What Is An Emotional Affair?

You may not be familiar with the term “emotional affair”. But, you know something isn’t right in your marriage or committed relationship. You can’t put your finger on what is different. Yet, something is missing. You feel it in your gut.

Maybe you’ve already confronted your man about your feelings…perhaps you’ve even asked if he is having an affair. Did he immediately get into a defensive posture? Did he vehemently deny any wrongdoing?

Still, you know you’re not nuts. He’s distracted at home. He’s on his laptop for hours. He’s started primping before going to work. He’s not as affectionate as usual.

What is an emotional affair? Answer: Couple in bed, she is sleeping ,the man is texting someone.

Looks like your man has a friend!


Is He Having An Emotional Affair?

The Components Of Emotional Affairs

When two people, who are in committed relationships with other people, become "just friends", mental hanky-panky begins brewing. In today's society, it's relatively easy for deep emotional connections to develop between two persons who have relationships with someone else.

These days, it's not unusual for males and females, who work for the same company, to frequently travel together for business purposes. Or, they may be church friends; neighbor friends; or, old friends who accidentally bump into each other. The operative word here is "just-friends".

If you catch your guy involved in such a friendship, that's what he'll say: "We're just friends." And they may be, or not.

To be open and fair, partners often have friendships and even deep emotional connections with other people whether it be an ex lover, spouse or simply someone in their circles. Depending on how secure you feel in your relationship, you may be uncomfortable with nearly any time your partner spends with that person, regardless of intentions.

In the scheme of things, emotional type affairs are rather new. Therefore, firm components have not been established. However, secrets and lies seem to be a common thread. So if secrets and lies are involved then it's safe to call it at least an emotional affair - agreed?

Secrets, Lies and Dependency

He will keep lunch dates, cocktails after work or other meet-ups a secret from you.

He won't reveal contents of conversations with his friend to you.

On days he sees the friend, he'll fuss with his appearance.

Just friends talk about personal and intimate subjects they aren't comfortable discussing with their partners. Pretty ridiculous, isn't it? Men are notoriously uncomfortable sharing emotions with anyone.

They may express a mutual flirtation. But, unlike a physical affair, chemical attraction is unnecessary. As the emotional affiliation progresses, they usually begin to experience sexual attraction.


Experts agree, in excess of 70% of emotional affairs become sexual.

Couples Counselors are seeing an "about face" among the two genders. Men are opening-up to their secret friends, because they "appreciate and understand" them. Women, who would never dream of conducting a physical liaison, are "drifting" into affairs with "just friends".

These friends develop an unhealthy attraction, similar to substance addiction. They depend on each other for "emotional highs". They depend upon each other in order to feel good about themselves. They feel irritable when not together and come alive when they meet.

It wouldn't be uncommon for your man to feel lonely when he's not with her, even though he's with you. The distraction you observe is him thinking about his person, which is a majority of the time. He may even leave the room to zip a cutesy text message.


Let's Refine Differences between Emotional and Physical Affairs

Hugging, kissing or any type physical contact is not a vital part of emotional infidelity. Oppositely, the physical affair is all about touch. For a sexual affair to take place, two persons must be in the same location. Emotional affairs can be conducted via internet, SKYPE or cell phone between old friends, who are separated by thousands of miles.

Since they do not engage in physical contact, many cheating partners do not consider their actions as betrayal. Either they discount or do not realize the extent of pain they will cause if found out.

True, they aren't cheating in the traditional manner. But, in sharing pieces of their heart, these two are violating trust. It has been determined by studies and marriage professionals that emotional adultery is literally worse than one-night stands or casual affairs.


What are Common Dangers Associated with Emotional Affairs?

Emotional affairs are popping-up like weeds in a flower garden. And like weeds, they can choke vital energy out of the marriage. People engaged in these affairs of the heart would do well to stop and consider how they are chipping away at the heart of their marriage or monogamous relationship.

As intimacy escalates between the cheaters, this new type of adultery does real damage to the honesty and trust it took married couples years to build. Sharing thoughts, dreams and feelings are spousal business, not territory just friends should explore.

Psychotherapists are finding it's harder for the betrayed spouse to recover from an emotional affair than if their partner had engaged in a full-blown sexual affair. This new "head sex" could result in divorce if the betrayed partner cannot reconcile such blatant violation of trust.


What are Options if Your Man is having an Emotional Affair?

When you first find out your suspicions were correct, you are entitled to demonstrate pure red rage. How dare he? And then to lie about it! Do you want to snatch that man-stealing floozy bald?

Don't go there. It may give you immediate gratification to confront his secret friend. But, it will not change anything. You won't feel better in the long run. Your issues are with your man.

