emotional_affairWho establishes what is acceptable and unacceptable when interacting with a person of the opposite sex that is not your partner? Are there unspoken boundaries that people follow or do you just walk as close to the line as you can without getting scolded?  The reality is that boundaries get crossed and affairs happen, but how exactly would you define an affair?

There are two different types of affairs – emotional and physical. An emotional affair is developed by constant contact with another person on the phone, through email, text messages, etc. and is often the first step in a physical affair.

In these conversations you are disclosing personal information to them, opening up about your feelings, current situations in life and some even go as far as opening up about the current state of your marriage/relationship. Although you may not meet with the person face to face or have any form of sexual contact with them, you are still having an emotional affair and are beyond acceptable boundaries for interactions with the opposite sex.

With that being said, obviously you can have friendships with people of the opposite sex! But there are a few boundaries to consider in order to show respect to your partner and ward off the possibility of an unhealthy attachment:

  • Do not entertain ongoing phone calls, text messaging or email conversations.
    • Entertaining daily conversation with someone of the opposite sex discussing interests, frustrations in life, etc. begins to stir up emotions and form unhealthy attachments. If you have someone like this in your life that you are in contact with on a regular basis other than your spouse, ask yourself why you hold onto that person. Are they filling a lack in your relationship? Could you let go of them out of respect for your spouse? I especially think this boundary to be true if the person is calling, sending the emails, text messages or Facebook messages late at night.
  • Do not go to a person of the opposite sex to vent or for emotional support unless it is your spouse.
    • Women, we are especially at risk of this. When we are having trouble in our marriages or are feeling neglected, we get caught up in the empathy and good conversation we receive when a male friend is being supportive. This is a risky situation that can lead to an unhealthy attachment to that person.
  • Do not entertain “what if” fantasies.
    • If you find yourself attracted to someone other than your spouse, don’t allow your mind to dwell on thoughts of what life could be like with him or her. We sometimes wonder how that person would interact in conflict, what type of parent they would be, how supportive they might be, etc. and can even end up comparing them to our spouse. But this type of thought pattern is destructive and counterproductive to building a lasting intimate relationship with your spouse.

Emotional affairs are a real threat to relationships. They can destroy trust and intimacy and if left unresolved they could lead to full blown physical affairs.

Next week we will discuss physical affairs and principles to follow to help prevent them.

This article was originally written for and posted on Liveabundantly.ca