Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is An Emotional Affair The Same As A Sexual Affair?

Is the betrayal the same?

Kiri Blakeley penned a controversial article this week on the so called "emotional affair." This would encompass both someone you know and see in person at work or play as well as virtual friends that exist in the internet such as a Facebook friend or an e-mail, instant message acquaintance  or text pal. In all these various instance there is no in-person sexual relationship, yet they are conducted behind their partner's back.

We  all understand why a man might seek a physical relationship outside the marriage bed, but why are men seeking emotional affairs? Many men are not finding acceptance in their conventional monogamous relationships. They practice denial in the early stages of a romance by pretending that their partner is accepting their true self. The reality is that many unions in 2013 are based on inappropriate emotional and physical intimacy and the deception of approval seeking. There is symbolic physical nakedness in each sexual encounter, but for many of  these men, there is no acceptance of their true self. The rejection-fearing man never gives his partner the chance to really get to know him and accept him, so he finds the emotional acceptance he craves in an  acquaintance or a Facebook friend in Australia.

Some women would rather not check their husband's smart phone and discover that their marriage was a sham from the start. One sage advice columnist advised married men to get rid of the evidence of their deceptive behavior so your wife won't have to deal with it. Not knowing what your husband is truly like and how he really feels moment to moment is preferable to some women unprepared for the truth lurking behind their husband's brown eyes.

Our hope is that if a partner discovers their spouse has been engaged in an emotional affair and the spouse is truly sorry and wishes to change, that the offended party will embrace their spouse's recovery from the lifestyle of deception and support their growth. This can be a very tough time for both partners as they are suddenly challenged to a new level of honesty in their marriage. The character defects, enabling and addictive behavior of one partner may suddenly become noticeable after years of submersion to the more glaring inadequacies of the  other partner who was having the emotional affair.

 This remodelling process can be an exciting opportunity for the couple if they have the love and courage to start from scratch. One must establish a new foundation consisting of honesty to build a healthy relationship between a man and a woman. We suggest that each partner seek both individual therapy as well as marital counselling. The couple must keep the faith that the reward of an emotionally satisfying romance for both partners that share a connection  is worth the painful price of acknowledgement of broken trust and the long and arduous process of rebuilding.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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