Jul 132009

There’s a world of difference between emotional affairs and friendship. An emotional affair can ruin your marriage. These signs of “cheating in your heart” are from Dr Phil McGraw.

emotional cheating

Emotional Affair

If you think emotional cheating is a problem in your marriage (ie, your spouse has a close friend of the opposite sex), read The Emotional Affair: How to Recognize Emotional Infidelity and What to Do About It by Ronald Potter-Efron and Patricia Potter-Efron. You’ll discover what it means to have an emotional affair, and learn steps to discovering the roots of the problem, making changes in your relationship, discussing the issue with your partner, and recovering from the breach of trust and intimacy.

For every sign of infidelity, there may be more signs that you’re missing. According to Dr Phil, every problem in marriage can represent several other problems that you don’t see. “For every rat you see, there are 50 you don’t,” says Dr Phil.

Here’s what he says about affairs of the heart…

Emotional Affairs Vs. Innocent Friendships

On this show, Dr Phil featured Amanda and Randy. During their 11 years of marriage, Amanda had five emotional affairs (including an involvement with a psychiatric patient when she was a nurse. She lost her job over that one).

Here are the basics of emotional affairs, including what they are, why people commit emotional infidelity, and how to recover from emotional cheating.

It’s an emotional affair — not just an innocent friendship — when there are:

  • Long phone conversations, emails, and online discussions
  • Love letters
  • Meetings and conversations that are kept secret from the partner
  • Connections, confessions, and discussions that are kept secret

Reasons people have emotional affairs:

  • Infatuation addiction – they like the “tingly feeling”
  • Fear of intimacy – they don’t want to be vulnerable with their partner
  • Desire for new attractions and conquests
  • Attraction to power and exhilaration
  • Rebellion against the marriage or relationship
  • Emotional fixation at a teenage level (emotional immaturity)

For more reasons behind infidelity, read Why People Cheat in Relationships.

The good news, Dr Phil says, is that an “affair of the heart” doesn’t have anything to do with the spouse. The bad news, he says, is that the “affair of the heart” doesn’t have anything to do with the spouse!

People who have emotional affairs have their own personal reasons, which have little to do with their partner or spouse. This doesn’t absolve the partner of all responsibility; it means that the partner may have little control over the reasons for the emotional cheating.

cheating in the heart

“What is an Emotional Affair?” image by Hannah httpangelofaiden deviantart

Tips for overcoming “affairs of the heart”:

  • Don’t discuss the affair in front of the children, family, or friends
  • Recognize that there is a point at which you have to let go of someone you love
  • Protect your children from toxic relationships
  • Acceptance on the part of the person having the emotional affair that he/she needs help
  • Decide what you want and make a commitment to doing it

If you’re struggling to overcome an emotional affair and want to be closer to your partner, read When You Feel Alone in Your Marriage – Emotional Disconnection.

Sometimes, one partner thinks the friendship is innocent – there’s nothing wrong with having lunch or coffee with his opposite-sex friend! All they do is talk, and neither are attracted to the other. And he may be right: the friendship is totally innocent.

But, if his partner is upset or threatened by the friendship, then it needs to end. I think we need to do all we can to help our partners feel supported, loved, and secure – even if that means letting go of innocent friendships.

Have you or your partner had an emotional affair? How did it affect your relationship? Comments welcome below.

If you’re not sure if your relationship is good – or worth saving – read 10 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Relationships.

Article Name
What is an Emotional Affair? Cheating in Your Heart
An answer to the "what is an emotional affair?" question, plus tips for overcoming emotional cheating in marriage. Tips and signs of cheating in your heart from Dr Phil McGraw.

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  37 Responses to “What is an Emotional Affair? Cheating in Your Heart”

  1. Sometimes the best way to figure out if you can save your marriage — or if you even want to be in this relationship anymore — is to go for individual counseling. There are so many things to think about, from “how can I start over?” to “will anyone ever love me again?” Those questions need to be worked through in a safe, private place with someone you trust.

    That said, however, the best way to pick up the pieces of your broken heart is to take it one step at a time. What is the first thing you need to take care of? Maybe it’s something practical, like finding a place to live. Maybe it’s calling a lawyer or womens’ help line and asking for help. Maybe it’s an emotional thing you need to do, such as start working on your self-confidence and self-image, so you can become whole again.

    My prayer for you, Brandy, is that you find peace with the future. May you trust God to take care of you, and know that He loves you more than any man could ever love you. May you give the broken pieces of your heart and life to Him, and find the peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray that you find wholeness and security and comfort…not in any man or woman, but in your Creator. I also pray you are open to accepting help from people, books, websites, and places that you wouldn’t normally think would be helpful. I will keep you in my prayers as you move forward in your life, from a place of security, love, and peace. May your journey be lighter and easier than you think — and may you take the first step right now by reaching out for help in a tangible way. May you find the right counselor, women’s help center, or help line to guide you as you start your journey towards healing and recovery…and a new life!. Amen.


  2. I know where to start, I’m 25. I gave up my school, moved away from family and got married. Gave up everything for a man I believed to be the world to me. I petitioned him for citizenship and soon after things changed or maybe I did. All we do is argue now. He’s even admitted to hating me but loves me. My friends and family say he just used me, even those of the same culture say so. But he claims he didn’t and that he loves me. His family and friends disrespected me by calling me names or trying to touch me. I know its over but can’t believe this is the man I married. He lied to me so hard core that I don’t know who he is anymore. Was this always what he was out for or does he love me at all. So I tested him, I said can you please list a few things to the reason why you love me. But all he said was I love all the physical aspects of you, which made me feel like wtf your just attracted to me and using me. So I started noticing myself seeking elsewhere for attention but never got physical. I am scared and hurt because before this man there was another who dropped me when I got diagnosed with cervical cancer. That man was my ex husband and then I remarried and married my husband of two years Ron. But I know I’m young but I’m broken. I have been destroyed and used and who is going to love me now? I am confused on what to do now… Where do I pick up the pieces to my broken life? Where to start?

