Emotional Cheating: "Is my friendship
headed for trouble?"
By Susie and Otto Collins
We all know what a typical affair is.
But what about those cases when there is no physical
dimension to the infidelity?
In these less stereotypical situations, an emotionally
intimate relationship has developed between two people--
even though one or both are already in a committed
Even if they never kiss or make love, it can feel like
cheating has happened.
This is a murky place to be.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with heterosexual people
having opposite sex friends outside their love relationship.
But a sense of betrayal and breaking agreements can easily
occur when that friendship crosses a line.
Trust can most certainly be damaged.
In a recent Sally Forth comic strip, Sally's husband Ted has
developed a friendship with one of his female co-workers.
Ted begins to worry about where this friendship is headed
when other co-workers assume the two of them are having an
Ted tries to tell his office buddy that he can't be
friends with her anymore, but he just can't seem to get the
Meanwhile, his wife Sally can tell that he's distracted by
something but he won't share with her what it is.
This situation, if not turned around, is headed toward
disconnection and possibly hurt.
Just because one person accuses another of having an affair,
it doesn't mean one is going on.
At the same time, just as Ted took seriously his co-worker's
assumption that he and the other woman were having an
affair, you can also benefit from paying attention to your
friendships and your potentially deeper feelings about them.
Consider these general aspects of an emotional affair:
*You spend a lot of time thinking about your friend.
*You feel more interested in your friend than in your
*You find yourself arranging more and more time away from
your mate and with your friend.
*You confide intimate secrets or details with this friend
that you will not share with your partner.
*You realize that you are physically attracted to your
*You keep your friendship (or details about it) a secret
from your mate.
It doesn't necessarily mean that an emotional affair is
going on if any of these are present in your situation.
If you do identify with a few or more of these aspects,
however, you'll probably want to take a closer look at your
feelings and intentions.
Be open and honest.
Above all, if you are concerned that you've inadvertently
fallen into (or are headed toward) an emotional affair, it's
time to get honest and be open.
Be honest with yourself first and foremost.
What are your true feelings about this friend and about your
If you do feel drawn more toward this other person and away
from your partner, then you are being called to make
What are the needs that are being met in this friendship
that are not being met in your love relationship?
If you get the sense that your friend is getting the
"wrong" idea about your relationship, as is seems to be the
case with Ted in the Sally Forth comic, address this with
You might be mis-reading his or her signals or you might be
Make it clear to this person that your priority and your
heart are with your partner. If the friendship can continue
as truly as friendship, then you might need to set
boundaries about your availability and level of connection.
Be honest with your mate as well. Of course you don't want
to needlessly upset your partner.
At the same time, just as Sally could tell that Ted was
distracted by something, don't give your mate cause to worry
or make assumptions because you refuse to share what's
really going on.
You might admit to your partner that you have realized that
your friendship with this person might be crossing a line
that you don't want to cross.
You could share that you are wanting to re-affirm your
commitment to your love as you make a decision about whether
or not to continue this friendship.
Keep making agreements and then follow through.
You and your partner might come up with some new agreements
that will help maintain and strengthen the trust between you
For example, if the friendship that you fear is an
emotional affair in the making is online, you and your mate
might come up with some agreements about how often and when
you'll communicate with this other person.
Make it your ultimate goal to keep trust and connection
between yourself and your partner healthy and strong.
You could also make agreements with your friend if you
decide to continue this friendship-- but in a less
emotionally attached manner.
Above all, pay attention to your love relationship or
If there are old, unresolved issues that have driven a wedge
between you two, devote energy to resolving them and letting
Amp up the passion and connection between the two of you and
do what you can do to meet one another's needs.