Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Emotional Affairs: Part 2 - Is an Emotional Affair More Destructive Than a Physical Affair?

Is Emotional Affair More Destructive
Emotional Affairs: A 3 Part Series
  1. Part 1: Which is Worse? Emotional Affair or Physical Affair
  2. Part 2: Is an Emotional Affair More Destructive Than a Physical Affair?
  3. Part 3: Will it Ever End?

If you think an emotional affair is less destructive than a physical affair, you might be mistaken. At least that’s what 77.76% of the 590 respondents said in our survey.

However, it's important to realize that no one can really determine for someone else what is harder to live with.

For those who haven't suffered from infidelity, maybe this notion is due to the perceptions of infidelity versus the realities of recovery. The University of Michigan conducted a study entitled "Was That Cheating?", which was published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. The study was based on a survey given to 456 students in an introductory psychology course at two public universities in the Midwest. They were asked to look at 27 different behaviors and rate them on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the extent to which they believed the action would be considered cheating in a long-term relationship -- 0 being equated with not cheating at all and 100 being full-fledged infidelity.

Not surprisingly, sexual intercourse was given an average of 97.7 on the scale, and oral sex followed closely behind with 96.8. Below, some other interesting findings:

  • Kissing on the lips: 88.7
  • E-mailing pictures of themselves naked: 88.2
  • Texting erotic messages: 82.6
  • Sleeping in the same bed: 68.4
  • Holding hands: 63.2
  • Forming a deep emotional bond: 52.4
  • Sitting in lap: 52.2
  • Going out to dinner: 41.4
  • Sharing secrets: 36.5
  • Hugging for more than 10 seconds: 34.5

Perhaps we don’t see the problem with emotional infidelity because, like the above-mentioned college students, the behaviors associated with an emotional bond aren’t as readily identified with infidelity as are physical behaviors. Is it really so bad if there’s nothing physical going on? Is it really just an innocent friendship at work? Or, could it be an intoxicating, hallucinating cloud which seeks only to entrap and envelop? Is it meaningless and simple ‘work-talk’ or is it something deeper, which leaves a spouse feeling left out, helpless and powerless to see any change?

While both emotional and physical infidelities are devastating, research says it’s typically the emotional aspect of an affair that proves to be most difficult to overcome. This reality seems to fly in the face of the common justifications for emotional relationships.

Here are a few you may have some experience with:

  • "I don't know why you're so uptight. He and I are just friends."
  • "We never discuss anything personal."
  • "There's nothing wrong with my having friends of the opposite sex. You’re just being insecure."
  • "We were friends long before you came along so quit being so jealous.”
  • “This is an important business relationship. Are you trying to ruin us financially?”
  • “There’s nothing wrong if I want to go to lunch with a friend. You’re overreacting!”
  • “Are you telling me I can’t work with anyone of the opposite sex? That’s ridiculous.”
  • "I can't fire her. She hasn't doesn't anything wrong."
  • "Your suspicion is going to kill our relationship."

If those of us who have been unfaithful knew the devastation associated with emotional infidelity, wouldn’t it stand to reason we would think twice before continuing in a relationship that will lead to such emotional wreckage and destruction?

I wish it were so, but in light of new insight from our survey pool, it just may not be the case. Becoming involved before you even recognize what’s happening is just one reason which makes an emotional affair so hard to detect and what ultimately causes it to become so entangling.

Our survey data provided some interesting differences between those who have been betrayed and those who are unfaithful.

  • 74.66% of betrayed women identified the emotional aspect of the affair as being more difficult to deal with.
  • Alternatively, only 55% of the betrayed men stated that the emotionality of it all was the hardest part.
  • Despite the evidence reported by the majority of betrayed men, there was in fact a larger percentage of those struggling most with the physical aspect of the affair.

Reinforcing this trend were those who had been unfaithful.

  • 89.3% of women who’d been unfaithful identified the emotional aspects of the affair being toughest verses 80% of the men.

Are we just not aware that being “friends” can be far more destructive than a physical affair? Why do we contend for the legitimacy of a friendship, when in the long run it may well prove to be the most destructive path for our marriage and our mate? Maybe it’s due to the fact that that we’re hooked emotionally and attached intimately before we recognize what’s really happening between us and our affair partner? Or maybe, our loyalty to our friend surpasses our loyalty to our mate?

The answers speak far more than we realize about the condition of our hearts and overall perspective in life. Those answers also reveal what our deepest emotional, physical and spiritual cravings are, despite what season of life we may be in.

The bottom line, regardless of research methods employed, is infidelity is devastating whether it’s a physical affair or emotional affair.

If you’re caught in the trauma of an affair please get expert help. You don’t have to do this alone, and it doesn’t have to get as ugly as it does for so many. There are proven pathways you can utilize which will help all parties heal and get “unstuck.” Take for example our EMS Online course.. It’s a safe, and infidelity-specific approach to helping you both find healing, clarity, and new life.



