How does an affair, emotional or physical...happen?


So how does this happen? I’m not talking about the more popular situations where one person is just out to get whatever he/she wants (or perhaps has a sex addiction?) Rather, I am wondering how a person seemingly unknowingly walks into an emotional affair, such as at work or school.

It seems not only is the spouse hurting, but so is the poor guy/gal who is doing it!

I find myself feeling more and more sympathetic for these poor people who are married or in a committed relationship, who made a decision to be a person and now they feel attached to another person.

It’s like thread:



I’ve seen it where immature people let their guard down. They don’t recognize that normal relationships aren’t all moonlight and roses forever. Children and responsibility come along and one spouse gets bored. Then someone at work comes along, or some neighbor, or a clerk at a store… that person is flirtatious, or funny, or beautiful, and they catch the eye. The other person ignores the boundaries set by a wedding ring. The two talk. Sparks fly. They feel a connection. Instead of backing off and one person working harder at the relationship with the spouse, they put all that emotional energy into forming a new relationship with someone who only sees them at their best or most charming. They bond. They share secrets and jokes and confidences and emails. The married person begins to feel that this person “understands” them in a way the spouse doesn’t. They begin to judge the spouse more harshly by comparison. They make excuses in their mind why they should be allowed to become closer to someone they are not married to.

Sometimes they end up in bed. Sometimes they stop the relationship in time. Sometimes the marriage ends because of it. And the person marries the new person. And that ends because deep down each knows that neither is trustworthy. They did it to someone else, they’d do it to me.

But it usually starts when people have their guard down and don’t see that some relationships are inappropriate if you are married. And sometimes it starts because people have limited attention spans or an unrealistic idea of what love really is. Some people like the thrill of the chase or the lure of the forbidden. And some people just like to go out for beer when they have champagne at home. And others don’t appreciate what they have until they lose it. No one reason why.

No one unknowingly walks into an emotional affair. They’re not children anymore. They know when they are spending time with someone else that they used to spend with a spouse that they are going over the line. They know when they are spending time with their spouse but they are thinking of someone else that they have entered a red zone. They just ignore the "forsaking all others’ part of the wedding vow and plunge full steam ahead. It’s one thing to work with someone. It’s another thing to start meeting them for lunch and confiding in them. It wouldn’t happen if more people thought to themselves “would I be having this conversation if my spouse were sitting here?”


Hasikelee, Liberanosamalo gave you her opinion from her point of view. She has been the wife who was hurt by what you are talking about. I agree with you, usually both in the marital relationship are hurting and NOT communicating well (whether one who is hurting is communicating and the other spouse isn’t listening or doesn’t care or both are communicating and both are saying “what about me” and ignoring the other’s request). Sometimes people should never have been married to their spouse and instead of divorcing, have an affair (maybe to be discovered so that the other spouse will file divorce or the other spouse will start listening). Of course there are those who never intended to be faithful too.

I am speaking to you as someone who has witnessed affairs in my own family. I am also speaking to you as someone who isn’t married but was involved with a married man. Even though most don’t care, everyone involved in the affair also gets hurt. To think otherwise would be naive. Obviously, the spouse who is being faithful and if there are children, the children are being hurt the most. However, the two involved in the affair don’t go through it lightly and are usually suffering in many ways that most people don’t care to know about. I’m not asking for sympathy, but contrary to what many think, emotional affairs can be extremely easy to fall into simply because most people lie to themselves thinking they are just friends with the other person.

THere are many on these forums who established a plan before making their vows that neither would have friends of the opposite sex. My guess is that those marriages have never suffered infidelity of any kind, they knew that while they may not get involved in an affair, if you have friends of the opposite sex you are putting a major temptation in the way of your marriage.

How do emotional affairs start? Usually as a sincere friendship. Many women and men have emotional affairs its just that they don’t recognize it and or lie to themselves. When does one involved in an emotional affair recognize when the line was crossed from friendship? It varies but usually when more time is being spent with the friend and less with the spouse that is one sign that the line has been crossed. Also, home problems are brought to the friendship (what one would normally talk over with friends of the same sex but SHOULDN’T with friends of the opposite sex even though they lie to themselves saying they need a female/male’s perspective to understand their spouse better). When an emotional affair is realized some walk away some don’t. Sometimes it turns into a physical affair, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the married member(s) of the affair leave their spouse (and if they have children, their families) sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the “other man” or “other woman” and the woman or man who divorced marry and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the marriage to the affair partner is successful and sometimes it isn’t. Does anyone honestly think that those who married as a result of an affair will actually admit that to anyone who doesn’t know? My dad and step-mom tell people that they met at work (which they did) not that he was still married at the time (they have been married longer than my dad and my mom were married). If I ever marry my dd’s dad (the man I had an affair with - we’re living seperately and are waiting on the tribunal) I sure will not tell those who don’t need to know that we met when we worked together and proceeded to have an affair (btw, our dd is his only child, his ex lied when she said she wanted to have children, just so that he’d marry her, and no, I’m not trying to justify my actions, just avoiding the “didn’t you even care about his children” arguements).

