emotional affair or not

We are launching a new series that we’ll run periodically called “You Decide” where you will provide your opinion on a fictional affair scenario. For each column, there will be a different scenario that has to do with infidelity.

The purpose of this exercise is to define what infidelity means as well as to help you process your own situation. Hopefully, seasoned members will also be available to share their wisdom on these topics as well (Hint, hint).  In this first topic, we will define whether or not the fictional scenario is an emotional affair. Let’s get to it!

John and Lisa – Emotional Affair or Not?

John and Lisa are happily married co-workers and have been working on the same team for five years. They often have business lunches together and talk about their kids.  John and Lisa joke about being each other’s “office spouse” because they have the other’s back and work so well together.

Even though Lisa is 10 years older than John, it is easy to see that they genuinely appreciate each other. Sometimes they exchange small gifts on birthdays. Recently, John has been feeling neglected by his wife and has shared all of his feelings of despair with Lisa. Lisa sees the best in John and loves to build him up since she doesn’t like seeing her friend in emotional pain.

Recently, they started checking in via text messages and got into the habit of sending silly emoji’s and memes back and forth. One weekend, John was really down and texted Lisa about how discouraged he was. John left his phone out while he was in the shower. John’s wife heard a beep from John’s phone and saw some heart emoji’s appear on the screen with the words: “Don’t worry, I will always luv yah.” These words hit John’s wife like a ton of bricks and she was sure he was having an affair. When John came out of the shower, his wife was waiting for him while holding his phone and crying. John’s wife asked him who the other woman was and John blew up.

See also  Why Some Marital Affairs Last Longer Than Others

Was John having an emotional affair? Why or why not?  (And feel free to share any of your own experiences as well)

You decide.

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    37 replies to "You Decide: Is it an emotional affair or not?"

    • Hopefull

      I do think this would qualify from the betrayed spouse perspective. I am sure from the wayward they would be defensive and say it is the work spouse or just a friend. I think the majority of people say if it is not physical then it does not count. But it sounds like he was sharing with this woman and reaching out to her in a time of need. I do not think that is appropriate to do with someone of the opposite sex. I would even say with a same sex friend or family member that would even erode a marriage/relationship. The emphasis is which relationship is the primary. Even if this “friend” had not become a full fledged emotional affair it was shifting and the boundaries are shifting a lot.

      My husband debated when his second affair started. I claimed it was when he met OW #2. He did not pursue her however she tracked him down and showed up where he was for 3-4 years. They had no contact. He said that does not count and he did nothing and declined and refused to give her his number. So he was not doing anything wrong but was he stopping it? Who knows. I count it since there had to have been some dance even though there was zero communication I think it still was the beginning of his second affair. And at the time I do not think he realized it but he had to have lowered his boundaries with her even if he was doing nothing to pursue it. I think it is complicated since when the wayward person is in the thick of it they do not see the outside world or have any perspective.

    • antiskank

      Only my opinion but I definitely see this as an emotional affair even though it may not yet have progressed to full blown”love” in the eyes of the participants.

      It appears that this relationship is a secret from John’s wife – bad! In addition, if John is feeling neglected by his wife or having issues with their relationship, it should be his wife that he discusses it with, not his coworker. (office wife/husband/spouse is a term that just makes me want to vomit!) Is he genuinely feeling this way or is this the beginning of the justification and rewriting his marriage history?

      The time and effort that the coworkers have put into their realtionship, including gifts, texts, etc are taking away that time and effort from their respective marriages. They are crossing the line! Why blow up if there is nothing to feel guilty about?

      This scenario is all too familiar to me (except she was 20 years younger than my H)! For me, it also began with finding texts between him and his skank. I wasn’t looking for them either and was totally blindsided. He denied everything and deleted all messages before he even knew for sure that I had seen them. He tried to make me think I was being crazy and it was ridiculous to even suggest that he would be involved with someone else!! He too, had told her how bad things were for him at home, they told each other how wonderful they were and made each other “feel good”.

      BTW, I love the idea of this series!

      • Surviving

        Your name caught my eye as skank, skanky old b…., skank basket, skank bag are some of my favorite terms for the ugly manface, manvoice, slut mouth piece of trash who tried (but failed) to destroy my marriage. So I love you for that and I thought your response was right on point. Totally crossed the line and not full out, but flirting (no pun intended) with complete disaster.

