NB: Post for partnered people. When friendly affection becomes an Affair. Emotionally and or physically.
The older we get, it seems the more we need to connect with our youth. Memory has this great way of holding on to all that was good, and letting go of all that was not. While we may have very successful, happy and content lives now, it seems fair to say we miss the excitement of days past.
With that, often comes the urge to reconnect with old friends and old flames. Of course there is genuine interest in how these people are now, and how their lives unfolded. Who they became, who they married, and if we fulfilled our dreams and expectations of this life. Speaking to them again can make us feel young again as all the memories come flooding back.
Maybe it was 5 years ago, or maybe it was 50, either way, it seems to feel suddenly as if no time has passed at all. The flurry of excitement washes over us, and we feel excited. We feel young again. Some of us may have things to prove, wrongs to right, or deep seated feelings to confess. Some of us may want a second chance at a first impression, or to brag about how we exceeded in area’s nobody imagined possible. Some of us may just be feeling lonely and missing the ripe connections with people from long ago. Our reasons are usually much more about ourselves than anybody else.
Whatever the reasons, it isn’t uncommon for us to reach out to these people, often online, and get caught up in a whirlwind of affectionate, if accelerated, bonding. We eagerly express how much we miss that person, how much we have thought of them over the years and exaggerate either how good or bad our lives are currently. The problem being, that it is easy to be who you want to be behind the screen, and things feel somehow like a fantasy that is dancing in reality.
It is all too easy to lose all interest in you real life, work, family, friends and partner in favour of being with a fantasy of someone you remember from long ago, and being someone you really aren’t either. You find yourself flirting. Nothing serious, just a compliment here or there. Harmless banter may ensue as you poke fun at each other and jointly reminisce. As you USED to know this person, you can easily skip past the awkward getting to know you stage of the friendship. All too quickly you settle into a deeply comfortable and intimate place, (reminds me of the cooking shows - "Here's one I prepared earlier!") and feel you can tell this person things you struggle to discuss in real life. You look forward to your interactions more and more, finding excuses to be online, stay late at the office or take business trips away from your REAL life.
When you notice you have started to think about this person a lot; when you start planning the next flirtatious thing you could say or look forward to hearing from them more than anyone else, or justify how easily you can talk to them and how much they understand you, you are in dangerous territory. It is easy to think this person knows you better than anyone, however they only know of you what you have told them. They are not a part of your daily life, they are an escape from it.
Although you wont like hearing this, that is what draws you to them. It is not about them and how wonderful they are, nor about reliving your youth. It is not even really about how wonderful they make you feel in your capacity to be there for them either. You are living in a bubble, but reality will soon burst it I’m afraid. What you really like about this person is the alternate reality (fantasy) that you are co-creating. If you’re honest you’d probably agree that the longterm potential in the real world would be just as limited as any other.
So, when has it moved past a friendly affection and into an affair? When you are confiding in them things you don’t confide to other people. When you are speaking to them about your partner instead of to your partner about them. When you are protecting the bubble and not welcoming this person into your actual reality.
Chances are, you may even be using each other as a counsellor somewhat. If you can relate to any of this, perhaps seek actual counselling. It is fair to say all friendships nurture confidences, but the friendships themselves should not feel private. The chances are you just like the attention. Feeling heard, feeling someone is excited by you, feeling interesting again. The problem isn’t that your partner doesn’t make you feel these things, the problem is that you have forgotten along the way that you are all those things. And that nobody can hear you if you don’t talk to them.
I am not insinuating all emotional affairs happen this way, nor that all connections with people from your youth are doomed. Friendships new and old should be celebrated, just make sure you are being honest, even just with yourself, along the way.
Your Best Friend ForNever