Most people would define an affair or infidelity as a relationship with a physical component. An emotional affair — or an online affair — can, however, be just as threatening to a long-term relationship or even more so.
When one partner in a long-term relationship that is distant or difficult begins to look to someone to a friend, co-worker, or online acquaintance — as their primary source of emotional support and deep personal sharing, they are involved in an emotional affair.
At first they may not intend for this to be a sexual relationship. Contact may be limited to conversations in person or on the phone, or to email or texting. However, the time and energy devoted to the emotional affair drains energy from the long-term relationship. Now problems in the primary relationship are more unlikely than ever to be addressed. “It’s a lot easier for me to talk to him than to my spouse,” the person involved in an emotional affair usually feels. Confiding on a deeper level than with one’s long-term partner seems natural and easy.
Of course, talking to a new person is easier because although the feelings are very real, the relationship itself is not. The people involved have not faced conflicts or the daily challenges involved in any real, committed relationship. The emotional affair is an escape. It may seem hard to believe, but when any affair (emotional or sexual) turns into a real relationship, people end up facing the same problems they did with their former partners.
That’s why an emotional or online affair is a signal that it’s time to get help. The key to turning around an emotional affair is to shift the focus back to the primary relationship. It’s time to redirect your energy toward your partner and to start working on the issues between you.