A relationship based solely on emotional connection can be just as intense as one based purely on sex. Most of these emotional affairs end up in a sexual relationship of some sort. In many ways, an emotional affair behaves similar to a substance addiction. It isn’t just how the other person makes you feel, but your body’s biochemical reaction to thinking about them and being with them. It creates a cycle of addiction whereby the stimulation of the brain’s pleasure centers through the emotional connection creates a need for more interaction. It isn’t surprising that people who abuse drugs or alcohol also end up in toxic relationships.
Craig Nakken defines this sort of addiction in his book The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior.
“A pathological love and trust relationship with an object [person] or event … the out-of-control and aimless searching for wholeness, happiness, and peace through a relationship with an object or event.”
Emotional affairs are the addictive bridge between a purely platonic friendship and a sexual affair. They are the breaking point whereby a person begins to switch their emotional allegiance from their current partner to someone else.
What are some of the warning signs of this kind of addictive emotional affair?
Here are 5 warning signs of an emotional affair:
1. Sharing Intimate Details
When you share intimate details about yourself or your current relationship, you are creating a powerful emotional bond with the other person in the emotional affair. Instead of sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner, you are replacing them with a surrogate instead of dealing with the problems in your relationship. By sharing those details, you are choosing to involve an outside party and creating / deepening a relationship with them instead of working on your already broken relationship with your partner. By discussing these intimate details, you are also sending a message that you are available for a deeper connection with this “friend” of yours.
2. Comparing Them To Your Partner
When you start to make comparisons between your special “friend” and your relationship partner, you are building a case against your partner and for your “friend”. You are convincing yourself that choosing your “friend” over your partner is the rational thing to do. You will tend to overlook the bad traits in your “friend” as compared to your current partner and focus more on the positive ones that make you feel pleasure in their company.
3. Obsessively Daydreaming / Thinking About Them
When you start fantasizing about them, obsessively thinking about them, you are creating a fictional surrogate for your emotions and reinforcing the addiction response of your body. Fantasizing creates a biochemical response in your brain that makes you feel good. This gets reinforced when you spend time with them, which then reinforces your fantasy about them. This creates a cycle of emotional addiction, which is hard to break.
4. Keeping What You Do Secret
Even if you and your friend do non-sexual activities together and you feel the need to keep these activities a secret from your partner, then you have an issue. When you start keeping secrets from your partner about what you do with your “friend,” you know that you are doing something morally wrong and don’t want to face up to it. You start rationalizing why you shouldn’t tell them. “They will get the wrong idea.” “They won’t understand the bond I have with my friend.” Maybe they will understand and get the correct idea and that is what you are afraid of. You keep it a secret because you are afraid they will figure it out.
5. Conspiring To Spend Time Alone Together
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Once you start to conspire with your friend to spend time alone together, then you start down the slope of a sexual affair instead of just an emotional one. You have built up this intense emotional fire between each other and it wants release. So, you plan to spend time alone together that doesn’t arouse suspicion, but where you can be intimate. When this happens, you have crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed. According to Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, approximately 80% of these relationships switch from a purely platonic friendship into a sexual one at some point.