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a surprising gift

Wonderful article! As usual the gift God has is store is so much richer than I imagined. What struck me as I read this is that in the past I would have read a lot of "I can'ts" due to my history of self-medicating my marriage with emotional entanglements and romantic intrigue to a full, deeply entrenched emotional and then physical affair. I can't have men friends, I can't have this, don't call this person, don't text, I shouldn't wish this high school friend happy birthday, stay off of facebook, dont share anything, dont' go to co-ed 12 step meetings,don't, don't, don't. Nothing but confinement and fear. Today when I read it and reflected on where I am in my life now in relation to associations with the opposite sex, i realize how full my life is with the deep, deep connections with other women, my family, and God. The other desires have fallen away and been replaced. It is not a "can't" mentality, but more of a "why would I want to" and "I don't need to" or "I am not needed there". What a delight. What a gift. God is so gentle, I am the hard one. I know I could fall back into old patterns, but in his mercy, he keeps me diligent by what he puts before me, not by what I bring on myself. As long as God is my value, I do not need to seek it elsewhere. I could never have imagined this life. Thank you for this awareness.

freedom from entanglement

Your comment is so accurate and shows how much healing has taken place in you and your spouse. What a gift and what insight that you can see that. I still am realizing things about myself and my screwiness more than 5 years after my affair. I realized recently that my own perfectionism led me to seek approval from other men. I was not capable of maintaining an image of being perfect in my real home life. In an affair, though, I could create the illusion with another person that I would be absolutely perfect for them- if only we could get away from our spouses without tearing up our families...Sigh, what a self-centered, destructive way to live life. I didn't have an awareness of how much perfectionism was strangling my ability to give and receive love in a healthy, safe relationship. A messed-up guy with a messed-up life seemed so much easier to "fix" than my own life with its normal share of trials and weaknesses. So glad to have this forum to share. Thank you and God bless you all with hope and healing.

Can't really tell but are you

Can't really tell but are you and your spouse still married?

agreed...to a point

I tend to agree that the emotional part is harder to overcome for the betrayed, but that is because it includes triggers, visuals from photos, emails, etc. as well as the lies and deceptions that were carried out.  All those emotional issues are what will eventually break the marriage and never allow it to heal.  For me, it's sad to think that my wife is now a cliche (older woman sleeping with a younger guy) and that we are now just a statistic adding to the number of adulterous marriages. All of the above issues are tied to the emotional part of an affair and, for me, are far from healed (can they ever be?)

The emotional affair is easier to understand how it might come about, as a partner can feel alone or insecure...even having childhood issues that leave the eventual betrayer vulnerable.  I can almost understand this happening and probably would have be able to forgive just an EA.

When a spouse makes the decision to step across the line and have a phyiscal affair is another story.  I believe that part is just cowardice and narcissism. 

For me, the emotional affair is longer lasting, but there are reasons someone may fall into that trap.  However, the physical affair is truly the unforgivable act.



Your wife made horrible decisions and choices. I don't know the basis of her EA or how she made the step to a physical one. But that a physical affair is unforgivable? Wow. I feel sorry for her. She must feel trapped and doomed by your attitude. What can she live for now that she's made an "unforgivable mistake"? Can she ever recover from her terrible decision? Will she forever be the bad wife? How can you both move on and repair? Seems like you are not giving her any option. I hope that you can move towards forgiveness, because if you can't, you will always be the angry victim and she risks self loathing forever and self destruction.

You still need help to heal

You still need help to heal and ultimately forgive if you are together or apart. I think of this site as a place to go for hope and healing and sometimes get very discouraged by the "just can not get through this or forgive statements". It is understandable and necessary in the beginning to deal with these true emotions and if you have someone who will not face what they have done then it may be best to walk away instead of continuing down the destructive path. In that journey the persons who have been deceived must also be able to face their past and ultimately how and why their spouse made the destructive decisions that they did and how they fit into the equation. Saying that everyone who has been involved in an affair is narcissistic is really a stretch and it may be in your best interest to seek help for your own healing.

Well said

Anonymous, you have explained my feelings perfectly. As a betrayed husband, I find the emotional aspects very tough to handle but they are understandable. The physical betrayal was the truly cowardly act and the unforgivable part. But the combination of both E and P betrayals, and dealing with the fallout of our wives now being part of a cliche... That is what is hardest to accept now. The emotional fallout lingers long past, as various triggers rear their ugly head.

In agreement with much of

In agreement with much of what you said. My husband had multiple affairs for years and since discovery I still wake up from nightmares as a result of all the adulterous images, words, photos, occasions, our shared possessions they violated etc etc, all created by him and them, knowing those horrible memories are real, knowing the collateral damage is in the present and future. However, I realize this is about them, and they have shown me how NOT to love, in an extremely painful way. We take the fall from their inability to love. They show us how not to love. That is what has happened. If they get that they can begin learning the real meaning of love. Regardless of what they decide, as we do our best to recover from their loveless actions we would do well to take good care of ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and not let the darkness destroy us too. Take good care of you.

Re: agreed...to a point

Something about your response hit me to the core. I've wondered the same thing as my wife also fell into the emotional trap which overtime led to a few physical meetings with this man. Even after she said it was over she is still reeling with the breakup whereas I feel she is in dire need of help but thinks she can do this on her own. As for me, I still deal with the emotional thoughts that are triggered during inopportune anything. I love her more than anything but like you, I wonder if I can get past it and will my marriage fall apart. Things are definitely not like they were. Good luck to you.

