When I was growing up, I witnessed my mother have countless emotional affairs with men other than her husband.
Time and time again, she would develop strong relationships with these men yet always play the victim when things crossed the line. The ongoing excuse was that she was never physical with them so that it wasn’t truly “cheating.”
One of these emotional affairs eventually led to full-on cheating, and my parents’ thirty-year-long marriage ended.
It always baffled me that it hadn’t prior because even as a young girl, I remember the strong relationships that my mother shared with men other than my father.
As I grew older, I learned from first-hand experience that an affair does not always start with the physical side of things. It often begins from an emotional connection and grows from there.
I believe that certain traits make someone more suspectable to an emotional affair and they are as follows:
#1. If someone crosses the line, you don’t feel like you should stop them
Jamie received a flirty text from one of her co-workers, Bryan. Although she thought that he was crossing the line for a moment, she decided it wasn’t a big deal.
As time went on, she and Bryan became closer, and her relationship was going through a rough patch. Bryan texted her that he would be with her if she weren’t in a relationship, and again, Jamie didn’t create any boundary and didn’t respond to that part of his message.
One day Jamie was feeling down and received another flirty message from Bryan, and before she knew it, she was flirting back. Eventually, her boyfriend saw the message and was extremely hurt. Jamie realized that because she hadn’t stopped Bryan initially, she had lost trust with her partner.
#2. You yearn for that feeling of new relationship excitement as soon as the honeymoon stage ends
Whether it lasts a year or even a little more than two, the honeymoon phase will inevitably begin to fade.
For some couples, this means settling into a comfortable and satisfying life together. Others find it boring and can start yearning for the excitement of the early days of dating.
A few years ago, I had a coworker that was engaged. She always talked about how much she missed the beginning of her relationship and flirted with many men at work. One night there was an event, and things went a bit too far with her and a colleague. It turns out that they had been flirting for weeks, and eventually, their flirtation turned into something more… a physical affair.
#3. You lack self-esteem and feel like you need continuous validation from others
My mother always complained that she wasn’t pretty or smart enough and wore her lack of self-love on her sleeve for the world to see.
Do I believe my father should have been more vocal about giving her words of affirmation? Perhaps, although I sincerely doubt that it would have changed the outcome of their life together.
Although she is in a relationship with a new man who gives her all of the attention in the world, my mother still talks to lovers from her past. No amount of words or affection will ever be enough because the lack of self-esteem ultimately comes from within herself.
#4. You feel like your partner doesn’t understand you, so you share intimate parts of yourself with someone else
Life can bring challenges, especially when you are in a long-term relationship.
Imagine that Kristin is exhausted. She has been raising her two young children, and her husband is always working late. One day she receives a message from an ex-boyfriend on social media. At first, he and Kristin share pleasantries, and then they begin getting into detailed conversations about their lives.
Kristin shares her fears and dreams with her ex and has deep intimate conversations with him that she no longer has with her husband.
Eventually, their conversation could die out, or it could escalate into Kristin realizing this person understands her better than anyone else and uprooting her life…, and it all began with a simple message.
An emotional affair doesn’t start in an instant
This subject should by no means send you into a worrying spiral or cause you to try to control your partner.
It is simply a reminder that certain behaviors and feelings can make you susceptible to an emotional affair. I’ve watched it happen to friends, family, past partners, and my own relationship clients.
A willingness to talk about difficult topics such as infidelity can equip us to have more honest and open conversations with our partners and help us prevent ourselves from falling into areas of temptations in a solely monogamous relationship.