        • Antiskank

          Thanks Surviving! It’s kinda funny because in the beginning when he was vehemently denying anything was going on, I actually apologized to him for calling his “good friend” a skank and a slut! Profanity is not my thing but there have been many words to describe her since, lol.

    • Robert M.


    • Shifting Impressions

      It’s definitely heading that way. Of course we don’t have information about Lisa. Is she unhappy in her marriage?? If so the danger would be that much greater. Also….is she a”friend of the marriage”? If she was, she would encourage him to communicate with his wife regarding his unhappiness. As for all that texting crap….I don’t text that much with my closest same sex friends.

      Boundaries are definitely being crossed!!!

    • TheFirstWife

      I think yes it is an EA.

      He is talking to his friend/co-worker instead of his wife.

      Rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t say it, do it or act that way with your spouse standing next to you, it is wrong.

      He hid this relationship from his wife. It was wrong.

      He poured his heart out to someone else, instead of his wife – it is wrong.

    • Patsy50

      Doug and Linda, Great Idea! “You Decide”

      Sorry to say, it’s an emotional affair. Seems like John and Lisa have become to close for comfort and they have both over stepped their boundaries with each other. Very much like my situation, only my husband was 30 years older then his coworker and worked with her for 10 years at the time. Started out as a father figure to her then gradually progressed to something more.

    • Falling Ash

      This is almost exactly my story. A co-worker that my OH confided in and met with/texted/emailed. All done in secret, without my knowledge. Oh and he wrote yearning poetry about her, which I found after DDay, She was considerably younger than him and it fed his ego. When he met her, he started shutting me out. He fed that relationship, not ours.

      Most definitely an emotional affair, even if feelings of love were not actually discussed.

      • Falling Ash

        Forgot to add…in my case she was definitely not a “friend of the marriage” as I was never allowed to meet her in case she accidentally mentioned their little meetings. It went on for 8½ years until I discovered it 3 years ago by, yes you’ve guessed it, finding messages on his phone whilst he was in the shower!

        I think you have been reading my mind Doug and Linda!

        This topic is a great idea.

    • TheFirstWife

      Did anyone read dear Abby this morning.

      The writer states her husband is chatting with a female friend for hours on the phone. She says she is concerned because he has stayed at this woman’s house while traveling on business.

      The wife states that this is been going on for a few months and she confronted her husband. His response was something out of the cheaters manual because he stated she cannot tell him who he can be friends with and who he can talk to.

      And guess what – Dear Abby agreed with him and basically said the wife was out of line!!! Abby said the H&W have a communication problem. Seriously!?

      Not on this blog she’s not wrong and similar to this scenario. Again many people believe if there is no sex it is not cheating.

      Poor woman. I know exactly what she is going through. my H said the same thing when I confronted him about his EA.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Dear Abby needs to have her head examined….Didn’t know she was still around.

      • Hopeful

        That is so wrong. That is the problem with society. There is a disconnect in what people know and understand about betrayal. And I honestly thing an emotional affair can be more damaging that a sexual affair. I am not saying my husband had zero connection with either ow. The one I know he did not. He said he never contacted her once she always reached out to him and they only saw each other 3 times in 10 years. And even the emails or texts were initiated by her. Yes it made him feel good/fed his ego but he did not care about her that fizzled out and he refused to meet up with her again at a certain point. The other ow and him saw each other a little more often and I think they were a little closer. After he broke up with her he said they texted for a while but he said he could not go on having the affair. He wanted it to stop. He stopped it 15 months before dday happened. However if it has been an emotional affair where he depended on her for more than sneaking away for sex and some texting I am not sure if it would have been as easy for him.

        Dear Abby needs to reevaluate her advice. That is horrible advice and not in line with professional advice either.

    • Puzzled

      No question about it- this is an EA. You can have friends of the opposite sex if they are indeed friends of the marriage. Sharing intimate details and marital issues is a line crosser. They both display emotional attachment to each other in how they act towards each other. Sadly, I’m sure many of us on here have felt the sting of a work/office romance that was simply rationalized as “just friends”. Secretly sharing marital strife, checking in with each other, sending emojis & memes? It’s a slippery slope they’re on and it wasn’t going in a “friend” direction.

