Difference Between Friendship and an Emotional Affair

Friendship is an important part of human life. We need meaningful connections with other people in order to feel secure, to feel happy, accepted, loved, and understood. Friendships can be one of the biggest joys in life. Even married people need friendships outside of marriage.

But what if a friendship becomes a problem in your relationship?

In our practice, we often deal with couples who are in complete disagreement regarding the role that a certain friend of one of the spouses plays in their lives. In most cases, this is a friendship that has grown over time and includes the opposite genders. The spouse who is in the friendship would often say “but we are just friends” and might in many cases honestly believe this statement. However, that does not mean that this friendship is not problematic. The mere fact that the relationship is causing your partner to feel uncomfortable already creates an issue. But the fault does not lie with your partner or with your friends.

Many clients have either never heard of the term “emotional affair”, or have never considered the term with regard to this specific friendship they have formed.

So how would you know whether or not this friendship is actually an emotional affair or just plainly a platonic friendship?

Emotional Affair vs. Friendship

One of the first things that is different between a friendship and an emotional affair is secrecy. Your spouse might know of the friendship, the coffee dates and the times spent together, no secrets there, but if you are keeping certain conversations or details a secret? If your spouse is sitting at another table, watching the two of you, overhearing your conversation, would you be comfortable with him/her witnessing your mannerisms? If not, then secrecy is definitely forming a part of this friendship.

The next aspect is daydreaming or fantasizing. Are you thinking about spending more time with your friend? These little fantasy scenarios do not have to be sexual in nature, all this means is that your time with your friend is gaining importance over your spouse.

Are you actively creating reasons for you and this friend to be alone? Are you creating as much effort to have alone time with your spouse?

There is nothing wrong with being there for a friend in good or bad times, but if your friend is becoming your primary source of emotional support and companionship, red lights should be going off for you. This is a role that we as partners should be fulfilling for one another. Another tip is to ask yourself the following: if something good or bad happens in your life, who is the first person you would like to share this information with? Your partner or your friend?

Another way to distinguish friendship from an emotional affair is sexual attraction or chemistry. We will definitely meet people in our lives that we are attracted to, but if you are sexually attracted to this friend, you are playing with fire. This is not the safest friend to have.

Put all or some of these together and you can see what the friendship actually is.

In Closing

It is easy for a platonic friendship to change into an emotional affair. Make sure that you and your spouse have very clearly defined boundaries when it comes to friendships and stick to these and respect them.

If you feel you may be in an emotional affair, speak to Laurian Ward so that she can guide you and your spouse in the right direction to handling these feelings.