Sex is sex, right? But what about the different layers and stages of emotional affairs that slowly draw a person into an emotional bond with someone else?
Yes, when your partner cheats on you sexually, it’s devastating, it’s heartbreaking and you’re not sure if you can ever trust them again. However, when they form an emotional connection with another person, is that harder to overcome?
Personally I think so, yes.
When emotions become involved, the entire connection becomes stronger and harder to overcome. You start to wonder what you didn’t give to your partner for them to turn to someone else. And then, you start to question whether they loved you in the first place. Is it possible to be emotionally attached in that way to more than one person?
It’s a debate that’s been raging for years, and how you feel about it is a personal deal.
[Read: Emotional cheating vs friendship – Where is the line crossed?]
Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if your partner does form an emotional attachment to another person, it’s important to avoid self-blame. There are many reasons why this type of situation occurs, and whilst it could be that something was lacking in the relationship, it could also be totally out of your hands too.
Learning the stages of emotional affairs can help you to avoid potential problems and put right issues before they turn into something which cannot be overcome in your relationship.
[Read: 18 subtle signs of emotional affairs you probably never noticed before!]
7 stages of emotional affairs to look out for
The number of emotional affairs which end in divorce is pretty depressing to be honest. That really does show you how difficult this type of situation is to overcome as a couple. So, what leads to that point? What are the key things to be aware of?
Stage 1 – They feel unappreciated or not good enough
Remember, emotional affairs aren’t always about the husband cheating. It can be either partner who strays down an emotional path to someone else. However, the first stage is usually the one where the partner feels somehow unappreciated in the relationship, or they feel like they’re not playing their part or providing as much as they should.
This inadequacy can cause problems to crop up and it can cause them to turn on their partner, perhaps with resentment starting to boil to the surface. [Read: Are you happy? How to spot the subtle signs of resentment in a relationship]
Stage 2 – The sex had gone out of the relationship
Okay, so sex isn’t the be all and end all, but it is an important way for a couple to stay connected. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and be available every time your partner wants sex but you do need to make sure that as a couple you’re focusing on your sex life too.
One of the main stages of emotional affairs is that one partner felt that they weren’t getting enough sex within the relationship and they felt deprived. As a result, they went looking for it somewhere else unfortunately but that led them towards an emotional connection at the same time, or instead.
Stage 3 – You start to feel like best friends rather than romantic partners
It comes to the best of us at some point but it’s vital that you spot the signs and do something about it before problems arise. If your relationship has become boring, if you feel like brother and sister, brother and brother, sister and sister, best friends etc, then it’s important that you try and spice things up and reconnect.
Another of the main stages of emotional affairs is when the romance goes out of the relationship and you’re left just co-existing. Try date nights, try spicing things up, just remember that you’re supposed to be connected on a deeper level. [Read: 15 common reasons why almost all couples end up getting bored with each other]
Stage 4 – One partner is too busy for the other one
We need to make time for one another. If one partner feels like the other one doesn’t have time for them when they want to talk or they want to do something together, they’re going to become fed up pretty quickly.
Without a doubt, one of the strongest stages of emotional affairs is when a partner wants to talk, perhaps they’re going through a hard time, but they can’t find that support from their partner. They seek this support from another person, albeit completely innocently at first, but an emotional connection is formed. [Read: How do guys get emotionally attached? 11 ways a woman can draw him in in no time]
Stage 5 – One partner is demanding too much of the other
We all go through stressful times in life and it can often lead us to shut off from our partners. If the other partner is complaining about it, making demands and not being understanding of what they might be going through, this can easily lead to a major rift between them.
It’s vital that you check in with each other occasionally and make time to talk. Avoid placing unnecessary demands on your partner and instead, work towards achieving things together.
The problem here is that if someone is already in the middle of an emotional affair, this type of behavior is just going to push them towards the other person even more. They start to feel like it’s not worth it anymore, that they’re getting more understanding from the other person. [Read: 15 reasons and signs why an emotional connection is so important]
Stage 6 – The guilt kicks in
When looking at the stages of emotional affairs, by this point it’s likely that the other partner has a suspicion that something isn’t quite right. This may lead them towards ultimatums or trying to keep their partner with offers of sex or being clingy.
The partner having the affair feels guilty and this eats away at them, which leads them towards more arguments. It’s a vicious circle that unfortunately only ends in tears. [Read: Emotional cheating and the bad things it can do to a relationship]
Stage 7 – Breaking point
The final stage is the point when either the partner breaks things off with the person they’ve been seeing and decides to dedicate themselves to their relationship, or they decide to leave completely. The problem is, at this stage, the damage has often been done and the road back is extremely long. Can you ever trust your partner again? Can they forgive themselves? You might both wonder whether the entire situation might repeat itself in the future. [Read: Can emotional affairs ever end? The art of breaking this connection]
Many couples choose to try therapy after an emotional affair is over. This can be a mutual thing, because the other partner is now aware of what happened, or it can be that the person who had the affair feels they need to do this privately, in order to process what has happened and focus back on their original relationship.
[Read: What makes affairs so hard to end? 12 reasons make it really hard]
What makes an emotional affair worse?
Which do you think is worse, a sexual affair or an emotional affair? For sure, neither is particularly good, but for me, personally, I would say an emotional affair is always worse. A drunken mistake is bad, definitely, but it can be forgiven eventually and put down to a pretty bad slip up.
However, when someone seeks emotional support from someone outside of the relationship, that means there is something pretty wrong with the union in the first place.
Trying to identify what the problem is can be the starting point, but the hurt and damage that has been caused by the affair is something that perhaps cannot be overcome. [Read: Affair fog – How to know if your partner is obsessed with someone else]
Have you ever been in this situation before? Hopefully you haven’t, and I hope you never have to deal with it yourself. But for those who have, it’s often a make or break situation that can either signal the start of an altered relationship with their partner, and with themselves, or it can be a sign that it’s simply not meant to be.
[Read: 9 powerful, practical steps to rebuild trust after you’ve cheated]
The main stages of emotional affairs are often very similar from person to person, although it’s possible to skip one or see them in a different order, depending upon the couple. Is it possible to overcome this type of betrayal? Only you can answer that.
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