My husband started an

My husband started an emotional affair with a married stranger he met on Facebook. They claimed to be soulmates ...and he met up with her when we were in AZ dropping our son off at college. She came here and rented a cottage 1 mile from our home, When I found out he ran off to AZ and spent over 10 thousand dollars on "vacations" with her(our business closed down and we- I should say Me- were on a tight budget). He kept returning and then leaving to be with her. When the physical part ended they spent 2 more years in an emotional affair. We are still together and the pain is still raw from both the physical and emotional affair. Mrs. layEUni

E-mailing pictures of

E-mailing pictures of themselves naked: 88.2 Texting erotic messages: 82.6 That was the entirety of the affair that my husband will admit to, I cannot get him to admit that it was more, but I am of the opinion that these two things lead to the physical affair at some point. He carried on with women like that for over 3 years before I caught him, over 30 he met online, an ex girlfriend and two women at work. The one woman that he worked with stands out because he stuck with that one the longest. He won't discuss it, tells me he don't know why he did it, yet I know different. He has cut off contact, won't look at porn anymore and has had no problem with not doing either since he was caught. But how on earth am I to try to save our marriage when I don't know what went wrong?

He needs to fix it, not just you alone

To quote from your letter: "But how on earth am I to try to save our marriage when I don't know what went wrong?" WHY do you really want to know the details? Will knowing such information help you heal or just hurt and anger you more? Be very careful and don't fool yourself. Most importantly, saving your marriage requires your husband. He should be held responsible for his actions and he must participate in figuring out what went wrong. This is not up to you alone. Good luck.

Validity of the study results in other age ranges/situations

I want to point out that the subjects in the study that Rick discusses are college students (likely Freshman). These results may be inaccurate in another population, such as married couples in midlife with children and intertwined legal and financial lives. When I was this age, and before I was married, I saw nothing wrong with same very close sex friendships, but I have come to realize that there is usually sexual attraction from one or both "friends" and that the greater the emotional intimacy and physical proximity, the greater the risk. It is simply not worth pursuing or defending these close friendships as a married person who wants to protect the marriage from this awful betrayal. The emotional and physical infidelity are both very painful and difficult to deal with. A lesson I learned the hard way.

GREAT article!

Thanks for such a great article! As the wife who committed the adultery nearly 3 years ago, I am glad to say that we made it through. We have not become the statistic because my husband showed the mercy of Jesus Christ when instead of kicking me out he took me in his arms and said "If you're willing to do the work we will get through this together". I was SO ready to do the work because I didn't want to be a cheating wife, a liar, a betrayer, or a chameleon with everyone. Over the last almost 3 years I learned that the emotional part is so much worse than physical because I was letting another man fill my addictive need for love and attention. I had to break that addiction and could ONLY have done that through my determination and the mighty hand of our great healer, Jesus Christ. What I've learned is that I don't need male friendships that go beyond knowing basic things about them..I don't want to know how their marriage is going, I don't want to be their confidant. If I keep healthy boundaries, then I'm doing my part. Oh did I mention NO FLIRTING? That is not acceptable unless it's my husband only. God has restored our marriage and family. Coming up on 17 years of marriage, I am SO glad that I have him, that he and God has forgiven me, and that I forgave myself because today I am who God planned for me to be and it's by His grace that I can say that! Thanks! :-)

And Emotional Abuse is Worse

What about the emotional damage spouses do that create a context and vulnerability for what they later call "emotional affairs" on the part of their hurting spouse? The marriage vows were to love and cherish, not to never have secrets or emotional conversations with other people. Where is the healing for emotionally abused Infidels? Is the spouse who discarded the vow to love and cherish really The Betrayed and the abused one who had secrets really The Unfaithful?

Subtleties of the deceptive path

This quote from the article: " Or maybe, our loyalty to our friend surpasses our loyalty to our mate?" That is it in a nutshell for me. That loyalty breeched the trust and intimacy regardless of a physical or emotional affair. Ironically, my husband had confessed to his first fling and that sincere confession had broken the intimacy not nearly as much as his lying about an emotional affair that occurred years later.. And even now - after affairs are long done, a stupid little lie about a petty purchase is re- traumatizing.... That's why Rick's definition of infidelity (The keeping of secrets) is the best definition, but unfortunately, like in the college surveys is not recognized for the potency it possesses. When you have deception in a relationship, it is not a good relationship. Thank you, Rick, for highlighting how little things can be the big things.

My H made a purchase also.  I

My H made a purchase also.  I can't get over that.  He tries to diminish the purchase, tries to explain it away with a ridiculous excuse that is so out of character for him that I can't understand how even he can swallow  the lie.  But why is this so hard for me to accept since the whole situation is out of character for him. 

He sent her (on two occasions) expensive bouquets.  He kept it a secret.  And now that I find out he tried several explanations.....first he said he sent them to her as a wedding gift.  Hmmm......why would you have to keep it a secret and since when did you ever buy a wedding gift, you have always relied on me for that.  I have to share b/c these are almost humorous if not so painful for me.  "She gave me great discounts on the store products so I just wanted to send a thank you."  Hmmmm.....the flowers cost more than the discounts you received, and again, since when do you do that?  You've never even written a thank you card.  But his final explanation that he's sticking to....."I felt sorry for her, she said she never got anything from anybody and I wanted to show her otherwise."

