How To Protect Your Relationship From Cheating - Why Defining an Emotional Affair is It's Best Prevention

Important Questions about Emotional Cheating 

Before you start reading the rest of this blog post, stop for a minute and ask yourself the following questions:

1. What exactly are emotional affairs?

2. What kind of emotional pain and suffering do they cause an otherwise loving and trusting life-partner?

3. How does someone who’s a victim of such an affair feel at the moment  they discover that's it's been happening?

4. Does an emotional affair impact a close relationship any more or less than a sexual affair? (Here's a preemptive answer to this one: yes woman find emotional cheating even more devastating than sexual cheating!)

The Emotional Affair - The Need for a Clear and Practical Definition

Emotional affairs are destroying more and more marriages and relationships each year. The reason they’re so destructive is because they inflict a powerful emotional injury on the offended partner.

Emotional affairs, like sexual cheating, can actually “hurt” a loved one right out of the relationship.

Many researchers and relationship experts actually see these kinds of affairs as a form of emotional abuse. Others see it as abusive behavior only when it’s intentional.

Emotional vs. Sexual Cheating – 2 Different Behaviors Leading to The Same Emotional Injury

Emotional and sexual affairs may represent 2 seemingly different behaviors, but they inflict the same kind of emotional injury. It’s an injury that takes place at the human level of “attachment.”

Healthy attachment is about trusting that our partner will protect us from these kinds of injuries in the first place. It’s having a sense that we come before any other person in our partner’s life.

Attachment is also about giving and receiving love and deep emotional soothing just when it’s most needed. It’s all about the primary emotional needs of our “inner child.”

To put it simply, a person who’s been hurt by an emotional affair (and sexual cheating) is like a 3 year old who has lost his or her parent’s in a busy shopping center.

It’s the same sense of panic, the same tears and the same self-protective anger and resentment.

Infidelity Rates Have Actually "Sky-Rocketed" Since The 1970s

Sadly, most people don’t have a clear enough understanding of how an emotional affair works. They don’t know why they start or how to prevent them.

People certainly focus on the emotional pain and distress these affairs cause.
They sense there’s a clear relationship between emotional and sexual cheating, but they can’t explain the affair behavior itself in clear enough terms to really take preventative action.

In fact, infidelity rates have doubled since the 1970’s despite a healthy increase in conservative relationship values. People detest infidelity but they’re doing more of it at the same time, especially through emotional affairs.

Clearly Defining the Problem Will Protect Your Relationship

Having a proper definition of an emotional affair will better enable people to bring their behavioral choices into greater alignment with their relationship values.

A clear definition will also provide people with a practical strategy for how to avoid these relationship destroying affairs in the first place.

A clear definition of emotional affairs will also empower people by providing insight into how to get over them when they do happen. A good definition clearly explains the problem and provides some solutions too.

So What Exactly is an Emotional Affair?

Let’s cut right to the chase. An emotional affair is the diversion of essential relationship sustaining love-energy from between a couple to an affair partner.

According to the world’s leading couple- therapy researchers, people need love, emotional security and soothing from a caring responsive partner for their emotional health, just like they need food, water and oxygen for their physical health.

Each couple has the perfect amount of emotional food and water to sustain their relationship. An emotional or sexual affair diverts these vital resources away from the couple.

Each partner gives and receives the needed love, storing it in their emotional batteries. This allows them to go out into the world to do things like productively working and creating. 

When a healthy couple's love batteries naturally drain over the hours and days, they have the emotion-focused communication skills to reconnect and refuel through spending quality time together and through expanding their capacity for emotional intimacy again.

According to leading relationship experts, when an affair is discovered, the offended partner quickly drains of their emotionally sustaining love-energy. It’s like a car battery quickly going dead in the deep cold of winter.

The offended partner now desperately needs to be replenished with love and reassurance from their partner. Their supply of love has been cut off and they're gasping and writhing for reconnection.

The problem here is that having the affair is the clearest possible signal that the offending partner can’t be trusted. Trust is the lifeline through which emotional intimacy flows. The 3 year old in the busy shopping mall has been left alone. He or she feels abandoned. Fear and anger comprise effective couple communication.

The offending partner (the one who cheated) feels a paralyzing sense of guilt and anxiety as well - much like the parent whose child has been lost. Not only have they damaged their partners trust, but in doing so they have also cut themselves off from the love energy that they themselves need!

Remember, it wouldn't be a relationship destroying affair if there wasn't that deep loving connection and attunement in your primary relationship in the first place. 

It’s like relationship destroying criticism, it only stings when the criticism masks our partner's underlying need for love and feeling valued. If you didn't love each other so deeply then criticisms and shut downs wouldn't make a difference to either of you. 

3 people can’t put 1 other person before all other people. The emotional-math just doesn't work in this formula. But 2 sure can. It’s how we’re designed.

How Do Most Emotional Affairs Happen in The First Place?

There are 2 basic ways that most emotional and sexual affairs begin:

  • The first is through the development of an informal “friendship” with a member of the opposite sex.

  • The second is through mindless flirting, which also leads to an informal opposite-sex friendship or worse.

What is an "Informal Friendship” with a Person of the Opposite Sex?

Think about that “attachment-based” love that sustains healthy long term relationships. Have you ever seen that lost child in the shopping mall right at the moment before and after she finds her parent? 

Well the kind of love and soothing that makes us feel emotionally safe is exactly the same kind of non-sexual love that bonds that child to its parent or caregiver based on the need to feel emotionally safe and secure.

