A heated look, a short text message, flirting online and our thoughts are sent haywire and a shiver runs down our spine. Our pulse quickens. We start having erotic fantasies. If only our partner knew. But nothing is going on with the other guy, it’s all just harmless — or is it?
Beep! ‘You have mail’ announces the mailbox. Nicole looks away from her notepad on which she was just writing her shopping list. She pushes it away, puts her pen down and turns to her laptop. “Hey, what are you wearing today? Because I can’t stop thinking about you.” There it is, in black and white. Who wrote it? Mark. Nicole had met Mark at a dinner party thrown by friends. They had spotted each other across the room and were instantly attracted to each other. They caught each other’s eyes, and for a moment it was if no-one else was in the room. That was three weeks ago. Since then, Nicole and Mark have exchanged dozens of text messages, emails and have even spent ages talking on the phone. On one occasion Nicole even hid her mobile behind her back when her boyfriend came home. And Mark deletes every message from Nicole, so that his girlfriend won’t see them. It may only be harmless banter, but she might not see it that way. Nicole sighs and stares at the monitor in front of her. She reads Mark’s email again and again. It’s only two sentences, but Nicole is really happy to receive it. A thousand thoughts fill her mind. How she would kiss Mark, put her arms around him and passionately make love to him. These thoughts alone excite Nicole and she allows her imagination to run wild.
The classic case of cheating on your partner has got some new competition — emotional cheating. The difference with emotional cheating is that the affair isn’t enacted out in bed, but in the minds of the participants, and in most cases with a guilty conscience towards their respective partners. Although there may not be no sexual interaction, an emotional affair can be just as intensive and damaging to a relationship as a sexual affair. However, in most cases these emotional types of affair are rarely physical. An actual encounter would destroy all illusion in an instant, because the picture built up of one another is perfect. Flawless. Without imperfections. And it’s the illusion that neither participant wants to destroy. For most, an emotional affair enhances the person in ways their current relationship lacks. The affair may be limited to just words on the monitor or text messages, or even short telephone conversations, but a sexual spark is definitely there. However, the more discreet the connection, the more room for fantasy there is.
Most people allow affairs to happen when they are unhappy in their existing relationship. The sex isn’t good, they aren’t getting enough attention or affection, or they just feel misunderstood. So what happens? Most people don’t just end a relationship at the first sign of problems, but they might go looking for a form of replacement satisfaction, which is exactly how affairs are started. And that’s the point — an affair can be without sex. Infidelity is the same, regardless if it’s of a sexual or emotional nature. Both kinds of affair lead to a guilty conscience and both we hide from our partners. According to a study by ElitePartner.com most people would agree (55 % of women, 46 % of men) that an affair starts with a kiss, which also implies that the intensity of an emotional affair is greatly underestimated. The truth is that in many cases the intensity someone feels towards an “emotional lover” is stronger than with their partner.
Nicole has since turned away from her laptop and rocks back and forth on her office chair in deep thought. She loses herself in her fantasies and allows them to carry her away. Nicole imagines herself in a world that she shares with Mark and all the things they would do together. She thought is spared. She imagines them entering their shared apartment together. As he starts to kiss her neck, he pushes down the spaghetti straps of her top, and then pulls up her skirt… No! Nicole startles herself with her erotic fantasies and realises she’s getting carried away. She suddenly feels really guilty. She has been together with Alex for four years now and her heart belongs to him. Such thoughts about another man aren’t fair to Alex. Maybe she should confess to him?
If Nicole doesn’t want to put her relationship with Alex at risk, then the answer is no, she shouldn’t confess. The American psychologist David Buss has researched the phenomena of emotional infidelity and has ascertained that men and women who have been cheated on with an emotional affair react in the same way as those who have been cheated on sexually — hurt, betrayed and angry. It’s not about the whole virtual romance their partner has been having, but rather knowing that their partner has been having intimate and emotional thoughts about another person.
Whether the affair is a sexual one or not, you need to be aware of what you are getting yourself into, because both can be as damaging to a relationship as each other. The argument that an affair without sex cannot be counted as infidelity just doesn’t hold water. Intimacy can happen on many different levels.
Nicole gets up from her chair and walks over to the window and looks down at the people on the street. How many of the people down there currently in a relationship are having an affair, Nicole asks herself as she brushes a strand of dark hair away from her face. Who has never thought about or looked at another person when in a relationship? The butterflies in the stomach, the quickening of the heart — all of this stimulates the soul. The question of how far you would go, is for each to decide on his own. Remember fantasies are a wonderful thing but they should be kept under control. Nicole turns around on her heel and walks back to her desk. She sits back down and pulls her laptop towards her and opens her mailbox. She starts to type a message. Alex is already waiting.