The 7 stages of an emotional affair suggest infidelity or betrayal in which a person develops a deep emotional connection, often romantic or intimate in nature, with someone other than their committed partner.
In most cases, the affair doesn’t involve physical intimacy but it typically entails secrecy, intense feelings, and a breach of trust within the primary relationship.
These connections can be emotionally damaging to the committed partner and may jeopardize the stability of the relationship once the cheating person gets revealed in their partner’s eye.
Emotional Affair – What does it mean?
From the introduction, it is clear that emotional affairs develop when someone seeks emotional intimacy from outside of their primary relationship. When a committed person gets involved with someone other than his or her spouse through casual acquaintances, it constitutes a form of cheating or infidelity.
In emotional intimacy, the person develops profound love feelings for someone who is not his or her immediate partner. The person may also take deliberate actions to nurture the new bonding.
In most cases, an emotional affair is an unplanned one when it begins; however, it can slowly turn into a relationship that is serious and significant. The person invests time and energy into building the friendship to newer heights.
If you have ever experienced a kind of pull towards a long-lost friend with whom you are currently moving around or an acquaintance who has recently taken over the role of your best friend and guide, then it could be an emotional affair with them.
Maybe a small part of ‘you’ knows that you are cheating on your spouse or present partner but can’t stop yourself from engaging with your emotional partner. The attraction is undeniable and intense and you have started sharing the secrets of your life with them that you shouldn’t be sharing in obvious ways.
How do emotional affairs Start And Why?
Emotional affairs can start for a variety of reasons, and they typically evolve gradually over time. Here are some common ways emotional affairs can begin and why they happen:
- Emotional Neglect: When one or both partners in a committed relationship feel emotionally neglected or unfulfilled, they may seek emotional connection and support elsewhere. An emotional affair can start when one person finds someone who listens, understands, and validates their feelings and needs.
- Friendship Turned Deeper: Sometimes, a close friendship can develop into something more. As two people spend more time together and share personal thoughts and feelings, a deeper emotional bond can form, often without any initial intention of infidelity.
- Common Interests or Activities: Shared interests or activities can bring people together, creating a sense of camaraderie and connection. When this connection becomes emotional and starts to fulfill unmet needs, it can lead to an emotional affair.
- Workplace Relationships: Spending a significant amount of time with colleagues at work can lead to emotional affairs. The emotional connection may start innocently with discussions about work-related issues but can escalate into sharing personal matters and feelings.
- Online Relationships: The digital age has made it easier for people to connect with others online. Social media, dating apps, and online forums can provide a platform for individuals to form emotional bonds with people they’ve never met in person, which can turn into emotional affairs.
- Unresolved Issues: Past relationship issues, unresolved conflicts, or unhealed emotional wounds can lead someone to seek emotional support or validation outside of their current relationship.
- Desire for Novelty: Some individuals may seek emotional affairs because they desire novelty and excitement in their lives. The thrill of a new emotional connection can be enticing.
- Lack of Boundaries: When there are unclear or weak boundaries in a relationship, it becomes easier for emotional connections to develop with others. This can happen when individuals do not establish or maintain appropriate limits in their interactions with people outside of their committed partnership.
- Escapism: In some cases, emotional affairs may serve as a form of escapism from the challenges and responsibilities of their current relationship. The emotional connection with someone else provides temporary relief from their existing problems.
- Unintentional Slippage: Emotional affairs may begin unintentionally. People may not initially recognize the emotional connection forming, and by the time they do, it has already developed into something significant.
Signs that you or your partner is having an emotional affair
It’s important to remember that emotional affairs can be detrimental to a committed relationship and addressing these signs through open communication and seeking professional help if needed is crucial to maintaining a healthy partnership.
Some of the catchy signs to note are as follows:
- You or your partner may keep conversations or interactions hidden.
- A noticeable emotional disconnect in the relationship.
- Frequent and secretive communication with someone else is always going on
- Discussing personal problems or dreams with someone other than the partner.
- Constantly comparing the other person to your partner.
- Spending significant alone time with someone of the opposite sex.
- Becoming defensive or evasive when asked about the relationship with the other person.
- Feeling guilty or anxious about interactions with the other person.
- Experiencing mood swings or emotional turmoil related to the other person.
- Giving or receiving gifts and favors that go beyond platonic friendship.
- Frequent and intense compliments or flattery toward the other person.
- Fantasizing or daydreaming about a future with the other person.
- Neglecting family or work responsibilities due to interactions with the other person.
- You start believing that the emotional connection is exclusive and special; something that was missing in your committed bonding.
- Denying the emotional affair or rationalizing it as harmless, if found out.
7 Stages of Emotional Affairs
In emotional affairs, the allure of attraction is quite intense and irresistible. Sometimes, the person is drawn towards their new partner just because there are missing links in their committed relationship. In such a case, the affair gets serious and can also be detrimental to the person’s present relationship status.
Emotional affairs are complex relationships that involve emotional intimacy and connection with someone outside of a committed partnership, often without physical involvement. These affairs can threaten the stability of a primary relationship or marriage. Here are seven stages of emotional affairs with explanations:
1. Attraction and Curiosity: The Friendship Stage
It begins with the initial attraction and curiosity towards someone outside of the committed relationship. This attraction may arise from common interests, shared experiences, or a sense of emotional connection that seems missing in the primary partnership.