In emotionally close and healthy adult relationships, this kind of attachment love fuels emotional intimacy. It’s also the rocket track to healthy long term sexual intimacy. So, by definition, this kind of genuine love must remain inside the marriage.

 Informal Opposite-Sex Friendships are Formal Relationships Gone Bad

Formal friendships are the kind that you have with a boss, co-worker or training partner. They’re most often the person you work with or for.

Informal Friendships are the kind that you have with your spouse, a close family member or your best friend growing up. To better understand this formal vs informal friendship distinction, consider how you feel attending a funeral for each kind of relationship.

You would be far more devastated by the loss of your spouse/life-partner or a very close family member than you would a colleague from work.

The danger here is when people cross that critical emotional boundary and start to develop an informal relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

The emotional affair is the rocket track to sexual infidelity. This is where couples who come to counseling to try to save their relationships say: “But it was just harmless flirting!” Turns out, there's no such thing!.

There’s no such thing as Harmless Flirting – Don't Take that Affair Pill!

For someone to say that they were just doing some “harmless flirting” is a complete contradiction in terms. Flirting must be kept inside the protective boundaries of the primary relationship. It’s that simple.

Flirting is all about “grass-is-greener” emotional and sexual immaturity. It leads to the temporary insanity of the brains “new relationship” chemicals being fired off.

This is because the emotional and sexual parts of the brain that fire at the beginning of a new relationship, can’t tell the difference between what’s going on in the real world and what we tell it or don’t tell it is going on.

Inappropriate flirting triggers the "cocaine like" brain chemistry of the so called romantic-phase of falling in love.

Flirting and allowing an opposite-sex informal “friendships” to form both represent what I like to call taking the “affair-pill”.

Once you take the affair-pill, the mind, mood and behavior altering effects of a brand new primary relationship's "chemicals" are very likely to kick-in. For many, this can result in a form of “temporary relationship insanity”.

The affair-pill can too easily lead to informal emotional intimacy and unintended or accidental sex - the accident leading to the serious emotional injury of your real life partner.

I’m not talking about actually drugging someone, which is of course a very seriously and dangerous crime. A drugged person is not responsible for their behavior changes and it wasn't their choice to be drugged in the first place. 

Taking the affair-pill on the other hand is your choice. Avoid flirting and informal opposite-sex-“friendships” and there will be no problem to begin with.

Major Relationship Ignorance Leads to Major Relationship Failure

So the big question remains: Why do people take the affair pill in the first place if it’s so dangerous? The answer is that they suffer from simple ignorance.

People simply have no idea how harmful the affair-pill is or that it actually exists. Most people have pop-culture misconceptions about the affair pill.

They've learned about what it takes to be in a long term healthy relationship from popular romantic movies and a regular diet of sitcoms and tv dramas. One such popular show was actually called “Friends”!

So How do You Protect Your Relationship from an Emotional or Sexual Affair?

The first step in affair-proofing a relationship is to replacing ignorance with awareness. You know what the affair-pill looks like now and you know not to take it. It’s now time to plan ahead.

For most people (the writer included for over 3 decades now), just knowing the potential harm that sexual or emotional cheating can have on a loving partner is enough of a deterrent to simply and consciously never let it happen.

Always Stop and Think Before Acting

Choose to think about the relationship-devastating consequences, any time the affair-pill presents itself. How will cheating like that impact your actual partner? For those who have children, how would it impact them in the long term?

Never do or say anything that you would not say or do in front of your partner.

Use any inclination or invitation to cross that emotional or sexual line as a signal to start thinking about your beloved and the effects on them of your next behavioral choices.

Get To Your Partner Fast and Problem Solve

Both partners should agree in advance to report immediately to each other if and whenever any kind of informal attraction or inclination to flirting takes place. This has to be part of your basic couple-communication strategy.

Part of this means acknowledging that a human being is sometimes tempted sexually or emotionally. This is especially true when they’re in healthy long term relationships. 

Partners shouldn't feel threatened by this honest admission. After all what better way is there to show genuine love for someone than to be totally transparent and honest with them?

With a sincere loving partner, you’re going to get the same in return!

Identify and Pre-Plan for High Risk Situations

A key relationship-maintenance skill is being able to identifying and pre-plan for “high-risk” situations that can lead to affairs. Resilient couples learn this in effective pre-marital counseling.

According to the relationship research, most affairs start at work and increasingly online.

Affairs at work have been around for a long time, but online affair-pills are being delivered in unsuspecting ways.

An astonishing 81% of top US divorce-lawyers report an explosive growth in the number of divorce cases that are based on or strongly supported by, "Social Media Evidence”.

Yet it’s not just online video games, chat communities, cyber-sex, porn addiction and sexting that are destroying relationships and marriages. Emotional affairs seem to be happening with the technology itself at an alarming rate. 

People are actually having emotional affairs with their laptops, smart phones and tablets. They're spending hundreds of hours per month with their technology instead of with their partners.

There’s been a worrying increase of the number of couples who are suffering the slow painful process of becoming a "Cyber Widow or Widower”.

Once a partner’s high-risk situations for emotional and sexual affairs are identified, they should be avoided where ever possible. The same "report-to spouse or partner" rule applies here as well.

Scanning for assessing and managing any new high risk situations has to be an ongoing process.

The questions must always be: What’s more important here, the long term incredible benefits of your emotionally healthy monogamous relationship and family life or the brief emotional and/or sexual “pay-offs” of an affair-choice? 

How would a negative affair choices affect your partner, your family and your life?

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