This is Mike Hennessey, and on behalf of the team at Relationship Advice Cafe, I’m pleased to welcome you to our interview with today’s guest Karla Downing.
For free tips and insights on relationship advice from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.RelationshipAdviceCafe.com.
Mike Hennessey: Karla Downing, Welcome! We’re glad to have you here today!
Karla Downing: Yes, it’s great to be here!
Mike: Karla, first off before we do anything else, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do, and what your qualifications are to talk about relationships.
Karla: Well, first of all I’m a licensed marriage family therapist. And I’m the author of three books, two of them are on difficult relationships, and one on self image. I am a speaker on difficult relationships.
I have a website called ChangeMyRelationship.com which has tons of information on all types of aspects of relationships. One of my main passions is to help people with biblical and practical advice for relationships, so a lot of my stuff has a spiritual component.
And then as pertains to our relationship today, I actually have gone through a marital affair, in a marriage that is now still together 20 years later.
Mike: Now one of the things that we are going to be discussing today is, what an emotional affair is, that’s kind of the topic of the day. Can you explain what an emotional affair is as opposed to maybe some other kind of affair?
Karla: Yeah, there’s kinda some confusion, and it’s kinda up to the person who is describing the affair, but I look at it as three types of affairs.
The first one we call an emotional affair, is the most intimate relationship. It’s with someone other than your spouse, or partner. It includes a strong emotional attachment, and usually, but not always a sexual intimacy.
And definitely does not start with sex being the main thing, or even the reason.
The important thing about that, is that the emotional connection is intense and if and when sex does become a part of the relationship, it still remains, in my opinion, and emotional affair because the glue that is holding the two people together is the intense emotional connection.
And the sex, if and when they do start having sex, is often very intense but it only increases the emotional connection.
Now I contrast that with a sexual affair.
A sexual affair is a relationship in which the primary purpose is the sexual relationship. This can include one-night-stands, prostitution, or just somebody who is like a sex addict or just somebody on the side to be having sex with.
But the primary consideration there is that there is no deep emotional connection.
And then the last one in this day of the cyber world, I call is a cyber affair. And this can be any type of online relationship with someone that does not obviously have physical contact. It has many purposes.
One can be a distraction from a bad marriage. Flirting for excitement. A fulfillment of a void, or just plain sexual titillation. Some cyber affairs actually include self-stimulation with dirty talk or sending of pictures sexual in nature.
There can be an emotional connection if there has be sharing of ones emotions, thoughts, problems in the marriage, etc. But typically, the connection is not as strong as that true emotional, in-person affair that usually starts fairly innocently and just grows.
Mike: Cyber affair sounds like it might be something of a modern phenomenon, but I kinda suspect, as I mentioned before we started recording this interview, there’s really nothing new in terms of relationships and how people relate to each other.
And I suspect that while the technology is new, probably this is nothing that hasn’t been seen before, every time there is a change in technology.
I would imagine just about any change in technology from the written word to recording of words to the online ability to communicate has probably been used at some point to carry on affairs of one kind or another.
Karla: Yeah, I think those statistics would show that the number of people that are doing the cyber affairs, or using the internet for pornography or chat rooms and stuff is really growing because; One, it’s so easy to access.
It’s easy to do it without somebody knowing, because you have your computer there all the time. You’ve just got to turn it off if somebody comes home or walks into the room.
And it’s just a huge temptation. So I think statistics would show that the number of people who that are engaging in that type of thing is actually growing.
Mike: Yeah, the ease of opportunity is something that I would think is in fact new.
Karla: Yeah, and that temptation is kinda like‚ there if you are willing to do it. And you can get involved in it fairly innocently and then find yourself drawn to it more and more.
Probably for the purpose of discussion I should give some terms out too at this point.
It can get rather confusing if we’re talking about the spouse that’s been cheated on, the spouse that’s having the affair, the person they are having the affair with‚ so I recognize that affairs can occur in a relationship that people are living together or even committed to each other and dating, that person can have an affair.
