What is infidelity?
Infidelity is an act of unfaithfulness when a spouse or partner engages in an intimate relationship with other people outside of the relationship. The affairs can be either physical or emotional.
Physical affairs are what it says. They meet and engage in either intimate or sexual acts. While it is more definitive, physical affairs can be a gradual form from emotional affairs as physical chemistry develops.
Physical affairs are often quickly picked up due to changes in the spouse’s behaviour.
- Upbeat mood.
- Spouse spending more time grooming and getting ready, asking for advice on chosen outfits.
- More frequent outdoor activities or late nights working.
- Emotionally less demanding and would often encourage the other half to do things separately.
It is not uncommon for people to find someone to confide in outside of the relationship. Women seems more at ease about it than men, due to men having attached stigmas being too friendly with a co worker of the opposite gender.
Consider the following scenarios.
- I would text the person and have a long conversation everyday, anytime of the day, even while in bed when my spouse is asleep.
- I make sure I contact the person with updates, big or small first before I tell my spouse. Am not concerned that my spouse is the last to know.
- I am comfortable having inappropriate jokes with the person because they get me.
- Often I would make comparisons between my spouse and the person. I think I would be much happier being in a relationship with the person instead of my spouse.
- I dread holidays as it means spending more time with my spouse. I would rather spend more time with the other person than be bored at home with my spouse.
- I would delete messages from the person and pretend to be talking about work when they ring so that it does not look suspicious.
- I would start daydreaming about our conversations with each other, and it filled me with warm fuzzies. And when they make contact, I get nervous feelings in my stomach like on a first date.
- I get jealous seeing photos of the person on holiday with their loved ones wishing I was there with them.
Emotional affairs play a massive part in the disruption of a relationship. It is often unnoticed or blinded by the friendship banner. If the above scenarios are relatable to you, please consider seeking some therapy to discuss this further. Consider online counselling for flexible session times so that it can be worked around family and work commitments. It would also make it more convenient for partner/ spouse to participate in the session together.
When does it become an emotional affair?
You would become nervous and restless because you would be away from the person, and you would do everything you could to ensure you could still make contact and stay close to them. You became more distant and resentful towards your spouse.
But there is no physical connection. Is that still cheating?
This concept is hard to accept. An emotional affair is often harmless until it becomes something more apparent, like a physical affair. We act and react based on our conscious and subconscious thoughts. As humans, we have needs and wants. When the needs and wants are fulfilled, in one way or another, we get creative to ensure we get some of the innate feelings met, so we feel alive and wholesome.
Who is more prone to having an emotional affair?
Both men and women are equally susceptible to being the person that betrays. As men and women break free from the traditionally defined gender roles, we become more responsive to listening to our desires and wants. Hormones became the driving force of our exploration of what freedom looks like to live and love.
Getting over infidelity
An affair does not mean the relationship needs to end. It is an opportunity to take a moment to review the relationship. Separation does not always end in divorce. It is a chance to give each other space to breathe and examine what is essential to each other still. Engaging in relationship therapy will also help both parties get a safe space to unpack their emotions.
For the betrayed, grief will be at its most intense during this time as you mourn the loss of the relationship you once had. There will be denial, anger, depression and acceptance.
As you go through the emotions, you become apprehensive and fearful. Fearful that if you stay, you are weak. But if you choose to leave, you fear you may not be able to survive without the partner. These thoughts create anxieties as they can lead to you feeling ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied, wondering if you are worthy of being loved still or is he worthy of your love. Your confidence and sense of self-worth diminish if you perceive a threat to the relationship. You may not want to be separated from your partner and will constantly check upon them.
This kind of attachment will not be helpful if you want to restart your existing relationship or form a new relationship with others.
For the betrayer, it is not easy being the person to rock the boat. You may realize you are not perfect, and that’s ok. You are also grieving. You ended the relationship you had that was passionate and intimate. You may find the urge to defend yourself or the other person.
What does recovery look like?
If the intention is to stay together, understand that both of you will be feeling raw from this experience. Give each other space to grieve and take turns listening as emotions arise. In a therapeutic setting, a counsellor acts as a mediator to give each person the chance to express the feelings of each thought process.
Be gentle with each other. The relationship you both have had has died. It is time to start a new relationship with each other.
Rediscover the love languages for one another.
- Words of affirmation.
- Quality time together.
- Physical touch.
- Acts of service.
- Receiving gifts.
Take some time to heal. Trust that you can listen to your spouse/ partner when they express their anger, hurt, desires and disappointments and have it reciprocated. Again, participating in relationship therapy can help you learn how to describe yourself so that your partner/spouse gets to know you more instead of being kept in the dark.
Our desires and wants drive our emotions. As we become more advanced, so will our desires to explore. Progressively, we rebel against gender defined expectations of a relationship. But deep down, we want to feel loved, wanted and cared for.
Infidelity has existed for centuries and is nothing new. We have learnt that having an affair is terrible. The spotlight on the betrayer is more intense, even more so if the couple chooses to remain together to work it through. What is essential is compassion and support to give them the strength to work through their differences for better or worse.