A Christian Counselor’s Perspective on Emotional Infidelity
What is Emotional Infidelity?
Sexual infidelity involves a partner in a relationship engaging in some form of sexual contact with another person, either real or imaginary. Emotional infidelity involves a partner engaging in any activity with another person, whether real or imaginary,which has a negative impact on the established relationship. The person becomes emotionally unavailable,and this impacts the physical and emotional energy they can extend to their partner. An individual does not suddenly find themselves involved in an emotional affair; rather, it originates from a lack within one’s self and within the relationship and progressively develops into an emotional affair.
Warning Signs of Emotional Infidelity
There are certain warning signs that indicate that a relationship could be vulnerable to emotional infidelity. These include:
- When a partner discloses intimate discussions to someone outside of the relationship because they feel more comfortable with someone other than their partner.
- When partners state that they feel alone and isolated from one another but do not address the root cause of the problem.
- When partners spend more time engaging in pornography than establishing intimate relationships with their spouse.
- When there is no intimacy or sex in the relationship.
- When conflict has degenerated into contempt, and criticism has resulted in emotional wounds,with no attempt being made at reconciliation.
- When partners feel that others understand and connect with them more than their spouse or partner does.
- When internal insecurities and instability are transferred toward the partner or spouse in order to justify cheating.
The Cheat Test: Windows or Walls?
People often find it difficult to distinguish between innocent flirting and an intentional preoccupation with someone outside of the relationship. It is not always clear what constitutes cheating in a relationship. Whether emotional or physical, cheating is about our intentions and how these impact the decisions we make. One way to test your behavior is to use the metaphor of windows or walls as a measuring stick in order to evaluate whether your behavior is appropriate for your relationship.
- The Windows Test:If others could see your behavior while you were engaging in an activity, would it seem inappropriate? In other words, if you were on a computer or engaged in a conversation with a colleague, and someone was looking at you through a window, would it be seen as acceptable behavior?
- The Walls Test: If you feel that the activity requires secrecy, or a wall to cover or conceal the behavior from your partner,then perhaps some type of infidelity has occurred.
This “windows or walls” sanity check works every time. Our minds are easily manipulated by what we think we need and inappropriate behavior can overtake our reason. The idea that we can engage in platonic behavior with sexual undertones and not have to face any consequence is simply not realistic. Michelle Weiner-Davis, director of the Divorce Buster Clinic in Denver states: “Human nature is such that if the opportunity for a behavior is increased and the drive to engage in that behavior is for whatever reason unchecked, that opportunity will in all probability be exploited. Infidelity, whether extra-relational or emotional is a matter of opportunity .”
Christian Counseling Can Help You Avoid Emotional Infidelity
If you feel that any of the warning signs mentioned in this article apply to you, or if you feel that your emotional or physical needs are not being met, I would encourage you to look for help. Individual or couples counseling can be an excellent way to separate continuous surface issues from the core issues that they mask in a relationship. A Christian counselor can enable you to communicate your real concerns with your partner and help you to learn to listen to one another.
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