What are the Stages Of Emotional Affairs?

Emotional affairs are more destructive than a full-blown sexual affair.  So, here we will explain in detail what are the various stages of emotional affairs. Starting most of the time innocently as a friendship, going through various stages of emotional affairs, and leading to a possible physical affair.

It is considered more lethal because most of the time, people who stray from it keep denying it, thinking that what they are doing is nothing more than making a friend and spending some good time with them—all the while when they are stepping stones of emotional infidelity.

Infidelity in marriage and relationships has become normal nowadays because most of the time, people confuse going through ‘stages of emotional affairs’ as ‘making friends.’

1. What Is An Emotional Affair?

What is an Emotional Affair?

Before going to the stages of emotional affairs, let’s begin with what the term ‘Emotional Affairs’ actually means:

An emotional affair is an intimate emotional connection, support, or companionship with a person other than your intimate partner.

An emotional affair may or may not be a sexual affair. It does not always have to be physical. Sharing emotional intimacy and emotional bond with a person other than your partner is an emotional affair.

You both are having a secret understanding, a secret intimate connection that you need to hide from your respective partners. An unspoken awareness that they get you in a way your partner or spouse does not.

You start finding comfort and empathy in their words and presence, which brings a strange serenity and vigor to your otherwise stressful and bland life. And that’s when you start falling on the slippery slope of emotional infidelity in stages of emotional affairs.

And believe me, in the majority of cases, all of this starts innocently and unintentionally.

2. How Do Emotional Affairs Start?

Emotional Affairs
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Emotional affairs can start innocently enough in a shared environment like the workplace.

Like a text asking, ‘I hope all’s well with you.’

Research in Naya Clinics has shown that most of the couples who come with the issue of emotional cheating report that they never intended to have an emotional affair in the first place. And when it was going, they never realized that they were going through stages of emotional affairs.

  1. You start sharing your issues with someone else other than your spouse. Most of the time, you think it feels good to talk to someone not involved in that issue, but you don’t know that you are paving your way to emotional intimacy. So we have listed some of the ways how an emotional affair starts:
  2. You begin to spend time together with another person. Alone. In this case, you always tell yourself that this is just a normal hangout or work necessity but the alone time with the opposite sex allows the emotional and physical boundaries to get blurred. And you fall down the slippery slope of emotional infidelity.
  3. You start to find self-worth through someone else’s compliments. After feeling neglected and unappreciated for a while, it feels good to have someone else do a double-take on you and appreciate you.
  4. Starting to compare your spouse or intimate partner with another person you are beginning to have an emotional affair with. This can begin to make you feel angry and disappointed in your partner, and soon enough, you will start to enlarge their negative qualities in your head.
  5. You start to keep secrets from your partner. Either it’s a text or a flirty little conversation you had with your affair partner because you think it was completely innocent but still inadequate to tell your partner.

These are just a few examples of how you start going through stages of emotional affairs. However, its expanse is much wider than this as to how you get your feelings involved in the turmoil of right and wrong.

3. What Are The Stages Of Emotional Affairs?

In the present time of chaos and constantly active lifestyles, it is not uncommon for people to not get time for talking about their feelings to their partner. Either she is busy, or he is busy.

And this generally leads to them seeking an emotional connection with someone outside of their relationships. With someone who is ‘just a friend and makes you feel appreciated.

Knowingly or unknowingly, you delve into the various stages of emotional affairs, and in-process ruin your relationships with your partner.

Below we have mentioned the 7 stages of emotional affairs that relationships like this go through.

3.1. Feeling Inadequate And Unappreciated Stage

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Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

After the regular cycle of fights and make-up, you are finally fed up and made an effort to reignite the spark in your marriage or the committed relationship.

Starting with your best clothes, or the ones your spouse likes. Gave some more attention to your hair, more than you used to do, and added a little perfume to add the cherry on top.

But when your spouse wakes up in a rush to go to their work, they don’t even give a single glance to you. Leaving you with a big boulder of disappointment sitting on your chest.

You start analyzing and overanalyzing things and come to the grand conclusion of, ‘Maybe I’m inadequate. And not enough for him.’

In most cases, this leads to resentment and anger in relationships where the one who resorts to emotional cheating feels that their partner is not valuing their feelings. And with every day that passes, it starts taking an even deeper root.

This is where the stages of emotional affairs begin.

3.2. Feeling Emotionally Detached Stage

Emotionally detached
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This is when the partners in relationships start feeling uncomfortable talking to each other, which is basically the pillar of a marriage or committed relationship.

It’s either because both of them are constantly busy and generally ‘unavailable’ when the one wants to talk to another. It might not be intentional and just a play of fate, but it might affect your married life deeply.