But for the purpose of the discussion, I think it’s easiest to talk about it in the context of a marriage. Recognizing that it can still happen if somebody has a committed relationship.
So, the “Infidel” is the term I’ll use for the spouse that is cheating, the partner that is cheating. And then when I say “spouse”, that will mean I’m referring to the betrayed spouse.
And the person with whom the infidel is having the affair, I will refer to the “Lover” or “Partner”‚ does that make sense?
Mike: It makes sense to me. So at least we’ve got some ground rules established to how we’re going to be discussing this issue. And that should help everybody as we go along I would think.
Now, one of the things that kinda struck me by surprise, in doing a little bit of research about this, is that some experts say that an emotional affair can be as dangerous, if not even more dangerous, than a physical affair.
Can you explain that? Why maybe people start off thinking an emotional affair is not something that serious, but in fact, may in turn, can be something quite serious.
Karla: Well, and dangerous, I would take, would mean dangerous to a committed relationship. The one that is experiencing the betrayal.
So in that case, if we defined physical affair as one where somebody goes out and they just have a one-night-stand, maybe they drink too much that night. They’re tempted, they give into it.
Verses somebody who is working with somebody in the office and they have this growing interest in each other and attachment and appreciation and it starts to grow feelings.
Emotional affairs can become very intense, and because of the attachment component, they are the very most threading to the committed relationship.
Nobody feels good about finding out your spouse cheated. Cyber affairs and chat rooms are very upsetting when the spouse finds out that their partner has gone and done that.
However, when you look at an emotional affair, you typically have a partner saying things things to you like, “but I love her”, or “I love him”. “I can’t decide if I want to be with him or with you.” At some point it can grow to be such an intensity, that is actually threatening the marriage.
Mike: Is it possible that somebody can be involved with an emotional affair without recognizing that they’ve gotten in too deep, or that they actually are involved with an affair?
Are there warning signs that maybe somebody might want to take a step backwards, take a deep breath and review a checklist and say, “is this really innocent or are we headed for trouble here?”
Karla: Well, absolutely. At the beginning they are probably not aware of it and definitely would not be thinking, “oh my gosh, I’m involved in an affair, what’s going on here?!!?” Because it can be so very subtle, and again two reasons you get involved in an emotional affair:
1. Your relationship, your marriage is dead and you are looking for somebody else. And you are purposefully going out and trying to find another relationship even though you haven’t actually left the marriage yet.
2. In some type of circumstance, whether it be work, friendship‚ I have known of people where two couples are very close friends and they do a lot together, they travel, they go on vacations, they have dinners together, they’ve raised their kids together, and then all of a sudden, viola!
Two of them get together and we’ve got two broken marriages in the place of what was two marriages that were partners as friends.
So how does that happen? It happens very innocently before you even know it.
So here are some warning signs:
1. You are enjoying the company of this person more and more.
2. You find yourself thinking, “wow, I’d really like to be with him”, or “I’d like to be with her.”
3. You are thinking more negatively about your spouse than before.
4. You and this person are sharing your spouse’s negative qualities with each other.
5. You are thinking about this person when you are with him or her.
6. You feel understood by this person, in a way that is different from the way your spouse understands you.
7. You feel listened to and appreciated by this person, and ignored and unappreciated by your spouse.
8. You are finding excuses to spend time together.
9. You are lying to your spouse, or other people, about this person and your time together.
10. You feel more alive with this person than you have in a long time.
Those are all the warning signs that lets you know that you are in a relationship where there is an emotional connection that can become an emotional affair.
Mike: Is there a typical A to B to C pattern here, or can it just kinda jump around where something happens and all of a sudden you realize, “oh my gosh!”?
Karla: Well, I have a typical senario that I call “The Anatomy Of An Affair”. And this really is the typical senario.
It usually starts out innocently, when two people are together for another reason such as work, business, volunteer work, a project, friendship.
Although it can start when someone is actually emotionally divorced from their partner and they are looking for a reason to leave the marriage.
