As we continue our conversation about “What is infidelity?”, we arrive at the next common component of betrayal- emotional involvement. Whether it’s admitted or not, most affairs register an emotional response to some degree or another.

At the extreme end of the spectrum we have the love affair. People will often describe these types of relationship as invigorating, freeing, empowering… Those caught in the throes of a love affair will often say that they never knew they could feel this way.

On the other end, we have flings that are often anonymous, paid, or virtual. The defense proclaimed in these circumstances is often, “It meant nothing!”

The exchange of emotional energy is vital to any relationship, and if too much of that energy is spent elsewhere, it can threaten the relationship. Being emotionally bonded to others is vital to our survival, but when does that cross the line into infidelity?

It matters to your relationship

Many people say that watching porn isn’t a big deal- as long as it doesn’t take away from your relationship. Others see the viewing of pornography as a betrayal to their relationship. Most people agree that sex outside of marriage is clearly being unfaithful while other couples have concluded that sexual freedom is allowed as long as there is no emotional connection. So where does one draw the line?

If your spouse doesn’t want you watching porn and you do it anyway, there is likely an emotional response in you- a sense of shame or guilt perhaps. There are those who claim to have transcended the shackles of monogamy, but most people have difficulty severing the connection between sex and emotion. Whether we admit it or not, activities related to sex and other forms of intimacy involve an exchange of emotional energy.

The economy of emotional energy

I hear often from partners who tell me that they don’t feel like a priority to their partner. Over time, they feel more distant and disconnected.

I believe that it goes much deeper than that. You see, we all know that we have limits to our physical energy- there is only so much we can physically do before our bodies give into exhaustion.

The same is true for our emotional energy. Spend too much of it outside your primary relationship, and you won’t have anything left to give to your partner. We often tell ourselves that it’s “no big deal” or that it “means nothing,” but the threat persists, and partners have an uncanny way of picking up on this.

What is emotional fidelity?

Am I suggesting that you sever all ties with others outside your primary relationship? Certainly not! Having relationships with others is vital to your very existence.

So where do we draw the line? A term that many have thrown around in recent years is this concept of an emotional affair- an affair in which it is assumed there has been no sexual intimacy.

I’ll speak more about this topic soon, but many define an emotional affair in which one has become too close to another outside the primary relationship. They often text, send emails, have lunch, and connect about what’s going on in their lives. They often confide in one another the difficulties that they are having in their marriages.

Simply put, these are people who have found it easier and more rewarding to turn to another instead of their spouse. This spells danger for the relationship.

Where will you spend your emotional energy?

Emotional connection is often how love affairs start. Before they turn physical, there is a bond that is formed. If you notice yourself spending time thinking about someone other than your spouse or looking forward to the next time that you see them, you may be susceptible to or already in an emotional affair.

The first step to preventing an emotional affair is to reconnect with your partner. Get to know them again. Date. Have fun.

Next week, we’ll be discussing the final component of infidelity- sexual alchemy. Not all affairs involve sex, but sexual energy is nearly always present.

More posts in this series:

What is Infidelity?

Part One: Secrecy

Part Three: Sexual Alchemy

Mark Cagle, LPC

Mark Cagle is a father, husband, and expert marriage counselor in Dallas. He is passionate about helping couples to overcome the heartache of infidelity and betrayal so that they can heal the hurt and rekindle their relationship. Mark believes that by specializing in couples counseling he is able to dedicate himself and hone his skills in order to have the greatest impact on the couples he works with.