What Is An Emotional Affair and Can It End Your Marriage?

Many people like to categorize the different types of affairs. Some think that an emotional affair is vastly different from a physical or intimate one, while others think that any kind of relationship other than friendship should be defined as an affair.

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But what is an emotional affair, exactly?

Is it falling love without actually getting physical or is it actually just little more than a crush or fantasy? Is it a friendship that has some unspoken “what ifs” beneath it? Can it hurt or even end your marriage, regardless of how it’s defined?

In a recent article for Psychology Today.com,called “Snow White Doesn’t Live Here Anymore“, author Regina Barreca, Ph.D. explains what an emotional affair actually is. She uses a good deal of humor to do it, but the psychology behind that humor is dead on. She starts out by stating that many so-called “emotional affairs are simply adult “crushes.”

To be honest, I have trouble with the term ’emotional affair.’ Is it the same thing as a passing fancy, a moment of foolishness, a silly crush? Then why dignify it with a term that sounds both romantic and pathological? At least the word ‘crush’ sounds just about as ridiculous as it is, especially when applied to people who have credit lines, laugh lines, and party (or panty) lines.”

Although it may sound as though Dr. Barreca is making light of these feelings, she’s actually just trying to put them into perspective. Crushes come and go in adults, just as they did in high school. For the spouse with the crush to put so much importance on them that they take them too seriously is dangerous and could lead them to end the marriage over something that will never actually materialize into a real relationship.

By the same token, for the other spouse, placing too much importance on a “crush” may result in the same tragic mistake.

Dr. Barreca goes on to say that while it certainly hurts to find out your spouse can be attracted to someone else, that hurt should be tempered with the realization that this attraction is usually short-lived and never amounts to more.

We’d like to add that there is a deeper attraction that is somewhere between a crush and an outright affair, without ever getting physical. This is even more dangerous and can be incredibly hurtful to the injured spouse. This type of “emotional affair” is one in which your spouse is sharing intimate details of your marriage with the other person, talking about all of the “what-ifs”, such as “What if we had met first?” or “What if we were divorced?” This usually happens when a crush or a friendship has been allowed to cross boundary lines because of secretiveness on the part of the one spouse or denial on the part of the other.

Either way, any relationship that puts another person in between you and your spouse is a relationship that can end your marriage if you let it go on. This is true whether you call it a “crush”, an “emotional affair” or a friendship.

3 Responses to What Is An Emotional Affair and Can It End Your Marriage?

  1. Cathy Lorient November 8, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    How do you prevent emotional affairs from ruining your marriage? If you have some great tips, please share them here.

    – Cathy Lorient

  2. Lisa G, Seattle, WA November 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    My husband had an emotional affair and to this day he does not think there was anything wrong with what he did. He feels that as long as there was nothing physical there was no harm. It was very hard for me because he put her needs before mine. He had long conversations with her, talked to her on a daily basis, and lied about speaking with her. I knew the woman and she was always very nice to me but I am pretty sure that since her marriage was not doing well her intention was to get involved romantically with my husband. She did and said things to hurt my marriage and when I confronted my husband about it he did not believe me and said he was not willing to end his relationship with her. Finally the real her came out and he saw her for who she was and ended the relationship. It was a very hard time in my relationship. One thing I do believe is that you always need to make sure your spouse knows they are number one in your life and that you love them unconditionally, even when they make mistakes. Always let you spouse know you love them by your actions, that way they are not as likely to need any emotional support from someone else.

    • Cathy Lorient November 9, 2012 at 4:59 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that and thanks for trusting my blog in sharing your story. I think your husband needs to realize his mistakes and you also need to forgive him in time.

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