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

Six Types of Affairs: Emotional Affair

types of affairs

Category 5: Emotional Affair

The emotional affair is about a "special friendship." Frequently the two who are "just friends" share something in common such as work or exercise. The affair partner provides emotional support and validation for the unfaithful spouse. Shirley Glass says the emotional affair partner serves as vanity mirror for wayward spouses while their mate is a magnifying mirror that highlights all of their flaws.1

The unfaithful spouse will claim they are just friends, but as Shirley Glass says, anytime you have to put the word "just" in front of the word "friend" there's a problem.2 A lack of sexual involvement with the affair partner may allow the unfaithful spouse to morally justify the relationship, but technicalities in no way absolve the betrayal perpetrated against their mate.

Frequently the unfaithful spouse will accuse the betrayed spouse of being jealous if they raise any concerns about the relationship, and therefore turn the heat from the illicit relationship to the character of the spouse. The absence of sexual involvement doesn't change the level of devastation experienced by the betrayed spouse. In fact many people state it would have been easier to accept an affair that was just about sex.

The notion that a lack of sexual involvement somehow prevents this type of relational intimacy from being an affair is baffling. Anytime someone other than our mate is permitted to enter the most intimate areas of our life we are giving away something that we have no right to give.

At Affair Recovery we define infidelity as "the keeping of secrets." If the unfaithful spouse tries to hide their interactions with the other person, it's most likely an affair. If the unfaithful spouse seems to be closer to the other person than to his or her mate, then in my opinion the affair has already begun. Peggy Vaughn says of Type 5 affairs, "emotional affairs are physical affairs that have yet to get physical".3


  • Marital boundaries are violated by the unfaithful spouse sharing information that should be exclusive to the marriage.
  • This person has a greater level of emotional intimacy with the AP than they have with their mate.
  • The relationship is justified by putting the word "just" in front of the word friend.
  • The affair partner can see into the marriage, but spouse isn't allowed see into their mate's relationship with the AP.
  • The unfaithful spouse is more protective of the AP than of their mate.

  1. Glass, Shirley and Hara Estroff Marano. "Shattered Vows." Psychology Today. 01 July 1998: Webpage.
  2. Glass, Shirley P. and Jean Coppock Staeheli. NOT "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. New York: Free Press, 2003. iBook
  3. Vaughn, Peggy. The Monogamy Myth. 3rd ed. New York: Newmarket, 2003. Print


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This is what we're dealing with. A facebook fantasy with extenuating circumstances. I think it's more painful than a traditional affair.

Yep...mine too

That's me too. Old pal from childhood that connected via Facebook and figured she would enhance childhood memories with pics of her. Must have been irresistible.

Emotional Affair

My D Day was Labor Day. My husband was bar-b-queuing and had posted pictures on Facebook. I saw his post and noticed a name of a woman I had never heard of. I clicked on her name and realized she worked at his placed of employment. The first post I saw I noticed a comment my husband had commented "Pretty Lady", then the next "Your eyes are amazing". I was numb. When my husband walked back into the house I asked him who she was and the look on his face said it all but the truth was painfully slow revealing itself over the next week. The affair had been going on for 2 years. More so on the part of my husband as she was looking for a handyman and my husband fit the bill. I discovered gifts of jewelry, flowers and home repair supplies had been given. I was devasted. It was an emotional affair but it was horrible. Our marriage had become a marriage of coexisting. He became more verbally abusive to me and I just thought it was stress from work, middle age or something else. I was riding out whatever it was and in the meantime I lost myself. I couldn't do anything. I wanted to just sleep or lay on couch. I found myself not coming home from work so that I did not have to endure our fights. Since the discovery, it was been hard but very eye opening. He did everything wrong by withholding information. Finding out myself, which I found out that I was quite the detective, hurt more with every new piece of information. He picked me and I did not want to throw our 35 years of marriage away. Things are changing slowly. For the better. The amazing thing that happened is that I found myself again and I am not leaving! I refuse to co-star in my life story. Many prayers for all going through this tragedy. I searched and read and prayed and wept. This journey is not easy but you will get through it and you get to make the decisions. Remember that!

That's exactly what happened

That's exactly what happened to me. After being 7 years together he chose her...

Advice for Friend Only Affair

I recently found out my wife had an emotional affair with another man. She did not have sex with him, but didn't meet with him three times without telling me. And the 3rd time she met with him they did kiss. I have talked to my wife intensely about everything in the past six weeks since this has happened and I found out. I don't believe she wants to have a physical relationship but she greatly misses the friend she had emotionally with him. Everything I've read and everything my gut tells me is there is no way she should continue contact with him even if she showed me all of the text messages. She told me about him originally when she met him and she tried to get our families together. Both of them really wanted us to be friends as families. My question for this group is would there ever be a reason or possibility of being friends with this family? The only reason I ask is because my wife is in great depression and sadness now but fighting hard to not contact him and to be honest with me about how she feels. Her heart and feelings have changed toward me, but I'm praying it's just the affair fog that she is still in. She's very confused and distraught right now. And I believe she is still in withdrawal from the cocaine like feeling she had by talking with him. There were a few follow-up texts and phone calls my wife made to him after I found out, but I believe he's trying to do the right thing and has now stopped responding to her. My wife is of course devastated, and I believe knows that friendship and relationship is over, but it's killing her. What should I do to help her through losing what she believes is a best friend?

What type of affair was it?

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