What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair and How To Cope?

Emotional affair relates to relationships that cross the boundaries of exclusive relationships but are neither sexual nor physical. When having a passionate affair, a person may try to keep it a secret from their partner, even turning to lie. 

An emotional experience occurs when a person gives their spouse less emotional support than they do to a friend or someone else they are not married to. When someone has an emotional affair, they also get more emotional support from people outside of their marriage than their spouse.

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair
What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

When you have an emotional affair, you may feel like you’re on an emotional journey. Emotional affairs involve developing a deep emotional connection with someone other than your partner. It often involves secret conversations, intimate sharing, and feelings of attachment. 

When you try to figure out how you feel while keeping the affair a secret, this kind of affair can make you feel guilty, anxious, and confused. It can also hurt your relationship with your partner in a big way because emotional affairs often leave people feeling betrayed and suspicious. I
f you’re having an emotional affair, it’s important to deal with the problems that led to it and get help to keep your relationship from worsening.

What is an Emotional Affair Meaning

Typically, friendships are where emotional affairs start. Mutual relationships may gradually develop into close relations. You risk being pulled away from your marriage if you find this other person appealing or if you have physical intimacy.

When we hear the word “affair,” we typically picture someone having sex with someone else while being unfaithful to their partner. However, adultery does not simply refer to sexual intimacy. There is also an emotional affair.

Usually, an emotional relationship starts simply enough as a friendship. However, suppose a person spends a lot of moving time and effort on a close company outside their marriage. In that case, the charity can develop an emotional link that will ultimately jeopardize and damage the person’s intimacy with their partner.

Even if there is no sexual relation involved, some people think having an emotional affair is okay. However, most marriage and relationship experts see this as cheating. Emotional affairs may serve as a stepping stone to emotional and sexual betrayal. The feeling of being fooled, betrayed, and lied to is often the most painful and terrible result of an emotionally cheating relationship.

What Exactly Is Emotional Cheating?

When a person cheats emotionally, they not only commit more of their emotional resources outside of their marriage but also benefit from the emotional companionship and support of the other relationship.

In an emotional affair, a person may feel more emotionally intimate with the other person than with their spouse or partner and may also be experiencing growing sexual tension or chemistry.

It’s conceivable that an emotional affair has started if you think your spouse’s dynamic energy is limited. They’re expressing their most private thoughts and feelings with someone else.

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair
What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

 Read More: I suspect my wife is Cheating but I have no proof: From Doubt to Clarity

Difference Between Physical Affairs and Emotional Affairs

Actual physical connection is the main distinction between physical and emotional affairs. Usually, when two people are cheating, they meet in person and have actual sex. There may be a meeting during a passionate affair.

Still, there is no physical intimacy, and the panel can take place over the phone, computer, or over a lunch date with someone other than a spouse. Many individuals who emotionally cheat do not view it as adultery. The activity cannot be seen as cheating because there is no genuine physical contact.

Ultimately, the dishonest partner is distancing from their commitment to their primary relationship. They are giving more emotional attention to someone other than their loved partner.


Signs You Have an Emotional Affair

Even though every situation is unique, some behaviors that could be signs of a possible emotional affair are frequently observed. These behaviors include secrecy, neglect, and distraction.

The following are typical indications of an emotional affair:

1- Distracted

In emotional affairs, it’s common to find yourself thinking about the other person all the time. The affair partner will generally spend more time on their phone or computer, be away from home, or show signs of distraction and preoccupation. In a discussion or any other encounter, the affair person will most likely not be present. They might also grow estranged from you emotionally and even sexually.

2- Secrecy

At the heart of all forms of infidelity is secrecy. When someone tries to hide something, specific actions include taking calls outside. Quickly shutting down their laptop while you’re nearby, and erasing messages, can be seen.

Examples of secret behavior are as follows:

  • You observe that they may be wiping emails, texts, and message history, putting passwords to the phone, or setting it face down.
  • Never bring up their “buddy,” if pressed, tend to downplay or deny it.
  • Begins taking calls outdoors or refuses to take a call while you are there
  • Abruptly turn off their laptop or personal computer while you are around.

3- Neglecting the Primary Relationship

A person who is engaged in an emotional affair communicates with the other party. As a result, everything previously shared in the primary relationship with the person having an experience is now shared with that individual. It further separates the leading pair from one another because of all the essential elements. Emotional energies required to maintain the primary relationship are directed only toward the outer person.

