“But we’re only just friends!” or “I have to talk to Karen in Accounting for work!” These can be the typical responses from people having emotional or “virtual” affairs. According to several sources like psychologists Kristina Coop Gordon and Erica A. Mitchell at The University of Tennessee Knoxville, data indicates that emotional or “virtual” affairs are rising. Big time.
So, how do you protect your marriage from an emotional affair?
It’s worth noting that with so many people working strange hours from home and using texts, phone calls, Facetime, and Zoom, the separation of work and home life has become muddled. Emotional affairs crackle across electronic devices as conversations easily slide from a work project to personal problems, usually innocently at first.
Working from home can be contributing to the rise in emotional infidelity in another way. You may be spending a lot more time at home with your spouse. This can quickly lead to conflict, taking each other for granted, or just plain boredom—making you more susceptible to an emotional affair without even knowing it. Some researchers are concerned this surge in virtual emotional affairs could lead to a surge in sexual infidelity when things get back to “normal.”
Many couples are on guard against sexual infidelity but don’t give as much thought to emotional infidelity. This is dangerous for several reasons:
- Emotional affairs often escalate to sexual affairs.
- Emotional affairs are often easier to justify because they blur the lines between co-worker/friend/someone you have an inappropriate connection with.
- Connecting emotionally with someone other than your spouse means disconnecting emotionally from your spouse. That spells all kinds of trouble.
- Co-workers, exes, and “friends” are just a click away.
Here are five ways to protect your marriage from an emotional affair. Pay attention.
- Invest in your spouse and your marriage. Schedule routines that keep you communicating and connected. Get creative—schedule a stay-at-home date night and dress fancy for your favorite dinner.
- Have an honest talk with your spouse about boundaries that will protect your marriage. This isn’t about your “rights” or even trust. It’s about what your spouse needs to feel secure in your love. Include electronic devices in the conversation. Check out these resources for this ongoing convo: Help! My Spouse HATES to Talk About Boundaries! and 4 Steps for Setting Good Boundaries.
- If you have come close to or crossed the line, have friends for your marriage who ask you the hard questions and keep you accountable if necessary.
- If you can’t avoid someone altogether, keep everything professional, to a minimum, and your spouse in the loop.
- Seek professional marriage help if necessary.
Stay connected to your spouse. Do your marital work with them. Don’t let conflicts or disagreements turn into bitterness or resentment. Handle that stuff quickly.
★ Where you invest is where you’ll get your returns.
If you’re both working from home, don’t take this opportunity for granted. Flirt with that hottie at your home office! Schedule times to have coffee breaks together, “working” lunches, and maybe even some activities in the afternoon that would make HR blush.
You got this!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***