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Relationship Advice: Warning Signs of an Emotional Affair
by Jeff Herring

 

"But we're just friends" are four of the most dangerous words for your marriage.

But over and over in my office and on the phone I hear it: "We are just friends, there is nothing going on."

The majority of extramarital affairs begin as "just friends." While it is certainly true that there are affairs that begin with impulsive one-night stands with a stranger, the most common ones that I see begin as "just friends." In fact, if you find yourself thinking or saying "but we are just friends" you are probably already in trouble.

Gary Rosberg of America's Family Coaches states that there are at least 19 stages a person will pass through on the way to physically consummating an extramarital affair. There are at least two important notions that we can lift from Rosberg's statement:

1) At each and every one of the 19 steps, you have a clear choice between going further down or stopping the process. In other words, these things don't "just happen."

2) An affair - by the way, I hate that term!

It makes it sound like it is this wonderful experience with no consequences ... as in "It was a grand affair." In my marital counseling and relationship coaching experience, adultery breaks up marriages, wrecks families and crushes kids.

Anyway, now that my rant is over, an affair becomes adultery long before the physical act. In fact, emotional affairs can be stronger and more difficult to get out of than physical affairs.

The late Shirly Glass was a pioneer in the area of emotional affairs. In her 2003 book "NOT Just Friends: Protect your relationship from infidelity and heal the trauma of betrayal," Glass identifies three red flags that indicate that you have progressed from a safe friendship to a romantic emotional affair.

1) You feel closer to your friend than you do your spouse.

You find yourself thinking of this person more and more often and looking forward to the next time you are together. When something happens during the day, the first person you think of telling is this friend, not your spouse.

2) Keeping secrets.

You no longer feel comfortable telling your spouse about this person. You begin to cover up so as not to be found out.

3) An increasing sexual tension.

You admit your attraction for each other, but promise (complain) that

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