What Is An Emotional Affair and is it really cheating?
>Part 1: What is an emotional affair, is it really cheating?
Part 2: Warning Signs of your Emotional Unfaithfulness
In this post I’ll first define:
- Emotional Affair statistics.
- What constitutes ’emotional unfaithfulness’?
- How do emotional affairs typically begin?’
- Common defenses people give when confronted about their emotional affair.
People often wonder
‘what is an emotional affair,
and is it really cheating?’
I’ll define more of what an Emotional Affair is later in this post,
but to put it simply, it’s a friendship that provides emotional support to each other, often to the exclusion of the spouse.
The unfaithful spouse confides in their emotional affair partner many details about themselves, or their marriage;
yet their spouse is often in the dark about their relationship.
Many people think since there’s nothing ‘physical’ going on, that it can’t be a true affair,
but nothing could be further than the truth.
Any relationship that becomes a secret or that you find yourself hiding from your spouse, is cause for alarm,
and usually indicates there’s some form of infidelity happening.
It starts innocently enough as a friendly conversation, 0r just a platonic friendship.
But eventually, this ‘friendship’ leads the married spouse away from their marriage and creates soul ties with this other person.
This friendship can lead into a Limerence feeling of love, which usually precipitates, or coincides with, a physical affair.
Emotional affairs, or emotional unfaithfulness, has become a hot topic,
it’s currently one of the most searched phrases under “affairs” on Pinterest.
That’s not surprising since the statistics show emotional affairs are at a record high today,
yet (likely because of the ease of connecting on social media), more people are confused on where that line should be drawn.
1. Emotional Affair statistics.
A national poll, according to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy,
found 15% of married women and 25% of married men admitted to having had sexual affairs.
An additional 20% of married couples have been affected by emotional unfaithfulness, above the statistics for physical infidelity.
More specifically, about 35 percent of wives, and 45 percent of husbands, report having emotional affairs.
In a national poll on infidelity, 60% of married adults said they’d consider it infidelity if their spouse was in an emotional relationship with someone else.
A whooping 82% said an emotional affair is still as much of an affair as a physical affair.
The statistics show women being emotionally unfaithful more often than men.
Fatherly.com reports more people are having emotional affairs than ever, with women leading the way.
They say results from “The Cheating Spouse” quiz (not exactly scientific but still alarming), involving 90,000 men and women,
found 91.6% of women admitted to emotional unfaithfulness, and 78.6% of men admitted to it.
I know that’s a lot of statistics thrown at you, but stay with me.
Bottom line is…
Emotional affairs may seem like an innocent way to get those needs met without actually moving onto the sexual level.
Or, this is what they tell themselves in the beginning of emotional relationships.
The gray area remains, and becomes easy to rationalize.
Still, there remains a lot of misunderstood information about what the true definition for an emotional affair, or emotional unfaithfulness, really is.
Because nothing sexual has happened, they often have a false sense of security, and it becomes easier to rationalize their relationship.
Also, men and women often have differing opinions of what an emotional affair is, and typically define the ‘crossing the line’
into emotional unfaithfulness differently.
We can all agree that an extramarital sexual encounter would be considered marital unfaithfulness; an affair.
But an emotional affair is using the stage 1 of a full blown physical affair and how many affairs begin.
But why is there so much confusion, and gray areas, in defining what is an emotional affair?
Here’s a few questions to consider:
- Is emotional unfaithfulness confiding intimate details, of yourself or your marriage, with someone other than your spouse?
- Would late night texting someone really mean they’re having an emotional affair?
- Or, is it an emotional affair if you go to that other person first (before your spouse), when you have important news to share?
- Is it communicating too much to an old love on facebook?
- Could it be sharing secrets with another person that you know your spouse wouldn’t have felt comfortable knowing you shared?
- Men may pass it off as just a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, whereas women may think they’re just flirting.
Which one is right?
Any and all of those could easily be an emotional affair. If anything, they’re certainly warning signs of what an emotional affair is.
