Many people consider emotional affairs to be “innocent fun.” Often disguised as friendships, emotional affairs take friendship too far. They can be just as damaging, if not more damaging, to a marriage than a sexual affair.
People usually don’t set out looking for an emotional affair. Instead, they often seek out friendship. These friendships with people of the opposite sex might be with a co-worker, a friend’s spouse, or an online friend. They tend to begin innocent in nature with two people talking, as friends do. The relationship grows deeper and can eventually cross the line into an emotional affair.
When people engage in an emotional affair, they experience a “high” similar to the one people experience when they are first falling in love. Research has shown that these feelings are comparable to the hypomanic phase of someone with bipolar disorder. Remember when you first started falling in love? You may have experienced increased energy, less need for sleep, decreased appetite, and an overall sense of increased well-being. These feelings tend to fade over time as a relationship continues.
When people begin an emotional affair, these feelings can re-surface. People often justify them by reminding themselves that the relationship isn’t physical or sexual in nature, but instead they are “just friends.” An emotional affair causes the person to become more heavily reliant on someone other than their spouse to meet their emotional needs. They may share secrets and details and finally feel “understood” by someone.
Emotional affairs do cause harm. Affairs can cause a lot of hurt, whether they are sexual or not. Re-connecting with a spouse after an emotional affair can be difficult as well. Emotional affairs make intimacy with a spouse difficult and can be hard to work through. Some marriages do not survive after an emotional affair. If you or your spouse has been involved in an emotional affair, seek counseling right away.