If you have any other questions, please let me know. And for those who have been through the pain of an affair (whether on the recieving end or being a participating member) I am sorry for your pain.


I believe there’s always a reason for the temptation of an affair. The other person can often personify your personal temptations.

I was in love with a male friend who was assistant professor at my university for a year, while in a relationship with my now husband. It wasn’t physical in the least (but neither was it physical with my bf), and I was honest to all involved, but I couldn’t stop feeling that way. It was a difficult year.

What I believe this stemmed from is my intellectual vanity. I could really talk to this other guy about things I never could with my bf - or anyone else, for that matter. We shared some really unusual common interests and I felt no one else could quite understand me. And it was difficult to prevent, b/c I could hardly say: “Sorry, cannot discuss physics/Shakespeare/obscure heresies/Sufi poetry/my faith with you now, b/c I have a bf.”

The image he had of me was the one I wanted to have of myself at the time. It really was all about me and my vanity. I still struggle with that a lot, but I’m pretty sure my vanity won’t endanger my marriage now. That’s been tested and purified through fire, I’d say :smiley: . The episode also allowed me to get a new perspective of and admiration for my then bf. We both grew in many ways, and trust each other far more.

My church (EO) allows divorce in serious situations, but what is NEVER allowed, and for a good reason, is subsequent marriage to the ‘other person’, the person who was the reason for the divorce, if it was caused by adultery.


Gmarie raises some very good points.
Although it has not happened in my marriage, I have seen it happen to other people around me. I agree with gmarie’s suggestion that a lot of times it these type of affairs start out as a friendship. I personally think a lot of times these could have been avoided if the person would have taken care of little details such as this one (avoiding one to one friendships with people of the opposite sex). Some people think its exaggerated, but in the end I think doing everything to avoid temptation is the right way to go. Another example is spending time alone with someone else for reasons other than business, or even spending too much time with someone at work that one finds attractive. I know one couple that broke off marriages because they used to eat lunch together everyday at work, they had similar jobs and the same break. I know another one that broke up because he turned to another woman for support when his father died, since his wife (a very sentimental woman to begin with) was very upset too about the death of his father, yet the other woman didn’t know the father so she could “console” him without breaking down. If you open up your heart to loving someone else, yeah of course it can happen. I think it is kind of silly when people complain that they are stuck in a marriage while they love someone else. You need to have contact with a person and treat them to “love” them, its not something that happens without any contact or communication. If you are married, you need to nip it as soon as you see it could happen, and be alert that it could happen, that you are not a superperson immune to temptation. Even if it seems silly, the devil wants you to think its silly and doesn’t matter, but if you feel it is a source of temptation, then you should get rid of it. If you allow it to happen, that it is your own fault that you are “in love” with another while having an indissoluble bond with your spouse. It could happen to anybody that lets their guard down.


Jewish radio talk show host and movie critic Michael Medved said it best: “It’s not attractiveness, it’s availability” Both parties are seeking, and find what is available.


I think the book His Needs, Her Needs does an excellent job of explaining this phenomenon. It’s a great book that couples should read together.


by a deliberate, conscious, active free-will choice on the part of two people to break vows, put their own “needs” and desires ahead of any other consideration, and to push the envelope to see just how many people they can hurt in how many ways. There is a always a point where each party says “I know this is wrong, I know why it is wrong, but I am going to sit hear until I can dream up some excuses, justifications, rationalizations and convince myself it is right.” That is the point where the mortal sin is committed.


100% agree with Puzzleannie! She hit the mark on the head (especially when it turns into a mortal sin). Unfortunately, even if the sin is repented and confessed an adulterer still feels as if an imaginary “A” is placed on him/her for life by people (who weren’t affected by the affair) who still judge after the repentance. It is understandable for loved ones to still be upset, but strangers sometimes are less forgiving than relatives.


understandable but one of the many sad consequences of sin. if that person feels he as an A tatooed on his forhead, who did it? He did it to himself, just as someone who gets a real ink tatoo and later regrets it. The motivation behind the ugly tatoo is gone, but the stain remains for all to see. sad, very sad.