The whole thing makes me sick b/c what it boils down to is total deception.  She was never a friend.  He tells me about new acquaintances, but he never told me about her.  He invites friends to come over, meet me, meet the family, not her.  She was his dirty little secret that he thought he could keep from me forever.  But I accidentally found out and now our marriage is destroyed.  The trust will never be there again.  The love gone the day he started up with her.  His actions proved that his love for me was not there and I cannot try to ever restrore something that really didn't exist.  I am not going to re-invent myself b/c HE failed me.  My whole marriage I've worked to be the 'good wife' and it wasn't enough.  So when is it ever enough?

I would love to hear more from what you experienced b/c your words "petty purchase" resonated with me.  How are you coping?  What was your spouse's attitude?  I feel so alone in this, living my own deception b/c I have not shared this with ANYONE, and still trying to figure out my life from hereon.

I am so grateful that Rick and Hope-Now is addressing emotional affairs.  I really need some help.  We did try counseling but when it got to the point when the counselor asked me what I needed from H, and I stated some things such as "when did it all go wrong between us," and more transperancy about the flowers, my H became defensive and felt that it wasn't necessary to rehash anything more b/c the OW was totally out of the picture, "nothing ever happened."  Needless to say, we no longer go to counseling.  Totally pointless.

I am desperate to hear and learn from others in order to understand more of what I am feeling and may or may not continue to feel .  I am just overwhelmed by this situation.

Chelsie, how does your husband act now?

Dear Chelsie, Your letter touched me. Your situation seems very fresh. Your sense of betrayal and anger are completely justified. Although it is difficult to imagine, however, I think that your words are too harsh: "The love gone the day he started up with her. His actions proved that his love for me was not there and I cannot try to ever restore something that really didn't exist?" What your husband did was selfish and thoughtless regarding you and your marriage. But it does not in any way PROVE that he never loved you or does not still love you. Be very careful not to let yourself get victimized. We have to discard the fairy tale definitions of true love and understand that even good people make terrible choices. It is very possible that your husband had a childish crush and was heading down a dangerous pathway. Hopefully, your discovering the truth will set him back on course to a healthy marriage - IF you let him. You did not reveal how he has responded to this discovery, so I don't know if he's trying to make amends or is in denial. I think his actions now are key - not what he did in the past. Please don't assume that he doesn't love you. His good judgement may have been clouded by immaturity, flattery and selfishness. If he is ashamed and regretful, then he knows what has happened.

Thank you for your response. 

Thank you for your response.  I really appreciate  the time you spent to address me and appreciate a perspective not my own. 

You ask how my H acts now.  Originally, he seemed remorseful, understood the hurt his actions caused.  It was his suggestion to go to a counselor.  I feel that once I agreed to meet with a counselor it gave him a sense of security with me and he seemed to take a step backward in his acknowledgement about the EA.  He refuses to accept it as an EA.  He sticks to "she was just a friend.  Nothing happened."  And he actually says, "I didn't do anything wrong," but will say, "Okay, so I made a mistake but I didn't do anything wrong."  (because there was nothing physical)  But everything about it was wrong. 

He wants to work on the marriage.  He wants to try to recapture what we had when we first met almost 30 years ago. He literally expects me to 'brush this under the rug.'

You are very right to say that what he became involved in was flattery and selfishness, a crush that very well could have gone further.  I don't believe he was on the prowl.  The opportunity presented itself, she gave him the validation that he wanted ('you look so young, I can't believe you are old enough to be my father, etc.').  As the following topic explains through the nine signs, he also found in her a poor lost soul that needed him, as though his children and me did not. 

I don't think I have an idealized view of true love and happily ever after, but what I do believe in is commitment to the marriage vows that we made to each other.  He came from the same belief system. 

As hard as it is to admit, I am probably playing the victim still, even though I don't throw it in his face all the time, it is just the feeling that I harbor within me.  I don't feel good about myself as a wife anymore.  I don't feel good about the reality of what my marriage is now as opposed to what it once was.  I don't even have the pride of knowing that I had a marriage built upon faithfulness to each other.  It is a marriage that can be added to the statistics of the unfaithfuls.  I look at him differently, seeing what he is capable of, saddened by the loss of trust, wondering if every 28 year old tickles his fancy.

In all honestly, I think he wants to work on the marriage not because he loves me and is so remorseful but because of the financial difficulty a divorce will incur.  That is his motivation for wanting to try. 

You're right, it is up to me to decide if I will let him.  I don't feel powerful with that statement.  That is not what I am about.  It simply a statement of total confusion about the life I once had control of with a partner I believed in.

