Changing Moralities: Understanding Emotional Affairs or Cheating in the Post-Social Sites Era

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Cheating is not restricted to just intimacy. There is more to it. In the present day scenario, cheating has become way too complicated. Think of someone glued to his/her phone the whole day, a look of anxiety largely written on his/her face. Spending time on social media sites longing to connect with this new friend that person just met, missing them and getting emotional and edgy thinking about them. While this may not necessarily be about sex but the fact that one is dependent on this person for one’s emotional high indicates an emotional affair, if he/she is already committed elsewhere. Such friendships with a third party are on the rise for the assumed non- interactions that it offers, terming it as safe and harmless. But in reality, it does a lot more harm than an one-night stands or mere  relationships. Kavita, a clinical psychologist, examines the issue, with case studies, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

An emotional affair may be defined as, “A relationship between a person and someone other than (their) spouse (or lover) that affects the level of intimacy, emotional distance and overall dynamic balance in the marriage.”

When the word “affair” pops up in your mind, it is followed by visual imaginations in the mind: clandestine meetings, steamy sex, suggestive texts and the like. It all seems very unreal and like a scene in a movie. Cheating is not restricted to just physical intimacy. There is more to it. In the present day scenario, cheating has become way too complicated. Think of someone glued to his/her phone the whole day, a look of anxiety largely written on his/her face. Spending time on sites longing to connect with this new friend that person just

Spending time on social media sites longing to connect with this new friend that person just met, missing them and getting emotional and edgy thinking about them. While this may not necessarily be about sex but the fact that one is dependent on this person for one’s emotional high indicates an emotional affair, if he/she is already committed elsewhere.

Such friendships with a third party are on the rise for the assumed non-physical interactions that it offers, terming it as safe and harmless. But in reality it does a lot more harm than a one night stands or mere physical relationships. The physical relationships may not carry any emotional connect within them, making it easy to end those, with few scars of a lost relationship.

Neeta (all names changed to protect identities of real people) was a working woman with a hectic routine at home. The fact that her Amit was equally under stress at his workplace did not help their relationship much. Vishal was Neeta’s boss and the two would often work together on long projects and at times even travel together on work. Slowly Neeta found her comfort with Vishal and the two began sharing their leisure time. Vishal was also a married man but he found comfort and peace with Neeta. The two were soon inseparable.

Neeta would take extra care while dressing for work as she had an admirer now. Her youth and vibrancy had returned and how. Amit was too busy but he did notice a change in Neeta for she was a lot happier and cheerful these days. The minor things which irritated her earlier were now going unnoticed. This irked him further and the distance between them only increased even more.

So what exactly is an emotional affair? If there is a “friend” in your life, who is a secret friend, with whom you spend most of your free time, your conversations are intimate and you do not wish to reveal this to your partner, this is termed as an emotional affair. Affairs of the heart are usually more intense than that of just the body. So an affair of the heart creates a distance in your marriage or a relationship as you are giving your best to someone else.

Ramona was a housewife, who was never appreciated by her husband for all that she did to keep their home running smoothly. All he could think of was about not having a working wife, which hurt Ramona deeply. She began to feel unloved and soon lost interest in all activities. Suddenly she came across Arvind on a social networking site and the two hit it off instantly. Arvind was ridiculed by his wife and felt rejected and worthless. Ramona gave her love to Arvind and he showered his affection on her as well. Soon the two began to speak over the phone and video calls. They now plan to meet soon and take this relationship further.

Ramona’s husband is still busy in his life and does not know about this yet. There are indicators to an emotional relationship. When you receive a text from this secret friend, your face lights up and you smile raising the curiosity of those around you. In an emotional affair, there is an attraction and the imagined physical interlude is often highly satisfying due to the emotional connect involved. Even an imagined kiss can leave such a thrill which is hard to be felt with your partner.

Rohit was a young engineer in a steady relationship with Payal, who was also his colleague. They worked together for 11 hours every day, met during leisure and soon the thrill in their relationship began to fade. In other words, the real situation, which they found themselves in was confusing to him. Payal was the same as before, then what had changed? Veronica was a cute bubbly final year mass communications student and was Rohit’s’ neighbour. He found himself getting attracted to her easy going nature. He noticed for the first time that Veronica was rather reserved and not so easy to talk to. Soon, Rohit began to approach Veronica under some or the other pretext. Today, the two of them became close friends and claim to have no love between them. But they get anxious when either of them does not respond to their messages immediately. They text each other till late in the night and first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Payal remained in the dark, as of now with no clue about this development.

Mostly, these instant connections, which run deep and seem god sent and at the right time are actually what people have been seeking when their primary relationships are not working smoothly. Attention and affection, when they come by from a third party are instantly lapped up and soon an emotional affair begins which leads to a full blown affair later on. Some people who have witnessed such relationships and ended them are often as to their choice of the people. They cannot imagine a relationship with the same people after some time has gone by and kick themselves for being foolish.

Emotional affairs happen due to a void in the lives of the people seeking them and once that need is met, they may choose to move on. This then brings us to the question that, would you want to cross a boundary that you wouldn’t want your partner to cross? Are emotional affairs worth losing your primary relationship? If you are not happy in your primary relationship, do you want to reconsider staying in it? If not, then seek some help in setting things right in your primary relationship.

Ultimately it is all about attention and affection. Choose wisely.

©Kavita Panyam

Photos from the internet.

Kavita Panyam is a Counselling Psychologist by profession and a freelance writer by passion. She has won competitions in various magazines for slogan writing, reviews, and several blogging competitions. Her work has been published in reputed magazines across India and abroad. She writes for several well-known ezines and for print magazines. She also features as a guest contributor for various websites.