Is It An Emotional Affair Or Friendship? Here’s How To Check

“I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it … men and women can’t be friends.”

-Harry Burns (Billy Crystal)

                                    When Harry Met Sally

emotional affair


Affairs are … tricky. On the one hand, having a physical, sexual affair that has nothing to do with love or connection or romance is obviously bad. Horrible.


Unless you’re in an open relationship, you don’t want it to happen to you. Moreover, you don’t want to do it.


But what about the other type of affair? The one that seems so innocent because it has nothing to do with physical sex, or kissing, or touching.


  • Just coffee after work and a long conversation.
  • Just letting them know first before anyone else about your big promotion.
  • Just having inside jokes and special connections about weird things that your partner just doesn’t get.


How’s that for an affair? Is it one?


Sometimes it can be hard to tell.


After all, not everyone is on board with Harry Burns’ suggestion that it is impossible for men and women to be friends. Many of us do, in fact, have friends of the opposite sex whom we aren’t losing sleep over because we just want to strip them down and pull into the bedroom passionately at the nearest opportunity.


The fuzzy grey area is when you have a friend of the opposite sex whom you really like … yeah, maybe even like like. But you’ve already got a partner whom you love.


You’re a good person. You’re not going to cheat (have outside of the relationship sex). So that’s out of the question. But what about …


… long emails back and forth


… elaborate birthday celebrations you’ve planned for them, featuring that first edition book they love, dinner at their favorite restaurant


… being so-called “best friends”


… constant texting back and forth


Are those things cheating? Every relationship is different. But there are a few signs that you may have gone too far with this special person, and that you could be dipping your toes into the waters of an emotional affair.


Look for these signs to know if it’s true.


7 Signs You’ve Got an Emotional Affair Going On


  1. Shhh, this friendship’s a secret.


Do you feel obligated to pretend like you were out with “friends” when it was really just this one person? Do you tell your partner a story that this special friend told you, but specifically omit their name or change the name to another same-gendered friend?


Red flags.


  1. You talk and connect all the time.


Let’s put it this way: It’s a good sign that you’re not having an emotional affair if you only talk to this person when you see them through some responsibility that you have—say, at work, school, religious occasions, or some other group or activity that you participate in.


If you call or text or email or Facebook just a little bit otherwise: eh, okay.


But if you’re constantly in contact one way or another, that’s not a good vote for this being “just a friendship.”


  1. You compare them to your partner.


Maybe you like this friend in part because of their taste in music or movies or because of how they dress or what they like to do for hobbies. That’s all fine and well, but when you start comparing them to your partner—either just in your head or verbally, that’s a sign that you’re putting this friend into a “potential partner camp,” and thus, you’re on shaky territory.


  1. Your partner randomly does not like this person.


No, your husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend does not have to love every friend you have. Not at all. But the truth is, if your partner doesn’t like them, it’s probably not random. It’s probably because your partner is jealous, and this friendship makes them nervous.


  1. Your partner has asked specifically if you have feelings for them.


When your man or gal comes right out and asks you if you are having an affair or want to have an affair with this person, that’s a bad sign. You’ve gone too far with this “friendship,” and furthermore, you have not even been hiding it or playing it down enough so that your partner hasn’t become nervous about it.


The only way this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad sign for you is if your partner is notoriously jealous and constantly asking you if you have feelings for any random person you see or talk to. But then, that’s another problem altogether.


  1. You’ve imagined it (more than a few times).


We’ve all had that weird sex dream about our boss, an old middle school teacher, or some random person who works at the donut shop down the road. Who knows why or how these things happen. Probably only Freud.


But there is something to be said for imagining sex with this special friend of yours … more than just a few innocent times.


  1. You feel guilty.


Finally, you’re here. Right? You’re here reading this article … wondering whether what you’ve got going on with this friend is perfectly acceptable or a full-blown emotional affair. Not a great start.


But then again …


Feeling guilty doesn’t always mean you’ve done something wrong. You may just love your partner so much that you want to check yourself and make sure you aren’t headed for dark waters.


So Should You Do Something About It?


The first thing to remember is that everyone and every relationship is different. These signs above aren’t 100 percent full-proof for letting you know whether you’re in trouble.


But they might give you the insight you need to do something about your situation. After all, nothing’s set in stone. If you’ve realized something new, you might now have the smarts to either:


A. Realize you have stronger feelings for your friend than you do for your current partner, and end your relationship as gently as possible (the only right thing to do if you come to this realization).




B. Realize you’ve been inching too close toward an emotional affair. You truly love your partner, so you’ve got to tone it down or cut ties with this other person.


Conversely, you may realize that you have done nothing wrong. You may realize that this friend is just a friend and nothing more. Any way you look at it, just try to be as honest as possible with yourself. This isn’t always easy, but if you fib to yourself when it counts (like now), you could hurt a lot of people. Including yourself.


Good luck out there.