There is no excuse for infidelity of any kind. Partners who betray trust should be held accountable and should take responsibility for their actions. That said, it can be very important to discover what led to the affair. With that in mind, we set off to explore the connection between male depression and emotional affairs.
Depression is more than just feeling blue. It’s a diagnosable mental health disorder that can result in hopelessness, despair, self-harm, and more. Left untreated, depression can be the catalyst for a wide range of dangerous issues. For example, in men, depression can influence behviours like engaging in emotional affairs.
What is an Emotional Affair?
While most folks associate cheating with sexual activities, such behaviours can be expressed in many ways. For example, an emotional affair is a relationship between two people that does not include physical sex together. However, we’re not talking about a friendship here. While even the participants can see themselves as “just friends,” the bond does cross some clear, intimate boundaries.
How to Know If You’re Having an Emotional Affair
- You look forward to seeing or interacting with this other person more than your partner.
- When your partner asks about this “friend,” you get secretive and defensive.
- You complain about your partner and your relationship when speaking to the other person.
- Gifts are exchanged but usually in private.
- Your conversations become increasingly personal, private, intimate, and perhaps sexual.
- You tell them things that you haven’t told your partner.
- Your phone is cautiously guarded, and some messages are deleted to prevent your partner from seeing any evidence of the connection’s depth.
- You fear being caught, and you feel shame about neglecting your partner, but you make no moves to cut things off.
Make no mistake, even without sex, this type of relationship can still be a serious violation of trust for your partner. In fact, many people say they’d feel more devastated by an emotional affair than if their partner had sex with someone else.
How is This Connected to Male Depression?
Men less likely to report depression symptoms. They can suffer in silence and are at higher risk for self-harm or suicidal ideation. Untreated depression leaves men searching for ways to “self-medicate”. It could be substance use, pornography, obsessive exercise, or something else that can boost their sense of self-worth.
Along comes another person — in person or online — that falls into the “something else” category. They listen, they sympathize, validate, and they might even provide compliments. They are easy to talk to. For the first time in a long time, you have something to look forward to.
In fact, since depression can cause sexual dysfunction and low libido, an emotional affair feels extra safe. You can bond, flirt, and tease seemingly without risk. In reality, of course, you are risking so much, e.g.:
- Putting your relationship in danger by sneaking around.
- Hurting your partner to the point where the damage may be unrepairable.
- Ignoring depression symptoms can lead to far worse emotional and physical problems.
Depression causes people to lose interest in what once excited them. This can even mean a committed relationship, and often means sex. Your brain is low on feel-good chemicals like serotonin, so you desperately look for a replacement. That thrill you feel when this new “friend” is so excited to see you and hear from you gives you the boost you need.
From there, it’s difficult to stop. However, it’s important to recognize what is happening, and identifying the root of the problem. While the emotional affair might feel good, is it a symptom of undiagnosed depression? Consider what are the longer-term goals for you and your current relationship?
- Talk to the new person and explain why you need to back off the relationship.
- Tell your partner that you need their help to deal with depression.
- Connect with a qualified therapist and/or a medical professional.
If any of the above sounds familiar, our qualified team of therapists can provide support. A competent therapist can work with you individually or as a couple to unpack the meaning of this affair, and work with you towards a place of healing or decision making. Reach out today to book a session with a skilled therapist at Onyx.