  3. Where do I begin?Ive been married for 13years and am a recovering addict to opiates (painkillers)Ive been clean for 9 months and proud of it however my hubby is a truck driver only for 17months which he was out of state i have two daughters they are 9,10 back to my hubby he would be gone working 5 to 12 days which was fine however he always turned his cell phone off as soon as he was at home he came up with a pathetic lie about the battery being old to save it thats why he turned it off that raised questions with me so i guess about 2 months ago i looked threw his phone and found a number to a singlesline i confronted him he completely lost it got defensive shoved me grabbed me by the back of the neck and said he only did it to see if i was spying on him well i believed him or let him think i did well 3 weeks ago about midnight i came downstairs to get pepto and noticed his phone vibrating there was a text message a pic of some woman i didnt freak out i did but he didnt no or see it so i called this girl and had her convinced i knew her name and address and to be a women and tell me the truth thankfully she did she told me the name of the singlesline well i tried to call it but she didnt remember the mailbox number he had so i got online typed in the singlesline typed in his age,city and state we live in and wouldnt u no it he had a audio recording saying he was going to get a divorce talked about my kids etc so i saved this audio to my phone i text him y he is at work he literally denied it for the whole day on his ride home from work he called 30 times which i ignored so he finally came home and i played the audio he was so nice then claimed he did this 3 years ago idk exactly when it was so to make a long story short he apologized and i am working on my marriage but how do u really trust the one person who swore he would never hurt me and he hurt me worse than anyone has in m,y life im trying its very difficult he doesnt want to go to counseling he thinks the counselor will agree with me which is total bs he just doesnt want to open up about it if i bring it up he makes me feel like i am the one who did something wrong he gets mad and walks away how do i get over this my kids no something is wrong they told me they want me to be happy and not see me cry and to get a divorce cause they are sick of the fighting so i have became mute about this ive bought 400 worth of spyware to put on his cell and laptop and he got a driving job where is at home everynight i just dont what to do and i want to no how many women he talked to what they talked about etc im driving myself nuts plz help if you can in love and married but completely ALONE!:(

  4. I have also found that my partner has been having an emotional affair with someone he met at work. There are frequent calls and texts between them. He will leave the house when off from work for a few hours. He says there is no physical affair between them, just he needed to have the attention that was not provided with us. There is no problem with the physical part of our life, he is crazt attracted that way. He’s afraid I will go back to the person that did not meet his emotional needs, and is afraid to give up this woman.
    How do you think things will work or not work? He says he loves e, and is happy with the changes I have made. I just don’t know.

  5. Hi Connie .. i feel so sad reading your message .. i have been in a limbo state in my life my partner was having an emotional relationship has i thought in 2007 only a few months living together waiting for him to sell his house and our daughter being ill i finally felt releived that we could be happy . But a few months i was feeling abit concerned about our relationship . i realised there was a text but my partner put it under a mans name and there was a kiss on the end nothin intimate but the kiss on the end i got suspicious . I confronted him and he said it’s bob and it’s a mis type he made me believe every word and i said sorry .. i have suffered before and he knows that he is my third partner he is a caring man but can be firtatious . Then a few weeks after the phone rang when i was in bed hearing a womens voice i thought it might be family has he works with all men . i said who is it it’s a woman and he said shhhh .. stupid me i kept quiet he went to work and me puzzled why his he lying .. so then i confronted him yet again lies . after a few weeks i see a text ” good i’m glad she’s lucky to have you ” i question what that meant he said it wasn’t for him . i asked him to phone the num and he said no at first then he did but i couldn’thear what she was saying . so i grabbed the phone and said what was that text she said ok i’ll stop phoing and texting him then .. but for years now i still think there was something more . so i pretended to be my partner and text that works num and said happy new year 2012 . and she said happy new year . then she said who is it i said steve and i said i remember our kisses and cuddles and she said didn’t think you’d remember and she said it must have been 2005 i was engaged to him and found out he asked her to his house on valentines day he told her he had a g/f but we didn’t live together but what hurts they went to bed and he didn’t have respect and neither did she imagine what she must have thought about what he thought about me .. i look at what he did here and really no differnece but they had intimacy but he tells me they never did anything but just kiss has if it’s nothing . W hat i’m trying to say i think we women are kind caring and that’s what they like feel protected but they don’t really care what they put us though they look at us as weak i am still here feeling weak . i do feel i want him to see her and i want to feel like i’m not invisable and i want him to make her look as small has what i felt .. i hope you can be strong perhaps you ought to think about sepearating from one another if counselling doesn’t work .. did he say he would go to counselling or was it your idea . as me it’s been me trying but i feel has if i have lived a false life with a person i don’t know .. i wish you all the luck let me know how your getting on sue

  6. Dear Connie, I empathize with you. I am a single woman, never married and I am in a career where I see these types of problems. I hope your husbamd realizes how devoted you are to him and he needs to be careful to avoid any flirty behavior. Maybe couples counseling will help.

  7. My husband with me 15yrs all together the last 3yrs he got in touch with a childhood friend who he had many conversations with. When I approached him about the facebook messages txt messages and bbm’s and phone calls he kept saying were just friends I proceeded to ask him not to talk to her he said he wouldn’t stop. So I went ahead and wrote a letter to her husband. Now he’s upset and wants to press charges on me.. For making him aware of there affair