Couples Counselling brighton hove

But We Are Just Friends: Emotional Affairs Explained


Sex is not the only form of intimacy humans share—a long-term relationship experiences many types of meaningful connections. However, intimate behaviours are understood to remain exclusive within the primary relationship. If the sanctity of that connection is violated, the foundation of a relationship is rocked to its core.

While the old definition of infidelity had a narrow scope, we have seen the concept of betrayal broadened in recent years. The clandestine “meetings” associated with infidelity will often occur online, over the phone, or via text during an emotional affair. There may be in-person meet-ups, but the intimacy stops short of physical/sexual connection.

It is healthy for individuals to maintain friendships and social circles outside of their primary relationships. Genuinely healthy platonic friendships will enrich your romantic relationship; never threaten it. However, when a seemingly harmless crush or attraction crosses emotional boundaries, it can become as serious as a physical affair.

Emotional affairs can lead to physical/sexual betrayal.

It is easy to justify the harmlessness of an emotional affair because it’s “not real.” However, the reality is that communication is an intimate act in and of itself. Therefore, putting that emotional investment into someone, not your romantic partner, is as damaging as sexual infidelity. Also, once you’ve connected emotionally with someone outside of your marriage, it’s much easier to take the next step toward the physical aspect of infidelity.

Emotional affairs are an indicator of deeper unresolved relationship/individual issues.

Emotional infidelity is likely to lead to divorce or separation as a physical affair. If one partner is seeking validation and attention outside of the marriage, it could point out that something is missing or wounded within the relationship.

Emotional affairs are easy to access and maintain. 

Today, the Internet and Social Media make it possible for any two people from anywhere to connect and do so with the frequency and ease of a typical face-to-face encounter.

Emotional Affairs Ripple Effect

Betrayal does not just affect your marriage, it can have a psychological impact on you and alter your health, family, and relationships shattering perceptions you may have held about yourself. In addition, an emotional affair can impact your career and social circle—the same for the one you betrayed.

Repairing the Damage

The after-effects of emotional or physical infidelity can be devastating, but there are ways to heal.

  • Work through the infidelity and rupture of your relationship bond. Attend couples counselling to decide what you both want moving forward and heal from the pain of infidelity.
  • Reach out for support. Surround yourself with the people who will support your relationship despite your indiscretions; I refer to this as reaching out to those who are ‘friends of the relationship’.

If you would like support, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I am seeing clients in my office in Hove and online globally.

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