An affair of the heart can be every bit as painful – and sometimes even more so – than a physical one. Safeguard your relationship with these tips.
Step 1: Know the difference between a platonic friendship and an emotional affair: The line's been crossed if there's continual sexual tension, secrecy, or an emotional connection you don't share with your partner.
Step 2: Beware of the "office spouse." If you're the one with a sexually charged friendship at work, limit personal conversations and don't allow the bantering to spill into after-office hours. If your mate seems to be getting too close to a colleague, remind them – without acting overtly insecure – to keep the relationship professional.
Step 3: Be alert for signs that a partner has a special online relationship: spending an inordinate amount of time on their computer, or changing their screen when you enter the room. If this is the case, be blunt about your suspicions. That may be enough to nip it in the bud.
TIP: If you're the one getting frisky with an online friend, ask yourself if your partner would be upset to read your e-mail or instant messages. If the answer is "yes," you're already cheating.
Step 4: Keep tabs on emotional intimacy. If your partner is not confiding in you like they used to, it's possible they're talking over their problems with someone else. If you're the one revealing private thoughts elsewhere, try to reconnect on that level in your relationship.
Step 5: Know the reasons people cheat, even if it's just in their heart: loneliness, the need for attention, sexual frustration, and a desire for romance. Making an effort to keep things happy at home can reduce the chances that either partner will go outside the relationship.
Step 6: If you find yourself physically attracted to someone, whether it's a colleague, an old friend who's resurfaced, or an online buddy, don't pursue a deep friendship with them – you'll be playing with fire. If it's your partner who's giddy around someone who's "just a friend," tell them to find friends they don't have a crush on.
FACT: Emotional affairs that turn sexual are more likely to end a marriage than affairs that start out purely physical, according to research.