I really don’t know what it would feel like to have that “A” on ones forehead.

That said, I’d trade my feelings as the betrayed for the ‘A’ anyday.


But it usually starts when people have their guard down and don’t see that some relationships are inappropriate if you are married.

I think this is a great explaination of how emotional affairs occur. Friendships that stray into areas that they should not - not physical, mind you, but areas reserved for the spouse. Once a line has been crossed, it is easier to re-cross too.

I also think that there is a lot of pride involved: I know when to stop, where the lines are, what I can or cannot do. No one can tell me that I am wrong, we’re not physical, we’re just friends.

For me, it’s hardest when the finger is pointed at me, “You’re just jealous of our friendship” and I am made to look like the bad guy.

We owe our spouses more than just physical commitment. We owe them emotional commitment as well.

I can’t imagine what someone who have been cheated on physically goes through, but I know that the affects of an emotional affair are difficult too. Everyone knows that Adultry is wrong and will condemn the man or woman who commits it; they will stand behind the betrayed. That is often not the case with emotional affairs when the only two people who might know are the spouses. If one is in denial and tries to turn the tables around on the other, then the betrayed becomes compounded by so many other things.

We must strive to save all that is due our spouse for only our spouse. We must be open to hearing from them that they feel that they are being denied some aspect. It is pride on our part to believe we are above such things.


I think the OP is asking a question of “how” it happens. An understanding of the circumstances that “fertilized” the environment that made a person susceptible to an affair. The OP isn’t trying to justify or excuse the affair. Just get an explanation.

Personally, I think such a discussion can be helpful. It is like studying history (provides knowledge to prevent it from repeating). Let me give you an example.

My wife and I had a couple as friends. Separately, we each enjoyed the relationship with our respective same gender friend. But when we were together, we saw that there was a poison between them. And we both determined that the wife was the source of most of the poison. Because of her own upbringing, she was overly selfish or said in another way insufficiently present to her husband. She belittled him, his income, avoided the marital embrace and criticized his expenditures not because they were excessive but because it lessened her capacity to spend on herself.

When I found out that he turned to another for affection, we were both appalled. And, my wife’s reaction was especially condemning of the husband. But as we talked it through, we realized that despite the magnitude and wrongness of his “solution” that the seeds were planted by the wife and “fertilized” by the wife because she didn’t fulfill her obligation as a wife to love her husband more than herself. We both acknowledged that for the bulk of the marriage he had been significantly more giving and understanding.

The lesson here is what the Church teaches about how a life of venial sins can so damage the soul that they become in effect mortal. The acts (and non-acts) of the wife were mortally wounding the marriage long before the husband committed his wound.

And once, we realized jointly that they were both at fault equally for the affair we could then properly be instruments of the Holy Spirit to get them both to look at their actions as sinful and need of reparation. Instead of my wife taking her side and me his side, we both “took” the other’s side. I gave the husband no comfort and made him see how he had been even worse to her than her own family growing up being the rock of trust she needed. My wife always focused on what her friend did to her husband since the beginning of their marriage and she refused to criticize the husband.

There is a happy end to the story. Ultimately, they stayed together and got both spiritual and professional counseling. Their pastor (they are not Catholic) was great as he counseled them that they had to first get right with God before they could get right with each other (IMO, the Sacrament of Penance would have helped immensely and speeded up their ultimate reconciliation).

While it still isn’t a perfect marriage (which one is?), she is more aware of how she affects her husband, he is more aware of how her background affects her behaviour, they have non-threatening cues that remind the other that understanding and charity is needed, and he has been “armed” with tools that prevent him from falling into despair.

To our benefit (my wife and mine), we now have even better friendship with them and enjoy more time with them as a couple.


100% right on.


Speaking from experience when your partner cheats on you it is so hard to get over it and move on. My husband met a younger women and left me and the two kids after 12 years of marriage. It has taken me 2 years to get over it and I am still not quiet there.

It is a process there are good days and there are very bad days. And you blame everybody your partner the man/women and even God but there must have been a reason why that person felt the need to cheat be it lust, problems in the marriage those are all excuses sorry to say that. When you and your partner tie the knot is through thick and thin, sickness and health. Why get married if 10 years down the line all of a sudden this person you were so in love with is not good enough for you that you have to go out there into this sick world with HIV/AIDS etc.