But first of all, you have two people who are together for some reason. Both people begin to notice each other more and appreciate the qualities that they see in each other.
They begin to spend time together, share information, confide, maybe complain about their marriages. Then the next step, is they notice that they are thinking about this person when they are not with them.
And yet, when they are with them, there begins to be a little bit of an emotional spark or tingling, kind of a little “alive” feeling you get when you are becoming attracted to somebody.
But the affair really takes on energy and becomes an affair when they, together, share their feelings for each other.
When they admit to each other, “I am feeling attracted to you”, “I am feeling like I am falling in love with you”, “I’m wanting to be with you”. And either one or both are married, which means, this is not ok.
Then at that point they know that this is something they shouldn’t be doing. And from that moment on, when they are together, they will now know they should not be together.
They will feel guilty about it, but excited about it. And it is at that point that it just kind of snow-balls and becomes bigger and bigger.
And then, at some point, the emotional connection is so strong that there will usually be physical, sexual intimacy.
Mike: It just occurred to me, the descriptions you are laying out here, kind of describe a sanario where the workplace could be a real setting for this to happen for a couple of reasons that occur to me.
First off, given today’s world where so many of us might be described as work-a-holics compared to say 20, 30 or 40 years ago. And we have, in so many cases, both partners working.
And it’s very possible that each spouse could be spending more time at work, than they are at home with their spouse. And so, I would think that is one problem right there.
And then there’s also the problem, and it’s not really a problem but simple reality, that people do tend to try to be on their best behavior at work.
So you always see the best side of somebody. whereas at home, you get the good, the bad, and the ugly all at once.
And so I would think that our changing economy, where people are expected to work rather than to have one partner at work and the other at home definitely makes the workplace fertile territory for this kind of thing.
Karla: Well absolutely! You’ve got a perfect opportunity when you’ve got, say, a man and a woman who’s jobs require them to spend a lot of time talking, spend a lot of time together.
And sure they grab lunch, and they go on a conference together and they are representing their company. And maybe they are out of state, out of town at a hotel.
Spending late hours at the office. It’s not “probably” that people are spending more time apart when they’re both working full-time, they actually “are” spending more time apart.
So, any relationship that doesn’t have the time it takes in order to keep that a vibrant, healthy, intimate relationship, it is somewhat at risk for an affair. It just depends on how bad it is.
Mike: Is there a type of person who is more likely to begin this kind of an affair? And first off, we’ll just do the obvious one, is it more likely that it’s a male or a female finding themselves involved in this situation?
Karla: Well, obviously it would take a female and a male to have an affair. So there would be as many females and males doing, or able to have affairs.
But I would say when you look at it as far as the statistics over the life of the marriage, men have more affairs than women have. But the statistics for women who have had affairs are quite high.
But you would have serial infidels, and that would be someone who has had multiple affairs in the marriage, and these are often sex addicts who use sex or their relationships to manage their pain and problems.
There are people, like the Don Juan player types, that don’t value commitment and they don’t have the ability or desire to have a committed relationship. And they may get married, but they tend to be with the ones who are the players and have multiple affairs.
Having had a parent who had an affair, actually increases the likelihood that you will either have an affair on your spouse, or you will marry someone who will have an affair on you. Statistics are quite interesting on that.
Then different times in the marriage: empty nest, middle age crisis are times when you see an increase of affairs because of the logistics.
Any personal crisis, a very sick child, maybe a child born with a developmental disability that requires a ton of time is a huge stress on the marriage can put it at risk. And then relationships with no intimacy and high conflict have high rates of affairs.
About the author
Karla Downing is an author, speaker and licensed marriage and family therapist who offers biblical and practical advice for relationship issues.
She has published three books and numerous articles. Her website is www.ChangeMyRelationship.com.
Use this link to sign up for her free relationship e-newsletter with relationship tips and truths and get your free 15-Day Relationship Challenge at http://www.changemyrelationship.com/free15daydevotional.html.
Powered by Facebook Comments