male depression and emotional affairs
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Male Depression And Emotional Affairs

Affairs can happen in all types of relationships. The betrayed partner often has a challenging time understanding why their partner would turn outside of the relationship. The age of technology, social media, and dating apps + websites has led to the crisis of emotional affairs. The Association of Marriage and Family Therapy estimates that 35% of women and 45% of men have admitted to having such a relationship.

An emotional affair is a relationship between two people that have the bond, closeness, or trust of a romantic relationship without a physical or sexual component.

Even though there is no physical contact, an emotional affair can result in significant damage in a relationship or marriage. In fact, many women actually experience more pain from an emotional affair than they would a sexual one that lacked emotional closeness.

Instances of emotional affairs are often linked with male depression. Though depression is not always diagnosed, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates six million men in the United States suffer from depression each year. Experiencing depressive episodes can impact someone’s ability to participate in their life, work, and relationships.

The symptoms of depression and the conditions for emotional affairs intertwine significantly. Keep reading for an exploration of how these concepts are related.


Male Depression and Emotional Affairs

We’ll start with a breakdown of symptoms depression and conditions of affairs, and move into how the two overlap.

There are different depressive disorders in the DSM, but most commonly people are referring to Major Depressive Disorder. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Sadness, change in moods
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Change in sleep
  • Change in appetite, weight loss, weight gain

Adult males in the United States are the most at-risk group for developing symptoms of depression, as well as the most at-risk group for suicide. Untreated depression results in worsening of the symptoms and adverse mental health.

There are a few key differences between a platonic friendship and emotional infidelity. Here are the warning signs for emotionally cheating:

  • More intimacy and sharing of emotions
  • Secrecy and deception with the spouse
  • Sexual tension

Even though sex is usually not involved, emotional affairs are just as (if not more) painful for a partner to process.

Just because a male has depression does not mean he will inevitably cheat on his partner. However, when considering the prevalence of men with depression and symptoms of emotional infidelity, a non-causal link can be drawn.

Depression can lead to low self confidence, low self esteem, and limited emotional resources to deal with conflict.

The very symptoms of depression are also the risk factors for emotional affairs. These risk factors include fear of intimacy or conflict and inability to manage significant life changes.

An affair offers a partner a blank slate where they can get some of their needs met without dealing with any of the deficiencies in themselves or in the relationship.

Attachment theory explains that one of the most basic needs for humans is the need for trusted and close connection with important people in our lives.

If there is not a secure attachment bond, a partner who senses or fears loss of or disconnection from their partner will fight or flight.

Without secure attachment, partners do not experience success at expressing their needs openly and honestly, and responding to one another’s needs with attention and emotional engagement.

When someone feels depressed, they may not be able to resolve their feelings of inadequacy, low-self esteem, or lack of motivation in ways that have previously worked in their relationship.

They may even want to avoid burdening their partner with their needs, only looking through the lens of their depression and thinking that they do not matter.

An emotional affair can be a way of self-medicating symptoms of depression by finding emotional intimacy outside of the relationship. A new emotional connection will release serotonin and dopamine in the short term.

In the long-term, the effects of an affair can forever change the primary relationship.

Seek professional help. Working with a marriage therapist is crucial when healing from any type of affair. A therapist will guide a couple to:

  • Deal with ambivalence. Do you want to stay together?
  • Process and express betrayal pain
  • Uncover the conditions that led to the affair
  • Strengthen the trust to prevent future betrayals

Treatment can feel confusing and painful, but working on healing is necessary to prevent future betrayals. The therapist will work to create safety required to explore emotions and impacts.

While outcomes are slightly better in couples therapy for young adults, couples of all ages can heal from the betrayal if partners are willing to communicate openly and take accountability.


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