I'm astonished, I could have

I'm astonished, I could have sworn that I wrote this myself. I'm saddened to know that there is another wife out there that feels EXACTALLY the same way I do...struggles with EXACTALLY the same thoughts.... My H suggested counseling too, he was understanding of my feelings (anger, depression, ect) at first, but after two months, his "get over it" mentality started tearing me apart. He makes promises during counseling that he doesn't obligate himself to, work is still number one, and everything seems like it's getting worse instead of better. I've often wondered if in agreeing to going to counseling with him he took it as me deciding that I was going to stay in our marriage...which just isn't the case. I agreed to counseling to ensue that I was doing everything I felt I needed to do to work through things. Sad to admit, but I didnt want to disolve the marriage without at least trying....but bottom line is, I just don't see him the same, and don't know if I can ever see him the way I did before his affair. I thought I knew the man I married, only to find myself second guessing every aspect our relationship (which has not been healthy). I feel violated, he took security and trust from us. After three months I still don't know if I can do this...i feel taken advantage of, insecure, unloved, violated, and the list goes on....I can't get past the thought that I will have to 'give up' my core values (faithfulness, trust) in order to stay in my marriage. I feel as if I'm sacrificing myself at the cost of his affair.... I wish you the best of luck and pray for u, I wish the emptiness I feel on noone...

As sad as it is to be in this

As sad as it is to be in this situation, it is somewhat helpful to hear the experiences and perspectives of others.  I am sorry that you are also in the same situation.  It is a very lonesome, dark place to be in.  I have full days, children that still keep me busy, a wonderful extended family, friends, but feel immensely isolated b/c of the secrecy of his EA.  There is just so much shame associated with it.  Staying in the same house, currently, co-existing, others would likely question why.  Leaving, still others will place blame on me, wondering what I did to push him to an EA.  It is a no win situation.  This doesn't even begin to address the impact on my children.

As mentioned previously, we co-exist.  I look at him and think "Who are you?  Who is this person that I slept next to for an entire year while he was texting and sending flowers to another gal?" 

Absolutely understand how you feel about compromising your core values b/c of his 'mistake.'  This was not a mistake.  It was a choice he made. 

Your situation regarding counseling and his attitude toward it sound like my H's.  This has me at a standstill.  Everything I read says that in order to move on and make things better there has to be acknowledgement and remorse.  I don't think I've read anything about someone that initially accepts what he did and responds with remorse and then reverts back to "but it was nothing, I didn't do anything wrong."  Am I missing something here? 

BTW, according to my H, the gal asked him, "So why haven't you asked me out?"  My H didn't respond with, "I'm married, I don't want to ruin my marriage, run the risk of getting caught, hurt my wife, possibly my kids, love my wife."  His response to her was, "It wouldn't work, there is too much of an age difference."  I have a lot of trouble with this.

The second thing that bothers me is  that after a few discussions he got to the point where he said, "That is all there was, there is nothing more, honestly. I never ever talked to her outside of her store.   I've divulged everything."  But about a month later he admitted that he did accept phone calls from her while he was at work.  She would call just to say "hi, how're you doing."  Another lie. Then a few weeks after that I found a text that he had sent wishing her a happy birthday.  Again, another lie, he had sent her texts, as I am guessing that was not the only text he ever sent her.  Another lie.  How am I to believe him when he says "it was NOTHING."  He can't keep track of his lies.  Rick, HOpe-NOw and every site and book state that is very damaging to continue to deceive and divulge details along the way.  It does cause a huge setback.

I continue to be interested in your story and would love to hear more regarding how common it is and how damaging it is when a person regresses, so to speak.  It just seems like you can't get past Go. 

Chelsie - maybe because it's

Chelsie - maybe because it's fresh with me also - your comments are resounding a massive bell with me. My 'partner' just decided to take off on holiday for the weekend with my son, and a 25 year old girl and her son out of the blue. (He's 44 and i'm 41 ) I found out by text message after I got home from work one night and they weren't home. On the Saturday my son told me they were all stopping in the same hotel room when I spoke to him. We agreed after to make a go of it when things had calmed down - but a week after he was going out with work and stopped at her house all night - of course I hit the roof the next day. Then he wrote me a long letter telling me he still loved me and wanted change in our relationship and that nothing had happened between them - they are just friends (she's been a good friend to him apparently). When they first met she had been flirty by text but he had not taken it further even though he was flattered because of me and they became good friends after. I have asked him to end this friendship if we are to make it work and he has refused as she lives very locally and he'd resent not asking her how she was if he wanted to. I don't think he realises how hurt I am by this! All he seems to care about is that her reputation locally isn't tainted as they've done nothing wrong! I've been so confused i've even considered trying to become friends with her. Everyone tells me I am being walked over and I deserve better than this - but I really hate being forced into this position. Chelsie - I wonder how you've got on since. I would really like to know.

Emotional Affair

I also agree that an emotional affair is the worst type of affair. Not only has the person who you have totally trusted with your life, your heart and every ounce of your being, betrayed you in the worse way possible by giving their love, and the attention that is designed specifically for you by God when they married you, to someone who really doesn't know you and is only thinking of themselves, knowing full well that their affair partner is married. This betrayal leaves you feeling like garbage, alone and totally worthless. 

If an emotional affair proceeds over a period of time, it is very likey going to turn physical. Once crossing that line happens, there usually is no turning back. It could be the death knell in the affair relationship or the marriage. No matter which way it goes someone is going to be devastated, families are going to be torn apart, even with adult children their loyality is to the betrayed spouse (most of the time) and therefore there will be hard feelings and trust issues, which will take a long time to heal if it ever occurs. 

