As if we did not have enough issues in marital relationships, that we now have a new buzzword that seems to have crept up – Emotional Infidelity! For a long time, the one unpardonable act in a marriage remained infidelity; physical infidelity to be more precise. As humans have evolved and gotten to understand the more carnal nature of man, we have probably become more open and understanding about physical one-night-stands.
What is Emotional Infidelity?
It is a specific kind of behavior that indicates emotional intimacy with another. The relationship is not always a flirty one (though many do have elements of flirtatiousness associated with them). The nature of emotional intimacy with another is such that it is not a concrete thing. Defining, identifying and proving the relationship is difficult and subjective and can therefore become a topic of endless argument or discussion.
Why Women are More Worried About Emotional Infidelity
Among the many things that evolution got wrong, here is another side effect from evolution that has landed us here. For thousands of years and before the agricultural revolution, a man’s relationship with a woman was based on sex. Increasing the population was a primal and contextual need and therefore men looked for women whom they could mate with. They also wanted their women to be available for them and multiple women was a common thing since a woman was unavailable during her pregnancy months.
A woman, however, needed her man to be around to ensure that the children were taken care of, fed and kept safe. This led to a need for an emotional connect with the man, even after the woman reached an age where she could not bear children.
While men no longer need to have many children and women do not need their men to ensure their children’s safety, we still react to our spouses based on those primal emotions that were with us for thousands of years. Understanding where the emotions emanate from help us decode them better.
How to Tell if Your Partner is in an Emotionally Intimate Relationship with Another
In relationships there are few things that depend on what can be proved and what cant be (unless of course the relationship is a legal one as in the case of marriage and you are at the mercy of the courts to decide how material things are divided). It is the ‘gut’ and the instinct that can tell you best if anything is wrong. The issue mainly lies in being able to listen to your gut and be able to shut off that rationalizing conscious.
Telling whether your partner is being emotionally intimate with another becomes extremely tough, especially if you are highly invested in him or her yourself. Often things that are obvious to the outsider are completely invisible to those who are living the life. How often have we heard people say ‘Oh! I was so blind!’?
However, if you are not able to listen to your instinct because of all the noise that your head is making, you could try looking out for some of these tell-tale signs:
- Reduced communication – First of all the benchmark should be based on the level to which communication already existed in your marriage. Secondly, it applies to all kinds of communication including big news, worries, feelings and day to day activities.
- Hiding phone, messages or calls – If you suddenly see your other half taking calls in private, deleting messages as soon as they are read or making sure that the phone is never left unattended, you may need to question what is going on.
- Lying about another ‘friend’ – A sure shot sign of guilt is when your partner lies about how close he or she is with another. How you will know that it is a lie is another tough thing to lay a finger on. But in most cases, you will know automatically.
How to Tell if You are Being Emotionally Unavailable?
The area of emotional infidelity is so grey that you may be having an emotionally intimate relationship with another without even realizing it. If you want your marriage to work and keep a look out for such pitfalls, you should evaluate what you are up to too! Here are some signs in your behavior that will help you know what you may be doing inadvertently.
- You don’t feel ‘close’ to your spouse
- You feel uncomfortable discussing about the things you tell your special ‘friend’
- You are more ‘yourself’ with your friend than with your spouse
- You share your feelings, thoughts and activities with your friend rather than your spouse
- You feel your friend understands you better than anyone else, especially your spouse
The Real Deal
If you see these above-mentioned signs in your spouse or yourself, you know that there is something wrong. Often the jilted party goes through phases of anger, depression and loneliness when such a relationship becomes obvious. However, once the initial dust has settled, there are saner ways of looking at what is happening and making your peace with some realities of life. It is also possible to work towards your marriage.
- People Change – You may have had a connection with your spouse when you got married and things may be different now. Life happens and you need to deal with it. It is possible that time has changed you or your spouse and things are not the same anymore. If you understand this, then learn to accept the relationship that you have with your spouse and cherish the good part. Don’t stay stuck to the societal definition of a spouse and expect the world from him/her.
- Same Sex versus Opposite Sex – Think about this – Would it make you equally mad if the other person was not of the opposite sex? What if your spouse was close to a friend of the same sex? Would you feel good that your spouse has a close confidante and buddy or upset about it?
- Human connections cannot be willed – Try as you might, the connection that you feel with another human being cannot be willed or created. It is based on many factors, most of which we do not have under our conscious control. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they realize the emotional unavailability of their spouse is to try and ‘make’ things better by forcing communication or by forcefully doing the things that they ‘should’ with you. Not only will it be a useless effort, it will also deplete your own resources as a human being and leave you battered.
The End Game
When you do feel that your spouse is emotionally unavailable, there is only one decision that you need to make – do you want to stay in the marriage or not. If you are convinced that this is not what you want from a relationship and are at a stage where you can leave, part ways happily!
On the other hand, if you do decide that you are not ready for a separation or divorce, it is best to accept the situation as is and learn to love what you ‘do’ have with your spouse. Yearning for the relationship that he/she has with another will never happen. However, your own relationship between the two of you can still change for the better, especially when there is more acceptance of the other.