12 Warning Signs That It’s Emotional Infidelity – And Not ‘Just Friendship’

A new sort of infidelity has been on the rise for decades, and it’s one of the biggest threats to marriage: ‘emotional affairs.’ Today’s workplace has become the new danger zone of opportunities for ‘emotional affairs,’ surpassed only by the Internet.

A relationship without sex can be just as intense, or more so than a sexual one. Not surprisingly, in most cases, approximately 80% according to Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, the dynamics of these platonic liaisons crosses over into sexual love sooner or later.

Why the crisis?

To understand the intensity of emotional infidelity, it helps to see the dynamics as an addiction, a form of addictive love. That’s because it’s easier to let go of a toxic pattern when you depersonalize the experience.

It’s not about ‘how’ special the person is or makes you feel, it’s about the neurochemicals that get activated when you think and behave a certain way that keeps you stuck in the damaging pattern! It isn’t a coincidence, for example, that persons with alcohol and other addictions are more likely to get into toxic relationships. Seeing the problem as an addiction also gives you access to proven steps to identify and break free of the toxic patterns.

Why addictive?

An addiction to an activity, person or substance puts a person’s brain and body in an intoxicating trance that, on the one hand, does not allow them to think clearly and make informed choices, and on the other hand, ‘rewards’ them for the toxic behavior with the release of certain chemicals that provide quick-fixes of pleasure in the body. Albeit temporary, there is also pleasure from lowering or numbing pain, shame or guilt, as it provides distance from taking responsibility to resolve the real issues of life and marriage (which risk failure).

In the The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior Craig Nakken provides the following definition for addiction, as:

“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.”

It makes sense that so many depressives and alcoholics find themselves in toxic relationships.

What are the warning signs?

There are at least 12 warning signs to alert you to take action to protect yourself and your relationship from ‘emotional infidelity.’

1. Thinking and saying you’re ‘just friends’ with opposite-sex.

If you’ve been thinking or saying, “we’re just friends,” think again. If it’s a member of the opposite sex, you may be swimming in treacherous waters. The very words are dangerous to your marriage.

This rationale allows you to make excuses, or more plainly, to tell lies (to yourself and others) about something you know in your gut is wrong. Regardless how strongly TV and entertainment promote the idea of opposite-sex friendships (and this is part of the problem!) as not only ‘okay,’ but also ‘right’ to demand unconditional trust, in most cases, an intimate friendship with a member of the opposite-sex that you find interesting and attractive poses risks.

2. Treating them as a confidant, sharing intimate issues.

Sharing thoughts and deepest concerns, hopes and fears, passions and problems is what deepens intimacy; it builds an emotional bond between two people, time better used in marriage relationship. Giving this away to another person, regardless of the justification, is infidelity, a betrayal of trust. This is especially true when you consider that emotional intimacy is the most powerful bond in human relationships, much stronger than a sexual one.

3. Discussing troubling aspects of your marriage and partners.

Talking or venting to a person of the opposite sex about what your marriage lacks, what your partner lacks, or what you’re not getting to make you happy sends a loud message that you’re available for someone else to ‘love and care’ for your needs. It’s also a breach of trust. And, like gossip, it creates a false sense of shared connection, and an illusion that you, your happiness, your comfort and needs are totally valued by this person (when, in truth, this has not been put to the test!).

4. Comparing them verbally and mentally to your partner.

Another danger sign is a thinking pattern that increasingly finds what is ‘positive’ and ‘just right’ about the friend and ‘negative’ and ‘unfulfilling’ about the partner. This builds a case ‘for’ the friend and ‘against’ the partner. Another mental breach of trust, this unfairly builds a physiologically felt case ‘for’ the friend and ‘against’ the partner, forming mental images in the brain that associate pleasurable and painful sensations accordingly.

5. Obsessively thinking or daydreaming about the person.

If you find yourself looking forward to seeing the person, cannot wait to share news, think about what you’re going to tell them when you’re apart, and imagine their excitement, you’re in trouble. This sense of expectation, excitement, anticipation releases dopamine in reward centers of your brain, reinforcing toxic patterns. Obsessively thinking about the person is an obvious signal that something is wrong. After all, you don’t do this with your friends, right?

