Does an Extramarital Affair Have to Be Physical?

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Affairs don't always assume the form of physical infidelity. Emotional infidelity crops up when one partner relies on someone outside of the marriage to fulfill his emotional needs. These kind of affairs don't always result in the immediate ending of a committed relationship, suggests marriage counselor Gina Binder in "Emotional Infidelity: Worse Than a Sexual Affair," but over time, it has the potential to create a rift between a married couple, since they no longer rely on each other on an emotional level.

Looking for Signs

Because emotional affairs start as friendships, it can be difficult to mark when the actual emotional cheating begins, suggests licensed psychotherapist Tammy Nelson in "3 Signs You Might Be Having an Emotional Affair." One sign of emotional cheating is when you begin to share most of your marriage woes with your friend, rather than your spouse. From there, you might move onto playful flirting or banter to gauge her interest. Another sign is that you contact that friend at inappropriate times of the night, or wait anxiously for phone calls or texts from that person.

Common Causes

Emotional distance between married individuals can lead them to search for others with whom they can connect. However, various causes might be spurring that initial emotional distance, suggests relationship expert and author Margaret Paul in "What Lies Beneath Emotional Infidelity?" For example, when partners refuse to take responsibility for their own feelings, distance arises. Power struggles can also lead to emotional distance, as one partner might withdraw to avoid feeling controlled.

Growing Appeal

Emotional infidelity is not new concern, however there are more opportunities for it to occur due to the growth of methods of communication, suggests psychotherapist Michael J. Formica in "Emotional Infidelity." For example, thanks to online video conferences, a person can slip into an emotional affair with a friend halfway around the world. In addition, in terms of risk management, emotional affairs can be more appealing. The chances of you physically hooking up during a long-distance emotional affair are slim, suggests Formica. Nevertheless, you can still damage your relationship.

Looking for Solutions

To recover from an emotional affair, spend more time and energy in nurturing your marriage, suggests Therese Borchard, associate editor of PsychCentral, in "12 Ways to Recover from an Emotional Affair." For example, take a trip with your spouse or take on a new hobby together. If you still feel addicted to the person you were having an emotional affair with, write down your feelings, minimize the time you spend obsessing and give yourself time to grieve the loss of that relationship, says Borchard.