Cathmae suggested a post on the definition of emotional affairs. She and her ex-husband did not agree on the definition. Others here have said that their spouses took some time to accept that they had cheated. The definition has gone through a number of revisions over the last few years. It can be like a whole other can of worms, especially in this day and age of social media and email.
The most recent definition I’ve seen says that cheating is anything you would not say or do in front of your spouse. There are always exceptions to every rule – who’s to say that your spouse is not some manic, insanely insecure and jealous type? But that is not usually the case. And sometimes the relationship starts off as a friendship and somewhere along the way crosses the line. The line is sometimes a little fuzzy.
The very first time my husband wrote to his affair partner, he knew full well that he was already crossing the line. He pursued her after getting her contact info from their alumni organization. She had been his first girlfriend, his high school sweetheart, and he wrote right at the outset that he regretted the decisions he made when they broke up, that his wife (me) was very jealous of her right up to that day, and that there was so much more that he wished he could say. Of course, he didn’t want me to see that letter, and it was most definitely crossing the line, and I classified that as cheating right from the get go. He didn’t touch her – he didn’t even see her until the following year because she lives so far away. He didn’t say he still loved her until the second letter. But that first letter most definitely crossed the line. He knew what he was doing.
It was the start of an emotional affair that went physical a year later. Throughout their six-year affair, it was largely emotional because they lived too far apart to see each other often. In fact, from what I know, they saw each other only a few times, with one five-day stay at a hotel during one of his business trips.
One of my favorite books on infidelity is Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass. She says there are three signs that a person has crossed the line towards an inappropriate relationship with someone.
- Close friendship and emotional intimacy. An emotional affair often begins as friendship and slowly builds into something more. While friendship alone isn’t enough to qualify as cheating, a feeling of shared closeness and understanding is the starting point for an emotional affair. It often seen in the sharing of personal problems and frustrations, and statements like, “He understands me like no one else can.”
- Sexual Attraction. An emotional affair is fueled by feelings of attraction between two people. It does not need to be consummated for a bond to form around the attraction. In fact, people in an emotional affair sometimes do not touch at all. But they look forward to seeing that special person just a little too much, and share just a little too much, and they feel a bond with that person.
- Secrecy. Here’s where friendship and attraction cross the line into emotional cheating. In an emotional affair, each person stops sharing certain aspects of the friendship with his or her partner, and starts confiding more in the “friend” and less in his or her partner. If you can’t act that way or say those things in front of your partner, you are crossing or have crossed into an EA.
It’s much too easy to do in our society today. On the job, we spend long hours with people working towards shared goals. At our children’s activities, we spend time with people who have similar interests and goals. At church, we spend time in groups with people who share personal stories a lot. These activities foster that feeling of shared closeness. We have to be aware and prepared.
My husband had all three criteria from Day 1 because she was his high school sweetheart. How was it for you or your partner/spouse?