Emotional affairs are when a person in a committed relationship looks to establish an emotional bond with someone outside of his or her relationship. I know this because I Googled it. I felt that there had to be a description for what I was going through, feeling an incredible closeness with an unavailable man. I typed the words into my computer and felt my heart sink as I nodded along, recognizing his behavior described perfectly in the warning signs. Is he lying about the amount of time we communicate to his partner? Yes. Would he want his partner to hear the conversations we have? Hell no! Is your relationship forged with a secretive, forbidden energy? Oh god, it is.
It’s funny because “emotional affairs” sound like they’d be a big party where you have several boxes of Kleenex to dab at wet eyes, dozens of cartons of premium ice creams, and the ASPCA ads with the “Arms of an Angel” song playing in the background; it doesn’t sound like a heartbreaking, manipulative, irresponsible way for two adults to behave, which is essentially what they are.
The funny thing is that I was this close to blowing him off. When he initially expressed interest in harmlessly texting me, I was indifferent. I miscalculated several things: 1) I didn’t plan on him being so much fun to talk to, 2) I didn’t realize how good it would feel to meet someone who took a genuine interest in my life, and 3) I didn’t think I’d get so attached so fast.
Texts quickly turned to emails which quickly turned to phone calls. We were spending hours a day talking non-stop. It was intense. I tried not to take it too seriously, but the more he pursued me, the more I found myself enjoying the pursuit. My heart would race when his name would appear in my inbox. I’d smile at the ping noise when he’d pop up for a chat.
It didn’t take long for me to develop feelings for him. It didn’t help that he constantly told me how pretty I was, how funny I was and how smart I was. If only he didn’t have a girlfriend. Oh yeah, her.
In his defense, he told me right off the bat that he had a girlfriend. He was upfront about that so it wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was how well we hit it off. I didn’t want our talking to end. After a few months, I finally confronted him about the inappropriateness of our relationship and he insisted that we weren’t doing anything wrong. Nothing physical had happened, he protested. He was right, but what we were doing seemed worse than a few lustful moments made in poor judgement. This didn’t feel like a fling; it felt like I was falling in love with a man I couldn’t have.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let myself get so close to him and he should’ve backed off. But, at the time, the thought of losing him was almost too much to bear. I’d gotten used to having him around, hearing his laugh, sharing the little things that happened during the course of my day.
Then, after a few more days, I worked up the nerve to ask him a few questions about his relationship. We had never talked about it, but he was more than happy to answer my questions directly and honestly. I’d been secretly hoping that it was casual thing, one that he would consider leaving to eventually pursue a relationship with me. Imagine my surprise when I found out that they were engaged. Yes, engaged! I was furious.
I told him that I needed space, but he didn’t take that too well. He’d text me at all hours of the night, saying that he missed me, that it was too hard not talking and he begged me to at least consider a close friendship. I was too important to him, he said. He’d understand if I ended it, but he’d be crushed. I didn’t want to crush him. I wanted to love him. But I had to love myself first and that was only going to happen once I removed myself from this f**ked up dynamic.
It was tough, but I finally worked up the courage to end it. Telling him to take a hike was like giving up a drug cold turkey. Ultimately, the situation wasn’t fair to me or to her. In the end, I don’t think he was intentionally behaving like a bad person, I just think he thrived off the attention I gave him just as I thrived off his attention too. Flowers bloom towards sunlight. But my flower needed to scoot my pot towards a sunbeam that could nourish me properly.