6. Believing this person ‘gets’ you like no other.

It always appears this way in affairs and romantic encounters at the start. It’s an illusion, and in the case of emotional infidelity, one that is dangerous to a marriage because the sense of mutual ‘understanding’ forms a bond that strengthens and deepens emotional intimacy, with the release of pleasurable neurochemicals, such as the love and safety hormone oxytocin. This focus also puts you in a ‘getting’ frame of mind. It means you are approaching your marriage in terms of what you’re getting or not getting, rather than what you’re contributing.

7. Pulling out of regular activities with your partner, family, work.

Being absorbed with desire to spend more and more time talking, sharing, being with the person, it’s only natural to begin to resent time you spend on responsibilities and activities at home (and work?). As a result, you begin to pull away, turn down, or make excuses for not joining regular activities with your partner and family. Family members notice you are withdrawn, irritable and unhappy.

8. Keeping what you do secret and covering up your trail.

Secrecy itself is a warning sign. It creates a distinct closeness between two people, and at the same time grows the distance between them and others. Secrets create a special bond, most often an unhealthy one. For example, there may be a false sense of emotional safety and trust with the person, and an unwarranted mistrust and suspicion of the partner, or those who try to interfere with the ‘friendship.’

9. Keeping a growing list of reasons that justify your behaviors.

This involves an addictive pattern of thinking that focuses your attention on how unhappy you are, why you’re unhappy, and blames your partner and marriage for all aspects of your unhappiness. It builds a dangerous sense of entitlement and forms a pool of resentment from which you feel justified to mistreat your partner or do what you need to increase your happiness without considering the consequences.

10. Fantasizing about a love or sexual relationship with the person.

At some point, one or both persons begin to fantasize about having a love or sexual relationship with the other. They may begin to have discussions about this, which adds to the intensity, the intrigue and the intoxicating addictive releases of neurochemicals that make the pattern more entrenched.

11. Giving or receiving personal gifts from the person.

Another flag is when the obsession affects your buying behaviors, so that you begin to think about this person when you are shopping, wondering what they like or would show your appreciation. The gift choices are something intimate items that you would not give ‘just’ a friend. Gifts send clear messages that the two of you are a ‘close we’ set apart from others, and that the relationship is ‘special.’

12. Planning to spend time alone together or letting it happen.

This is the warning sign that, when not heeded, most often pushes partners to cross the line from a platonic to a sexual relationship. Despite good intentions and promises to one another that they would not let ‘anything’ happen, it’s a set up, a matter of time, when opposite-sex friends flirt with the availability of time alone.

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Anti-cheating ring’ leaves an ‘I’m married’ imprint on finger

Spouses with wandering eyes should take notice – slipping off your wedding band might not let you off scot-free, anymore.

The blogosphere is buzzing over a new ring that promises to keep spouses faithful by imprinting the words, “I’m married” into the wearer’s finger. The declaration is carved into the inside of the band.

The cost of fidelity? Just $550.

The titanium rings are sold on the website TheCheeky.com.

“With Arnold, Tiger and two timing IMF guy in mind, we have created this wedding ring for people intent on cheating,” the company writes, poking fun at some high-profile cases of infidelity.

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Divorcees finding new meaning to ‘cheating’ spouses

PHOENIX — Experts say many American couples stayed together during the recession because they couldn’t afford to go their separate ways.

Now the improving economy could trigger a spike in divorces, which can be a nightmare as the April 17 tax deadline approaches.

The Roosevelt Institute found that states with a higher increase in unemployment saw larger drops in divorce rates between 2005 and 2009.

There’s evidence that the mild economic recovery of 2011 has led to a rebound of divorces and if the unemployment rate continues to fall that trend can be expected to continue.

Bill Brunson, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said even after divorce, if an audit finds prior tax fraud during the marriage, both parties are on the hook for the full tax amount owed.

“Generally, that’s the case because both spouses benefited from that income,” he said.

But in certain circumstances a husband or wife may not have to pay tax, interest and penalties.

