Emotional Affairs: Where Is The Line And When Is It Crossed?


An "emotional affair" is an affair between two people that mimics the closeness and emotional intimacy of an affair while never being physically consummated. 

I really needed to make sure I put that definition out there before I went any further with this article. Now read the words and phrases within the definition:

  • Intimacy
  • Affair
  • Physical consummation

Powerful words, eh?

If you are married to or exclusively dating someone than you should fully expect that verbal, physical or emotional intimacy is exclusive to you and that person. Period. End. Of. Discussion. While not physically consummated, an emotional affair still requires two people, one of which is your partner and one of which is not you, to spend enough time and create enough of an intimate rapport to have an improper affinity for one another.

Which brings me to the title of this article: Where is the line and when is it crossed?

The line between two people loving and being fully committed to each other is neither thin, crooked nor blurry. As well, the line between one half of a loving and fully committed partnership and everyone else is neither thin, crooked nor blurry. Love and commitment are thick, straight and clear. Otherwise, lines are crossed and we're sitting here asking questions about where they exist and when we should worry about it.

The line exists right in front of you and your partner. There is no allotted space between you two for emotional affairs to creep in. When we start creating allowances or making excuses for even flirtatious relationships, we are unwittingly (or not) doing three things.   

  1. Making excuses for behavior we know to be wrong. Phrases like: "oh, men will flirt, they can't help themselves" or, "they said they would stop, they just work long hours and get lonely" or, my personal favorite, "she's really fixated on him but he won't cheat and he'll come home to me again!"
  2. Allowing space to exist that wasn't there. And we all know what happens with space. It ends up getting filled with something. Anything. In this case, the space started with a tolerance or acceptance of an emotional affair that, if left alone, will blossom into something else.
  3. Teaching people how to treat us badly. When something is wrong and we continue to accept it, we are also accepting of the fact that we are okay with that which is wrong.

I read an article on Dr. Phil's website about how to affair-proof your marriage and I nearly threw up. In a relationship where love and commitment are thick, straight and clear, there should be no need to affair-proof it. Do you really want to think about or, yikes, take actual steps to prevent the person you love from cheating on you? Really? If I am ever in a relationship that I must affair-proof, then we are having a conversation about what's wrong and, if unresolved, I'm rolling. And not because I'm a quitter but because I want -- say it with me -- love and commitment that is thick, straight and clear.

I brought up this affair-proofing business because it is a parallel discussion about lines and emotional affairs. As a society, we can often have the view that it's natural to flirt and to pine and to look in the direction of people that are not our significant others. We will go one step further by associating cheating and flirting to natural inclinations that, to some degree, must be accepted. To which I say, you accept only what you need and nothing else. For as long as you accept cheating, emotional affairs or overly flirtatious behavior from your partner, you are stating that you accept this as okay. Is it?

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photo credit: The Feminine Eye via photopin (license)

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