Emotional Affairs (EA) and how to get yourself back is our topic for today.Remember that one good friend, colleague, classmate of your’s who was of the opposite sex. You guys did everything together, 5&6 to the core but there was never anything intimate because you guys are just buddies. Now you’re married and one day your spouse does something really off and you need to speak with them as usual but something strange happens mid-discussion. A dependence on their feedback takes root (yep, thats the one, that’s the feeling we are talking about today). I really don’t know how faulty this reasoning may be but my mother always said;
“Temple, the fact that you shut your eye’s tightly does not mean you are now blind. A man and a woman can never be best friends without someone catching feelings at some point. That a friendship is so tight does not mean it cannot give birth to emotions.”
– Mama Obike
I struggled for years to fight this seed she planted in my brain but the older i get, the more it tends to be true every time. I see many single and married people struggling with emotional affairs usually for someone who started off as a confidant, friend, work colleague etc. An emotional connection between two people who keep their relationship secret because one or both are in a committed relationship is what i call an Emotional Affair. While i know for sure that over 50% of emotional affairs are not sexual, i also know that over 40% of them end up in full blown “flame extinguisher not working” sex. 30% of couple cases i’ve handled who decided to get a divorce have emotional affairs as the main reason for their split. With WhatsApp, Tinder, social network sites and loads of accessible wireless technology tools available, cheating has never been easier than in these times.
I’d like to discuss some of the things that could lead you to an emotional affair and possibly advice on what you could do to stop this at the stage it currently is on.
Recognizing Emotional Affair Triggers
A. My Input Is Not Recognized
Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing else that could send your partner down the path of an emotional affair that this feeling of their inputs, efforts and more being recognized. Once an individual struggles with inadequacy they will withdraw emotionally from their spouse or partner. Even in relationships where a partner provides everything, financial, sexual etc. This could also happen because in some really special cases, partners have been known to withdraw and resent the other because they felt their only worth was providing sex and money. So for everything else that required another form of provision such as security, validation etc, they failed at it. When a partner struggles with inadequacy, they usually look for validation elsewhere. This is usually with their friends of the opposite sex because a man will usually not go his male friend to seek validation in a department of his life where his wife is lacking and vice-versa. Once external validation helps you get calm and understood, you just set the stage for emotional intimacy. At this point, i’d like to mention that;
“Every woman or man out there who provides emotional validation,comfort,compliments to someone else’s spouse is doing more harm than good because it’s not your job to do this unless of course you both are well aware of the pieces on your game board”
My Advice: If you have gotten to this point, it simply means that your partner is not adept at reassuring you or listening to what you are verbally or non-verbally saying. I advice you have an honest discussion where you request for a bit more validation. There’s no shame in this.
B. Little or No Time for Intimacy
Unless you are using sex as a tool for inflicting pain on your significant other or have underlying health conditions, Sex isn’t something any partner needs to ask the other for. It’s simply a given in every “healthy” relationship. Unfortunately, most relationships aren’t healthy. Emotional affairs are naturally aphrodisiacs. The flirting makes you feel sexier, for close friends being in the same room with “the worry” and “the wonder” (pardon me i love words) heightens the erotic nature of this affair and during a physical discussion, that eye contact will be over-exaggerated. This makes you come back for more because you suddenly understand that someone actually finds you attractive. For many individuals, you notice that they hit the gym, take more pictures, return to an almost boy-ish/girl-ish mode and become a bit more distant or uninvolved in a lot of things happening at home.
The other person is also at a stage where they are enjoying their newfound power over you. They will heat up the flirting, hint at sex, consume the other partners senses with fragrances etc. The human need to control another humans desire is at play here. This i noticed is usually the case with men or women who have failed at some point in their life to either hold someone else’s attention or be the faithful partner. Your ability to succumb is their victory and validation that they’ve still got it. This is a big thing for these that many in our society will turn to fetish means to get this control and validation.
My Advice: There is no negotiation when it comes to sex and intimacy in a relationship. You and your partner need to work on his. I believe this is the point where you need to remember every good thing about your partner that made you fall in love with them. For busy partners, your schedule has absolutely nothing to do with your matrimonial duties because if you do not make time out for them, someone else will and even if they do not look that way now, someday they will, and when they do and you find out, it will affect the same business and your life somehow. Have an open honest disussion about whats making you stray. If your partner isn’t one to listen to talks or have a discussion, then write this on a note (divided into what i miss,my struggle and what i’d like) and nicely ask them to read it. This does not make you weak but instead makes you the stronger one who decided to work on a failing relationship despite your skeletons.
