Love spending more time with your “friend” than with your significant other? Do you find yourself sharing your intimate thoughts and feelings with your “friend” than with your spouse? Are you confused whether it’s a friendship or an emotional affair? Be it an online or an IRL relationship, there was not much clarity about where one should draw the line before it turns into “cheating”. We had a lot of questions so we asked them to Pyschotherapist Ashika Mehta and she helped clear our doubts:
Thriive Art & Soul: What is an emotional affair?
Ashika Mehta: A deep friendship would usually be platonic. However, if a person is withdrawing emotional intimacy from their partner and putting in the same emotional investment into somebody else it would be considered an emotional affair. Essentially, an emotional affair is when the need for emotional intimacy is being fulfilled by somebody you feel attracted to at the cost of the primary relationship.
Thriive Art & Soul:What are the signs that a relationship is an emotional affair and not a friendship?
Ashika Mehta: Emotional infidelity often goes unnoticed because it is more ambiguous and harder to define than physical infidelity.Some signs that this may be something more than a friendship include if you are pining to see or speak to this person, you make more of an effort to look better when you see this person, you are talking about this person more than usual, you start sharing important events with this person before sharing with your partner, you get butterflies in your stomach when you see the person or they call.Basically if you experience romantic excitement about someone it’s a warning sign.
Thriive Art & Soul:Is an emotional affair considered to be cheating in a relationship?
Ashika Mehta: The very definition of cheating has two parts. First, when there is deception or secrecy. And second, is when one has a pact, understanding or promise with someone that you will turn to each other for the fulfilment of certain needs and desires. When you breach this agreement, it is cheating.
In many ways an emotional affair weakens the emotional and sometimes even sexual connection between the couple. It can result in fantasizing about the ‘other person’ which opens the doors to something more in a vulnerable moment.
Thriive Art & Soul:What are the after-effects of an emotional affair on the original relationship?
Ashika Mehta: As one withdraws emotional engagement from one’s partner, it can lead to distance, emptiness, loneliness, lack of communication, lack of connection and a breakdown of the primary relationship.
Thriive Art & Soul: How can one avoid getting into an emotional affair? How can one deepen the bond with the current partner?
Ashika Mehta: People get attracted to individuals outside their primary partner for various reasons. These reasons could include an issue that you yourself are struggling with or that your partner is struggling with.Reasons that can incite an emotional affair include:
- resentment towards a partner
- a fear to trust and create true emotional intimacy in the relationship
- unconsciously repeating dysfunctional relationship patterns
- viewing differences as a threat
- economic stress on the relationship
- long distance pressures, to name just a few.
Either way if you are able to identify these issues in yourself or in your partner, have an open and honest chat about it and see if you can consciously work on it together.
Couples may also choose to go into individual or couples therapy to address these issues.
Communication that is open, honest and consistent is important to set the foundation and maintain emotional intimacy.
About Ashika Mehta
Ashika Mehta practices psychotherapy in Mumbai. She has completed her Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University along with a BA in Psychology from Vassar College. Ashika also facilitates training programs for corporates, and has conducted trainings for YPO and ASCENT.
Ashika has done intensive post-trauma work with those affected by the 26/11 terror attacks at the Breach Candy Hospital and facilitates therapy groups for those with chronic illness.
Ashika is passionate about working towards the prevention of the sex trafficking of at-risk women and children. As a Board Member of Apne Aap Women’s Collective, Ashika helps rehabilitate women in prostitution and creates educational and job opportunities for the children of sex workers.