    • The wife

      Emphaticallly and unequivocally, yes. Why?
      1. Sharing intimate details about your spouse/marriage and seeking support from another person of the opposite sex –these marital concerns/conversations should be happening with his wife, who, by the way has no idea of the level of connection between her husband and this co-worker.
      2. This was not done out in the open but in a private, hidden way. Her husband and co worker have kept their level of connection a secret, which, if left hidden and unchecked, will most likely continue to grow.
      3. Thinking about and reaching out to this co worker in non work hours and on personal topics. The way they view the support they give each other and their need to share this support and to bolster their “co worker”.
      4. Finally, his defensive reaction to his wife’s discovering and asking about the connection.

    • Jules

      This is definitely an emotional affair. So much of reading this is exactly how things progressed with my husband and his coworker. It made me nauseous reading the text because it felt to true to what happened in my situation. Painful, hurtful, an emotional affair. Crossing the line for sure.

      Thanks for starting this series. Interesting to read other comments, too.

    • Lessons

      It is an emotional affair.
      Any meaningful friendships between a married man and a woman who he’s not married to are/could/will become emotional affairs. Look up the definition of friend in the dictionary, and it matches perfectly with the definition of emotional affair partner. A friend is someone you can turn to in order talk about problems, someone you connect with emotionally, someone you can turn to in confidence. That is also what the definition of an emotional affair is.
      Here’s a real challenge, come up with a situation that involves realistic human beings, and a friendship between a married person and the opposite sex, that fits the dictionary definition of a friendship, but not emotional affair.
      Until then, please stop saying men and women can be friends.

    • Bor

      John gottman, Secrets are being kept and some one is being triangulated, bricks are coming down between the work people and the spouses of each, the walls are going up. windows and walls. No doubt by his reaction, he is not empathizing. couples that are deeply connected will empathize because they are attuned to each others emotions and feeling. With this huge disconnection for sure he is having an EA. It would be interested to see the reverse side of the woman being confronted by her husband. I saw my wife basically do that exact sentiment on hangouts to her AP. I asked her to stop, i did not check, i told her it felt wrong and hurt me. She continued and went deeper underground and denied and deflected. I told her it just made her look more guilty. Three weeks later she crossed the physical line. Wish i would have known what to do instead at that time.

    • theresa

      He is confiding HIS feelings, HIS dissatisfactions with the wrong person. When did he decide he was dissatisfied with something in the marriage. Before or after he was intimate (with or without sex) with her.
      Justifying his behaviors, actions to himself, and this is a biggy!
      If you are asking yourself questions you already know something is wrong!
      Defensive, why was he so angry that you invaded his privacy? It’s not like he was trying to throw you a suprise party, or a romantic get away for just you two.

      Shirley Glass called this the “slippery slope”.

    • S


    • Alice

      Can we have a thread that talks about what to do if you are the faithful spouse in this situation? How do you stop an affair when your spouse doesn’t think it’s an affair?

      • TheFirstWife

        Hi Alice. I can answer that. 4 years my H was involved in a “friendship” where the OW clearly was in love with him. When it got to the point where there were secret conversations going on (before texting and stuff) he denied there was anything wrong, nothing going on, etc.

        Deny, deny, deny.

        For many people they believe if there is no sex it is not an affair.

        So there is very little you can do to get the offending spouse to see things from your perspective.

        But please know many of us on this blog have been in your position and understand completely that an emotional affair is just as wrong as a physical affair.

        Sorry I don’t have any advice to give you to get it to stop. short of threatening to leave and/or divorce – you have few options.

        I was stonewalled, gaslighted, disrespected, lied to and all of it for years. Nothing I did it tried worked. And I finally exploded and out my foot down and did not speak to him for three days and he cut off contact. But only as a last resort – not because he thought he did anything wrong.

        In hindsight I sometimes think I should have left him then. Then I would not have to suffer through his last affair which was a nightmare all over again.

      • Carol

        Alice – I’m not sure there is anything you can do to stop the affair. I tried just about everything I could to show my husband that he was stealing from our relationship emotionally and investing it in another. He told me I was crazy, the evidence was circumstantial, the omissions were not lies, the online surveys that told him it was an affair were subjective and on and on. I lost 30 pounds in 4 months, emotionally crashed and burned and none of it made a difference to him. The small changes he was willing to make weren’t enough and the larger changes, he could not follow through on. He simply could not let go of it or more specifically her, his employee whom I had asked him to fire to save our marriage.

