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?

Bad idea...

I think that's a bad idea. She should not be in a state of depression missing the person she betrayed your marriage with. Her goal - and yours - should be to find the joy lost between the two of you. Inviting their family into your life sounds a bomb waiting to go off.

Be patient with her

Please be patient with her. She knows it's over with the AP but it's difficult to let go.

She will resent you, just don't take it personally, please. She may take a while to get up again. It took me almost 10 months to release and chose to move on.

There may be many attempts to still have a "form" of the friendship she and he had, it happens. But she will be frustrated that it's not the same.... difficult to get closure. I read a post from here once that it takes about 18-24 months to recover from the impact.

So, I encourage you to be patient with her.

Meanwhile, pray for her, let her know you are not going anywhere, be firm if you discover any regression that you do not tolythe affair, but be quick to forgive and move on with her. She needs that stability at this time.

I am getting through, myself, and I see the next 6-10months as the last lap.

Thanks for seeking a way to help.


I’m wondering what has been real about my marriage to my UH. To say that I feel inadequate is an understatement. I have been in a relationship with my UH for 40+ years. I have been married to him for 34+ years. I met him after he divorced his first wife.
His first marriage lasted less than 2 years. He caught her, his ex wife, cheating on him and I recently found out that he had a revenge affair on her and then they divorced. There were no children, only some financial wreckage from his first marriage of less than two years.
My UH had a 4-6 month PA with his ex wife after we had been married for 9 years. The ex wife also brought her 8 year old daughter into this affair with my UH. The daughter was from another relationship that the ex wife had had. She was remarried when she had the affair with my UH.
Little did I know that he had maintained an EA with his ex wife our whole relationship. I’m only finding this out recently because his SA counselor told him he needed to share his last email from her around Christmas time.
Honesty? Where do I fit in my marriage? I’ve been here supporting him and working beside him to build a successful business for us. I’ve been sharing some wild and wonderful adventures with him through the years. I’ve built a life that included him.
I shared with him my love of coaching and included him in it and he has experienced the joy and satisfaction of being part of helping youngsters mature into successful adults. Some of these young people continue to include us in their lives and share their children with us.
Asking WHY doesn’t even begin to cover my thoughts and feelings.
Devastated? Disappointed? Discounted? Discouraged? DeValued? Depressed? Distrust?
I’m sad. I’m really sad.


My heart hurts for you❤️ My husband had a EA with his ex wife for 10 of our 20 yr marriage. She also cheated on him and left him for her sole mate!!!! It has been 2 and half yrs and at time it’s all that mind thinks about. We are separated for now I take one day at a time and practice self love. Sending healing vibes ❤️❤️❤️🌈🌈🌈

Emotional Affair

I am stuck.
My husband of 37 years has emotional affairs and possibly physical affairs. The last two affairs, that I know about, were occurring at the same time. I have my husband, on tape, talking with both women about sex and about me. He denies having either affair. Our son confronted him about the affairs on Christmas Day night after an acquaintance asked our son what was going on with his dad
/my husband because the neighborhood was talking about my husband's affairs. My husband became angry and defensive with our son. Told our son he would leave and take his money with him. Our son asked his father to calm down and to tell the truth. My husband remained angry and defensive to both our son and with me. He continued to deny talking with any women outside of our marriage.
The reason I feel stuck is my husband and I own a business together. I have asked my husband to go to counseling with me or to individual counseling but he refuses to go. He becomes angry and defensive. He is very labile in his moods.
What should I do?

Online confusion

Ok so, I found out my boyfriend/child's father has been downloading/deleting messaging apps. After much denial he finally said he had been talking to a married female in another state but that it was "strictly platonic" (about sports, the weather, etc). That they had already quit talking over time. Claims to not remember her screen name and never knew how to get in touch with her outside of Kik. He said I pushed him away by not sharing my problems with him so he needed "a friend" to talk to. Well... After some digging I found where he had also been downloading dating apps and adult/hook up apps for the first couple years we were together (and before, as far back as I could go). Up until a good while after our daughter was born (she's now 2 1/2). I didn't see where those were still being downloaded but the messaging apps became consistently downloaded first thing in the morning and deleted on his way home most everyday. Sometimes even redownloaded after he was home.
Well, I'm not believing that I am getting the full truth and having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around it. He "can't remember" much of anything. He says it was mainly about porn/pics but that he never sent/received sexual pics or "out of line" communication with anyone and never intended to meet anyone. So how was it about pics?!? I keep coming back to the fact that this had been going on our whole relationship. So he was never committed to me to begin with. Soooo confused!! Any advice is greatly appreciated!!

I am dealing with the same

I am dealing with the same thing right now. He is a porn addict and has had emotional affairs with “friends”, people he slept with on Kik, Snapchat, Facebook. He’s also been on dating/hook up sites. He also says it’s about “getting pics” to masturbate to. I’m at a loss at how to deal with any of it. I’m just angry. I resent him and this entire relationship because he’s also done it from the beginning. I feel like everything we’ve shared was just a lie just like all the other lies he tells. I just wanted you to know you’re not alone.

Hurt beyond compare

I caught my husband of 34 years quite by accident. He'd fallen asleep and dropped his phone. When I picked it up, it came to life with the message "Good night Kitten, sleep tight" and the response "You too Fox."

I went ballistic. He claims "nothing happened" that she was just a friend. My husband is a professor and she'd been one of his students. He claims he was just mentoring her get started in her career. She was having trouble in her marriage and with her boss

We've gone through a tough two years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I lost my brother and mom, my job was very stressful, and we lost our son-in-law and struggling to help our daughter cope. I became deeply depressed.

I get he needed support. But him claiming he turned to her because he "didn't want to burden me" with his struggles just doesn't cut it.

He claimed he cut all ties with her, but I discovered him texting her again. And her contact was under a different name - hiding it because he knows it's wrong. I could only see one text as he deletes texts - from certain "friends"

He's now feeling sorry for himself. He claims he is embarrassed but gets sulky.

I'm angry, hurt, and sad. I feel so lost and alone. And I feel guilty thinking it's my fault. I should be looking at it as something lacking in his character, not mine. I'm not sure how to move forward

Emotional Affair with a sex addict

The same but my spouse, and I believe the affair partner, are both sex addicts. The relationship has lasted for more than 10 years. I discovered it within the first 12 months and set a boundary that it had to end. I believe there wasn't any sexual relationship in the beginning, just intimate sharing. But as they hid the relationship and found ways to continue it, sex did occur.

AP lives across the street

I discovered 203 texts in 5 days, of the most romantic words and adoration from my husband to my friend and neighbor, who lives across the street. They have ended it a few months ago, but she comes out on her front porch half naked and struts in her thong bikini at every chance she gets and see thru lingerie! Hard to get over the pain and anger, since my husband is still treating me like his roommate. I am 15 yrs older than her.

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