouse was more like him/her.
Affairs, both sexual and emotional, start when there is an unmet need in the primary relationship. “There are a lot of emotional affairs that start because one partner feels neglected and gets emotional validation and attention from an affair partner,” Voron explains.
5. You share deep feelings.
This is what separates a crush from something more, according to Meyers. When you’re having an emotional affair, you share more about yourself and seek out private time together — and that can be in person or online — to talk.
6.You fantasize about getting physical with him/her.
Most emotional affairs never cross the boundary into a sexual affair because feelings serve as the specific function of the relationship. But this relationship may still fulfill sexual needs without becoming physically intimate, Voron says: “The majority of emotional affairs I work with do not involve physical sexual interactions, however can focus on the fantasy of what a physical interaction would be like.”
7. You feel guilty about your secret, intimate friendship.
This isn’t always the case — you might not think you are doing anything wrong since nothing physical happened — but if you unconsciously feel guilty for betraying your primary partner, it might mean an affair is happening, according to Meyers.
Read This Next: How to Spot a Cheater
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