Neglectful behavior examples include:

  • They are avoiding or withdrawing from conversations with you.
  • As a result, they were once more closely connected.
  • Spending less time with you, arriving home late, frequently traveling outside the area, etc. Being on the phone or online for an excessive amount of time or till particularly late at night

4- Regular Contact

Most often, intense physical contact between the parties is what defines emotional affairs. It means frequently communicating even while you are apart as well as spending time together in person.

For instance, you frequently speak with this person at odd times. You spend much time messaging, emailing, or video chatting with them. You might even put off taking care of your relationship, family, or other responsibilities to stay in touch with this person all the time.

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair
What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

5- Regular Sharing

Another trait of emotional affairs is the tendency to emphasize this other relationship to the point where you confide in them more than your partner. When you have any “news,” they become the first person you want to call.

They are the ones you call if you have great news to share or if you are having a bad day. But, unfortunately, you could not communicate with your partner. The lack of communication leaves them in the dark.

6- Mismatched Comparisons

You can start to compare other people to them as you get to know this other person better. You often draw parallels between your spouse and this person. You could become angry with your spouse for not acting in the same manner as the other individual.

It also indicates that you frequently focus on your partner’s shortcomings and overemphasize their defects while downplaying their qualities. You also fail to see any negative rates in the person you are having an emotional affair with because of these unfair comparisons.

7- You Have Less Time for Your Partner

Your partner sees less of you but more of your special someone. As a result, your time and attention are diverted from your relationship and given to this other person through less communication or affection, distracted thoughts, or preoccupied inner thoughts.

Emotional connections and spending time with people outside of your partnership is typically not a concern. It only becomes an issue when your relationship with one person dominates your life. Then, it interferes with your relationships and makes you feel you have to hide.

8- Feeling the Struggle to Understand

You feel like they truly “understand” you. You begin to believe they genuinely comprehend you—perhaps even more than your spouse. You might think you and this individual share many interests or have much in common.

You might believe that this person comprehends you in a way that other people, including your partner, do not since it appears that you have a special connection. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to you withholding information from your partner, even more weakening your closeness, fellowship, and communication.

9- You Make Up Stories About Them

It’s taboo when we fantasize about a friend when we’re in a committed relationship. You need to pause and consider if you have wondered how they kissed or what it would be like to sleep with them.

10- You Start Taking Advantage of Your Partner

Developing a close emotional bond with one person will ultimately cause you and your relationship to become more estranged. Your lover will be puzzled as to why you are not giving them the same attention as before. They’ll start to detect your emotional distance from them.

You want your spouse to treat you the same way they have been treating you. Even though you are not paying attention to them the way you used to when an emotional relationship starts with someone else. So you begin to argue with your friend and partner and focus more on the person taking care of your moving needs. Your lover will notice the shift in the relationship.

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair
What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

Common Reasons for Emotional Affairs

There are many different reasons why infidelity occurs, and these reasons go beyond simple marital issues. Surprisingly, both happy and unhappy spouses can experience affairs. However, marital unhappiness is the primary cause of most emotional affairs. Other factors, such as psychiatric problems, life-stage distress, subpar relationships, and others, can also contribute to the development of emotional affairs.

The following are typical causes of emotional affairs:

  • Significant life changes (such as delivery, retirement, and an empty nest)
  • difficulties with the mind, such as depression
  • Ambiguity in the way the primary relationship conceptualizes infidelity
  • a desire to quit the current (unhappy) relationship or a lack of commitment to the partnership
  • Opportunity (the workplace or access to the internet makes it easier to communicate and fulfill emotional needs with someone else). For example, the workplace or access to the internet makes it easier to communicate and fulfill emotional needs with someone else) (For instance, being at work or having access to the internet makes it simpler to share with others and meet their emotional needs.)
  • Ambiguity in the way the primary relationship perceives cheating
  • a poor standard of intimacy (e.g., intimacy issues, lack of affection, feeling neglected)
  • Lack of communication (e.g., avoiding uncomfortable conversations, lack of communication)
  • Personal dissatisfaction and a low sense of value for oneself
  • Feeling uninspired and in need of stimulation in the relationship.
  • Experiencing a loss of physical attraction to the primary partner and feeling emotionally estranged

The Effects of Emotional Affairs

These kinds of relationships can make your daily life seem like a vacation. Only the finest of this other person comes your way, and they only see the best in you. You do not observe them “24/7” and learn about their vices and undesirable characteristics. Your perception of them is built mainly on fiction and an idealized persona. Therefore this relationship will undoubtedly be highly tempting.