        5 months after DDay, I filed for divorce. He knew it was coming as we had gone to an attorney together for a divorce consult and he filed a joint petition for divorce (and we had argued and talked about it daily for 5 months). The day after I filed, he text me and asked me what was going on, he didn’t understand, he was confused – as if this was something irrational on my part and he hadn’t had 5 months to choose his wife. Really? A week after he asked to talk. I did talk with him but it came down to him telling me that I had to meet certain conditions (he would be in control of the money, which I make substantially more of, and I had to account for all of my time away from him over the last month, as he suspected I was seeing someone), and only after the conditions were met and he approved, would he begin to build a plan to phase out her employment.

        I could not accept this. This is my second marriage. My first was abusive and I just could not spend another minute with this man, allowing him to be abusive in a different way than my first marriage. However, for someone who wants to stay in the marriage, this could be the start of a resolution and salvation for the marriage. The divorce filing at least got his attention and brought him somewhat out of the affair “fog”. Maybe a counselor could be brought in? Or other avenues that he would not have considered now be considered?

        I believe the intoxication of the EA is so much that some people just can’t get a grip on their emotions, which includes apathy for their SO. If you love someone, how can you have no recollection of the pain you are creating? Yet my husband continued on with his employee as if it were nothing but me being insane.

        Last night I spoke with him regarding the divorce settlement and it led to other things discussed. I asked him, if he loved me why he chose her. His response was that he thought I would back down on my stance and accept that nothing was going on between them (again behaviors and actions prove differently) and that we would be ok. Same answer he has given me all along. However, the one thing he did see differently, now months later and I am seeing someone else, is that he is tremendously hurt the I am cheating on him! He told me that if the pain I felt during that time was anything like the pain I have caused him, then he knows why I acted the way I did. No admission of guilt. No I’m sorry. Just him finally recognizing the pain because he had suffered it. The point…how can you make that pain something tangible to a person who so caught up in the throws of an affair? How can you make him feel your pain, without risking the relationship from another angle?

        Good luck to anyone suffering through this. God bless you and keep you as you walk threw an incredibly tough journey.

        • TheFirstWife

          Carol. So sorry for you.

          Your soon to be exH displayed all the typical cheater behavior;

          Nothing going on (it’s in your mind)
          It’s not an affair
          I will not out my marriage or wife first and stop all contact and interactions
          It’s the spouse’s fault I cheated b/c (fill in the blank)
          I did nothing wrong

          Total nsrcissistic behavior and mentality. And he’s upset b/c you started seeing someone? He’s just mad b/c he didn’t “win” and you have left him. I doubt he would ever change.

          Sorry for you. Hope you move forward and heal.

    • AprilFooled

      If you are texting/saying something that you wouldn’t want your spouse to see, then you’ve crossed the line!
      Definitely an EA!
      This is how I discovered my H’s affair with a coworker. Imagine having no clue and then seeing texts regarding the planning of consummating their affair-and in very descriptive language too. My life as I knew it died that moment. Of course he denied it all, even when I showed him the photos of the actual texts that I took from his phone. It’s been almost 3 years (April 1, 2014) and I’m still hurting. Even though I’m sure he has ended it, he still will not discuss any thing with me nor will he go to any counseling with me. Hard to forgive when you don’t know all that you need to forgive. A double edged sword and it’s getting twisted into my side each and every day.

      • TheFirstWife

        Hi April. So sorry for you.

        I wouldme to suggest counsrling for you. It can help you in so many ways.

        You can learn to accept your H’s infidelity – whether physical or not it was an affair.

        You can learn to get last his unwillingness to help you heal.

        You can maybe even forgive him and not be angry. Or at least accept the situation you are in.

        You can discuss things for YOU! How you can get stronger, help yourself start to heal, whether you want to remain in the marriage etc

        I went alone when my H refused and it was the best thing I did. Wish I had gone sooner than waiting around to his 2nd affair and almost near divorce due to his midife crisis.

        All the best. Hope it works out for you.

    • Tired

      This is shifting from friendship to emotional affair. John is on a slippery slope. If he was doing nothing wrong why was he so defensive when his wife found his messages?