“The couple is no longer together and one spouse had no benefit or knowledge of the other spouse’s income, the IRS will work with them,” said Brunson.

The tax burden can be lifted if a former spouse can establish being the victim of abuse or domestic violence and did not challenge the tax returns truthfulness for fear of retaliation.

“You’ve got reasonable cause for the IRS to look at that and understand those are unique circumstances,” said Brunson.

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Infidelity: how to cope with a cheating spouse

Infidelity in your fifties can be particularly unsettling, says Sarah Cornwell. But you can move on and it can lead to positive change.

Finding out that your partner is having an affair is devastating at any age, but if you’re in your fifties and you’ve been together for years the shock is seismic. Suddenly you’re forced to see the person you thought you knew in a totally new light.

“It makes you feel that all the certainties in the world are collapsing around you,” says Andrew G Marshall, one of the wisest and most experienced marital therapists in the business. “Even if you accept your own contribution towards the problem, the realisation that you get rewarded like this just because you took your eye off the ball not only undermines your trust in your partner but in the general sense that the world is a fair place.”

The fifties are a classic time for affairs. The sense of ‘Is that all there is?’ hangs heavy in the air and the kids are no longer the glue that binds couples together. But no matter how commonplace infidelity has become (it is estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of us will stray at some stage) it is always painful.

So how can you handle the emotional chaos of those first few weeks, when you can’t eat, your brain won’t stop and the only thing that gets you through the night is a hefty dose of Temazepam?

With any luck, at this stage in life, you’re able to overcome the initial impulse to reach for the nearest blade – tempting though it may be – or make off with the mistress’ kitten, like MP’s wife Christine Hemming. Rather than storming out, you’re more likely to take a considered view of what you really want.

“I had always assumed that if my husband was unfaithful I’d leave him,” says Anna, who discovered her husband’s two-year affair with a colleague three years ago. “But when it actually happened to me I reacted very differently, I think because I’d learned from previous crises in our relationship that impetuous gestures are usually counter-productive as well as hard to go back on. I thought very carefully about what was at stake.

“My initial instinct was to tell the whole world the gory details – his parents, our kids, the taxi driver, my hairdresser. I held back, and now I’m so relieved I did. We told the kids the bare minimum, and I found that it was better to talk to just one or two good friends, because otherwise I got too much conflicting advice.

“I remember times when it was a huge relief to be with people who didn’t know anything about the affair.”

Andrew Marshall’s book, How Can I Ever Trust You Again?, speaks to the partner who has had the affair as well as the one who discovered it. Marshall says the hardest thing about the immediate aftermath is learning to live with uncertainty. He urges couples to accept the complexity of their emotions.

“It’s normal to be filled with all sorts of contradictory feelings: love and hate, hope and despair, fear and relief. We don’t like living with ambivalence, and often push ourselves to come down on one side or the other, even if it makes things worse. And there is a tendency to think, I’m in so much pain we’ve got to solve this now. In fact, there is no ticking clock.”

It’s reassuring that 25 years spent counselling couples through the aftermath of affairs has convinced Marshall that, despite all the misery and pain, the soul-searching that follows can make those relationships that survive stronger and better.

“There are many positives: you and your partner will probably speak more to each other in five days than you have in five years. Affairs have the capacity to bring all the unburied bodies in your relationship to the surface. So you’re not just dealing with the affair itself, but also with the long-term issues that you ignored beforehand, which usually turn out to be not as big or as scary as you thought. And that, ultimately, must be a good thing.”

How to cope with the shock: Andrew Marshall’s tips

Resist the temptation to throw your partner out straight away. You need answers to your questions.

Equally, don’t forgive too soon. You can’t forgive until you know what’s happened and seen its full impact.

Don’t make major decisions when you’re in shock. Put off the decision to stay or go for as long as possible.

Tell your kids the absolute minimum: “We’re having problems and we’re sorting it out” is quite enough.

Don’t tell the world and his dog. What you need is a sensible friend who won’t tell you what to do, preferably someone who doesn’t know your partner well (and who hasn’t gone through a bitter divorce themselves).

The healing process starts when you give your partner the chance to tell you.

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