2. So, what is an emotional affair?
Emotional unfaithfulness can be described as having an emotionally intimate relationship with someone
(usually of the opposite sex) other than their spouse.
- This relationship becomes more emotionally fulfilling, supportive and important to them than with their own spouse.
They begin sharing intimate information and secrets, while having emotional connections with this other person.
- Typically this relationship begins innocently enough as a friendship, but quickly progresses into a deeper attraction
as the level of emotional intimacy between the two develops.
- Often, when a married couple hasn’t established clear boundaries with outside relationships,
they can become caught in an emotional affair unknowingly.
They haven’t recognized how easy it is to cross over from an friendship, and emotional connection, to a sexual affair.
So as this ‘friendship’ progresses, the marriage relationship suffers,
creating emotional disconnection and tension between the married couple.
That’s really where the damage starts.
- Sharing your deepest emotions, experiences, thoughts or secrets with someone other than your spouse,
undermines the intimacy in your marriage.
I’d also add, why are you feeling the need to go to that other man with emotions and information only your husband should have?
Warning signs are easily overlooked.
- If all that is not bad enough, the biggest warning signs of an impending affair are often ignored, because it’s easy to
eliminate concerns by assuming you’re “just friends” if nothing sexual has occurred. We can assume we’re in a safe zone.
When actually, this often couldn’t be further from the truth.
Emotional affairs are very much like the proverbial frog in boiling water syndrome.
Of course the frog would jump out of that boiling water at the first moment of feeling the heat on his feet.
But put that frog in mild temperature water and turn up the heat slowly,
that frog will boil before he ever knew what hit him.
Terribly gross analogy, but you get the point.
We can often be seduced into the entanglements of an affair, before we even know what happened,
because we believed it was just an innocent friendship.
- Another trap is having pride in your heart that you would never be capable of having an actual affair.
This is a false belief that’s caused many married couples to fall into the pit of having an affair, that they never saw coming.
The warning signs were ignored, because they thought they were too strong to ever do such a thing.
- Make no mistake, an emotional affair can be just as destructive as a sexual one because of the heart connection,
the desire to go to that other person first, and the secrecy that develops to keep the emotional affair going.
Many times a spouse will sense something is ‘off’ with their partner, and they may question them about their ‘friend, or co-worker’.
But “we’re just friends.”
- The typical response, of a unfaithful spouse, would be “we’re just friends”.
But “just” has become the justification to be too intimate, because there’s nothing physical going on.
Emotional affairs are often also the gateway to a potential physical affair occurring.
- These questions from a concerned spouse, will usually cause the unfaithful spouse to take the relationship ‘underground’;
becoming more secretive about their conversations and interactions with that person.
- This usually signals the next stage of the emotional affair, secrecy to maintain the relationship.
As mentioned, inevitably, that secrecy often becomes the catalyst to a sexual affair developing between them. Although not always.
This is the foundation of any emotional unfaithfulness- keeping any part of your relationship, with someone other than your spouse, a secret.
That is how you know something is wrong, and you’re in an emotional affair.
3. How do emotional affairs begin?
There are hundreds of ways an emotional affair can begin. But lets talk about the most common ways.
A. Reconnecting with an old fling, or lost love, on facebook, linked in, instagram, twitter.
However, facebook is currently leading the list with hooking up old flames again.
Facebook has just made it easier than ever to find people you lost contact with through other friends,
and the platform makes it easy to communicate in a non-confrontational or suspecting way.
B. Developing a friendship with a co-worker, that progresses to more time spent together, including intimate conversations.
C. Church groups, Choir, or any activities through church that require more time to spend with someone of the opposite sex,
which creates opportunity for an emotional affair to take place.
D. Through family relationships, family friends, in-laws, or friendships with your child’s friend’s parent is also common.
E. A friendship develops with your child’s coach, or teacher, or through school groups.
F. Neighbors, neighborhood groups, sports teams, etc..
G. Online chat rooms or online support groups.
Really, the list can go on and on.
