The Truth About Emotional Affairs

By Monika Lewis
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Emotional relationships venture into dangerous territory. They may not initially lead to physical involvement, but they can still devastate marriages.

It might have started with a conversation over the Internet, or with a seemingly innocent friendship in the workplace. Maybe it began as an uncomplicated thought: Unlike my spouse, this person really understands me.. What can it hurt? I need a little excitement in my life.

These romances may seem harmless — perhaps even “safe” alternatives to cheating on your spouse. The truth is, such relationships venture into dangerous territory; they may not initially lead to physical involvement, but they can still devastate marriages.

Not Just a Harmless Romance

“A new crisis of infidelity is emerging in which people who never intended to be unfaithful are unwittingly crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships … ,” asserts the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

The statement is backed up by alarming statistics conducted through a national poll. While the findings showed that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had sexual affairs, it was also revealed that an additional 20 percent of married couples have been impacted by emotional infidelity.

If you or a couple you know are in a hopeless place, Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored marriage intensives can help.

Impact of the Internet

Traditionally, the workplace has provided the most potential for extramarital affairs. Now, online communication has opened the floodgates for other opportunities to develop romantic entanglements.

“The Internet is a dangerous place,” said Jim Vigorito, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist. “People can begin [a relationship] at an innocuous level, and then it can progress to something more.”

What starts out as an emotional outlet can often lead a person down a slippery slope. Because the Web entices users with the lure of anonymity, one may be more prone to share personal issues with others — issues that they wouldn’t normally talk about in person. With barriers down, a deep level of emotional intimacy can develop between two people quickly.

Not Just “Innocent Fun”

As prevalent as these affairs are becoming, they are not always easily identified or even seen as harmful. One reason lies in the lesser degree, or absence of, guilt and shame that often accompany extramarital sexual encounters.Dave Carder and Duncan Jaenicke, Torn Asunder: Recovering From Extramarital Affairs (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 222-3. The spouse entangled in the relationship may justify it as “innocent fun” due to the lack of physical contact. The impact this may have on a marriage varies according to the couple. In Vigorito’s opinion, to women, the betrayal of emotional infidelity can be as debilitating as that of physical infidelity. Even though physical boundaries have not been crossed, “you’re taking your best communication outside of your marriage, and then there’s not much left to bring to your spouse.”

Contributing Factors and Warning Signs

A number of factors can lead to having an emotional affair. Certainly, communication or conflict resolution issues can lure a spouse to look for companionship elsewhere. Extramarital relationships can also attract those wanting to escape stressful situations, pressure and responsibility associated with family. And as with other temptations like pornography, the pursuit of fantasy undermines the presence of reality.

So how can you recognize an emotional affair? These signs may indicate that a relationship has gone too far:

  • You share personal thoughts or stories with someone of the opposite sex.
  • You feel a greater emotional intimacy with him or her than you do with your spouse.
  • You start comparing him or her to your spouse, and begin listing why your spouse doesn’t add up.
  • You long for, and look forward to, your next contact or conversation.
  • You start changing your normal routine or duties to spend more time with him or her.
  • You feel the need to keep conversations or activities involving him or her a secret from your spouse.
  • You fantasize about spending time with, getting to know or sharing a life with him or her.
  • You spend significant time alone with him or her.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

Copyright © 2009 Monika Lewis. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.