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What is an Emotional Affair?

Emotional affairs involve spending extra time with someone who is not your partner and becoming very attached to them.
An emotional affair is just as damaging as a physical one and can cause sexual tension.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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An emotional affair can be described as an extramarital affair or extra partnership affair that does not include sexual behavior or intercourse. It is actually a fairly common occurrence in marriages and some experts believe that it can be more damaging than infidelity of a physical nature. In the emotional affair, one member of a couple becomes deeply emotionally invested in a person other than the spouse. The spouse having this type of affair may spend time thinking of that person, anticipating meetings with him/her, and gradually becoming more intimate (platonically) with the person. At the same time, intimacy within the marriage suffers, and the nonsexual and even sexual attention paid to a spouse lessens dramatically.

Some hallmarks of the emotional affair include the “cheating” partner’s desire to spend more time with their new “friend” or perhaps an old friend of a long-standing friendship, than he/she does with a spouse. The person may or may not deny sexual attraction to this friend, but it is clearly there if unspoken. The person having the affair might describe themselves as being in love with his/her friend and from a chemical perspective, many produce hormones like dopamine that give that “in love” feel to meetings with this friend. They could have sweaty palms, excessive interest in personal appearance before such meetings, and a sense of the electricity of each meeting, which tends to deepen the emotional affair.

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Another aspect of the emotional affair is that cheating spouses usually know they are behaving wrongly, and they may try to be secretive about meeting the person with whom they have become involved. In some cases this feeling of doing wrong and betraying the intimacy of a marriage leads to excess denial on the part of the cheating spouse. The spouse may insist that he/she is doing nothing wrong but there can be minor to major guilt associated with this type of affair.

While people often have intimate friendships with other people, especially of the same sex, the emotional affair is very different. It really does impact the marriage because of the sexual tension involved and also due to the fact that the person having the affair is sharing intimacy with someone else that best belongs within the marriage. The idea that marriage is a union and that your spouse is the person you would share with the most gets corrupted when a spouse starts sharing this with someone else. The amount of time a spouse thinks about this person outside of the marriage instead of his/her partner is fully out of proportion with how things should be. If a spouse is not the person you are thinking about most and in intimate way, it signifies a marriage with serious problems.

Sometimes emotional affairs begin due to distance that has evolved between spouses, though this is not always the case. Being involved emotionally elsewhere merely contributes to this state of disconnect between spouses instead of resolving the problem. Feeling deeply connected to another person especially in a sexual way is a good indication of marital trouble and the need to get help.

There are some suggestions that people should avoid friendships with those of the opposite sex to avoid emotional affairs. This may not be practical advice, since spouses or partners may have an emotional affair with a same sex friend. Instead of limiting friendships based on gender, spouses should be aware of tendency to treat any friendship as more important than the one had with their spouses. When friendship feels too much like love, it is an indication of emotional disconnect from your spouse.

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Discuss this Article

anon951518
Post 24

I had an emotional affair with an office coworker for more than two years now. This person is married and I'm single.

anon948201
Post 23

I am a married man for 14 years with three children. My problem started when I left my family to work as teacher in another country, I was emotionally empty.

I started an emotional affair with one of my students two months ago. She started the move, and I wasn't firm enough to reject her. We rarely meet in person. Most of our relationship is on the phone and Whatsapp. I feel guilty and want to get out of it, but I can't. I am so much in love with this person although I'm still in love with my wife.

Please help me get out of this affair with the least possible damage.

anon929841
Post 22

Can there be an one sided emotional affair, where one party is just flirting and having fun, but the other party gets emotionally attached?

anon929798
Post 21

The definition of an emotional affair was created by gynocentric control freak women.

Seems that these women demand: You have no meaningful friendships with anyone, apart from themselves. Otherwise it is defined as cheating, thus emotional abuse.

You cannot disagree with her, including delusional emotional reasoning. Otherwise, that is verbal abuse.

Realize that she is actually personality disordered. Dump her immediately. Take the children to protect them.

