What is an Emotional Affair?

apple teamworkAn emotional affair is an intimate connection between a man and a woman, where there is no sex involved. If one of them is in a relationship, they rationalize that they are not cheating, or doing anything wrong because there is no physical contact. They believe that they are just friends and cannot (or refuse) to see how much their friendship hurts others. I understand the betrayal as my husband had an emotional affair.

Being betrayed by your spouse or significant other due to an emotional affair can be just as traumatic as a sexual affair, if not more. Many people may engage in a physical affair, without any emotions what so ever. It’s the emotional investment and the nature of the communication that two people have in an emotional affair that causes marriages to be ripped to shreds even though the relationship never becomes physical.

The internet has complicated the emotional affair even more. The cheater honestly cannot see any harm in spending hours chatting with someone thousands of miles away. What may start out as an innocent friendship deepens as the two begin innocently flirting. Next thing you know, they are emailing one another very personal and intimate information. Their relationship has blossomed into an emotional affair.

If a person, loves their spouse, they should take notice when the green-eyed monster begins to appear. Most people are not jealous for no reason. They get jealous because they feel their love relationship is being threatened.

Signs of an Emotional Affair

  • Intimate conversations that are usually kept between spouses
  • Putting friend’s needs and desires before you spouses
  • Feel like your friend understands you more than your spouse
  • You prefer to spend more time with your friend than your spouse
  • Fantasying about your friend
  • Willing to lie or keep your relationship a secret
  • Discussing sexual fantasies, likes and dislikes with one another
  • Are touchy-feely with your friend, but are careful not to touch certain places
  • Always want to look your best when you see your friend

Emotional affairs hurt. Many marriages are destroyed by them. Most churches do not recognize an emotional affair as grounds for divorce which can cause more confusion and heartache for the spouse who has been betrayed.

Can a marriage survive an emotional affair? Sure they can, if both parties are committed to making their marriage work and are willing to put their spouse’s needs and desires above all others. If a person feels that their needs are being met, they are less likely to look elsewhere to feel as if they are loved, supported and that they matter.

Share your thoughts about an emotional affair with us. Do you believe it’s an end all for a marriage? Did an emotional affair have anything at all to do with your divorce?


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  1. Lana Parkin says

    My husband and I have been married for 15 years. We lived together for 10 years in South Africa and relocated to the UK 4 years ago. Shortly after our arrival, I discovered a conversation between my husband and an old girlfriend (also married)that had been going on for months day and night that I was not even aware of. At first it appeared to be just a friend he was catching up with but as I sat reading the conversation, the length, time and content of the entire conversation that went on for months behind my back, was clearly more than just friendship. He called her ‘Butterfly’ regularly, told her how ‘VERY GOOD’ she looked, shared his thoughts and desires with her. As the conversation progressed it was clear it was becoming more personal and intimate though they took care not to say anything directly sexual but threw in some little sexual inuendos. My husband would say to her ‘I was going to say sausages but it sounded kindy kinky’, and she would respond ‘Yes please, I want it all’, then he would respond ‘Oh really?’. He told her ‘I sleep on the left side of the bed’, she said, ‘I sleep on the right’, he responded ‘Nice…compatible’. He told her how he looked forward to talking to her everyday and when he was having a bad day he really wanted to talk to her. She told him ‘I don’t believe in Love, it doesn’t exist for me anyway’. He responded, ‘I had my doubts too but just because I didn’t get it right, doesn’t mean it doesnt exist’. She would call him ‘Hun’, he would talk about all her butterfly tatoos. Not once during the entire conversation that went on for months behind my back, did he mention my name.

    By this time I sat there with tears rolling down my face crying like a baby. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had complained for years about the neglect my husband showed me during our years of marriage, he would say, ‘I don’t know why, Im just not a sexual person, Im just not that kind of guy who gives a lot of attention’.

    I was devestated. When I confronted him about it, of course he’s first response was to say ‘We’re just friends’. I proceeded to ask him if they were just friends, why would he keep it from me, he couldn’t respond. I asked why he would say all those things to her, he wouldn’t respond. I asked him why I never knew about this friend and why he never once mentions his wife…he said, ‘We decided we weren’t going to bring spouses into our conversation’. Huh!!!! He then became very aggressive and defensive telling me ‘You invaded my privacy, how dare you read a private conversation between myself and a friend’. I was even more horrified.

    I begged him for ages to tell me the truth, to admit that he had feelings for this woman, but he refused and said he had done absolutely nothing wrong, that it was quite normal for friends of the opposite sex to communicate this way, married or not.

    I had just left my home, my country and my entire family behind in South Africa and discovered what appeared to me, that my husband didn’t love me and that he was clearly emotionally involved with another woman even though she too was married, clearly unhappily and living far away. It still killed me… In my devestation, I went on a rampage, texting other males, drinking myself into a stupor (never touched alcohol in ten years), and eventually cheated on my husband. In my mind it was not an act of revenge but a desperate need to be wanted and desired by someone else.

