Is it an emotional affair?

Cathmae suggested a post on the definition of emotional affairs.  She and her ex-husband did not agree on the definition.  Others here have said that their spouses took some time to accept that they had cheated.  The definition has gone through a number of revisions over the last few years.  It can be like a whole other can of worms, especially in this day and age of social media and email.

The most recent definition I’ve seen says that cheating is anything you would not say or do in front of your spouse.  There are always exceptions to every rule – who’s to say that your spouse is not some manic, insanely insecure and jealous type?  But that is not usually the case.  And sometimes the relationship starts off as a friendship and somewhere along the way crosses the line.  The line is sometimes a little fuzzy.

The very first time my husband wrote to his affair partner, he knew full well that he was already crossing the line.  He pursued her after getting her contact info from their alumni organization.  She had been his first girlfriend, his high school sweetheart, and he wrote right at the outset that he regretted the decisions he made when they broke up, that his wife (me) was very jealous of her right up to that day, and that there was so much more that he wished he could say.  Of course, he didn’t want me to see that letter, and it was most definitely crossing the line, and I classified that as cheating right from the get go.  He didn’t touch her – he didn’t even see her until the following year because she lives so far away.  He didn’t say he still loved her until the second letter.  But that first letter most definitely crossed the line.  He knew what he was doing.

It was the start of an emotional affair that went physical a year later.  Throughout their six-year affair, it was largely emotional because they lived too far apart to see each other often.  In fact, from what I know, they saw each other only a few times, with one five-day stay at a hotel during one of his business trips.

One of my favorite books on infidelity is Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass.  She says there are three signs that a person has crossed the line towards an inappropriate relationship with someone.

  • Close friendship and emotional intimacy. An emotional affair often begins as friendship and slowly builds into something more. While friendship alone isn’t enough to qualify as cheating, a feeling of shared closeness and understanding is the starting point for an emotional affair.
  It often seen in the sharing of personal problems and frustrations, and statements like, “He understands me like no one else can.”
  • Sexual Attraction. An emotional affair is fueled by feelings of attraction between two people.  
 It does not need to be consummated for a bond to form around the attraction.  In fact, people in an emotional affair sometimes do not touch at all.  But they look forward to seeing that special person just a little too much, and share just a little too much, and they feel a bond with that person.
  • Secrecy. Here’s where friendship and attraction cross the line into emotional cheating. In an emotional affair, each person stops sharing certain aspects of the friendship with his or her partner, and starts confiding more in the “friend” and less in his or her partner.  If you can’t act that way or say those things in front of your partner, you are crossing or have crossed into an EA.

It’s much too easy to do in our society today.  On the job, we spend long hours with people working towards shared goals.  At our children’s activities, we spend time with people who have similar interests and goals.  At church, we spend time in groups with people who share personal stories a lot.  These activities foster that feeling of shared closeness.  We have to be aware and prepared.

My husband had all three criteria from Day 1 because she was his high school sweetheart.  How was it for you or your partner/spouse?

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26 thoughts on “Is it an emotional affair?

  1. julesasmrspersonality says:

    My husband quickly crossed the line, also. According to one of his hundreds of letters, he felt an immediate connection to his affair partner. “The moment he looked into her beautiful eyes” according to him. He certainly didn’t share that little bit of information with me about his new coworker! One thing that my husband did that I immediately started to notice, was he started seperating his work life from his home life. He didn’t want the two to cross paths. Then he started to actually initiate fights with me over things that normally would have been very unlike him. He was trying to make me into a villian, some crazy, mean wife so that he would have an excuse for the affair. Looking back at that time, I’m surprised I didn’t completely lose it! He had to somehow rewrite the history of our marriage and my personality, so that he could somehow in his head say that the affair was justified. If he made me into a stark raving crazy person, he could get the sympathy and affection from his Whore.

    • Not Over It says:

      My old friend Jules! Nice to hear from you…

      Interesting, isn’t it, that so many cheaters use this ploy of turning the faithful spouse into some kind of awful person… I don’t think it’s often premeditated. The fiction storytelling and lying to make themselves look good just comes naturally as part of an affair.

      At the beginning, when it was still an emotional affair, my husband didn’t talk much about me. After it went physical, he started bashing me all over the place. I think that’s when he felt the first pangs of guilt. When it was still in the emotional affair phase, he convinced himself at the time that he wasn’t doing anything wrong because he thought cheating meant sex outside the marriage. He now acknowledges that it was wrong from the first letter. He says he actually knew it then, too, but refused to face the fact.

      So much to work through… hope you are well…

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

  2. tentativelyhopeful says:

    “The most recent definition I’ve seen says that cheating is anything you would not say or do in front of your spouse.” – I agree with this whole heartedly! Boundaries are important. While my husband had a mostly PA, I found communication between him and a past acquaintances that I felt were inappropriate – she became a confidant of sorts for him. Later when we were speaking, I asked him if he would want me discussing our relationship and problems with a “friend” of the opposite sex? No. It’s really simple in my mind.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi TH – same for my husband. He would not want me to talk over my problems with anyone, much less a male friend. He even has problems with me writing to my marriage coach. He doesn’t like me blogging, either, but he has agreed that it’s ok as long as I don’t reveal our real names. I’m ok with that, and I love being DJ. Even my kids say that it fits me.

