Sunday, August 24, 2014

5 Ways to Get Out and/or Stay Out of an Emotional Affair.

Hello. Its been quite a while... 8 months in fact.

I just read this article: 5 Signs You're Having an Emotional Affair. I think the article is interesting conceptually and in many cases it can be true, however, I don't think it is completely fair.

I asked the question when I originally posted the article to facebook, what are the root causes of emotional affairs? I mean, there must be a reason why people seek to fulfill their emotional needs, right?

Sometimes people may be in a relationship where one partner (often times the woman, but not always) has much more emotional needs than their partner has or can accommodate. Therefore, they seek their emotional needs elsewhere. For most women (and men), they have their "girl friends" to talk to. They hash out their thoughts, emotions, and secrets. You promise your friends (and ideally if they are good at it) not to share it with anyone, bring it up with your friend (unless they bring it up to you), and separate yourself from the equation so that you do not feel anything negative from your friend's partner. The reason being is, your friend is going to feel differently in an hour, day, week, month or even a year. If she doesn't feel differently, it is still her/his problem in the end and you need to be supportive of THEIR decisions, although you can help them sort out their thoughts throughout the process.

For example, I am a very emotional and reflective person and am in constant need of someone to talk to... and I mean CONSTANTLY.  Every thought gets pulled apart, rearranged, and put back together, maybe in the same form, or maybe in a new pattern. But it is unfair to my partner to have to listen to my every thought, every emotion, every moment. So, I seek out other people to meet my emotional needs. I talk to my parents, my in-laws, my siblings, and my closest friends. I do not consider this an emotional affair. The reason being is because I am attempting to respect the quiet tendencies of my partner. Is it frustrating? Hell yes. But is it for the overall good of our relationship, I hope so. The reason why is when you talk and re-hash things as much as I do, it might seem like you are 1) constantly complaining; 2) constantly in doubt; 3) constantly flip-flopping; 4) constantly having problems; 5) in constant need of therapy.

But it is not the case, I'm just an verbal thinker. I need to bounce ideas off of people, including the process of sorting out my emotions and relationships.

I will adjust the definition of an emotional affair as when a person begins to seek emotional comfort from someone outside of their relationship in which could turn into another relationship that could replace your existing one (whether a man or a woman, considering sexual preferences). 

So, anyway, this has led me to write a post in response to "5 Signs You're Having an Emotional Affair" and lets call this: 5 Ways to Get Out and/or Stay Out of an Emotional Affair.

1) Make sure you understand why you seek and/or might need emotional comfort on the outside. 

This may be because your emotional needs are not met internally within your relationship. So, you feel the need to have a stand-in. Think about your emotional needs. Are they too much? Can you reign them in so that you and your partner can find a middle ground? Are your emotional needs connected to another issue? Are you unsatisfied with everything in your life and considering your partner the root of that dissatisfaction? Think about why you are seeking more on the outside.

2) Consider who you are seeking emotional comforts from. 

Personally, I do not think seeking emotional comforts from outside your relationship is a problem, unless it from a "threatening" individual, and by threatening, I mean for your relationship. This is the age-old debate of whether men and women can be "just friends"? I do believe men and women can be just friends if they are just friends. However, I do not believe men and women can have a deeper relationship without it turning into something more (and apply the standards for same-sex couples, so men-men; women-women). If they are the person you turn to with every problem or every complaint, then it changing the playing field. But if you're turning to someone like a parent, a therapist, or a friend (that is not of your sexual preference) the boundaries are a lot more clearly drawn. You know how much is too much; how much to hold back; and where guilt starts to play into factors.

3) Talk to YOUR Partner.

I think a major problem is people don't talk to their partners and when they do, the messages delivered and received are not the same. So, when they need to talk to their partners, they should try to speak to them in a way that they can understand and empathize with. I'm a fan of the book The Five Love Languages. Or take the Myer/Briggs Personality Test to know what type of person you are and what type of person your partner is. You really need to be able to understand another person to effectively communicate.

Often times, women and men (and people in general) communicate differently. Partner A will say something like "look at the floor, its so dirty" and it could mean many things such as a simple statement of fact "look at the floor, its so dirty" or it could imply "I need to clean it", it could imply "get up here Partner B and clean it", it could imply "I made a mess!" and it could imply "You made a mess!" Some of these could be complaints or accusations. Partner B could be constantly hearing your statements of facts as a complaint and accusation. Causing them to withdraw. You need to figure out how your partner thinks, for the most part and communicate in that language.

