Part One- Is this Friendship or Something More?


“What are you getting so hysterical about? We are just friends!”

Unfortunately, the above statement (or something like it) is increasingly a common theme in committed relationships . One partner is furious and hurt, while the other is minimizing and denying any problem.

What they are arguing about is more often than not, an Emotional Affair. Because these “friendships” may not involve a sexual aspect (yet), denial of an “affair” seems “technically” rational and accurate, yet to the frightened spouse, these “friendships” can seem overwhelmingly threatening to a marriage.

Let’s break down the difference between friendship and an emotional affair with hopes of providing couples who are stuck in a circular pattern of reason (one distrusts the “friendship”, the other one reassures there is no wrong doing) a template with which they can talk about this issue in a constructive healing dialogue.

1.Emotional affairs have an element of secrecy to them-it may begin with the seemingly benign omission of facts then advance to the more problematic lying. When there is an emotional affair secrecy is paramount because you know if your partner found out they would be hurt or angry. You also have some sense of what you are doing is crossing a line. You rationalize you  don’t have to “report in” but a secretly stashed cell phone,  constant clearing of your internet history or lying about your whereabouts is clearly problematic. Furthermore, the secrecy fuels the excitement and sense of passion and connection.

In friendship you are open and forthright.

 2. You find yourself confiding in your “friend” feelings/issues you don’t share with your partner. Furthermore, you begin to talk /complain about your partner and your relationship. Simply put, this new friend becomes your confidante.  Your emotional commitment and connection is now shifting from one person to another.  As you put more energy into this connection, less goes into your marriage and the emotional void you are creating with your partner can evolve into an insurmountable chasm.   

In friendship, you do not betray the emotional privacy of your partner.

 3. You begin to pay special attention to how you look when this person is around. When you know you are going to see them, you go out of your way to look super good. You may begin to work out more often or pay closer attention to your wardrobe.

 You really don’t care about what you are wearing with your friends.

 4. Being in the presence of your “friend” and your partner at the same time creates anxiety and guilt. When possible you keep them apart.  

You enjoy having your friends around your spouse.

 5. You create opportunities for the two of you to get together-either at work, on the internet or socially. You do this, of course, secretly.  

You have no difficulty telling your spouse when you are spending time with your friend.

 6. You feel angry and defensive when your spouse questions you about the “connection” and find yourself turning it around-“You are so jealous” or “Since when can’t you trust me?” or “You are imagining things” or “You are losing your mind!” or “You are friends with—-, I don’t get on your case about it.”  

When a friendship is questioned, you do not become defensive or angry.

 7. You find yourself starting to feel despondent or “out of sorts” when your “friend” is not available- on vacation or with their family, etc. You even begin to resent your “friend’s” other obligations and feel a little jealous.

 You don’t “pine” for your friends.

 8. You find your thoughts are increasingly consumed with your “friend” and experience a sense of urgency as to when you will connect again. Then when you do connect, you feel your mood soar.  

While you enjoy your friends, their absence or presence doesn’t propel you on to an emotional roller coaster.

 While this “friendship” involves no sexual contact, the level of intensity is powerful and problematic to the marriage: the secrecy, the shifting of emotional intimacy, and the longing create a powerful aphrodisiac that fosters a growing romantic attachment and when that happens, a sexual relationship usually follows. To clarify, a sexual relationship does not need to involve sneaking off to some undisclosed sleazy motel. People make sexual connection through phone sex, sending nude or suggestive photos via cell phones or Skype sex on the Internet.  These behaviors definitely cross the line.

 *Has an Emotional Affair been a problem in your relationship? If so, please share your story . Only your first name will be used or you can use a pseudonym if you prefer. All identifying information will be held in strictest confidence.

Next week Part Two- What causes Emotional Affairs? How common are they? Is the marriage doomed?



  1. CJ on the 04. Sep, 2011 remarked #

    I suspect too many women (and men) find it easy to hide their heads in the sand if their spouse or partner is having an emotional affair with another. After all – it’s rather “oblique”,isn’t it. Nothing “tangible” one can point to and say with certainty, “aha – I caught you at it!”
    You have so eloquently shown that an emotional affair is real and something to not be taken lightly or disregarded.

  2. Sarah on the 04. Sep, 2011 remarked #

    This is a great piece Donna, I can’t wait to read next weeks.

    One of the most painful statements in the breakup of my marriage was “Don’t you trust me?” Because of course I had trusted him for more than half my life, and this created an immense amount of shame for me. But now I feel as if it was an important turning point…

    I always go with my gut on things now–it very rarely fails me.

  3. overcome affair on the 22. Sep, 2011 remarked #

    A lot of time and effort is needed to get past the initial emotions when it comes to affairs. I felt that the mental hurdle at the beginning of knowing the affair has to be dealt with lots of maturity and patience. Making the relationship more stronger after an affair is really possible but that would require a lot of commitment and effort towards our partner. Thanks, Victoria.

  4. RaeMarytha on the 20. May, 2012 remarked #

    My 1st marriage ended due to my emotional affair turning into phone sex with my now 2nd husband. A lot of people were hurt due to that. My 2nd husband has been in prison for almost 3 yrs now & out of my loneliness even tho he calls home just about everyday, last year I started calling who was on my Facebook friends list & we had phone sex a few times for about 3 months, until one day I realized that this is so familiar because the guy started fantasizing about meeting me in person, so one night I told him that when that happens I fantasize about my husband, so we cut it off & I am so glad I broke it off! I do not want to go through what I’ve one through again, so if you break it off fast right now, you will be glad you did!

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