Whichever way it turns out the following months, years, decades can be rough. With that being said, if the adulter decides to turn his/her life around and get his/her priorities in order by putting God first, his/her wife/husband second, family, job etc after, then trust in the marriage can be restored, but there is still a lot of hard work ahead. In order for total forgiveness to come the adulter needs to repent to God and his/her wife/husband. He/she needs to show remorse for what he/she has done and show his/her spouse that he/she is willing to do whatever it takes to make things right again and above all else accept their forgiveness. Once they can do that then healing can happen.

Agreed to a point - pointed out that the emotional affair is harder on the betrayed because of the triggers, I tend to agree but there again you can overcome any of that with God. Will certain things still come to your mind years down the road after an emotional attachement? Of course. We are not made to totally forget things, but the pain will eventually fade and the triggers will fade also if you let go and let God. Not to minimize the scope of what the betrayer has done, but they also go through triggers, yes self-imposed triggers and what they did to their spouse and family and they have to answer to God when they stand in front of him and give an account of their lives as we all will.

Not all emotional affairs begin because someone feels alone or insecure. Many happen because they need to escape from reality and not face what they are having to face such as an illness, a death, abuse or a combination of things. Most affairs happen at a time when the person is facing something they don't want to deal with and instead of turning toward their spouse they turn the opposite way to someone who doesn't know them. The betrayer can be a different person with his affair partner trying to cement the relationship and becoming the person they want to be instead of who they really are. Fantasy!!!

I have learned so much since I had to face my husbands emotional affair and betrayal. For a long time after the affair ended, I really didn't forgive him and our relationship was going nowhere. Once I totally forgave him and put it in the back of my mind and asked God to help me heal and forget the wrongs that were done, I felt free and am free to love my husband again. This is not something that happens over night either. It takes time to heal from the brokeness and the isolation that this puts you in. But with God anything is possible as long as it is in His will.

My friends, I will tell you that you are never alone in this walk. Many times I felt that there was no one for me to talk to no one to be there for me to cry on their shoulder and that I was carring the heaviest burden in the world, but I remembered the poem Footprints where when you only saw one set of footprints is when Jesus was carrying you. Many times I saw only one set of footprints and I know Jesus was carrying me. How else could you get through this terrible time in your life?

This message is such a

This message is such a powerful testimony and truly uplifted me and encouraged me during a really difficult time.  Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

I am not ready for divorcie,

I am not ready for divorcie, the first time was last year, i wanted to fight for our family, we have 2 little girls . I had a Hard time getting back to normal in the beggining , but 5 months later after an argument i made myself decide to either completely forgive or end the marriage right there. Everything seemed to be working and i was finally calm but, turns out she broke up with a boyfriend and nos he is some spiritual guru to her and so flirty with a tenderness he does not show to me anymore. I have tried everything to reinvent our conexion. Got fit, i try to save money to invite him out on our very tight broke budget. Last week i found out about this second time, i have Now a neuralgia that has lasted moré than 7 days when i have never Been Sick before in y life, ever

Agree somewhat...

I agree with lots of this. However since the emotional side of the affair led up to the physical act- they both hurt. But what is worse is how LONG I was lied to. THAT is truly the worst part to me.

As I was reading this I kept

As I was reading this I kept thinking all of them could be 100% or any where from 0- 40%. Are these things you would tell your spouse about or keep secret? If you tell your spouse you received an email or text from someone then I would rate it maybe 20%. If you don't tell your spouse I would rate it 100%. It all depends.


My husband had a second emotional affair with the same coworker - the affairs were 18 years apart! I forgave the first affair. The second one -- I am having a very hard time with it. He has become abusive-- verbally, emotionally, and physically--when I try to talk with him about it and how I feel. He has shown no remorse and blows it off as "talking and texting too much". He denies any further relationship other than they were "just friends" and "she listens to me about the country". We have acreage and he lives for going to the country and farming. I helped him pay for that land, but truly have had no interest in it and he has known that since the day we married, 35 years ago. It has been 11 months since I confronted him and he refuses to come clean about why he went to her a second time. My gut says he is still talking and texting, but he is careful to keep it on his work phone only, since I have no access to that account and will never be able to see whom he calls or texts. I keep thinking -first time was a mistake, second time was a conscious choice. He CHOSE her AGAIN over me and continues to do so by not telling me the details that I need to know to heal. I have been in so much pain for 11 months and he just doesnt seem to care. I have prayed to God to reveal to me what I need to know and to open his mind to coming clean and letting us start over. None of that has happened. I have a deadline now. If he cannot do what needs to be done to help our marriage heal, then I have no choice but to take care of me and file for divorce. If he can't see by now what damage has been done by his EA and by his "just get over it" attitude, then he doesn't deserve me anyway and he can go back to her and enjoy his fantasy. Maybe I'm wrong in my thinking, but this is just the way I feel. This has dragged on too long and I am losing hope daily. No amount of "i love you and want to be with you's " will be believable unless I also see remorse, a willingness to let her go, and a willingness to actually change. I feel like I am becoming so bitter, and I do not want to be a bitter old woman who cannot have relationships because she can't let go and trust again. My heart won't let me just "get over it". I simply don't see him the same way anymore, and although I love him, I may just have to love him from a distance in order to protect myself. I know that he is not the only one who needs to change. I acknowledge that I was not perfect in our marriage. I am working on that and trying to change. Sometimes I get so bogged down in my misery that I can't think straight. Any new perspectives on this will be appreciated.