4) Adjust as much as you can permit yourself. 

Your partner is not someone you can change to meet your needs. You need to adjust as much as you will allow yourself to meet them half-way. Sometimes, this means working a lot on yourself to meet their needs to get a long-term gain. So, if you feel like your partner doesn't talk as much or doesn't want to talk as much, read their emotional cues. Are they tired from work? Are they in a bad mood? Maybe they have a headache? Maybe, maybe, maybe. In Islamic tradition, we are taught that you need to give another person 70 excuses before issuing some sort of judgement on them and their behaviors. I know for me, when I don't want to talk or am "not in the mood" to talk to someone, its usually because I have a migraine. But I don't mention I have a migraine because 1) I don't want to complain about it; and 2) I try as much as possible not to think about it. However, it leaves me standoff-ish  and withdrawn. Maybe I'll be withdrawn for a day, maybe for a week (depending on the migraine), so I try to get by with the contact that with keep my family satisfied (or at least I think thats what I am doing).

Although, I'm not a fan of super "religious movies", I was a fan of the movie Fireproof. In the movie, the main character is recommended to follow this book of dares for like 40 days (click on the link to see some of the dares). And honestly, it works. You reach out in small ways to your partner and you begin to see the reward. I won't go into the specifics, but I decided to try it, and within a week I was seeing a difference in my relationship. Not only was I becoming more positive, less impatient, and overall more content, my partner also responded in positive ways. Talking more to me, trying to ease me of my responsibilities at home, and even going the extra mile in communication and talking that is above and beyond other people's needs. Basically, adjust yourself but don't change who you are. 

5) Be honest to yourself and your partner. 

Do you feel guilty? Are you hiding secrets? This could mean that you're in an "emotional affair". I will note that Number 5 is different from Number 3. In Number 3, I mentioned Talking to your Partner. However, here I mean, talk to your partner about your concerns in your relationship. Sometimes, you need to figuratively smack your partner over the head with your attempts to communicate. What I mean is this... "Hey wifey, did you notice how I gave you a massage the other day? And I bought you your favorite ice cream? And took you out for dinner? This is because I am trying to connect with you since I feel like we've grown distant".

Sometimes, your partner just won't realize unless you tell them. I'm not telling you to rub it in their face and make you seem like the good guy and your partner the bad guy. But be honest to your partner that you're worried about your relationship and have been making strides to mend it. Ask if they've noticed too? Maybe they don't realize that the foundation of their relationship is becoming unstable... Maybe they have noticed it and have given up. Maybe they've noticed it and decided to do something about it. Maybe you haven't noticed their attempts to reconcile as well.

I'll give an example from my personal life (sorry hubster if you're reading this!). So, I like to be constantly with the person I love. CONSTANTLY. Its like that with my parents. It's like that with my friends. Its like that with my husband. Its becoming like that with my daughter. Basically, when I love someone, I need to feel their presence. We need to communicate. We need to have these philosophical discussions and what not. At one point, I was getting so frustrated with the hubster because he was so aloof and unavailable, which made me feel totally and utterly rejected. Then, he was on and off for about a week or two. When we talked about it later on, I was so emotional and frustrated. Then, he gave me his explanation, "your family was in town and I wanted to give you some personal space to be with them alone". I mean, I didn't even think about the fact my mom and grandma were in town (at the time) and thats why he was giving me space, to give us our "ladies time".

Personally, I don't like that space, but it taught me that he thinks about that alone time and space. He needs that alone time with his friends and family, without me always creeping in the shadows :p. But basically, it wasn't about me personally per se, but about giving me a fuller opportunity to enjoy my family while they were in town. I wouldn't have figured that one out and had been stuck dwelling and dwelling and dwelling on it until kingdom come. So, being honest, even about my frustration, was helpful because I found out that first, my frustration was misplaced; and second, that my husband needs much more space than I may need.

I guess thats about it. Basically, 1) understand yourself/needs; 2) consider the who; 3) Talk to your partner; 4) adjust accordingly; and 5) Be honest. 

Let me hear your thoughts on this subject as well.