What Is An Emotional Affair?

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny." ~Frank Outlaw

Emotional Affairs are synonymously termed "affair," "unfaithfulness," "adultery" and "infidelity."

Webster's definition for an Affair is "A romantic or passionate attachment typically of limited duration." (Nothing about being only a sexual encounter)

Wikipedia defines Emotional Affairs as "An affair, which excludes physical intimacy but includes emotional intimacy. "A relationship between a person and someone other than their spouse that has an impact on the level of intimacy, emotional distance and overall dynamic balance in the marriage. In this view, neither sex nor physical affection is necessary to impact the relationship."

Psychology Today Magazine defines it this way, "Emotional infidelity refers to behavior that one partner engages in that fosters emotional intimacy in the here-and-now with someone else."

Dr. Gail Saltz on the Today Show explained the following, "An emotional affair is where there is a deep connection without physical affection, and can be just as damaging as the physical thing. Not every affair involves sex. Affairs are affairs."

Dr. Shirley Glass of Psychology Today says "Infidelity is that you took something that was supposed to be mine, which is sexual or emotional intimacy, and you gave it to somebody else." (Shirley P. Glass, PhD, "Shattered Vows: Getting Beyond Betrayal," Psychology Today July-August 1998.)

So, no matter how you slice and dice it, an Emotional Affair is just that: an affair. And, even despite the monumental research, facts, statistics and overwhelming evidence of Emotional Adultery being what it is, still there are Christians who naively believe that if the Bible does not spell it out word for word, character for character, it must not be.

Well, let's proceed, shall we?

The scripture pinpoints and defines adultery.

The Bible is very clear that Adultery does NOT need to be sexual in nature. In fact, the sexual and physical act only proceeds what is already active adultery, unfaithfulness, and infidelity. And this is internal, emotional and starts in the heart, not the bedroom.

Matthew 5:28 tells us that simply lusting and desiring after someone other than your spouse is called, (are you sitting down?)… adultery. "…committed adultery in their heart…" Nothing about it being sexual in nature.

Is there any difference between sexual and emotional adultery?

Yes… and no.

Dr. Floyd Covey, Doctorate of Theology in Collierville, Tenn., says that there's not really much difference in damage done between physical and emotional. In fact, most marital experts agree that emotional affairs can oftentimes be more hazardous to a marriage simply because they can last much longer due to it's lack of visible, external displays of unfaithfulness.

Obviously, sexual infidelity is a visible, destructive force that can easily destroy any marriage, but emotional infidelity is an equally destructive force that are destroying marriages across the U.S., and I would say an epidemic within Christian circles.

Almost all research tells us that affairs happen when friendships occur to meet an unmet need in a marriage. An affair, just like most marriages, start with friendships.

Are there signs?

Fortunately, there are some signs to watch for to either avoid or address Emotional Infidelity.

• You feel your spouse is not meeting your need for attention, approval or affection, so you start to seek it in others.
• You find it easier to open up and unwind with someone other than your spouse - sharing your day, problems, events, people ,etc.
• You talk to others, which include brothers or sisters in the Lord, about the problems you're having with your spouse.
• You rationalize the openness of sharing your heart and problems by saying it was "divinely orchestrated," and "God brought this person into your life."
• You look forward more to being with another person than your own spouse.
• You wonder what life would be like without the other person.
• You hide or minimize external friendships from your spouse.


Whether you are in an external relationship defined as Emotional Infidelity or your spouse is, here is some great news. 80-90% of all couples that seek help will find it and save their marriage!

The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. We encourage you to allow God's healing and restoration for your marriage and know that you both can deal with this together and make your marriage stronger than ever!

Mike and Trisha Fox are Christian marriage coaches and authors of Marriage For Today: A Practical Guide for Couples. To find out more visit:

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