Look up DSM Axis 2 Cluster-B Personality Disorders.

anon346444
Post 14

I recently had a physical relationship with the father of my son's girlfriend. It wasn't planned and it didn't go as far as sex, but it was still emotional and very physical. After the fact, the man told me it was a mistake and was glad it didn't go farther and wanted to put it behind us. I haven't been able to do so and have been obsessing about what happened between us, fantasizing about it regularly and wanting more to happen. I text the man even though he has made me promise not to do so any more. I can't stop thinking about him and contacting him.

I just want to see him again, be next to him and try to seduce him into doing more with me. The biggest issues is our children and the fact that we are both married. I keep telling myself I need to stop this crazy behavior, but I don't want to and thus don't.

anon341936
Post 10

I’m realising I am stuck in the middle of an emotional relationship with a married female business partner of mine. I’m a young guy and I met this woman as a customer in a business I had previously owned. She would come in and I would provide my company’s service and when my business started to fall apart, she offered her support. She owns a business and has a prestigious occupation in the community.

She would text me to see how I was doing and ask if I needed anything, and eventually started a friendship. She would then want to try and spend all sorts of time with me, even coming over to my house to hang out, telling me a whole bunch of stuff I didn’t want or need to now. She gave me some work, and we eventually ended up starting a business together.

One day, she came to my house spilling her guts to me that she loved me and was asking if I was just being respectful of her marriage. She basically said she would leave her husband for me. I denied her and she was crushed because "nobody has rejected her before". People in the house heard the whole discussion, and it was incredibly awkward. She said we could put it aside and carry on as business partners and friends and I went with it because I was naive enough to think it would be OK once it was out of her system. She asked me not to tell her husband.

She has since started putting a lot of strain on my life by dictating my schedule and where I need to be to be (with her), and I feel like I have very little say in our business. I am very conflicted at the moment because we are just getting recognition for the work I do and taught her to do, and if I leave the business to get out of this, I may lose my only shot at this career. What do I do?

anon321675
Post 9

I'm currently having an emotional affair with someone. I met him years before my current boyfriend and back then, I knew there was romantic chemistry, but we were both shy and things just never played out. We kept in touch over the years and now I've been with someone for four years (long distance all four years), but through those four years, I have been talking to the guy that I used to know. Things started off pretty harmless and I even tried to cut things off a few times, but I can't deny that there will forever be an attraction between the two of us. We had it back then and now six years later, it's still there.

I often wonder if I should end my current relationship and go after my 'true love'. I know he feels the same way about me, but I don't know what he would be like in a relationship. My current boyfriend is amazing and has made it very clear that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me.

I battle with the decision to end things on a daily basis. I would marry my current boyfriend 100 percent if I knew that the other guy and I were not compatible long term. If I could see that we're not compatible, then I never have to wonder what if again and I know in my heart my boyfriend is the one that I'm supposed to end up with.

The other man and I send each other provocative pictures, but we've never met up and we don't hang out. It's purely over text.

Any advice would be helpful if someone has been in a similar situation.

anon316927
Post 8

Sometime past while working with a in certain company, I became confused in my life. I did not know it was an emotional affair I was experiencing with an unmarried lady. We worked in a computer room alone, all day long until we closed.

I had not been married, and one day I started to develop an emotional affair with that lady. I was older than she was, but she was rather more expert in our position and was a personnel manager to the company. This lady was so kind to me and even started sharing her lunch with me, such as a beverage, bread, biscuits and what have you. Later it got to a certain point that I started to fell in love with her, but looking at her position and not knowing whether I wanted to marry, and not knowing much about her background prevented me from making a marriage proposal. As a Christian, I began to think otherwise, but the way things were going made me break off the relationship, thinking that she was doing so to seduce me in order to have sex with her in the room or anywhere else and afterward to damped my spirit.

I consulted a preacher for guidance and counseling on this issue, and all he said was that I needed "self control" and that would prevent me from acting on the lust I had for the lady. He said if it still wasn't working, I'd better quit the job than disgrace myself at work. I managed to cope, but still the emotional affair was going on both at work and home at night in bed. In fact, I became suspicious and annoyed. I therefore, reported my story to one of our managers, but he didn't take it seriously. I then told another person who was a manager, and they advised me not to worry, but said I should continue praying and everything would be all right.