Are people not afraid of what the consequences of their actions will have. How would the cheater feel if their partners were the cheaters. But people never think that far ahead just about oh my marriage is not working, we are not getting along and so on and so on. That does not justify going to look outside no matter what the reasons may be.

And please tell what satisfaction does another women get from stealing another womens husband. Hello he can do the same thing to you what is a couple of years later and younger and fresher ones comes along and does the exact same thing to you. Or those men that promise to leave their wife and 2 years go by and before you know it you have spent all this time waiting for a man that will never be yours. How do you look at another women in the face knowing that you slept with that womens husband. Or do women feel proud that Oh he left his wife and children for me or he loves etc etc.

The commandments say don’t commit adultery and we still go and do it. I pray about this everyday. I once said to somebody how many times do you forgive and the answer was 70x70x70.

Coming from a broke relationship it is not a easy thing and I would not wish it on my worst enermy but what I have come to realise is that God works in mysterious ways. Things have for a reason there was a reason why my husband did what he did and why things turned out that way. Pray over you marriages and pray that these things do not happen. Lust is a terrible sin. And sometimes men/women just cannot help themselves.


Today on yahoo’s front page was a article entitled “5 Ways to Keep Your Man From Straying”. While light on the deeper issues, it does touch on some items of value.


It’s not that hard to develop a crush on someone of the opposite sex- perhaps a co-worker or friend, after all this new person is attractive and exciting, I think a lot of us could be guilty of that-even if we never act on it.
Part of what Liberanosamolo said is very true- you only see this person at their best- You haven’t gone through any hard times together.
You and your spouse have seen each other at your worst.
Plus- the spouse can get to be the same old -same old- I think it’s a part of the new-ness of the other person, that’s such a draw.
Much of what Liberanosamolo said is very true.
I get Focus on the Family magazine quarterly and they had an article on this very thing- how to guard against an affair-That even committed Christians aren’t immune, at all…
Some of their advice was- don’t have deep frendships with members of the opposite sex- as most affairs begin on the emotional level, don’t travel alone with an opposite sex co-worker-(might be hard) work on your own marriage, as some affairs can be a result of a communication-intimacy problem in your own marriage relationship, and prayer.
A good lifelong marriage takes hardwork and commitment- and the grass is not usually greener on the other side of the fence.
2nd marriage success rates are usually less sucessful than 1st marriages.
I’m sympathetic too, to this
The Christian life is not easy- Jesus said take your cross an follow me.
Just as single people and gay people have to struggle for purity- so do married people as well.
I myself am guilty of having lustful thoughts for people not my spouse- even though they were mainly fleeting and I’ve never acted on them- I’ve been 100% faithful.
But I keep reading that passage that says "If you look upon another woman-(Or man, right?-in my case)…adultery!
This is a sin I have occasionally had to confess.


Actually, I have that book and it’s what brought these questions of mine to mind. lol!


Very well stated, puzzleannie.


Here’s my best theory on why my ex-spouse’s emotional affair happened. I’ve pieced this together through reading, reflection, and counseling.

Every human, as they grow up, needs to go through a rebellion stage in order to get themselves out of the “nest”. Most of us do this during our teenage years. Some folks don’t rebel, or need to rebel more or later for some reason…in my ex’s case I believe he nver rebelled during childhood because of a need to be seen as the golden boy, somehow that gave him the attention or affection he needed.

Other folks, like me, adapt to get attention or affection by helping others and “mothering”.

Put us together, and we were a perfect but fatal fit. He needed to have things done for him, I needed to have someone who let me do things for him.

Eventually, my ex decided it was time to rebel. His parents weren’t around anymore…but he had a wife who mothered him a lot…good substitute! He rebelled against his parents symbolically by “rebelling” against me. The emotional attachment he formed with another woman was his rebelliong, among other things. Selfishness was certainly a part of it. And his past, family issues, psychology…none of that makes what he did alright. He is a grown man and has free will.

Ironically, it’s a proven pattern that when folks like my ex have these affairs, they tend to get with another “mothering” type! He’s trying to repeat the pattern until he gets something right. The OW was older with children, and not some little sex-kitten midlife crisis trophy girl.

Another element that I think is more universal to affairs is that the cheating spouse has not learned to be a whole person, and they are looking for someone to fufill them. They tried being with the spouse and that didn’t “fix” them…they bounce to another person hoping that will help. It won’t. The hole is inside their own psyche. Another human won’t fill it.

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