Are You Having An Emotional Affair?


“A touch creates heat, heat creates a spark, and a spark turns into a fire.”
-Rev. Paul Goulet, Senior Leader ~ International Church of Las Vegas

It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to tell you that you’re having an emotional affair at work. Those who are having one should know better yet they continue in their risky behavior, thinking they can get by undetected and unscathed. According to Gail Saltz:

Emotional cheating (with an “office husband or wife”) steers clear of physical intimacy, but it does involve secrecy, deception, and therefore betrayal. People enmeshed in nonsexual affairs preserve their “deniability,” convincing themselves they don’t have to change anything. That’s where they’re wrong.”[i]

It’s this “deniability” that blinds them, and sooner or later, their clandestine affair is exposed. Emotional affairs are more prevalent in the workplace than you may think. In a study looking at infidelity statistics in the United States, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy revealed 15 percent of wives and 25 percent of husbands engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage. That’s quite alarming by itself, but when emotional affairs are thrown into the equation, the numbers jump by more than 20 percent. In this day and age, it seems no relationship is safe from an affair. Emotional affairs at work tend to make up a large percentage of these numbers, and some research shows over 50 percent of opposite sex, work friendships end up turning into something more. [ii]

I remember sitting in a meeting with a high profile public leader, discussing his embarrassing exposure. The affair started subtly until they were alone and the rest is history. Once exposed it was a BIG disappointment to all involved. An emotional affair starts with a simple wink, then a compliment, an accidental bump in the hallway, and an innuendo here and there. Then all the sudden strong “feelings” take over and an uncontrollable urge and curiosity sets in to experiment further. Boundaries are then tested until it’s too late, you’ve gone over a boundary line. So what actually is an “emotional affair”? An emotional affair is an affair of the heart and mind, where a person sends subtle messages to another conveying a playful purpose yet keeping the relationship secretive in nature. If you want to know you are having an emotional affair at work, take the following assessment:

An Emotional Affair Assessment:

Is it your custom to…

  1. ask a particular person of the opposite sex out to lunch or coffee?

  2. purposefully go “out of your way” to talk to someone of the opposite sex each day?

  3. have closed door meetings with a person of the opposite sex?

  4. share marital problems or details about your marriage to the opposite sex that your spouse would not want others to know?

  5. look forward to seeing a particular person of the opposite sex at work each day?

  6. playfully text or email a particular person of the opposite sex on a regular basis?

  7. use innuendo language with a person of the opposite sex?

  8. be consumed in thought about a particular person of the opposite sex during or after work hours?

  9. inappropriately touch someone of the opposite sex at work by rubbing up against them or hip bumping in the hallway?

  10. write a private message to someone of the opposite sex, whom you happen to work with, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., without your spouse’s knowledge 

– If you answered 2 in the affirmative, you maybe a little misguided or just a big flirt, be careful!

– If you answered between 3 to 4 questions in the affirmative you’re in serious danger or on the boderline of having an emotional affair, and need to reconsider your boundaries before something more serious happens.

– If you answered 5 or more questions in the affirmative, then you are having an emotional affair at work, and need to reassess your behavior; seek counseling or speak with a mentor.

What boundaries can you design (personally or in policy form) to curtail an emotional affair in your workplace? Does your workplace have a code of ethicis in place addressing this type of behavior?

Footnotes:
[i] Could you be having an emotional affair? By Gail Saltz, May 21st, 2009.
[ii] Emotional Cheating Signs – Could These Be Signs Of An Affair? Monday, February 21st, 2011.

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One comment on “Are You Having An Emotional Affair?

  1. I highly recommend a 1945 movie called “Brief Encounter” with Trevor Howard, which addresses the theme of how emotional affairs start: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037558/

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