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There's a reason riding a roller coaster is so much more fun when we're squeezing the hand of a good friend. This roller coaster of life is often full of gut-wrenching twists and turns that would be almost unbearable if we had to face them without the support and love of friends. In fact, the more good friends we have surrounding us the better, right? But when does a close and supportive friendship become too intimate and begin to threaten a marriage or a long-term relationship? This kind of emotional affair is a tricky situation that can sometimes be more easily entered into than an actual sexual affair.

What Level of Extra-Marital Emotional Involvement is OK? 

We all need someone who will listen to our troubles and mop up our tears when things aren't going well at home. What woman hasn't complained that her husband or boyfriend is making her crazy? Talking and venting are important aspects of a deep friendship. But be aware that many of those who engage in inappropriate levels of emotional intimacy justify the behavior because there is no sexual involvement. Just because the relationship is chaste doesn't mean this so-called spiritual affair couldn't be hurting your partner. The most important thing you can do is keep an honest line of communication open and follow that woman's intuition—if something doesn't feel right, don't ignore that gut feeling.

Cultivating opposite sex friendships is healthy and normal. A husband shouldn't feel threatened by a wife that has a vibrant social life and many friends or vice versa. On the contrary, it should reassure you that you are married to someone special. Forming an emotional connection with other people is a critical part of emotional wellbeing. In fact, even an occasional crush is normal. After all, those hormones don't shut down just because there is now a ring on that finger. That being said, it's important to take responsibility for your own behavior and stay aware of how a friendship may be progressing.

There are some telltale signs that a friendship is trending toward dangerous levels of emotional dependency to watch out for. The best yardstick to measure a close friendship that forms outside of a marriage—or a committed, long-term relationship—is the marriage itself. How is the friendship and emotional connection that you've developed affecting your primary relationship? If the friendship is causing an increased sense of distance, coolness and emotional disconnect in your relationship at home, then it may be time to step back and evaluate the situation.

Emotional Affair Warning Signs

  • Time: Do you spend more time with your friend than with your partner?
  • Deceit: Are you lying to your partner about where you've been or who you've been talking to? Are you making up excuses to be able to spend more time with that person?
  • Withdrawal: Are you going to your friend for emotional support more often than your partner? Is the friendship causing you to withdraw physically from your partner as well?
  • Fantasize: Do you wonder what it would be like to have a serious relationship with your friend?
  • Shame:   Would you feel ashamed if your partner was watching you interact with your friend? Are you afraid to let your partner meet your friend for fear that he will sense the emotional bond that exists between you?

Fortunately, these emotional affairs seem to be more easily overcome than physical philandering. If you feel that you or your spouse is caught up in a friendship that has gone too far, don't despair. Acknowledging the problem, being honest with yourself and your partner, and seeking help from a professional counselor should help you restore your relationship and renew your commitment to the love of your life.

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