What exactly is an emotional affair you say? Well, the term emotional affair – according to the encyclopedia definition – describes a bond between two people that mimics the closeness and emotional intimacy of a romantic relationship while never being physically consummated. An emotional affair is sometimes referred to as an affair of the heart.

The Research

If you’ve ever perused the research on infidelity, you’ve probably came across the finding that straight men are more upset by sexual infidelity, while straight women are more upset by emotional infidelity.

The actual statistics from the largest study on infidelity to date show that 54% of men are most upset by sexual infidelity (as compared to 35% of women), and that 65% of women are most upset by emotional infidelity (as compared to 46% of men).

The LGBT population in this study did not differ significantly when asked whether a sexual or emotional affair would be more devastating.

When we look at this difference through an evolutionary lens, it makes sense. Women are never uncertain as to whether they are the biological mother of their children. Men, on the other hand, do not know if they are the biological father to their children.

Yes, yes… I know about DNA testing, but I am talking about the distant past and the evolutionary experience that has wired us to think and behave the way we do.

So this explains why men are more concerned about sexual infidelity. Women, however, are more concerned with emotional infidelity because of the potential loss of commitment and resources should their mate become interested in someone else.

Although we have evolved so much as a society (with the advent of DNA testing and the expansion of traditional family roles) how we have behaved in the past is still in our biology.

I am excited to see how we change and grow, and how we adapt. I’m curious as to how the results of this study may be different in 20 years, or 100 years. Only time will tell. And our rapid growth in the realm of technology is changing the game in many areas of our lives, including infidelity and the way we cheat.

Digital Infidelity

Do you have a back up husband or back up wife? This may sound like a silly question, but it is a stark reality. I’m sure that the concept of a having a back up has been around for quite a while; however, in this digital age it is easier than ever to stay in contact with your back up.

With texting and social media apps such as facebook, twitter, snapchat, and many others, having an emotional affair – or even keeping someone on back up should your current relationship not work out – is easier than ever.

What used to take more effort (going to the local bar to meet up with someone to chat, or arranging your coffee break at the same time as your attractive co-worker) now only takes the push of a button on your smart phone and you can have a conversation or send a picture to anyone in the world.

As a matter of fact, you can be cheating on your partner while sitting next to them on the couch or lying next to them in bed. Maybe you are sending a flirty text that you delete immediately, or sending a sexy picture through snapchat that disappears in 5 seconds.

Signs Of An Emotional Affair

Do you suspect your partner is having an emotional affair? If so, trust your gut. You may want to lightly broach the subject by stating that your feel concerned about the relationship, or you may be more direct and state your suspicions.

Either way you bring it up, in a healthy relationship your partner should respond to your concerns without becoming upset.

In addition to having a gut feeling that something is going on, here’s an article from LIVESTRONG that identifies common signs of an emotional affair including sudden secretiveness, having a new interest in technology, mentioning the other person repeatedly, experiencing changes in intimacy, and becoming more critical.

Here’s a brief video by psychiatrist Gail Saltz, explaining the emotional affair in more detail…


Now, on to the quiz…

Quiz: Has Your Friendship Become an Emotional Affair?

  1. Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went?   YES   NO
  2. Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner?   YES   NO
  3. Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend?   YES   NO
  4. Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your friend?   YES   NO
  5. Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meetings?   YES   NO
  6. Are you aware of sexual tensions in this friendship?   YES   NO
  7. Do you and your friend touch differently when you’re alone than in front of others?   YES   NO
  8. Are you in love with your friend?   YES   NO


Give yourself one point if you answered YES to questions 1,2,6,7,8.

Give yourself one point if you answered NO to questions 3,4,5.

If you scored near 0, this is just a friendship.

If you scored 3 or more, you may not be “just friends.”

If you scored 7 or 8, you are definitely involved in an emotional affair.

This quiz was developed by Shirley Glass, one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity and author of an awesome book on infidelity entitled NOT “Just Friends”. You can order Shirley’s book here.

Most emotional affairs are occurring because we have become disconnected from our partner. In addition to seeking couples therapy to overcome an emotional affair in your relationship, you can read Shirley’s book and check out the resources page for other helpful books and games to enrich and strengthen your relationship with your partner.

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