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

Six Types of Affairs: Emotional Affair

Category 1: One Night Stand
Category 2: Fallen in Love
Category 3: Sexual Addiction
Category 4: Wanting the Marriage and the Affair
>Category 5: Emotional Affair
Category 6: Love Addiction

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.2A 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.

What type of affair was it?

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