i had no clue my husband was a narcissist

I had no clue my husband was a narcissist until a friend suggested I look up the term. At first i didnt see it, probably because I took a npd test and answered the way i thought he would answer. The results were he was normal. Then i realized i was basing my answers on a man who is a stranger to me. I started reading everything i could find online. Immediately i started to remember things and events that where signs of emotional affairs and narcissist behaviors. I can now see how husband craves attention and can not just be friends with any woman without turning it in to a emotional affair. I recently discovered that he says very negative about me to get them to feel sorry for him. He has made me out to be crazy monster that he can't make happy. How do you recover from this type of betrayal, especially since he works with 2 of them and 1 is a family friend with whom we attend each others family functions.

27 months

27 months post D Day and still occasionally miss AP. Those emotional connections are incredibly powerful and so hard to let go of . I imagine if the poll would have been taken by middle aged, married people (as opposed to college students) the percentages would be even higher . Us humans are funny creatures.

Can you elaborate on what

Can you elaborate on what part of the feeling you go back to and miss at 27 months? And do you see that maybe the feeling were you being manipulated by the AP?

We could ask the same

We could ask the same question to a drug addict. "What do you miss about feeling high all day"?, "what do you miss about feeling in love all day"?, "what do you miss about feeling connected to another human"? For me, the connection (addiction) was stronger than any drug. There were times when I would literally BEG my husband to call and check up on my AP, as I was worried he was suicidal. My husband (patient creature) would just roll his eyes. The Withdrawals lasted for 9-12 months. The first 3 being extremely severe.

This. This is my hardest obstacle

It’s the thought of him missing her and what they had coupled with his lack of empathy still, and his depression...and his “midlife crisis” he’s still working through. Unless something changes internally for him I believe this marriage may be doomed. Not for lack of trying on my part, but co-existing is no way to live for us right now. For me personally? It’s the emotional affair that gets me more than the physical.


How can u miss someone who was willing to be so narcissist? The deception in affairs ruins any possibility of ever having a healthy relationship with the AP. Do you not feel emotionally healthy with the AP out of your life.


I believe, (own experience) the affair partner cant see their hurtful behaviors and irrational logic is dished out to the betrayal partner because the emotional side of the affair relationship is due to lowered level of empathy from the addiction to the affair. It seemed for us, once the affair is over and there is continued separation from the affair so called friendship ---the marriage has a chance once the empathy on both sides is elevated. If the empathy level stays where it had been during the affair it would likely remain an unsafe relationship. My husband had an emotional affair years ago and we've recovered. An affair can be like an addiction in this way. This is where I stay steady in an observer mode and hold my own boundaries and sense of integrity. This is where these specialist recovery folks can aide.

I think the physical is

I think the physical is harder for me even though I’m a female because of what I fear he felt about the physical part of the affair.
I know he didn’t really have feelings for her as a person but I worry that the bond was of a sexual nature especially since affair sex was drastically different than our married sex life.
So I guess while I focus on the physical part of it is really the emotions behind it that haunt me.

Emotional or physical

I agree, the physical is harder because I will always worry about the hpv virus. My husband had a two month long Facebook affair with someone he had never met. Then they met fir sex a couple of times and it was over. The sex ended the fantasy . I found the breakup emails.
He begged for me to stay but lied about details for months. I am still trying to figure out if I should stay or go but it will never be the same.

Emotional or physical

My husband was on steroids for sinus issues. He had been sick 2 months when he decided to go online, seduce a stranger with old love songs and basically had a Facebook affair before meeting her for a few lunches, dinners and sex two or three times. He ended it and I found the break up emails. How do I move forward or is it just better to move on. He says he will do anything to save our 27 year marriage but he is probably just trying to trick me into staying. The physical us by far the most painful. But equally as painful is the face that a woman I do not know was so eager to destroy my life.

Physical or emotional

I was raised to believe that you never hurt another sister so women who hurt other women are just really hard for me to understand. I am stuck between pity and disgust when I look at my husband's AP.

When physical intertwines with emotional

It's a good question - which hurts the most? For me when it's broken down to the basics perhaps the emotional aspect. But I do strongly believe the physical relationship is a culmination of the ever increasing emotional affair. Sex reinforces bonding between two people, it's something very deep. It also reinforces love to new heights. My wifes affair began with all those things being spoken about - lust, boredom with the everyday, ego, distraction from anxiety etc.. She became addicted very quickly to the strengthening emotional bond. In this case the sex came as a result of those feelings of being in love (Not to be confused with deep love). I'm watching these posts with much interest, each case will be different but in my wifes case I believe the physical aspect intertwines strongly with the emotional. But either way you look at it, it's soul destroying to say the least. The positive part of course is my own growth and increasing self respect. You learn to love yourself a little more each day...

