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Why People Have Emotional Affairs

CC photo courtesy of Joi via Flickr
CC photo courtesy of Joi via Flickr

I had a boyfriend once, and when we would go out for dinner, he was always glancing around the room wondering who else was in the restaurant. Often I felt like he was half-listening to me, and his commitment to our relationship was less than stellar. So it was no shock when he left me for another woman. In fact, he often had one foot in the relationship and one foot out. Long before he left our relationship, he was having emotional affairs with other women he suddenly became interested in, under the pretense of having multiple “good friends.” I’m not sure of the degree of his commitment back then and whether he was entirely faithful, but I know if nothing else he was an emotional cheater, and I left this relationship feeling cheated on many levels.

So why do people have emotional affairs?

An emotional affair occurs when people go outside of their committed relationship to meet their emotional and/or sexual needs. There’s an intensity of connection, and as a result, people fantasize about the other individual in their minds. They are “cheating” on their partner in their minds and “stealing” from the committed relationship because their attention and connection is going elsewhere.

Individuals have emotional affairs because they think the new person or people they are connecting with are a solution or an escape from their current circumstances. On an emotional level they are “checking out” of their committed relationship and “checking into” the attention or affection of another outside person or people. Oftentimes, emotional affairs lead to physical affairs because where the mind goes, the body follows.

Individuals are often attracted to having emotional affairs with others because they are looking for an adrenalin-rush type of escape as they fantasize about the excitement of connecting with others. This fantasy in their minds serves as an escape from the frustration of their current relationship so that they don’t have to work through difficulties and instead fill their minds with fantasy or daydreams of other people. Some people have emotional affairs because they cannot settle down and are looking for the next “better” thing or person to come along, who they believe will make them happy.

Such individuals live in a “bigger and better” world where they want more without being happy with what they have.

Five Signs of an Emotional Cheater

Sign #1: Your partner’s eyes wander, and they’re often distracted.

Emotional cheaters look through people as they are scouting for other opportunities.

Sign #2: Your partner seems intensely connected to others beyond you.

Emotional cheaters make excuses to be with others at the expense of meeting your needs. They are overly focused on helping or connecting with others and do not see you as a priority.

Sign #3: Your partner is secretive.

There are parts of your partner’s life that are hidden from you. Your partner does not openly leave their cell phone around; they close up the computer when you are there, and they are vague about the details. Their stories are confusing. You spend more time chasing down the truth, and they make you look crazy for even addressing issues.

Sign #4: Your partner does not talk about a future with you in it.

Emotional cheaters are very self-focused, and they want to free up room to be with others without having to be accountable to you. If they make all kinds of future plans with you, then they have to stick to their commitments, as well as responsibilities, with little freedom to put their emotional energy elsewhere.

Sign #5: Your partner is not sensitive to your needs.

Emotional cheaters are focused on themselves, and if you’re upset, sad or frustrated, they look at this as more of an inconvenience. In their minds, your emotions are an interruption for them to do what they want, so they are not sensitive to how you feel unless they can calm you down with reassurance momentarily, and then go off and do what they want.

Our opportunity is to set our value at a high level because people will meet us in the value we set for ourselves. The lesson is to not put up with an emotional cheater!

About Cathy Patterson-Sterling

Cathy Patterson-Sterling is a Christian counselor with a counseling ministry called Real Life Tool Box. She is an author, speaker, wife, mother and friend. Through her counseling ministry, she offers more than 50 e-learning audio play courses to help people grow in faith and have their healthiest relationships. She is passionate about helping people find freedom from fear or other emotional strongholds that are holding them back from living out their greatest potential in God's plans for their lives.
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