      Hope your weekend is a great one!

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

  3. junebug says:

    For sure it was an emotional affair for my husband. We have been going ’round and round’ for a few days again. I keep trying to explain to him that *I* can not get past what I don’t know. Over a year of my life is now a mystery to me because of his unfaithfulness. From the cell phone bills I know that he would call/text within minutes of walking out the door for work or that he would call/text at times he was supposedly chasing dd to/from practices. Stupid me, I thought he actually watched the practices. The nickname he has for her is enough to make me want to puke. I asked what his nickname was from his cutie pie – I don’t have that answer yet. But, I was told that I am not the type of person to have a nickname! (That just about put me over the edge.) You can give a nickname to the woman helping wreck your marriage, but you don’t give the woman you’ve been married to for 24 years a nickname! I do know that he discussed aspects of adoption with this woman (one of our children was adopted). How dare he give that information to some tramp! But then, SHE LISTENED. Jules, as you said, he rewrote our history and my personality to fit his fling. As an aside, I did not realize how utterly angry I still am. I wish there was a little book or timeline to follow for this stuff. 😦

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Junebug – It seems that using nicknames or pet names, and writing little coded messages is very common among cheaters. I find this so adolescent. But I guess that’s about the level of maturity that most cheaters show. I know Jules’ husband did this, and so did mine. And like you, he and I do not use little nicknames. We call each other Honey in letters and on the phone and that’s about it.

      SYIMD – see you in my dreams
      ILYSh – I love you Sweetheart
      YAAOMM – You are always on my mind

      …just to name a few of the common ones between my husband and his other woman. They played a game of writing these acronyms and having the other one figure them out. It still turns my stomach to think about it.

      Actually, Junebug, the book Not Just Friends does work like a guide, but it is not a little book. Have you checked out the Affair Survival Kit at Emotional Affair Journey? I was already an old-timer when they came out with it, so I haven’t seen it, but I love their blog, so maybe it’s worth a look.

      Anger is one of the stages of grief, and it will probably come and go for you for a while yet. Maybe we should have a discussion about the stages. I’ll write up a post for that ASAP.

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

      Take care

  4. I am so glad you addressed this request. It’s one I’ve thought of for a while now and I would not have thought to go back to Shirley Glass and that would have been a mistake. What she said really distills it to the core.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi RCR – Many of us seem to be thinking along the same lines recently. I read her book early on and then didn’t go back to it for some time. But then, several months ago, I went back to it to look up something and realized that I had forgotten what a treasure it really is. Now I look back to it frequently. It is balanced and compassionate while facing facts head-on.

      And now we have the wonderful things on your site as well. You are really good at what you do, RCR.

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

  5. Liberty says:

    This question is the one I have struggled with the most. I maintain that a “secret ” friend is a EA. While my H still insists he never said anything he couldn’t say in front of me. He said no attraction and never any flirting. Only day to day normal conversation. I say BS to that. But I have asked him till I am blue in the face and his answers have never changed. So he doesn’t think it was an EA. He says just a friend. However, he now admits it was lying and dead wrong. And we will be dealing with this in counseling. I love the book Not just friends and I refer to it many times a week. Thanks for this subject DJ. Am anxious to read other peoples thoughts on it.

    I hope your doing okay DJ. I am so rooting for you and Daniel. I know you have helped me with your kind words and I hope I can help you too.

    Liberty. xoxo

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Liberty – I cannot say for certain from just our posts, but it does sound very odd to keep a relationship secret if you have no reason to.

      Thank you for your kindness. Sharing with you helps me a lot, and I’m glad you have found it helpful, too.

      Daniel is trying very hard to make it up to me. He just won’t do what I need him to. At the moment he is bringing me a smoothie for lunch because I am not feeling very well. Can’t stay home from work right now – we’re finishing up before the Christmas break. It’s very sweet of him. But what could he do that would knock my socks off? For him to start on a journey of self-discovery so that he can figure himself out and never hurt me this way again.

      One day at a time…

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

  6. cathmae says:

    I appreciate you posting about this, DJ. When my EX and I were in counseling, we talked at length about a friendship I had about 25 years ago. I had faith that in counseling we would sort it out, but I think what hindered our success was that I wanted the conversation to happen within the context of what WE BOTH were doing 25 years ago, not just what I was doing. My EX also had a close friendship with a woman at the same time, but became angry every time I asked that WE BOTH be accountable. He has had a few other close friendships with women, even while we were in counseling. I have wondered if his suspicions about my actions and intentions are revealing something about what his actions and intentions were. It’s hard to engage in honest reflection under these circumstances.
    My EX also frequently accused me of staring at other men. But he never said “you are staring at that man”. What he would do is stop speaking to me for weeks and then tell me I was staring at a man, and it would come out of left field for me. I would be at a loss to remember who he might be talking about. With that happening, I felt unable to accept his feedback about my behaviour generally. I would be thinking “is he paranoid or just a controlling asshole?”
    So, our attempts to arrive at an understanding about what he believed was an emotional affair probably didn’t stand a chance.