I’m just listing the most common and easiest ways to slip down this dangerous slop of emotional infidelity.
You can read more of the 4 main stages of an affair here.
Emotional affairs and texting seem to go hand in hand.
Emotional affairs have become easier to partake in as messages people has also become easier through texting.
Where we used to rely on actually talking to someone on the phone or in person, now we can carry on secret conversations
with someone while in the same room as our spouse!
I wonder how many emotional affairs started, just through texting alone. It definitely makes it easier to minimize a friendship that’s gone too far.
4. ‘Red flag’ responses, or reasons, the unfaithful spouse gives.
Ultimately, the spouse who’s having the emotional affair justifies the relationship, keeping them from feeling guilt about the ‘friendship’.
When confronted with suspicions of their emotional affair,
they (or you) might respond with one of the following reasons or responses:
- Defending the amount of time spent with a co-worker by describing the reason it’s so important.
(“We have an important deadline at work that we have to work on together.”)
- Justifying excessive amount of time messaging a friend on social media.
(“we’re just reminiscing about old times.”)
- More time spent on the phone, texting or talking.
(“they’re going through a hard time, I’m just being a friend.”)
- Repeatedly saying “we’re only friends” or, “he’s like a brother to me!” comes up a lot.
- More time than usual is spent at a church group, choir or worship practice, as an example.
(“we’re just practicing for Choir, no big deal!”
- A spouse observes their spouse bringing gifts to this other person, no matter how small.
(‘He’s sick so I’m just going to bring him some extra chicken soup.”)
- “We’re not doing anything wrong, he hasn’t touched me, “We’re just friends.”
These are just some examples of emotional affair defenses a spouse may give, if they’re confronted about the relationship.
But there are so many of them.
Did you notice how often the ‘just friends’ words come up?
It’s not surprising, since the early stages of emotional affairs start out as friends, then often progress from there.
Whether you see these signs in yourself, or your spouse, the biggest red flag is secrecy.
Ultimately, if you’re keeping anything a secret from your spouse, there’s something wrong.
We often justify keeping secrets, because we’ve been questioned about the relationship and we don’t’ want to have to defend it,
or risk losing our friendship.
You might also like these similar posts:
5 reasons why ending an affair is so hard.
If you’re the unfaithful wife, posts here.
5 signs of affair fog to watch out for.
Bill Johnson says
What would you call an affair that never got physical but did include sexting, sending nude photos? Sextual? This happened with my wife and just curious what you would call it. She never got physical despite being 1.5 miles away, and they never called each other (all verified). We’re 2.5 years into recovery and doing 1000% better but just curious your thoughts
Debbie Rose says
If there’s secrecy and hiding facts, it’s infidelity. We can get caught up in semantics, but it’s still a type of infidelity and giving away what should
be only in your marriage. I think it’s not as important what you call it as long as the root issues are dealt with professionally.
I think it’s more important to understand what caused a breakdown in the marriage to begin with. In my situation, my marriage has been estranged emotionally and physically for 22 of the 33 years. Talking, counseling, nothing worked to restore the marriage and only one party was actively trying to make an effort. My new relationship is satisfying in ways my marriage never ever was. I don’t regret taking my life back and loving myself enough to believe that I deserved a true relationship finally, and finding one. There is no guilt when you have done all you could humanly have done to save a relationship that was long dead.
Debbie Rose says
I guess my question to you Renee is- are you then moving forward with a divorce? Because if you’re saying you’re not happy and haven’t been
but now pursuing another relationship, the right thing to do would be let your husband go and not continue having an affair. Maybe I didn’t
understand that part if you’ve done that already. Also, I agree it is important to understand what caused a breakdown in the marriage, but unfortunately,
when someone chooses to have an affair that’s not the right way to deal with marital problems. The affair becomes the urgent crisis needing attention
and any talk of existing marriage problems before the affair only sound like an excuse from the unfaithful. So it becomes a worse situation than before.