Definitely the Emotional Side

8 months of hidden communication culminating in a physical affair for 3 months. Reading texts of love notes, desires, and longing of his to her was like a knife repeatedly stabbing my heart, head, and stomach. Then her fake pregnancy in order to try to get him to leave me nearly gave me a breakdown! I told him to go, begged him to go so the pain would stop! That was July of 2015. We are still together, working hard to heal the wounds. But sometimes, when I least expect it, the thought of him telling someone else he loves her and always will grabs me by the throat. I don't know if I can ever get those texts out of my mind.

I agree. Discovery Day was

I agree. Discovery Day was January of 2014. Some days, it cuts me to the core that my husband even THOUGHT about another woman, much less acted on it. Betrayal HURTS. A pain like no other.

emotional or physical

I am not sure the value of trying to determine whether one is more difficult than the other. IF you give more weight to one it diminishes the pain of the other. Intimacy occurs in both cases and betrayal is always painful

Still full of anger, resentment, bitterness nearly 3 years later

My wife had a 2-year emotional affair with the married youth pastor at our former church. She disconnected with me leading up to the affair and I had to find out about it via the text usage on our Verizon account and then had it backed up by other people that had suspicions about it, including the head pastor of the church. But she has decided that she will allow top pursue me. We live in the same house but all I feel is coldness on her end while I do everything I can to be kind and loving on my end.

It's been like this for 2-plus years as we approach D-Day in July. She said just trust the process and she says she prays daily to God that He will soften her heart so she can love me again. My No. 1 Love Language is Physical Touch and she never kisses, hugs, cuddles or holds hands. She cuddles on the couch and gives my teen son plenty of affection and it drives me absolutely CRAZY and I just seethe in anger and rage while she gives my son the affection that I crave and long for.

Not sure when to just put an end to this dysfunctional marriage where I am the only one putting in any true effort to reconnect. We are approaching our 24th anniversary in June and I feel like I am going to go insane if things keep staying like this. I made a commitment to my wife and to God that I would be faithful in my marriage covenant, but it is getting more difficult by the day. Especially when other women smile at me when they talk to me and actually seem interested in me. I just want to melt into someone else's arms and be with them instead of my cold and distant wife. I know Satan would love nothing more than to end another Christian marriage, but what else can I do because my wife just could care less about reconnecting on a spiritual, emotional or physical level?

Emotional affair

I’m finding so difficult to overcome the hurt from this. My husband has been messaging a woman from his work for some time now, in April this year i sat with with his step dad who i was extremely close to whilst he died. I needed my husbands support but he wasn’t there. He kept telling me i needed to be strong for his mom which i was doing but a hug some words of comfort would’ve been nice! Yet when I found out about the woman from work he said that she suffered with anxiety and she needed him, yet here i was struggling with dads death our 3 autistic children all trying to cope with their feelings and i felt so alone! He didnt see any harm in the messages with the kisses hearts and deep feelings of knowing each other so well. Saying they missed each other and when he got offered a new job staying you Need to come too as your my special friend. I’m trying to move on with him but its so hard his words to her were so full of feeling and it pains me so much that they are still running through my head!

Emotional or Physical Affair

From experiencing both I can understand the pain you all are feeling. After almost 33 years of marriage, I saw my husbands phone lite up with a miss you so much and a smiley face blowing a kiss and of course I picked it up only to discover he was in a 5 year emotional affair with a subordinate at work. They were texting all hours of the night and sometimes he would be texting while sitting nearby in the living room. I looked back and realized the night before he was texting love you and miss you to her. For six weeks we argued, I was heartbroken, and kept questioning him more. He kept saying they were just friends and he admitted it was wrong to use that language. I felt violated and abandoned but felt the impending doom of the other shoe that needed to drop. So, I spent hours going through his then downloaded Facebook account messages only to find he had been texting a woman we knew in a different state from 1993 - 1999. I always felt uneasy around her and had reason to. when I read their messages. I was furious that he was writing, phoning and texting her for 26 years. He kept up the just friends lie. So just under 7 weeks from my initial D-Day of the emotional affair, he confessed to having sex with this woman for 7 years in the 90's and an occasional visit for the next 19 years. He had looked me in the eyes and convincingly lied to me since the first

continued from above Emotional or Physical

After he finished confessing, I went to his closet and grabbed armfuls of clothes and threw them onto the front lawn and when the closet and 2 dressers were empty, I threw his golf clubs and fly fishing gear on top. Then ski boots. He began to put things in his SUV and when I finished I simply said GO. Alone for the next three weeks the physical pain I experienced was like no other pain. I had a pain in my heart in my chest that radiated to my left shoulder blade and made breathing difficult. I lost 20 pounds (I weigh 104 today) food all tasted horrible and my mouth became so dry yet I couldn't be bothered to go and get a drink. I just sat in the same chair and felt the pain and tried to keep breathing. Occasionally, I would put the Affair Recovery YouTube playlist on and just listen and cry and sob. So, I don't know if my pain was so severe from already feeling the betrayal of the emotional affair and adding another D-day to that pain or if it was really that much worse learning of his 26 year deceit and his double life with his affair partner. Both were devastating. I am looking forward to the upcoming Harboring Hope class. Maybe I will be able to breathe again. I am so sorry to hear of all of your pain as well.

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