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Emotional Infidelity | Emotional Affairs | What is it and what to do about it?

In this article, I will be seeking to answer some of the most fundamental questions and concerns about emotional affairs and provide some insights on how to identify an emotional affair, and what to do if you find yourself or your partner entangled in an emotional affair.

If you have ever asked yourself or wondered about the following questions, read along and I promise you will be well informed by the time you have finished reading.

What is an emotional affair?

What is emotional infidelity?

How does an emotional affair start?

Why do people have emotional affairs?

What are the signs of an emotional affair and emotional infidelity?

How to know if your partner is having an emotional affair?

How to protect your relationship form emotional infidelity?

What are the stages of an emotional affair?

What is the difference between friendships and emotional affairs?

How often do emotional affairs happen? Do all emotional affairs start at work?


Anatomy of an affair

It is another mundane Thursday afternoon at work. You feel tired and annoyed. You had a fight with your intimate partner of a few years the night before, you woke up in a bad mood, and felt rushed getting to work.

Driving to work earlier in the morning, you pondered what happened in your relationship with your partner.

They once adored you and showered you with compliments, and now they don’t seem to give you the time of day. You feel underwhelmed and unappreciated, and tired of the cycle of fighting and make up you find yourself in for the last few months.

In a desperate attempt to feel better, you had a long shower in the morning, and wore that outfit that compliments your body and makes you feel a few pounds lighter. You carefully brushed your hair and put on your favorite perfume. Your partner did not notice any of that in their morning frenzy to get ready for work.

An attractive colleague swings by your desk to ask you about a report you are working on. They stop and gaze at you a little bit before they speak, and then give you a heartwarming compliment on your outfit and how you look today.

In a playful voice, they add that you look very nice every day. Your heart skips a beat. You like hearing that. You like that feeling of being noticed, appreciated, and desirable. You wish your partner would say things like that to you.

Later that night you go home and find a text message from your partner that they got stuck at work and will not be able to make it home in time for dinner. Your heart sinks. Your wear PJS, microwave some food and decide to binge watch Netflix.

Halfway through your show, you find your mind wandering to that warm fuzzy feeling you experienced earlier today when your colleague commented on your outfit, and you feel a pang. You don’t want to feel like you are feeling right now…Alone, neglected, and shlubby in your PJS in front of a TV. You want to feel special and desired like your colleague made you feel.

You reach out to your phone, open the text app, and stare at your empty screen cursor flashing waiting for your input. What would I even say, you ask yourself?

Finally, you decide that it is only polite to say thank you when someone says something nice. Off course!! How impolite of me to not have thanked them earlier today for their nice words you argue to yourself inside your head.

With less hesitation, you start typing. “Thank you for your nice words earlier today, you made my day”. With your heart beating faster than you expected, you guide your finger to that send button, hesitate for a second, and then press SEND!

You sit there in disbelief about how fast your heart is beating. You are positively excited, and you don’t even know why. Before you have had a chance to solve the mystery of your excitement, your screen glows with a notification of a text message. Could it be? You ask yourself in shock.

You nervously open your text message to find that your colleague has responded. “I made your day? It makes my day that I made your day. I will make sure to stop by your desk everyday now and tell you some of the wonderful things I think about you. This way I can make your day, and you can make mine” their text reads…

You off course do not want to tell your partner about this innocent exchange. It would only make them jealous, and it is nothing serious anyways. You have nothing to hide you say to yourself. It is just a harmless chat with a friend.

In the days and weeks after, you find yourself a little playful and flirty with your new friend. Once in a while your handshakes seem a little more intense than handshakes should feel, your friendly hugs take a while longer too.

But it doesn’t mean anything. It just brightens your day. And here’s the all-important, get out of jail free card. You and your friend haven’t even kissed, you would not even consider kissing them much less sleep with them. So what’s wrong with having a little bit of innocent fun?

But is it innocent? Really?

Well no it is not. It is called an emotional affair or emotional infidelity and we have seen it at Naya Clinics be devastating to many solid long-term relationships. Having an emotional affair is described by most of our clients as equally hurtful as physical infidelity.

Read here about the life and marriage of a famous pastor that was nearly ruined because of emotional infidelity.

As a matter of fact, many of our clients report that this playfulness and flirting and emotional intimacy with someone else is more damaging to them than if their partner has had sex with someone else.


Click Below to Book an Online Counseling Session with one of our certified relationship therapists.

This Service is fully online from the comfort of your home wherever you are in the world.


What is an Emotional Affair? What is Emotional Infidelity?

An emotional affair is when a person gives and receives intimacy, emotional support, and companionship from someone else other than their intimate partner.