Once the betrayal is revealed, the implications and effects of an emotional affair could become even more severe. The primary partner may endure a flurry of high emotions and a wide range of foreign experiences, which can be disastrous for everyone involved.

  • The unfaithful partner may feel regret, guilt, and anxiety of continuing to be punished while also regretting the end of the affair (Note: some people can refuse to take accountability or end the experience)
  • Both spouses’ mental health is fragile, with a tendency toward despair, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and a pervasive sensation of emptiness.
  • Making difficult decisions concerning the primary relationship’s future, such as whether to end it
  • In the worst-case scenarios, it may result in violent acts against the person having an affair or another member of this triangle.
  • Strong feelings such as surprise, anger, resentment, sadness over the betrayal, a vague sense of self, low self-esteem/confidence, appearance issues, etc., can be experienced by the betrayed partner.
  • Being cheated on can cause a partner to experience intense distress that could swiftly develop into relationship PTSD.
  • After disclosing the affair, the betrayer could experience some relief.

Even when such relationships don’t go too far and get physical, the effects can still be damaging and threaten your marriage. In addition, because you are more emotionally attached, the intimacy involved in emotional affairs frequently has a degree of intensity deeper than a sexual affair.

Interestingly, some research has shown that a specific subset of couples can experience successful outcomes in their relationship following an affair. For example, it has been discovered that teams who remain together and deal with infidelity are more likely to find new methods to connect. As a result, they become closer and enjoy improving the relationship’s general wellness.

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair
What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

Do Emotional Affairs Last?

Secrecy, novelty, and intensity are the main characteristics of affairs, incredibly emotional affairs. It makes most relationships likely to end quickly. Likewise, the seductive elements tend to disappear with time. If these components are lost, a relationship can be doomed to failure.

However, there are times when emotional relationships can last a very long time. Some people might start feeling romantic feelings for the third party and end their relationships with their primary partners to start a relationship with the affair person. However, research has shown that affairs often result in relationships that lack commitment and long-term viability.

How they start and where they go determines a lot. Physical relationships typically last six to twelve months. Even while they can result in sexual intimacy, emotional affairs can persist much longer. Unfortunately, the majority of them do.

Marriage can arise from some affairs, and some can last a lifetime. However, the possibility is relatively low, as research indicates that this only occurs in 3-5% of cases.

The romance may continue for years if both partners are happy to maintain the current dynamics. However, there are a few reasons why relationships don’t survive over time. First, they start with lies, a poor basis for a committed relationship.

How to Cope with Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs do not happen suddenly or without warning. Building an emotional bond with another person requires time and effort. However, you can take steps to reestablish boundaries and safeguard your connection with your spouse. If you think you are acting in a way that suggests an emotional affair.

Limiting your social interactions or keeping your emotional relationships with your friends to yourself does not constitute avoiding emotional affairs. On the contrary, these connections are crucial for psychological health and social support.

Emotional adultery can be disastrous for the relationship and the persons involved, regardless of which side you are on. Fortunately, there are strategies to lessen its effects. Self-examination, setting apart emotional space, showing empathy, individual therapy, couples counseling, and getting moral support are all helpful.

1- Take Responsibility and Put an End to the Emotional Relationship

Start by ending the emotional affair—really ending it—if you are the one who is emotionally cheating. No being friends, no taking a middle ground, says Dr. Saltz. It must terminate, or you will remain involved and be unable to win back your partner’s trust. But, she continues, “Another important step is to own your faults completely.” they can only overcome them in this manner.

2- Look for Moral Support

Whether you had an emotional affair or your spouse was hurt, you will occasionally need to express yourself and vent without considering how you come across. Reach out to and be among people you know you can trust, who won’t judge you, and who make you feel entirely comfortable. It could be a close friend, a family member you can trust, a group of friends,

3- Set Limitations

Set and uphold standards for your own and other people’s behavior in partnerships. For instance, staying in touch is essential, but you should also set time to concentrate on your partner and family.

4- Find Out What Happened to It

It would benefit you to understand what motivated the behavior in the first place, advises Dr. Saltz, to mend your current relationship and prevent this from happening again. Find out why you or your partner engaged in the emotional affair. Could it be the result of a bad relationship? or a much-needed increase in self-esteem? Continuing a parent’s pattern of dishonesty? Talk to people and reflect to discover the root of the problem.