C. Excitement is Gone
Once someone else asides from your partner gets you all excited, that’s a red flag. No-one else should have all that power. I always advice clients that one of the greatest super powers you can have is the ability to create sexual stories in a very visual way. Engage your spouse, paint pictures of hope, sell him/her a dream when they are down. This one thing may be one of the few tools in your shed you can use to always spice things up. The moment your partners Emotional Affair subject an paint a better visual picture than you can, then you are in real trouble. Be the one to spin the “Arabian Tales” no cowboy or cowgirl should be doing this for you.
The other man or woman understands the power of this tool. This is the reason they will go out of their way to tell you things they know you may not be hearing. In some extreme cases, they will ensure that they invade every space they know you and your partner will be in such as a party, the children’s school,supermarket or even church (spooky but true). They know the more they invade your space, the more excited they get you. The more excited you get, the higher the erotic tension between both of you. This is what they feed on and if not checked this builds up to something stronger.
My Advice: Regardless of how busy your schedules may become, always figure out ways you and your partner can carry out fun activities together. This is one of the most common advice’s out there that’s never taken seriously, yet it’s the one advice that has saved plenty marriages. The world is giving us less reasons to be together but it’s your job to figure out ways to fight this and BOND. Have planned date nights, it helps.
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D. The Control Accusation
The moment you have to check on your partners phone, laptops and devices to enable you re-calibrate your trust levels, then it simply means there’s already a problem. The other issue with this is simply that when you do get caught checking (especially if your partner isn’t cheating or is steps ahead of you in covering their tracks) you will have to bear being called insecure for some time. You would have also pushed them further into their cave and given them more reason to be with the subject of their emotional affair. This is the part where i advice for real caution (on both the part of the one having an emotional affair and the one being cheated on) because things generally tend to move real fast once the one having an affair has one valid reason. This makes them shelve a portion of their restraint and get more involved in the affair. This is also the point they want sex because you (the one being cheated on) have proven you do not trust them and are insecure.
The other person will capitalize on this and pressurize them the more because they can already see the cracks from your significant other. Infact, at this point, i usually ask my clients “Is your EA partner becoming more reckless in the manner they try to call, text, WhatsApp and Zoom you?. The answer 86% of the time is “Yes”. I’ll tell you why. This back and forth between you and the EA subject is like a game of chess, the only difference is that you may not know you are in a game most times. In tactical warfare, there’s a term referred to as “The Rushdown”. This is the haste to take down an opponent once signs of weakness show up. For the EA partner, this could be sex, making financial demands or simply adding new elements to further ensnare you.
My Advice: My first advice to you is to stop giving your affair partner information and I’ll explain why. Based on an in-house research i carried out with partners who were cheating, i discovered that;
Over 70% of the time, they knew their Affair partners were not in love with them but had other love interests (who half of the time were cheating or deeply involved with some other person. This by itself creates a phenomenon called “Unrequited Love” and is usually associated with a rage the rejected one needs to carry out on someone else in a fairly stable relationship).
What this simply means is that what you think is love or an affair could be someone elses revenge on the world for having being rejected. Your information about your marriage or spouse is the tool they use in creating and fashioning a strategy. Stop providing the content and the story will stop. After this, seek out a good therapist first and re-allign yourself (this you need to discuss with your spouse at some point). After this, you can either speak with your partner and tell tem of what you had been struggling with. On the other hand for devouts who do not want to risk exposure, you can pray in whatever manner your religion permits and dedicate yourself to practicing healthy marital practices.
When you are having an affair, be it physical or emotional one thing is certain. You and the EA subject will dedicate time to the affair.The care, listening ear, sex etc are all investments by the EA subject. Though not written or signed, you both understand this This then brings us to the next part of this whole. You know you are doing something wrong to your spouse and unfortunately cannot apologize for something you have not even owned up to.
