There's a special friend that you love talking to — and this person is not your partner! What harm is there in a friend? Shouldn't married parents have friends? Well, of course. We can't expect our spouses or our children to bring us every drop of happiness and fulfill our every need, but there's a difference between a platonic friend and an emotional affair and sometimes, moms cross the line whether they realize they are . . . or not.
Before you tell me, "Oh women aren't the ones having affairs," look at these statistics on infidelity thanks to statisticbrain.com, and stay silent:
- Men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had: 57%
- Women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had: 54%
- Married men who strayed at least once during marriage: 22%
- Married women who strayed at least once during marriage: 14%
As you can see, the sexes are fairly equal when it comes to affairs, but these statistics don't include emotional affairs. So how does a mom know if she's getting a little too close to her friend, co-worker, neighbor, or what have you?
A platonic friend: you don't fantasize about sexually nor do you think about them all the time or need to see that person often. A person you hang out with and include your spouse for the ride on occasion. A person you don't share sexual flirtations with.
An emotional affair: you fantasize about, think about, and desire to see often. A person you sometimes whether you admit it or not, dream about a future with. A person you flirt with, bordering on or sometimes, venturing into the sexual. A person that replaces the bad feelings you might have about your life or marriage with exciting and happy thoughts. A person who listens while you vent about your marital issues, ad nauseam. A person who brings back excitement into your life. Let's face it, motherhood isn't always thrilling. A person who isn't socially around your spouse, for the most part. A person whose "friendship" makes you feel guilty about interacting with.
You aren't physical with your emotional affair so how does it really count?, you may be thinking. Well even if you haven't had physical contact with this person it doesn't mean that the "friendship" you have with this person is not negatively affecting your marriage. I've heard many a mom or dad express that he or she wasn't having an affair but that it was someone he or she was close to and felt could really share feelings with, but the level of intimacy and closeness they revealed to me said to me this person was much more than a friend. When you let another person get that close to you, it crosses friendship territory and hurts your marriage because you're:
- Putting emotional energy into the wrong person — that energy should go towards your spouse.
- Feeding the marital problems: by discussing these issues intimately with someone else rather than talking to your spouse and attempting marriage counseling if needed, you're breaking down your marriage, day by day.
- Creating a need for excitement and drama: the more you continue this relationship, the more you have the need for the excitement.
- Falsely believing: when you get involved in this emotional affair, you may start to fantasize that this person is the one for you when this is not based on reality, but simply distraction from yourself. Plus, this person may not be interested in you!
- Starting up: the intimacy may lead to physical intimacy. It's a slippery slope!
And it's possible that as women, we mothers might possible be more apt to have an emotional affair. Rutgers University biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her? And Why We Love, says "Women tend to have an emotional connection with their lover and are more likely to have an affair because of loneliness." And as mothers, we tend to get lonely quick in today's day and age in which the village no longer raises the child.
There are so very many reasons a mother may start to feel alone in her marriage, even if it started out as a happy one:
- If both parents work and are unable to have alone time without the children
- If one parent travels, leaving the other parent alone to fend for herself
- If a mom is home alone with the kids often, seeing her partner rarely
- If the couple is fighting
- If the couple isn't having sex
Feeling lonely isn't the only reason a mom may end up involved in an emotional affair. Here are a few other reasons:
- You're bored: the intensity and flirtation of the affair adds excitement to the day. Marriage and the day-to-day chaos of children can become routine
- Marital problems: if you and your spouse are fighting, you could start looking for someone to vent to — and make you feel better. Dangerous territory
- Feeling ignored: it's not only men who feel ignored or a lack of sexual activity in their marriages. If a mom feels ignored or there's no intimacy anymore, she may stray
- Working too much: being away from home and working too much
- Feeling dissatisfied within: if a mom feels dissatisfied with herself or her life, she may seek outside stimulation to alleviate
- Friendship gone wrong: sometimes what starts out as a friendship can become more if two people are not careful
- Personal problems: a mom may get entangled in an emotional affair due to mental health issues or emotional traumas
So now we know the potential reasons and signs you're in an emotional affair. What now? The first step in my opinion is admitting what is going on. It's facing yourself and realizing that this emotional affair is a distraction from your marriage and your life. The second step? Discovering the "why." Why did you have this affair? Are you unhappy with yourself, your job, your role at home, or your marriage? Don't be so quick to blame your marital partner, moms. Look inside of you for what might be brewing. Of course, if you're having marital problems your partner plays a role in why you sought out someone else as an emotional companion, but you need to understand what compelled you towards another person first. Thirdly, what needs did the affair fulfill? Did it fulfill a self-esteem need? A companionship need? What needs were met by this affair? An attention need? Sexual need? A life-fulfillment need? And lastly, what are the next steps to dealing with your issues, whatever they may be. Consider therapy, marriage counseling, a change of jobs or roles at home — this all depends on the "why" for your emotional affair and the "needs" the affair fulfilled. You need to find a way to address those needs in a way that doesn't dishonor your marriage.
Moms, I don't need to tell you that you should cut off all contact with your emotional affair. I also don't need to tell you that marriage is complicated and life with kids makes it even more so. Instead of beating yourself up about the matter, get active and find solutions to your underlying issues. Your marriage, your family, and you deserve this!