What is an Emotional Affair?

It all started with an innocent friendship, a simple flirty comment and WHAMO! Chemistry takes over and your internal world ignites on fire, you get excited, and your mind races a thousand miles a minute. Emotional affairs don’t include physical intimacy. . . it is basically all emotion.

Here are a few items that constitute an emotional affair:

The Relationship is Hidden: A key factor to understanding the difference between a good friendship and an emotional affair is when the relationship becomes secretive, hidden, and out of your partner’s view.   You tend to step outside to speak on the phone, send a text message when you go into the bathroom, you delete messages/photos/texts, or you keep their phone glued to your hip at all times.

Emotional and Mentally Consuming: Emotional affairs can become consuming both mentally and emotionally. The thoughts and emotions no longer consist of your partner; you tend to be all about this other relationship. It can feel as if you are “alive” again, looking forward to talking to the other person again. Thinking. Wondering. Day dreaming.

Emotional Reaching: When you have exciting news, feeling worried about work, or upset about a family member, you no longer reach to your partner for comfort. You reach out to this other person for emotional comfort and closeness to share your emotional world with them. They are the first person you reach to for comfort, and then later down the list you reach to your partner…(or not even at all).

The HIGH: Often this new relationship creates an “emotional high,” a euphoric feeling. People tend to find more energy, willing to stay up later to talk on the phone/text/instant message chat, and can survive on less sleep because of this rush they get from the relationship. The excitement and flirtation is emotionally and physically arousing.

Flirtation: It might have started with an innocent friendship flirt, but now flirtation comes out more than it would with anyone else. Your mind gets consumed with endless flirty comments and humor that you haven’t had for a while. The fun flirty chats are exciting and you can’t wait for the next time you chat with them.

Talking about Them: Emotional affairs you might catch yourself talking about this person more frequently and they run across your mind more often. You bring this person up in conversations you have with others and you can’t stop talking about them in a positive light. Every topic seems to have a relationship with this “friend” of yours.

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The Held-back Thoughts: You hold back from sharing your thoughts or interactions that you have with this person. You have so much to say about this person, but you don’t say a thing. Something inside holds you back on bringing them up in conversation…kinda like your body is sensing something more than a friendship is occurring.

Crossing the Line: Having an emotional affair is also when you cross the line with sharing appropriate information. Crossing the line with information is opening up and sharing intimate things with this person where your partner is often the only one you do this with. You send intimate photos, sexting, or flirty comments where this would only happen in the past with your partner. You text message constantly throughout the day.

Dreams: You dream more of this person and the dreams have crossed into more intimate dreams where you are getting closer either emotionally, physically…or both.

Ditching Responsibility: Emotional affairs can also include ditching work or responsibilities to spend time with this person either in person or over electronics. This isn’t the case for everyone. Some people are able to stay on track with daily responsibilities, while other people get distracted where responsibilities are pushed aside and put on the back burner.

Internal Justifying: You justify your actions because “at least I am not having sex”…an emotional affair doesn’t include sex or physical intimacy, the one-night stands, or the weekly hookups. The innocent friendships that start off with a flirt grows into a deep emotional connection…and then you might find that you justify the relationship to make it okay.

Copyright © by Jennine Estes. Used with permission

Read more at Relationships in the Raw.com.

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  • Charstar

    Wow this happened to me :( We weren’t married but in a serious relationship where we had discussed marriage. Then my partner met girl at his work, shared our personal stress with her, started texting her…then ended our relationship 1 month later. He is now in a serious relationship w her and they go to our church :( I don’t understand some people. But i do have faith in God and myself that there is a good man out there for me.
    I give this article 9/10 stars :)

  • Gee

    This also happened to me years back. My Husband met a women at one of his delivery stops and started to exchange emails at 1st innocent but later they began to talk about me & all my bad qualities.He spent a lot of time on the computer I didn’t think anything was wrong until he wanted to go to her church alone said It was something he wanted to do by himself. Hopefully that’s where he went.Something did feel right .So I went to his computer and noticed that he deleted ever email from her even in the deletes.But I check the sent emails and that is where i found the emails.It broke my heart,I it was every hard for me to trust anybody because of my childhood and this man ,I gave him everything my heart ,my trust , everything that I am.He made me look bad to her, like if he was trying to make her feel sorry for him.He was also wanting to set up a lunch date with her. But what really disgust me was he wrote a scripture on the bottom.His response was that he was witnessing to her. He said she was also a Christian but didn’t know a lot.and basically denied the rest of the stuff that was written on the email.I did take my kids and went to his mother since i have no one else.He promised he would not contact her , but I did through his email, letting her know how a Christian women should conduct herself. He got rid of all traces of her on the computer.So when i came back it was all deleted.We never really talked about it and when it comes up he still denies what was written in the emails. I have forgiven him but I am deeply scarred and don’t know if I can totally trust him.He hasn’t done anything like this again and its been years but It’s still something that hurts me very much .I don’t think it will ever go away.

    • Preacher

      I am so sorry for your pain! God loves you and has a plan for your life!


  • worried

    I am going through this right now. My husband of 5 years and I are involved in a very close relationship with another couple. it started out well with the 4 of us but soon his relationship with her took on a life of it’s own. mostly texting and innocent private meetings at church for ministry, but the texting got out of hand, nearly 1800 texts a month between them. she is estranged from her brothers and he is estranged from his sisters so they decided this was the new sister/brother God provided for them. After addressing the issue with him and his sometimes angry denials of it being an issue we met with our pastor. He confirmed that this was an emotional affair and advised my husband and I to meet with this other couple and address the issue with them immediately. He was not to just stop the texting and meetings but had to explain why so it was understood that this is wrong. My husband agreed that he was wrong and asked my forgiveness for hurting me. at our pastors advice my husband was to arrange the meeting and take the lead, explaining the situation and advising why this had to stop. it has been 8 months and no meeting has ever taken place. My husband advised me that he had cut off the texting but she was very persistent about how much she missed her brother. I have just found out that the texting issue had never completely stopped it had just been changed to secretive texting. at first there were limited texting but the amounts have been slowly creeping up to where it was before. My issue isn’t so much that it is happening, that is bad enough, but the trust and intimacy issue we now face in our marriage because of the deceitfulness and clandestine nature of the situation has put our marriage, in my eyes, in a place I am not certain we can get out of.

    • SAM

      Dear worried –
      What is happening is they are looking to each other to meet emotional needs and not investing emotional attachment into either marriage. I encourage you to bring this issue before your pastor again, and ask that the pastor facilitate the meeting with all 4 of you present. Brother and sister relationship, quite frankly, is a huge line of baloney.

      Praying for the restoration of your marriage.

  • Francia

    My husband has a friend in another town who he met 1 year before he met me. he did ask her out once but said to him he’s like her brother – so for 9 years they would chat on and off but not in extremities. they have a lot more in common with each other than what we do and have gone on hikes together in the past, but this past year they are chatting daily, and this past 2 months on an hourly basis and he told me they’re just friends, but everything described here at the top, that is EXACTLY what he’s been doing! And he still doesnt see it!!!!!
    To top it all he had another affair for 6 months with another girl 14 years younger than him (10 years older than my eldest) – iv found out 6 months ago and he promised he broke it off, but after Wednesday night, i know better now. 2 affairs in 1 year, it was the worst year ever! my poor children!



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