I finally decided to resign because I knew definitely that she was the one trying to cause me harm. One day I could not control myself and burst out and told the lady that I didn't trust her. She was confused about what I said. She tried to find out from me why I said that. But I thought she fell in love with me. The issue was finally reported to our main boss, so he called me and interviewed me about what I was experiencing in the computer room with the lady. I told him about the whole issue, so he told me to go home and call my parents to find out more about me. They came and later when I went home, what my father told me was that this is a part of life, so I'd better be careful at work and also make sure not to break a good friendship with people. I did my best to manage it with prayer, but it was still going on, so I resigned from the company peacefully to further my education. When I left there, I did not experience that kind of lust anymore.

My advice to whoever is reading this is people should be careful and have self-control in case you come across such a relationship or temptation.

anon316444
Post 7

I've been married seven years and have two children. I got close with a female work colleague. I didn't initially find her sexually attractive, but she had a personality that clicked with mine, and over time she started confiding in me about her personal experiences and we were becoming good friends, going on lunch breaks together. I started falling for her and began fantasising about sleeping with her and knew that was the time to break it off.

I left my job and never met or contacted her again. This is a warning to all men out there that having female friendships outside of your marriage is inappropriate and will lead you down a path you may regret. Don't make excuses that it's harmless fun. It's not and you may lose your marriage over it.

anon313966
Post 6

That whole set of posts is so negative. An emotional affair has helped keep me sane. It was generated in my own psyche, not the other party. She is a joy to be with, and is the one who is adamant there is to be no sex, which is good. Having her as a friend is much better than losing her for the lack of sex.

anon140448
Post 4

I was in an emotional affair that went physical. I deeply regret it. Sadly I still think about him but I wish I wouldn't have done it. It was one of the reasons my marriage ended.

I would give anything to go back in time and change things. He was someone I knew growing up and we always had a thing/feelings for each other but never dated. As we grew up and went through our 20s one or both of us was always with someone else.

One night we told each other our feelings and it just was nuts. I ended up marrying someone else who I loved very much and cheating on him with my friend. I betrayed my marriage. I hate that I did that and struggle with the guilt daily. I've since cut off contact with the "friend" even though my marriage ended. It was a "torrid" love affair, just like in the books but it was so not worth it. I was stupid and selfish and though my hubby and I fought a lot, nothing he did justifies what I did. I came clean to him and apologized but he will hate me forever, I am sure.

Then it turns out he had cheated later. It was so screwed up. I don't know if his was emotional but they were in touch for over a year online at least. He did say they had sex. We should have focused our energy on each other for sure. Now we can't ever go back.

anon124524
Post 3

I think I am in the throes of an emotional affair. I spend a lot of time overseas and on the last trip met an amazing lady, who did things to me that no woman has ever done before.

I have returned and can't stop thinking about her or emailing/texting her. Problem is that I am a married man of 11 years with children. I am emotionally torn, but I think I realise that this infatuation with the other women is just that. It's just hard to cut it off.

But I think I have to for my sanity and more importantly, my family.

anon104605
Post 2

I just ended a year-long emotional affair with a sociopath. It took me awhile to figure it out, but once I started "seeing" the behavior patterns the "Aha!" moments started and I ran for the hills.

I actually considered ending my 13-year marriage for this person, so I'm glad I saw the signs when I did.

I'm focusing on my marriage now. I'll pass on spending my life with crazy-making behavior, thank you very much! My hope for that person is self-diagnosis and some therapy and a somewhat normal life. God help his children!

anon58009
Post 1

The emotional affair I just had is now officially over. I didn't realize that the woman I had known for 30 years as a ex-lover/friend is a dyed in the wool sociopath. She used me because she wanted me to do things for her.

I never had her the way I wanted to because she is incapable of love. But boy did she ever make me think she cared. To think I almost gave up my 14 year marriage to be with her! I pity the poor souls who shares their life with her.

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