Q: I need some relationship advice. My friend at work thinks I’m having an emotional affair with a new coworker and he told me I’m jeopardizing my marriage. My wife and I have been together for seven years. While it’s not a perfect relationship, we love each other and I don’t want to be unfaithful in any way. Are there signs that I’m being emotionally unfaithful?
~Louis, Austin, TX
A: Thanks for the question, Louis. Many of the couples who seek marriage help are struggling with issues of emotional infidelity. There are clear emotional affair warning signs that I’ll describe in a moment. But the first step in determining if a relationship is moving into this danger zone is to understand your true motivation while with this person.
This self-reflection should include an honest appraisal of your intentions as well as your vulnerability to stray. But this level of truthful self-reflection isn’t always easy.
What can stand in the way of honest self-reflection?
The ability to:
1. Rationalize or deny your true feelings for the person you’re potentially having the affair with—minimizing the relevance of what is happening allows the affair to continue and build steam;
2. Create mental barriers to keep your spouse (and married life) separate from the world of the affair. As a client once shared, “I had to force myself not to think about my wife when I was with the other woman. It was like I was able to play a mental game that caused my wife to vanish from my mind whenever I was cheating…” The function of this mental shell game is to prevent the two worlds from crashing into each other.
These two possible factors (rationalizing/denying your feelings and creating mental barriers to separate the affair world from your domestic/marital life) can prevent you from realistically assessing cues your friend may be picking up on.
Let’s turn our attention to the top warning signs of an emotional affair to help you assess what is actually happening.
Click here to read about the top 10 warning signs of an emotional affair.