    He found out and his immediate response was to text his ‘girlfriend’ and tell her what I had done and told her, ‘I just want her gone’. I found the messages on his phone. After a few days passed he told me he was sorry for hurting me and that he would stop talking to her but the conversation between them came to an immediate end on Facebook and picked up on Whatsapp. I told him ‘Friends don’t carry on like this, I have male friends too, we talk about family, work, kids and the weather’. I told him ‘If youre just friends, perhaps we could share the conversation with her husband’. He went mad saying ‘you just want to ruin her life’. Huh!!!

    A few more days passed and he asked me to forgive him, saying that he wasn’t sorry that he had spoken to her or the content of their conversation as he didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t have sex with her, but all the same he wanted me to forgive him as he has forgiven me for cheating on him. I realised that somewhere along the line he must have realised that nothing could ever transpire between him and this other woman and that it was only his ego that was seriously bruised, how dare I cheat on him.

    I told him I did not cheat on him out of revenge, but out of despair…that I could never trust how he truly felt about me if he could do something like that in the first place and how could I forgive him when he refused to acknowledge what he had done.

    From that day on we have never been the same. I have never been able to move past it. He asked me several times to forget about it but still refused to acknowledge he had done anything wrong. I even tried to accommodate him, refraising my words so that he might feel comfortable to open up to me and be honest. I told him if he could just be honest, we could move past it and work towards a better relationship. He refused to acknowledge.

    Instead, he became abusive, repeatedly, and in a vulgar manner, recounted everything I did with someone else, at full volume, in front of my kids. He then repeatedly called me a ‘Fat F..k’, told me he would never touch me, called me an alcoholic whore (even though I hadn’t touched alcohol in ten years) and said ‘Im tired of being punished for my transgressions with another woman, but I didn’t do anything wrong, if you can’t move past it, I want a divorce’.

    Oh and by the way, just the other day he said, ‘Id love to have sex with my wife one last time, No strings attached’.

    Thats my story. Does anyone think there’s something wrong with this picture, or is it just me.

    • Cindy says

      Thanks for writing and being so open and honest about your story Lana. Yes, definitely sounds like an emotional affair to me. It is interesting to me how so many people do not realize the impact of an emotional affair. They do not see it as cheating as long as sex is not involved. Emotional affairs can be some of the most exhausting affairs to endure - because your husband, the one who is supposed to put you first is putting you last.

      If you are indeed getting a divorce, I strongly advise AGAINST having sex with him. It may be no strings attached for him, but I can assure you it will not be for you. It will deepen your grief surrounding the emotional affair and the divorce and may very well prolong your healing which will prevent you from moving forward.

      BIG HUGS to you!

      • Lana Parkin says

        Hi Cindy

        Thank you for your early response. My mind has been filled for so long with ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. IF he just told me the truth, if he just told me he was sorry for cheating on me emotionally, I could tell him I was sorry too, for cheating on him after, BUT, he refuses to acknowledge this. I have even sent him articles on what emotional cheating was all about highlighting all the signs, that so clearly reflected on his conversation with her, how he went about it, the content and the secrecy from me… Still he refuses to acknowledge. He claims that he forgave me even when he didn’t do anything wrong, that he tolerated my intimate conversations with other men and when he shouldn’t have had to. I told him none of it would have happened in the first place. Still he refuses to accept any responsibility for any damage in our marriage. Constantly contradicting himself. He didn’t do anything wrong but I wouldn’t forgive and move on. How do you forgive someone when they refuse to acknowledge? I know in my heart he was attracted to this woman and that it was more than ‘friendship’ but the fact that he refused to give me the option to forgive by telling the truth has made it that much harder to forgive and move past it. He is prepared at all costs to go through with the divorce as long as he doesn’t have to admit he initiated the damage in our marriage. To me this means I am not important enough. He refuses to talk to me at all relating to our relationship but then he’ll do strange things like attempt to do something small for me, bring me a cup of coffee, ask if I would like to go to a garden centre which he knows I love to do. I know this is his attempt at trying to make a connection with me but still refuses to take any responsibility for his actions. At one point he said ‘I didn’t do anything wrong, but Im paying the price for my transgressions with another woman, for the rest of my life’, and ‘I AM taking responsibility for my transgressions with another woman…Im carrying your fat arse around’.
        What are your suggestions if any. I have nobody here to talk to, I have left my entire family behind in South Africa. I am sleeping in the lounge on a blow up bed because its unbearable to sleep next to him knowing that he is prepared to go through with a divorce as long as he doesn’t have to admit to anything. He also does’nt care and persistently shows it

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