This stage seems to be a casual dating or interaction phase where both partners share phone numbers or add each other to social media contacts. As time progresses, your texting interactions become more frequent, and you find yourselves sharing increasingly personal details about your lives, including your fears, dreams, and more.
However, at this point, you remain nothing more than friends—perhaps even pen-pals, co-workers, or exceptionally close friends. It’s obvious that in this stage you may not even be aware of the potential for emotional infidelity.
2. Emotional Connection: The Friendship Goes Deeper and More Obvious
As the attraction deepens, emotional bonds form between the two individuals. They may find themselves confiding in each other, sharing personal thoughts and feelings, and seeking solace or support from this person instead of their partner.
Emotional connection becomes a significant part of their lives. At this stage, your friendship has crossed a thin line and you people are no longer ‘friends’ but have allowed yourself much deeper intimacy and love-making than ever before.
This stage is also known as the infatuation stage where you may get vibes that you know the other person for a long time. There is a good old chemistry that is the basis of the bonding. You know each other’s likes and dislikes, fears and motives.
Additionally, there exists a potent yearning for more profound intimacy, abundant daydreams involving the other person, and an almost unbearable tension. It’s during this phase that you gradually transition into becoming a genuine emotional infidel. The other individual ceases to be merely a friend and instead assumes the role of an emotional affair partner.
3. Intensification of Feelings: The Close Confidant Stage Has Set In
Emotions intensify as the individuals in the affair invest more time and energy into their connection. They may experience feelings of love, infatuation, or longing for the affair partner, often feeling torn between their primary partner and the affair. Emotional intimacy deepens as they continue to share their innermost thoughts and feelings.
If you are currently experiencing an emotional affair, you’ll notice a peak in your feelings. You will constantly think about your partner or will choose to text him/her, call, or meet up somewhere.
The intensity of the feelings will ensure intimacy and a deeper emotional connection between the two of you. A deep emotional connection has reached its zenith, prompting the pivotal question: Will this emotional bond evolve into physical intimacy or not?
4. Idealization and Comparisons: The Grass Appears Green on the Other Side
Individuals in emotional affairs may begin idealizing the other person and comparing them favorably to their partner. They may see the affair partner as more understanding, supportive, or exciting, which can lead to dissatisfaction in their primary relationship and a desire to spend more time with the affair partner.
Likewise, you may start realizing missing links with your spouse. Maybe the connection has been lost because of minimal physical intimacy, and no communication because of workload and family responsibilities. You may feel that your new relationship is bright and shiny and it has the spark of true love that was long lost in your committed relationship.
5. Secrecy and Deception: Increased Discomfort is on the Way
In this stage, individuals start to hide the extent of their interactions from their partners. They may engage in secretive communication, such as private messages, texts, or meetings, and often lie or omit information about their interactions with the other person. The secrecy is a sign that the emotional affair is becoming more intentional.
Likewise, you may show a growing discomfort about the new newfound relationship. You are scared to get caught and want to keep things undercover. This stage symbolizes deception and cheating with your present partner. Conflicts can arise with your present partner in this stage; as if you two are drifting far away from each other.
6. Conflict and Guilt: The Stage of Emotional Wear and Tear
As the emotional affair progresses, individuals may experience inner conflict and guilt. They realize the potential harm they’re causing to their primary relationship and may struggle with feelings of betrayal. Guilt can lead to emotional turmoil and confusion about what they want and who they want to be with.
In the sixth stage, you may realize the harm caused to your committed relationship. Your present partner suspects you of cheating and infidelity and that is causing a lot of emotional turmoil in you.
7. Decision and Consequences: The Curtain Falls
In the final stage, individuals must make a choice between their primary partner and the affair partner. This decision can be difficult and emotionally charged. If they choose to continue the emotional affair, it can lead to the deterioration of the primary relationship, potentially resulting in separation or divorce. If they decide to end the emotional affair, they may need to work on rebuilding trust and repairing their primary relationship.
This is a breaking-up stage where you need to decide about your next move. You can either break off from your emotional partner completely and start living inside the committed bonding or seek separation from your present partner forever.
By now, the damage to the present relationship is already done. The road back home is not only tough but impossible. This stage of emotional affairs is challenging and calls for a decision that you may have never thought about in your life.
Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantRelationship’
Any affair that gets emotional over a period of time starts with attraction and intimacy. Everything happens steadily and couples get vibes that the intimacy is much more in-depth than what they have initially thought of. Both partners invest time and love into building trust and friendly undertones; unless things go deeper and deeper beyond a comeback.
At this juncture, it’s essential to note that emotional affairs can be as damaging to relationships as physical infidelity. Open communication, seeking therapy, and addressing underlying issues within the primary relationship are crucial steps to prevent and heal from emotional affairs.
Chandrani is a former school psychologist and teacher by profession. She is a post graduate in Applied psychology with focus in clinical and health domains. Her passion for writing, kindled during school days have now become a full time freelancing endeavor. For her, writing is cathartic and keeps her mentally agile. Her lovable niches includes psychology, parenting, spirituality, lifestyle, and love and relationships. Her work depicts her perspectives about various experiences that she came across; unleashed a richer and deeper meaning of life. "Let me leave an aftertaste in the minds of few, if not many who need to find a path of absolute bliss, happiness, and inner peace."