Maybe the cheating partner had trouble communicating their wants in the relationship. If so, the expert advises discussing whether the relationship can meet those requirements to prevent the same pattern from repeating.

5- Discover the Difference Between Lust and Love

Although emotional cheating sometimes feels like love, it’s only primarily desired. Endorphin rushes, pleasure from hasty late-night texts, or intense heart-to-heart talks. It is a lot.

Take a step back and recognize that true love is not based on a brief but intense connection but on mutual purpose and a lifetime of experience.

6- Give Each Other Some Space

Undoubtedly, at this point, your emotions and those of your spouse are at their highest. You can experience several emotions, including rage, hurt, insecurity, and much more. Not only this, but the anguish may also show up physically as signs like tiredness.

7- Make Friends for Yourself

Occasionally, having an outside viewpoint is beneficial. The need for social connection during this time cannot be overstated, whether you feel comfortable discussing the problems with your friends. Growing and healing depend on having a solid support network.

8- Think about Couples Therapy

Couples counseling can be a terrific source of support if you and your spouse have decided to get back together after the affair. However, couples therapy is a process that calls for dedication, perseverance, and time. Therefore, seeking advice from a qualified expert with open-minded ideas about infidelity and a flexible therapy approach is essential.

9- Reestablish a Relationship with Your Partner

Reconnect with your mate to remind yourself of everything you cherish about them and why your partnership is worth preserving.

Let them control the pace while you talk to them about reconnecting methods. You can feel closer again with a date night, whether you go out or stay in, a quick getaway, or even just a simple coffee date or home-cooked supper.

10- Make an Effort to Forgive Them

There won’t be a single instance of forgiveness. Instead, recovery from your emotional affair is a process and a journey.

It isn’t easy to forgive an emotional affair. When you ignore your spouse, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain will go and everything will return to normal. You will only take the first step toward accepting that your marriage will eventually work out by forgiving your partner.

What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair
What Happens When You Have an Emotional Affair

Implications of an Emotional Affair

Some believe that since an emotional affair is more casual than regular infidelity, it is not harmful. However, a passionate affair is worse than traditional cheating because of the intimate nature of the communication and the emotional investment made by both parties.

While having friendships outside of a marriage or sexual relationship is healthy and appropriate, an emotional affair jeopardizes the emotional connection between couples and results in a rift. Friendships are based on attraction since we are drawn to our friends’ varied characteristics.

Still, strong companies maintain existing relationships. Instead, they make life more prosperous and enjoyable. However, when an attraction develops into an obsession or an affair, it may become disastrous to everyone involved. The disintegration of the emotional connection that romantic partners share is the most damaging to a partnership.

How can you and your partner move past it?

Regular, open discussions help you regain trust and handle relationship problems as they arise.

Even before they become a cause for concern, they can solve problems like a lack of intimacy with good communication.

It’s okay to end the relationship if you know your spouse has feelings for someone else.

Breaking up can allow you to discover someone you can invest in because not all relationships are successful.

Professional assistance from a relationship therapist can assist you in navigating the repercussions of emotional cheating. For example, reestablishing trust and working on communication and other abilities for healthy partnerships when you both want to build a better relationship.


It may be heartbreaking and painful, regardless of which side you are on in an emotional affair. Regardless of the intended outcome (maintaining the relationship), it is critical to handle the emotional betrayal with candor and expert help. Not all is lost; healing and recovery are possible, whether the objective is maintaining a relationship or ending it respectfully.

In other words, an improper emotional attachment or relationship can be just as harmful to a partnership as an extramarital affair. In addition, vibrant affairs are just as likely to result in divorce or a breakup as physical affairs to be the beginning of other sorts of infidelity.


What does an emotional affair feel like?

You disclose something to the other person that you haven’t told your partner about. You open out to the other person about the difficulties in your relationship. As a result, your emotional distance and disconnection from your spouse have increased. You are constantly thinking of the other person.

What does an emotional affair mean to a woman?

A physical intimacy that hasn’t been exploited, secrecy, and an emotional connection are all characteristics of an emotional affair. But, according to Joe Rose, a registered marriage and family therapist, “some feel that when it’s emotional rather than just physical, it creates an even greater divide.”

How serious is an emotional affair?

An emotional affair is precarious since it not only exhausts the marriage of its time and energy. However, it also can lead to sex and perhaps divorce. An alternative perspective on emotional infidelity is that betrayal signifies underlying marital issues.

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