Jack awoke to the sound of his phone’s alarm. Feeling lethargic because he did not get a restful sleep due to the built-up stress of overseeing an important work project, he decided to hit the snooze button.
As he reached for his smartphone, the thought of Jenner put a big smile on his face. He has been working together with Jenner on a company project. Jenner often has a kind word for everyone on the team, especially Jack, plus she has a knack for reframing problems, which has helped Jack tremendously.
Jack has often experienced fuzzy-wuzzy feelings whenever he was in Jenner’s company, a special warmth that he could not find in his marriage of 6 years.
Soon, Jack and Jenner find themselves spending more time together over work lunches and dinners without the other team members; their conversations have become more personal too. A team member even commented that Jack’s relationship with Jenner seems too close for comfort but Jack instantly laughed it off saying they were “just friends”.
Is there anything wrong with the relationship between Jack and Jenner? Are both “just friends” or are they sliding into an emotional affair?
The truth is, whether you are happy, fulfilled, or dissatisfied in your marriage, nobody is exempt from having an emotional affair.
It is not uncommon for a married person to be involved in an emotional affair without realising it. Here are some warning signs to look out for.
An emotional affair involves having non-sexual intimacy with someone who is not the individual’s romantic partner. It often starts innocently as a friendship or working relationship. But if a person intentionally or unintentionally invests emotional energy and time in a friendship outside of their marriage, a deeper attachment is formed.
Some believe that such a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex is harmless because there is no sexual intimacy involved. However, the deep bond shared outside of marriage can seriously threaten the person’s intimacy with their spouse.
Emotional cheating can act as a gateway to a full-blown sexual affair. For many, the most hurtful part of a spouse’s emotional infidelity is the sense of being betrayed.
In his book Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship, author Gary Neuman shared the following warning signs of emotional cheating:
Frequent contact makes it possible for intimacy to develop.
In today’s connected world, and with advanced technology like the internet, it has never been easier to meet, interact, and bond with others.
At work, we are often required to interact with members of the opposite sex and exhorted to cultivate good working relationships to complete a project or to achieve the organisation’s goals.
Frequent contact makes it possible for intimacy to develop. This is where we need to be honest with ourselves: If you begin to feel more excited about seeing your colleague than going home and spending time with your spouse, then you’re likely treading on dangerous ground.
No marriage is affair-proof. It is possible to get involved in an emotional affair if we allow our marriage to slide or to remain stagnant.
But there are several ways we can protect our marriage from such temptations:
1. Commit to your spouse. It has been said that while compatibility brings a couple together, commitment enables a couple to “stick” together. Indeed, commitment is the glue that holds the relationship in good and bad times.
Tip: Put a photo of your spouse or your family on the home screen of your digital devices to remind you of your commitment to stay faithful.
2. Shower your marriage with tender loving care (TLC). Prioritise your marriage, make time, and put in effort to meet each other’s important needs.
Tip: Do a 30-day Marriage TLC challenge. Do one simple gesture or kind act daily to strengthen the relationship OR take the “5 love languages” quiz if you are unsure how your spouse wants to be loved. And love him/her according to his/her love language.
3. Control your social media environment. The images we look at, the information we receive, the people we follow, and the posts we like/comment can influence us, for good or for worse, and in more ways than we care to admit.
Tip: Declutter your social media platforms. Delete apps or websites that do not add value to your marriage or unfollow someone who is taking too much of your head space.
4. Set boundaries about how you will interact with the opposite sex. Keep phone messages and conversations business-like. Avoid sharing innermost thoughts or feelings that should be reserved for your spouse only.
Tip: When someone shares (intimate) personal information that is too close for your comfort, graciously end the conversation.
5. Be honest with yourself
If you find yourself attracted to someone, admit it to yourself. If you receive feedback from colleagues or family that your friendship with the opposite sex is “crossing the line”, do not be too quick to rationalise by saying “we are just friends”. Instead, ask yourself tough questions about the friendship to determine if you are walking down a slippery slope. Honesty is the key to preventing a relationship from escalating into an affair.
6. Choose to work through marriage issues with a therapist. If you are struggling with issues in your marriage, instead of confiding and seeking support from an opposite-sex colleague or friend, consider seeking professional help.
It is not uncommon for a married person to be involved in an emotional affair without realising it. Emotional affairs can inflict as much pain and hurt to a couple and do damage to a marriage as sexual ones. Watch out for red flags and find ways to safeguard your marriage from deception and temptations.
What is one thing you can do to protect your marriage?
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