The harmless work lunches. The harmless emails and texts with emojis. What started out as something innocent is sweeping many marriages into divorce court. What can this trend be? Look no further than the illicit emotional affair. What can it hurt, you might ask? Emotional cheating with a chat room buddy or having an office husband or an office wife is just as damaging to a relationship as having sex with someone outside of marriage. There we said it. You might be thinking: "But it is harmless and there's no physical intimacy." Maybe so, yet, it correlates to what a physical affair entails--deception, secrecy and lies. "If you think about it, it's the breach of trust, more than the sex, that's the most painful aspect of an affair and, I can tell you from my work as a psychiatrist, the most difficult to recover from," psychiatrist Gail Salt wrote. The ramifications remain the same without the relationship becoming physical. Here are the warning signs that you’re having an emotional affair.

You justify your actions.

You talk about them when you are at home and justify it as "We're just friends." You don't really know what their intentions are, do you? Your work wife or work husband might not view the relationship as platonic. These romances seem harmless, but the truth is that you're embarking on the dangerous terrain of divorce. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy reported that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had sexual affairs. "It was also revealed that an additional 20 percent of married couples have been impacted by emotional infidelity." Justifying your flirting with another person outside the marriage by making excuses, is just an excuse.

You go to them for emotional support.

When you’re seeking someone other than your spouse to fill any emotional gap, your heart has started to seek attention outside the marriage. The more the other person feeds this part that is missing in your life, the more you crave it. Their affection becomes intoxicating and becomes hard to resist. There is hope, however. God loves you and forgives you. None of us are without fault, remember that. We know we are in a fallen world and after Adam and Eve, we are dealing with the sin in today's society. God specifically said “Flee sexual immorality," Corinthians 6:18 stated. This means to harness your mind and body and keep it from pleasure, which could lead to brokenness or divorce in this case.

You share intimate details.

Are you sharing intimate details of your marriage with this person? When you spend most of your emotional energy on another and you trust them more than your spouse, it's a gateway into an emotional affair. Author Colleen Sheehy Orme explained that "A person willing to connect with someone other than their spouse is potentially threatening the entire future of an already at risk relationship. A compromised marriage becomes even more compromised."

You're becoming attracted to them.

Emotional affairs usually will go into a full-blown sexual relationship. When people start becoming involved emotionally, they are walking down a path towards a physical affair no matter how much they're in denial. Emotional affairs always start off as an innocent friendship and then it gets messy. Maybe you are complaining about your spouse and noticed the bond deepen even more. There is a reason for this dynamic because it "Solidifies the cheaters need for empathy and cements the affair even further. The cheater feels understood. They begin to feel they are filling the bulging emotional pothole that led them to initially stray," Sheehy Orme added. 

You can't stop thinking about them.

If you're constantly daydreaming about the another person, you need to check yourself because this leads to other decisions that could affect your marriage. We all have thoughts, but we also need to master them. Jesus put it another way in saying, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her already committed adultery with her in his heart.” If you're thinking and looking forward to seeing the person more than your spouse, you are having an emotional affair.

You hide your friendship.

Remember when we mentioned secrecy? If you are hiding a relationship of any kind--it's a big no-no. If you think that your lies will not catch up with you--think again. When lies are being established in a relationship, trust is already being damaged. If your spouse can’t trust you, it not only damages the relationship, but it hurts you as it creates conflict. Even if they never find out, consciously you know it is wrong. Lying will not build up any relationship, so stop the damage now by terminating the affair and come clean.

When we invest in a relationship emotionally outside of our marriage, it's an affair. Call it what you want, but anytime you seek another person to fill the role of your spouse, you are proceeding into risky territory.
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