"How Can this Innocent Relationship that Feels Good - Hurt My Marriage?"

This is a great time of year to see that "love is in the air."  It is the season of Weddings, Bridal Showers and Baby Showers.  I merely look out my living room window and I see couples walking, riding bikes and pushing baby strollers as they head to the nearby park. 

It's a basic human experience to crave feelings of love -- to feel connected, valued, important, safe and understood by people around us so we don't feel alone and isolated in this big world.  Friends are important in this mix.

There's a flip-side to this season of love -- it can be time of loneliness, even in a committed relationship. And, we have to exercise caution - emotional affairs commonly begin as "friends".

As a friendship transforms into an emotional affair, the boundaries of friendship become blurred. The relationship begins to mimic an affair but without physical consummation.

Most people understand that a sexual affair is a serious breach in a relationship. Fewer people realize that an emotional affair is just as harmful.

Emotional affairs are insidious because: (1) they are often a slow process that begins as friendship and (2) they are equally as damaging as a sexual affair. It can catch people by surprise because they don’t realize they have entered the deep waters of an emotional affair until it has crossed the line.

What exactly is an emotional affair? It’s an affair of the heart that doesn’t include sex. A good litmus test: “Would I say/act the same way with my friend if my spouse were here?”

Platonic friendships can lead to an emotional affair. Emotional affairs can lead to sexual ones. The best time to stop infidelity is before it happens.


Notice the Bright Yellow Flags

You have a special friend and you experience 2+ of these ...

o Share personal information about your marriage

o Feel good that they "get you"

o Hold private jokes and secret meanings with your friend

o Engage in innocent flirting

o Turn to your friend for validation and support

o Compare your spouse to your friend

o Feel “alive” with your friend

o Attack your spouse if they question the friendship

o Share with your friend so you don’t “burden” your spouse

o Talk about what's missing in your marriage (and theirs)

o Think of your friend often


Stop! Re-Turn Toward your Spouse 

What is an emotional need? It is a craving that when met, results in feelings of closeness, specialness, happiness and/or connection. When unsatisfied, you feel frustrated, alone, resentful, devalued, misunderstood and/or unloved.

What should you do when you realize that you are experiencing a disconnection from your spouse and getting your needs met by someone else? If you care about your marriage and your spouse – disconnect from your friend.

If not terminated promptly, an emotional affair will expeditiously rob the marriage of love, connection and trust -- exactly the same as a sexual affair.

Make time to talk about what is going on for you with your spouse. The longer the problem is ignored the greater the damage to the marriage. Speak for your needs – your feelings – and invite your spouse to journey back to a place of connection with you. Admit your fault – ask for forgiveness – and express your desire for the marital relationship to be better.


If you are concerned your spouse is having an emotional affair, speak to them about what you feel. Share your discomfort. Be honest as to what you are missing in the marriage – closeness, connection, physical touch, time together, communication. Then, ask what they need from you.

Stay away from attacking or accusing your spouse - open your heart, feel the tenderness and speak from a place of love.


“You will reciprocally promise love, loyalty and matrimonial honesty.
We only want for you this day that these words constitute the principle of your entire life
and that with the help of divine grace you will observe these solemn vows
that today, before God, you formulate.”

- St Pope John Paul II



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Elizabeth Galanti, LMHC is a Licensed Counselor in the Buffalo area of upstate New York.  She provides therapy for individuals and couples who are experiencing emotional, mental and/or spiritual distress.  She specializes in relationship difficulties, anger management, stress management, addictions, grief, depression, anxiety, life transitions, self-esteem, post-divorce issues and career counseling.  View her Profile for more information about her counseling services.

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