The EA partner recognizes this moment of weakness and this is their point to maintain and hold on to control. They also know if they push you too hard, you could return to your spouse emotionally and sexually. This is the point where a bit of manipulation begins. “I think i should stop calling you” could be the next line from the EA subject and this is where the struggle begins. You try to get your life back and concentrate on your partner but it’s not that easy. Your brain over-compensates for their absence making you imagine all sorts of things. They know any random sex(t) on how they miss you will topple you. So this usually comes in next. At this point, they go for the jugular by first sexting, then progressing to actual repeated sex to get you ensnared (either emotionally, with a pregnancy, with pseudo blackmail or with actual love in some rare cases).
My Advice: From this point onwards, it’s free-falling for most individuals caught up in an emotional affair because the guiltier you feel about an EA, the higher your chances of engaging with the affair with your heart (emotion) rather than your head(logic and critical thinking). Once you become emotional any of the following would ensue; you tell the truth to your spouse, you start slipping up with lots of mistakes or in some cases wish that your spouse would catch you as the erotically charged atmosphere is too much.
At this point, if you haven’t been caught already, seek help from a professional psychotherapist or simply decide on what you want to achieve from this relationship because the next and last steps is usually a point where decisions are usually irreversible. If you decide to opt for therapy, you will be assisted in exploring your emotions, look at what morals you infringed on and re-assess your commitment. This is also a point i urge clients to create 1,2,3 layers of boundaries. So when the 3rd boundaries are tripped, you sure up the 2nd and third.
Unfortunately, not everyone is self-willed and committed and many of the people we know struggle with this. Especially when it comes to Emotional Affairs. The last thing that usually transpires in an emotional affair in extreme cases is separation. It’s scary how we went from 0 to 1 million in just 3 minutes. Yes, thats how it usually happens. From needing a little attention to acting all shades of crazy;
7. The Separation
You’ve already experienced the amount of pleasure, companionship and empathy you can receive from this other party. Your affair interest already knows you are far gone and become a bit more assertive. “If you don’t mind” becomes “I insist” and “I’d like some attention at some point” becomes “I don’t like being neglected”. Since you are not divorced, you might just be caught in-between squatting, living in another apartment all by yourself or simply in another state. This gives the EA partner more access to you and thought you enjoy this, you will battle with some guilt after which you will give in fully to the EA partner.
My Advice: Delay making the decision to divorce your spouse for at least 6 months. This is because that’s a lot of time to figure out what this (the affair) truly is evolving into. Some EA partners may still allow you contact with your former spouse but others will vehemently stand against this as they have worked hard to get this and wouldn’t risk the chance of loosing it all. However if you are among the many lucky ones who were targeted because the EA partner wanted to either experience what it felt like having you as a partner or simply because of what they could get from you (financial, sexual etc.) you will be released at some point. This is the point you make the painful deciscion to go back cap-in-hand to your spouse of forge along towards something else.
“With my experience in such matters, it ends in tears 96% of the time. That’s almost like ALWAYS”.
Emotional Affairs, office affairs, revenge affairs and so on are an attempt to describe something humans have struggled with for so long. Regardless of which it is, an affair is what it is. As humans, we are prone to mistakes and can also anticipate these mistakes before they come up if we know how.
As always, i hope this piece on “Emotional Affairs and How to Get Yourself Back” helped someone. If you are struggling with an emotional affair, You know how to reach me. Don’t wait until it affects your career, family life or more before seeking help.
Written by Obike Temple.
Temple Obike is a licensed marriage and family therapist, speaker, author and psychotherapist who has counseled over one thousand, two hundred clients comprising of couples, individuals, abuse victims (substance, physical, emotional and sexual) and grief-stricken clients. With over 70,000 in-counseling minutes (1,000+ hours) accrued in practice. He runs his private psychotherapy & counseling practice out of Lagos, Nigeria and has counseling centers in Abuja and Port-Harcourt. His practice also provides options for both online and on-site services.
His private practice has positively empowered lives through his online counseling, podcasts, free advisory services and free online materials. Readership of his articles also receive a growing number of visitors alongside subscriptions to his email newsletter at templeobike.com. His passion for empowering and uncovering the secrets to lifelong marriages and personal development led to his new book titled “Soul Bodega” available on amazon and across other online and traditional stores.
Never give up on yourself! You are a journey happening through various destinations.