Once upon a time, having an affair involved sex, secrets, and scandal. In today’s world of work spouses, 24/7 access to information, and the ability to have an online life that is entirely separate from your offline life, it may be that affairs of the heart are becoming more commonplace, not to mention more complicated.However, unlike affairs of the past that involved physical intimacy, today’s affairs can be strictly emotional. So what, exactly, constitutes an emotional affair – and are you having one without even knowing it? The following questions will help you decode an emotional affair, helping you uncover the dangers as well as possible escape routes, should you need one.

Are you an emotional confidant?

The debate about whether or not men and women can just be friends continues in the 21st century. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to be friendly with members of the opposite sex, becoming an emotional confidant is trickier, especially when one or both of you are involved in other relationships.

The question you really need to ask yourself in this situation is this: Do you/they provide emotional intimacy that their/your partner doesn’t? If the answer is yes, does that automatically mean you’re having an emotional affair? Not necessarily.

But the question remains: Why are you, rather than their partner, the emotional confidant? Signs that you may be having an emotional affair include secretly e-mailing, texting, or chatting online 24/7 without one’s partner knowing about it, confiding more in the other person than you do in your romantic partner, and/or hiding things from or lying to your partner about your relationship with the other person.

Is the relationship keeping one of you from meeting other people?

If you’re having an emotional affair while you’re single and the other person is romantically involved elsewhere (or vice versa), the emotional affair may be keeping the single person from meeting other interesting and available individuals.

It’s essential that you acknowledge whether this is happening. Unfortunately, the person who’s in a romantic relationship and having an emotional affair enjoys the best of both worlds, while the other person gets the short end of the stick.

The single person who is emotionally invested in one relationship probably doesn’t have the time or energy for, or perhaps even interest in, seeking out a healthy and whole relationship of their own. And while the emotional affair may last for years, the lack of real and lasting love can lead to unhappiness, bitterness, and wasted time.

If this scenario sounds familiar, on either side of the equation, you owe it to yourself and/or your emotional confidant (not to mention the other partner) to end the affair, let go, and move on.

Is the relationship healthy – for you both?

While the comfort of an emotional affair can feel amazing, the negative repercussions can be devastating. What starts as an innocent and genuine emotional connection may result in hurt feelings, disappointment, and betrayal, or even lead to codependency or the breakdown of one’s romantic relationship.

Before things spiral out of control, it’s essential to recognize just how unhealthy the emotional affair really is. It’s also important to acknowledge what might be missing from your romantic relationship that ultimately led to the emotional affair.

By healing your relationship from within and walking away from the emotional affair, you reduce the chances of long-term damage to any and all involved individuals. And like it or not, that’s the best-case scenario.

How do you untangle yourself?

Untangling yourself from an emotional affair can be far more challenging than ending a physical affair. With a physical affair, you simply put an end to your sexual encounters; creating new emotional boundaries is trickier.

This is especially true if the other person is involved in your everyday life, e.g., in the workplace or your social life. However, for the sake of everyone involved, it’s essential to untangle yourself. Start by setting new boundaries with your emotional confidant.

Keep these new boundaries intact no matter how much the other person tries to challenge them. If your emotional affair happened online, it’s essential to remove this person from your online life.

No more online chatting, e-mailing, or instant messaging. Next, focus your energy and attention on healing the emotional estrangement within your existing romantic relationship. If you can’t, then you may need to walk away from that relationship as well.

But that doesn’t mean you run into the arms of your emotional confidant. Only the two of you will know what’s best. Trust your gut and proceed with caution.

If you’re single, your happily-ever-after future relies on you being strong enough to untangle yourself from your emotional affair. Create those new boundaries and keep them firmly intact. And trust that there’s somebody else out there for you who’s healthy, whole, and able to commit to you 100 percent.

In the meantime, give yourself time to heal from the emotional affair. Seek professional help if needed.

Like physical affairs, emotional affairs are complicated. If you think you might be involved in one, it’s essential to ask yourself the questions discussed above.

As challenging as it may seem, letting go is much easier in the long haul than holding on. While untangling yourself from an emotional affair can be tricky, you owe it to your successful relationship future to walk away as soon as possible.

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