You Are Here?

You Are Here?

You Are Here?

In times of marital conflict, we often look to our original marriage promises for direction.  These vows help to define each spouse’s function and responsibilities, from providing care during times of sickness to remaining intimately faithful until death.  As helpful as these vows can be; however, they can also create some perplexity during troubled times.

Specifically, how intimate can a spouse be with someone else before it becomes a violation of marital vows?

 Is, infidelity defined strictly as a physical extramarital relationship or can a spouse ‘cheat’ emotionally?

Sometimes a marriage fails on a psychological level long before a spouse engages in a intimate affair or becomes abusive.  One reason for this failure could be ’emotional infidelity;’ defined slackly as an intimate but non-sexual relationship with someone outside of the marriage.  This is not the same as a platonic association with a member of the opposite sex; true emotional infidelity occurs whenever a spouse forms an intense romantic bond with someone other than his or her spouse.  The end result is a explicit loss of affection, which can be an activating cause for divorce.

But when an extramarital relationship begins to pull more and more attention away from the marriage, the chances of emotional infidelity add on exponentially.  There’s a clear difference between expressing sympathy towards a coworker in distress and actively pursuing an emotional relationship with him or her.  Sharing intimate information or discussing romantic issues may be the first grave step towards emotional infidelity.  Even if the relationship never becomes physical, the collective effect could be the same; emotions intended for a spouse are being shared elsewhere.  Eventually, the marriage suffers from all of this gone astray intimacy.  Understandably, this could be seen as a matter of degrees; the husband may honestly believe his close friendship with a female co-worker is perfectly reasonable, while his spouse may feel deserted emotionally.

Emotional infidelity can also occur in broad strokes.  Failing to leave the office at the office can also create mind-set of distance at home.  Some spouses fall into the trap of spending most of their emotional energy at work, creating a character who is the life of the office.  They’ll share in the hearsays, tell and re-tell all the jokes and spend lunchtime with other coworkers entirely.  By the time they leave the workplace, they have very little emotion left for their spouses and families.  Emotional infidelity does not necessarily have to reach the level of one-on-one intimacy to cause serious breeches in the marital relationship. A physical affair may be temporary, and motivated couples can often weather the fallout through counseling.  But emotional infidelity can be an continuing issue, as long as the spouse devotes more energy to the job or to extramarital friendships, the feelings of emotional and romantic abandonment will continue to grow.

As with any other challenge to a happy marriage, emotional infidelity can be tackled through counseling.  A trained marriage counselor can often determine if the causal issue is indeed a case of emotional infidelity and work on a answer with each partner.  It’s not often easy to become aware of emotional infidelity on one’s own, because quite often the cause is veiled by the symptoms.  A quick temper may be the result of emotional burn-out and not related to the triggering event.  What might appear to be signs of a physical affair may actually be the first clues of emotional infidelity.  Meeting an extramarital friend to share an emotional intimacy can require just as much preparation and confidentiality as a sexual affair.  The nervous tension of maintaining a dual lifestyle may result in the same feelings of shame and guilt, which can direct to alcohol abuse or inapt outbursts.  Emotional infidelity may not receive as much awareness as a sexual affair, but it can be even more disadvantageous to a marriage if not diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages.

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