There are two basic types of affairs: the affair that is based on sex and nothing more and the affair where there is emotional attachment. Both are detrimental to a marriage but the emotional affair is harder for both partners to recover from. The thing about the emotional affair is that it can happen to anyone, anytime and anywhere. In fact, studies show that emotional affairs often happen to people who consider themselves happy in their marriage. Good people with strong moral convictions in good marriages have affairs. If that’s true, how does it happen? How does a loving spouse find themselves emotionally and physically involved with someone other than their mate? It starts with being “just friends”.
To begin with, women and men approach friendship differently. For a woman, friendship means being open, vulnerable and self-disclosing while being emotionally supportive. For men, friendship is doing things together side-by-side. Men generally save the emotional part of themselves exclusively for their wives. When a woman shows friendship to a male, she can send him the wrong signals she doesn’t intend. When men open themselves up to another woman, it is much more likely to jeopardize the marriage. Having an affair doesn’t always mean having sex. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.
What lures people into emotional affairs? Most think it is physical attraction but that’s not true. It isn’t because the spouse at home is unloving or uncaring either. It’s because marriage is reality. It’s hard to resist seeing yourself mirrored through the eyes of an adoring friend. The affair is built on fantasy. In fact, when someone divorces and marries the person they had an affair with, the new marriage ends in divorce 75% of the time. I wouldn’t bet a dollar on those odds much less my marital relationship.
Not every friendship with the opposite sex is destined to become an emotional affair. Emotional affairs are characterized by three elements: secrecy, emotional intimacy and sexual chemistry. However, when there is more companionship, intellectual sharing and understanding in the friendship than in the marriage, that’s a big warning sign.
So how do you know if your relationship with someone of the opposite sex is “just friends” or something more? Below is a quiz from the book “Not Just Friends” by Shirley Glass.
- Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went?
- Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner?
- Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend?
- Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your friend?
- Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meetings?
- Are you aware of sexual tensions in this friendship?
- Do you and your friend touch each other differently when you’re alone than in front of others?
- Are you in love with your friend?
Scoring Key: You get one point each for “yes” answers to questions 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and one point each for “no” to 3, 4 and 5.
If you scored near 0, this is just a friendship.
If you scored 3 or more, you may not be “just friends”.
If you scored 7-8, you are definitely involved in an emotional affair.
If you or your spouse is involved in either a sexual affair or an emotional one, it’s time to get some help. The Marriage Place in the Dallas area can give you the support and guidance you need to get your relationship back on track.