      This is how emotional affairs start. People just remove boundaries bit by bit and then before they know it they are in an affair.

      It took a lot of convincing to get my husband to see that what he was doing was actually an affair. He thought because it was not physical it was not an affair. Yet he had a secret phone and had gone out to dinner with this woman on more than one occasion….without mentioning it.

      I can understand why the wife was angry. For months before the actual ‘affair’ started I was uncomfortable with the woman texting my husband out of hours. They worked together and occasionally she did genuinely need to contact him about work, so it was easy for them to slip into an unhealthy pattern. I warned my husband back then but like John he thought I was being silly and jealous. Well fast forward a few months of this ‘friendship’ developing and there was a big career crisis for my husband and we lost a pet we had had for fifteen years. This is when it really became an emotional affair in my opinion. He started coming home from work late and telling me it would just be ‘easier’ if he left me for someone else. So I hired a private detective to follow him after work. They went out to dinner and drinks. Then in the carpark she kissed him. It was very awkward and my husband looked guilty although he definitely kissed her back.

      So while John might not yet be deeply entrenched in an emotional affair it is definitely inappropriate and he is sowing the seeds for a full blown affair.

    • Carol

      Yes, no doubt in my mind this is an emotional affair. The biggest red flag is the denial and the lack of apathy for his wife and how it effects her.

      As far as the questions on how to make a significant other in denial see the truth…I’m not sure there is an answer. I left my marriage of 10 years because of his denial and because he told me that he would not fire her (she was an employee at our business). I lived through 5 months of his denial, telling him to fire her or I was leaving. Tried to see it his way, went on antidepressants to deal with the emotions, went to marriage and individual counseling. He told me if our marriage could not withstand the situation then we were not meant to be. I finally filed for divorce and it was then that he stated he would “discuss” firing her. When we discussed it, he put conditions on firing her and if those conditions were met, he would “come up with a plan to phase our her employment.” Uhm – hell no. We are currently trying to negotiate a divorce settlement. She is still happily employed and now because I have moved on and I’m seeing someone else, the blame is on me for having an affair.

      • TheFirstWife

        Carol. So sorry for you but typical cheater mentality.


        Negotiate to get the cheater to continue the affair.

        Refuse to put marriage first.

        Put conditions on everything to get what they want.

        And then blame the betrayed spouse when it doesn’t go their way.

        Good for you for refusing to play the twisted cheater’s game. I guess you can tell he wasn’t going to give her up.

        And where is the OW now? Still emotionally enmeshed with your H?

        And why is he blaming you for divorce – this is what HE chose.

        Shaking my head!!

    • Hopeful

      I think whether it is going on or in the past the only way to take care of it is to set clear boundaries. This in my opinion is the only way to protect yourself and make your environment safe. Really until that is accomplished there can be little to no forward progress.

      My husband had ended his affairs before dday. However he did not have the best behavior. What led to me figuring it all out was he got a text from a girl who he and his friends met at a bar. Nothing happened but it popped up on his iPad at home. For 10+ years he never got caught. Our boundaries evolved but we both contributed ideas. I was very firm as to what I expected. And on many there was no negotiation. He fell in line quickly and decided that he was the happiest he has ever been living a transparent life. There are a lot of boundaries we still follow today and they have become habits. My husband says he lives every minute of his life as if I am next to him. Any text, phone call, email, conversation he would be okay with me reading or hearing. As far as the ow early on I told him if there was any contact that I needed to be told and we would decide together how and if we respond. If he wanted to be in our marriage we needed to act as a team.

      I agree also if your spouse will not go to therapy with you it is a good idea to go on your own. My therapist was/is great. The time and work in therapy was crucial in helping me heal and feel supported.

    • theblindside

      My story has a bold twist.
      My WS bought a gift card and gave it to MY co-worker. He showed up at her house and somehow found her phone number, called her outside, and gave her the gift card. She asked him, “Does your wife know you are here? Does she know you are giving this to me?” His responses, “No, No, it would destroy us.” But he did it anyway.
      Thank God my co-worker had the respect for me and common sense to confront me with this. It was awkward as ever for both of us. Awkward as ever to work with each other every day.
      WS doesn’t grasp the entirety of wrongfulness of his actions. Sticking to his story of trying to “help her out.” HUH? Where did he come up with assumption she needed help?
      Adding salt to the injury, she is same age as our son.