For the highest good of all concerned, try to calm yourself down before doing anything radical. This is called being the better person.

Try not to dwell on anything those tacky just friends may have said about you. You are the one experiencing a trauma. You are the one who matters in this triad. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings – betrayed, hurt, confused, sad, neglected, dismayed, fear and so on.

Then, drag out the heavy artillery. What healing tools have worked for you in the past - meditation…journaling…prayer?

If you can't think of anything, get your important self to the mall for some retail therapy.

Once you feel ready to talk to him without screaming, put your focus on your future. Make your action plan.


Sample Action Plan

Your man honestly believes he doesn't deserve consequences. Wrong, he is in denial!

Step one is non-negotiable: Your man must willingly stop the emotional cheating immediately.

Step two: The two of you must come to a mutual decision regarding whether or not your marriage/relationship can/should be saved. Again – both of you must agree to pull up weeds in order to restore your beautiful love garden. Or, not.

Step three: Depends on the outcome of step two. If you've decided to save your marriage, go to step four. If you've agreed to divorce, enroll your hurting self in a divorce recovery class.

A trial separation rarely works in this case. The only way to solve issues resulting from his cheating is face-to-face.

Step four: Professional counseling may be your best option. Find a counselor who is experienced with these new affairs of the heart. An objective listener will dig out the root cause, which led to the emotional affair. She will show your man why he must be accountable.

He will lead you through the stages of healing. You will be in a safe environment to practice trust re-building.

With time, patience and a lot of hard work, it is possible to come out on the other side of betrayal with a stronger marriage than before.

Thanks for reading What is an Emotional Affair. Please let us know your thoughts.


  • Andrea Robinson

    Reply Reply May 29, 2015

    I guess I have a lot to say about this article because I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and also because I have some questions and observations.

    It’s definitely possible for people to “cheat” online. I saw it happen to a neighboring family once. The wife had met someone online and spent every waking moment talking to him. The marriage was rocky but the husband wanted to keep it together. Nevertheless, the woman got on a plane and went to go meet her virtual lover. So this bore out the statistics that 70% of these emotional affairs end up going sexual as well. The husband was incredibly patient about the whole thing and would only focus on getting his family back together, and that’s eventually what happened. I was astonished that his passion for keeping the family together won out over all this drama. It was truly amazing and possibly the only time in my life I would ever have a chance to witness something like this.

    Even so, I think that a weakness of the article is that it’s not mentioned that once in awhile, a man has a female friend who really is just a friend. I’ve had an experience like that.

    My friend worked in the same office with me and had a fiancee living in the Ukraine. We became best buddies because we both had the same sense of humor and liked some of the same things. I was divorced and we went to movies with each other. He was the first one to show me what the Internet was. I had no interest in him and vice-versa. One time he asked his sister, “Why do you think she hangs around with me?” and his sister told him, “Because you’re safe.” And that was very true. No way was he going to hit on me, and we both knew it.

    However, there wasn’t any lack of communication between my friend and his fiancee the way the article describes in these cheating scenarios. He loved to buy her things and he wrote to her constantly and kept in touch online. So she didn’t feel any jealousy or lack of intimate conversation from him. I ended up moving away before she came out to marry him, but we did meet later and it was quite delightful. I guess I’m just telling the story to say that it’s possible to have a just-friend who really is just a friend.

    On the other hand, I experienced the flip side of the coin, and it was pretty devastating. My ex had a very deep ongoing emotional connection with another woman. Not being the jealous type, I really didn’t realize it was still going. I thought she was just an old flame from long before he and I got together. She was married, too. My husband and she ended their marriages and married each other, and stayed together happily for several decades.

    I guess that even though I’ve had some issues with this “emotional cheating,” I still disagree with the statement that, “Sharing thoughts, dreams and feelings are spousal business, not territory just friends should explore.” I think that if you don’t have friends that can share thoughts, dreams, and feelings, you’re living a very restricted and hollow life.

    Perhaps because I’m older now, I realize that you can’t always know what to do and you can’t always control what happens. But I can see the value of an article like this that attempts to warn people of what can happen, because I was pretty oblivious.

  • Ann

    Reply Reply June 4, 2015

    My ex had done this to me, and that’s why I filed for divorce (one of the many various reasons)….instead of working on us, he went and built with another woman…we had 2 kids. I wasn’t going to stick around and beg for his attention. I’m in my 2nd marriage now, he’s a wonderful man and great father to all the girls, mine and ours. He’s showing the girls how a REAL man treats a woman, and when my oldest (from previous marriage) had a problem with her ex, he took care of it, though he’s NOT her father. I’ve told the girls to expect only the BEST in a relationship, to demand respect, and openness, and all the other stuff that’ll be the basis for long-lasting relationships.

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