    • cathmae says:

      Just wanted to add that I asked you to post some information about emotional affairs so I could have another go at that honest reflection without the clutter I mentioned above. So, thanks again for the post.

      • Not Over It says:

        Hi Cathmae – I hope that there is something helpful for you here. I admire your desire to continue working through it even though you are now single again. I sincerely believe that, no matter happens, you will be able to live a much happier life in the future because of your diligence in doing the work.

        Hope your weekend is merry and bright!

        Love & prayers,
        DJ

  7. Petal says:

    For me its devastating I confronted shes just a friend he says. Then he hid all the clues I dropped . Shes a coworker hes 45 she is 27 . Texting constantly and he sees her at his work I don’t know am not part of his so called friendship that is cheating and he leaves no trace tracks to follow. Emotionally they share each other it is cheating as your friend is more important to you than your wife. Treats me like shit. Two timing me but you know the lbs the karmic cycle will work and when he will be on a Zimmer frame or wheel chair his wife will be the only one who will stand by him.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Petal – I’m sorry you are going through this. It is so painful to be treated that way. Somehow many cheaters become completely blind to the way they are treating their spouse. They are so blinded by affair fog that they cannot see how they are acting – immature and selfish and completely self-absorbed.

      I hope you can find a way back to happiness.

      Grace and peace to you,
      DJ

  8. kali4ever says:

    F’n highschool sweethearts!!!!!!

  9. kayboo24 says:

    I think most people who cheat know the minute it becomes something that it shouldn’t be. So true, that if it is something you wouldn’t do in front of your spouse then it is WRONG people. Plain and simple. They know this, which is why Nikki started blocking her phone number, so on cell phone bills it shows as unknown name and number. JR knew it was wrong when he started erasing his text messages and call history. It’s a choice that is made. It starts slow and progresses into something bad and ugly. Then we get left trying to clean up the mess. Having a bad day…sorry.

    • Not Over It says:

      Sorry to hear you’re having a bad day, Kayboo. You’re absolutely right – they know the minute they cross the line. They just don’t want to admit it. Hiding things from your spouse is always a telltale sign.

      I used to be too afraid that he would go back to her that I was afraid to leave him alone… part of the devastation of the affair, or so I’ve heard. I have reached the point now where I can finally say that if he wants to make that mistake again, go for it. Just don’t string me along.

      Take care. Hope tomorrow is a good day…

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

  10. nmwf1 says:

    My husband called an old girlfriend from his past. He made the effort to find out where she works and called her work and left a message, She returned his call 15 minutes later.. I know in my heart that he knew it was crossing the line the minute he hung up from that first conversation that he had with her that day. Because if it were just an old friend i believe he would have no problem telling me, but of course he kept it a secret because he didn’t want me to know but 3 + months later and over a thousand test messages and hundreds of calls and hundreds of picture mail (yuck) i discover this so called friend. And then of course at first he tried to convince me she was just a friend. But because i had proof otherwise. He had no choice but to admit to having phone sex with her. So during my many rages that I have had with my husband, I have said some very vulgar things to him. Like does she make it a habit of phone F**king all of her friends. Or I have asked him if he ever phone F’s his best friends wife when she answers the phone. I screamed at him one time and told him that I with to hell i would have thought to put him on 3 way calling without either of them knowing it and listened to there innocent conversations, thinking each one called the other. To me an EA is just as bad as a full blown affair. it may not have physical sex, but the agony of despair for the betrayed is the same. I feel sick inside know matter what. And as far as I can see I am no closer to getting over it after 15 months than if it would have been physical, the only difference is, is that if it would have been physical, (so far I don’t have proof that it was) we would be separated right now, I have come close to separating many times, just knowing about the phone sex, it has been very hard to come to terms with that.
    ( BUT SHE WAS JUST A FRIEND!!!!!!!!!)

    So my opinion is that, bottom line. IF THEY HIDE IT, THAN THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE.

    • Not Over It says:

      Good line, NM, and very true.

      I went for several months thinking that my husband’s affair was an emotional affair before I found proof of them staying at a hotel together. You’re right. The pain was just as bad either way. The major difference in finding out that it had indeed been physical was that it was just more lies on top of more lies. Then I was hit with feeling nauseated at the thought of him touching her and then me again. But the pain was the same.

      I’ve gotten past that nausea. I have needs, too! I still have occasional problems with mind movies of them together, but not too often anymore.

      Have a good weekend…

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

  11. All three present from the beginning too. Emotional affairs are crazymaking. So much psychologically worse than physical, in my opinion. There’s so much more room for the unfaithful partner to be denying things, even when they’re happening right in front of your eyes.

  12. […] Is it an emotional affair? (notoverit.wordpress.com) […]

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