      • TheFirstWife

        I applaud the co-worker. She did the right thing.

        Honestly sounds like your H is having a mid life crisis. And trying to make himself feel good with a younger woman to have an affair with.

        And if your co-worker doesn’t bite, he may try to find someone else. Someone else who may be willing to have an affair.

        Good for you for recognizing your H is lying – both to himself and you.

        Stay in your toes. Hope nothing else happens.

        • Theblindside

          It is so exhausting to be in this situation. It is consuming me because I can not wrap my brain around his actions and motivation. I’m at a complete loss as I am 100% certain he is not forthcoming with how he found her phone number, where she lived, timeline of when he did this, when did he develop an attraction (which he keeps denying). Just all of it

          • TheFirstWife

            The blindside

            Please trust your gut instincts as they are usually spot on.

            Your H sounds like he is in the middle of a mid life crisis. He is attracted to your co-worker. That is a fact. You know and she confirmed it. And he refuses to admit it.

            Sounds like the start of an emotional affair that will not go anywhere b/c the co-worker is not interested.

            But stay on top of him b/c he is acting out of character. And it could get worse.

            My H started an affair with a co-worker he hired. I think that is why he hired her (though he would never admit it). He let me believe she pursued him. He lied about the whole thing – until I had proof he pursued her. Until I saw the emails he wrote begging her to wait for him so he could dump me. Until I saw the emails he wrote where he pursued her. 300 emails he could no longer hide from.

            So I suggest you start doing detective work – emails, phone messages, text messages, secret burner phones, secret email accounts, etc.

            Put a “find my friends” app on his phone if you can. See if he is driving by her house unbeknownst to you.

            The warning signs are there. Mid life crisis. I suffered through it. Luckily my H wised up (at the last possible second) before he ruined our lives – mine, his, children, extended family etc.

            My therapist told me that MLC ruin more marriages than anything else. Cheating, lies, second childhood, soulmates, the whole thing. A bunch of crap men (b/c statistically more men have mid life issues than women) have dealt with for centuries.

            Some go buy a sports car or take up a new sport or hobby. Others cheat and have affairs.

            Some underlying issues that lead to MLC:

            Job – loss of job, demotion, failing business etc.

            Loss – death of loved one or family member etc.

            Illness – same as loss

            Financial issues – gambling, bankruptcy, Barely making ends meet etc. , business failure or decline

            Age – fear of aging, wanting to prove they still “got it”

          • TheFirstWife

            The blindside. The fact that your H did everything in a sneaky way – obtain your co-workers address & contact info, etc. is an indication of a liar & cheater.

            Do not let him bully you into anything. Know that everyone here believes and supports you!

            My H had his first EA that lasted 4 years. I begged, pleaded etc as to what was going on. He lied, stonewalled, gaslighted and would not answer a question about this girl (who pretended to be my friend). But it finally ended

            I let it go.

            Then affair #2 started. This was serious and almost led to our divorce. It was a mid life crisis affair.

            My mistake was allowing him to sweep the first EA under the rug. Even though I confronted him about EA1 – he got away with it.

            Please do not make the same mistake. In hindsight I should have kicked my H to the curb. Yup – I should have shown my power and strength right then and there.

            We would have either redefined the boundaries or divorced. But affair #2 would not have happened. He would have wised up or I was no longer his wife.

          • Hopefull

            I am so sorry. I also think it is good to trust your gut. Most likely there is more to the story or more to his behavior. Most people for example don’t get caught with a DUI the first time the ever drink and drive but usually they have done it many times. And usually boundaries get shifted over time not all at once or just on one occasion.

            I would dig deeper if you can. Also I would suggest finding a therapist who you can work with who has dealt with infidelity. I think for me that was so crucial. They helped me figure everything out and watch out for my best interest. I was always thinking of us and really needed to shift that to thinking about me.

            In the end if he was so worried about this coworker he could have brought up helping her out to you. That would have been the appropriate path and decision but he did not. It is not normal what happened. At this point he is in denial. Thankfully this coworker was honest and let you know what he had done. I give her a lot of credit since many people even if they would do nothing with him might feel too uncomfortable to let you know. Hang in there!

    • TryingHard

      If that’s not an affair it’s on the road to becoming one.

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