It is Liz and Harry’s second session. They are both angry, hurt and confused. Harry admits that he has not been honest with Liz about how much time he’s been spending on the computer, chatting with “friends” and visiting porn sites, but he has reassured Liz over and over again that it isn’t anything to be upset about, he just does it for fun- “its not like I’m having an affair” he says. Liz, on the other hand, is upset, hurt and cannot understand why Harry doesn’t “get it” and even is a little confused herself at the strength of her response to Harry’s “cyber explorations”.
Harry may be on his way to, or already having an emotional affair. Liz’s reactions and confusion are normal. Emotional Affairs are sometimes difficult to understand, especially because they usually start out quite innocently. Harry probably did not intend to create a situation that would threaten his marriage. But unless Harry and Liz understand what an emotional affair is, and what it usually leads to, their marriage is in danger of being seriously injured.
An emotional affair is any relationship when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage but also receives emotional support and companionship from the new relationship.
It’s an emotional affair if
- I’m keeping the details of my relationship secret from my spouse
- I’m saying and doing things with the other person I wouldn’t do with my spouse present
- I’m sharing things with the other person that I don’t share with my spouse
- I’m making an effort to arrange to spend time with the other person
Most people who get involved in an “emotional affair…”
- weren’t looking for an affair
- didn’t INTEND to have an affair
- didn’t think they were vulnerable to an affair
Emotional affairs either end or they escalate.
It really doesn’t matter whether someone thinks an emotional relationship is totally harmless. The fact is that in most instances emotional affairs are just affairs that have not YET become sexual. They either end or they escalate. So (as with any type affair), it’s critical that all one-on-one contact with the third party be severed—before it escalates.
If there is ongoing interaction with someone with whom you have been very honest in sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings, this can generate a feeling of closeness that stimulates even more sharing—and more closeness, and on and on. Eventually, this relationship can become extremely close and an emotional attachment develops, causing serious damage to the marriage—whether or not it ever becomes “sexual.”
If you find yourself or your partner developing an emotional affair, its important to get help to understand why this is happening. Turning to another outside the primary relationship is a signal that something is hurting somewhere.