While having an emotional affair, our clients report that they feel more emotionally intimate, at ease, relaxed and happy with the other person than with their partner. Many of our clients also report increased physical desire to be with the other person, coupled with a reduction in their physical desire towards their partner.

An emotional affair described another way, is when your partner feels like you do not have time and energy for them, when you are expending time and energy with someone else in an emotionally intimate way.

Even if no sex or physical intimacy is present, this type of emotional affair can be equally damaging – and at times more damaging- than full blown sexual affairs. Partners of people involved in emotional affairs typically report feeling betrayed, fooled, lied to, hurt and undesirable both emotionally and physically.

“Affairs are one of the most taboo subjects in our culture,” says Janis Abrahms Spring, author of “After the Affair” (HarperCollins, 1997) and a supervisor at Yale University. They are “so extraordinarily traumatizing,” she says. “And yet we talk about them only when we are making jokes.”

The vast majority of our clients who we have seen for emotional affairs issues report two striking facts. The first is that they were never looking for an affair.  The second is that even when it was going on, they did not think of their emotional affair as an affair.

The overwhelming majority of our clients that we interviewed about this reported that something was fundamentally broken in their intimate partnership that they could not fix or did not know how to broach it.

They found solace and empathy from another person, started talking and sharing with them, and that was the beginning of an emotional attachment that lead to the emotional affair.

As the emotional bond with that other person strengthened, they felt progressively less able to find the strength to face the challenges in their relationship with their partner (and less reason to).

Interestingly enough, the strength of the emotional bond created with the other person was also highly -correlated with the likely hood that an emotional affair would turn into a sexual affair.


Click Below to Book an Online Counseling Session with one of our certified relationship therapists.

This Service is fully online from the comfort of your home wherever you are in the world.


How Emotional affairs start?

If the frequency at which we see couples for emotional affairs in Naya Clinics is any indication, emotional affairs are possibly reaching epidemic levels.

We live in a time that obliges us to keep running. We walk, eat, talk, type, work fast. Also, we tend to fall in love quickly too. But, sometimes, we don’t even realize it.

Our life style is also increasingly keeping us in what seems like constant contact with other people. From our phones and gaming consoles being gateways to meet and socialize with new people all the time, to the time we spend with colleagues at work, exercising with other people at the gym, or out on the town with friends meeting random strangers around every corner, we are bombarded with seemingly endless opportunities to meet and engage with new people.

Some of these people are inevitably interesting, attractive, and sometimes both! What starts as a harmless friendship with somebody one meets in the gym, can very quickly transform into an emotional affair if the conditions are ripe for it.

It is important to remember that emotional affairs fly under the radar, and sometimes we’re not aware it’s happening until it’s too late.

It can start with a text that makes you smile; with a compliment you want to get. Many times, it starts with friendship which, eventually, you want to evolve into something more. You need to feel loved and you, subconsciously, form a bond between yourself and another person.

Everything sounds idyllic, right?

Yes, but what happens when you are already in a relationship? Is it friendship or an emotional affair?

Imagine this. That new friend that you made becomes someone you can vent to about the frustrations you have in your intimate relationship or your marriage. After all, isn’t that what “friends” are for?

The thing is, if you are confiding in your new friend about the problems of your relationship (and other life frustrations), you’re creating an exceptional and special bond with this person and cutting your partner out of this loop.

The implication of that is two sided. Firstly, your partner is no longer the person you confide in, making it impossible for them to know what is bothering you and how they can help make you feel better. Secondly, your friend now becomes someone you depend on more and more for emotional support, making it inevitable that they “look” much more appealing than your partner.

Said another way, if you are criticizing your partner with your new friend, your friend is in a much better position to know and be able to fulfill your needs and tackle your frustrations than your partner is.

That is why Emotional affairs can be devastating to your intimate relationship or your marriage. No body wants to vent the same way twice in the same day! If you are venting with your friend, then you do not have the energy or inclination to vent with your partner.

The thing is, the only way you can get your needs met in your relationship with anyone, is if you TELL them what your needs are. If you are telling your friend what your needs are, then it is your friend that can meet them.

With the same logic, if you are NOT telling your partner what your needs and frustrations are, then there is not a way on God’s green earth your partner would be able to address your needs and concerns.

And let us not ignore another fundamental fact. Emotional vulnerability is a pre requisite to physical vulnerability in many cases. And the cycle is, being emotionally connected, leads to being physically connected which then makes you feel more emotionally connected and so on and so forth.

Safe to say that if one does not feel safe enough to talk to their partner, then they also don’t feel safe enough being physically intimate with them, which makes them grow apart even further.

That is why this new found emotional intimacy with the new friend can very easily – and very often does – evolve into a physical and sexual relationship as well.