Stages of emotional affairs like this lead to your partner slowly drifting away from you. And in many cases, leading to avoiding each other completely.

What the people in marriage need to understand is emotional intimacy is equally important as sexual intimacy for relationships to last. It would help if you made time to hear from your partner.

3.3. Lacking Understanding Stage

lack of understanding leading to fights
Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash /Copyright 2021

Most of the time, people in relationships don’t share the same fields of interest. And although it is not that big of a deal, in times like these, when your marriage is already on rocky grounds, this little tidbit starts to feel like a mountain.

You start feeling that they don’t exactly ‘get you.’ And when this thought comes, you adjoin it with every little incident that has happened in the last few days or months that may or may not be connected to it.

And this gives you a pang that maybe you and your partner are incompatible with each other.

This is one of the stages of emotional affairs where one forms an emotional bond with someone other than their partner.

3.4. Starting An Innocent Friendship Stage

New friendship stage
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In this, one of the stages of emotional affairs, you meet someone you feel comfortable talking to and find solace in their presence.

Most of the time, it happens innocently. Like, you were having a very bad day, and another person was willing to hear from you, even prompted you a little to open up, so you unloaded things on them.

And not-so-strangely enough, you find yourself feeling good after you take things off your chest and keep them on a whiteboard for that stranger. That’s when you climb the first stepping stone of an emotional affair.

You start thinking that it is just an innocent friendship that your spouse will not approve of, but you continue. Because in your mind, this is just innocent talking with a friend who is willing to hear.

And what harm just talking to someone could do, right? Wrong!

3.5. Emotionally Dependent And The Need To Keep It Secret Stage

Casual touches
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash/ Copyright 2021

This is one of the stages of emotional affairs, where you become emotionally dependent on your affair partner and feel anxiety even at the thought of losing your support system.

And so you keep it a secret because, for a fact, you know that your partner will not approve of your “friendship.” And you are not at all ready yet to just let it go, so you hide it from your partner and relatives.

Because you have become so emotionally dependent, that ‘friend’ becomes the first person you go to when you get some news or want someone to listen to your rant instead of your partner.

So you hide it, thinking that your partner or relatives will not understand your ‘friendship’ and what you have with your friend.

In your mind, it is still not inappropriate. You give yourself a pep talk now and then, that what you are doing is completely harmless and innocent friendship.

And in some ways, keeping it secret is ‘spicier’ and more exciting, making you want to preserve your relationship for a little longer.

3.6. Intimate Friendship Or More Than Talking Stage

More than friends stage
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This is one of the stages of emotional affairs where the boundaries start getting blurred, and your innocent friendship starts turning into casual intimate touches, little flirty comments here and there, and meaningful eye contact and smiles.

You start to spend more time with your ‘friend.’ Either it is in the workplace, or you start going out in public with them. You start making dinner together or keep finding a way to spend time together, physically.

In the back of your mind, you know that it feels like the beginning of dating someone, but you crush that thought, telling yourself that you are hanging out just as friends and nothing else. You defend your ‘friendship’ in every way possible.

3.7. Physical Intimacy And Sexual Chemistry Stage

stages of emotional affairs
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This is one of the stages of emotional affairs where you cross your self-made boundaries of a physical affair and turn what you used to think of as an innocent friendship into a sexual affair1.

In this stage, you get overwhelmed by the intimate connection you had emotionally with your affair partner and gave in to the urge to have a physical affair.

This is not abnormal for people with emotional connections for so long to connect through sex. As the sex feels better if an emotional bond is lying in its girth.

It may surprise you that the longer it will take an emotional affair to change into a sexual affair, the deeper the emotional connection will become, leading to more heartbreak at the end of it or possible divorce.

In most cases, it leads to ruined marriage or relationship and divorce. The first person, who was your husband/wife, will not be able to stand the cheating other had done with the second person.

Now, it’s also not a rule for every emotional infidelity to lead to sex or physical intimacy.

So, these are the 7 stages of emotional affairs that an individual goes through when their marriage or committed relationship is on rocky ground.

4. Signs Of An Emotional Affair Or Emotional Infidelity

13 Signs Your Partner Is Cheating On You | How To Know If Your Partner Is Cheating On You

Most of the time, people going through stages of emotional affairs don’t even realize that they are slipping on the slope of emotional infidelity.

So, here are some signs you should look for if you are afraid that maybe you are going through stages of emotional affairs.

4.1. For A Substantial Amount Of Time

Your mind is a maker or a breaker. When you are on a pedestal like this, your mind constantly plays the image of the person you want to get involved with or the text you have received from them on the phone.

You find yourself thinking about them at the most random and unplanned times. It is always accompanied by an urge to contact them. Even if it is just a simple text on the phone.

If you find yourself checking their social media accounts, your mental alarms should go off.

4.2. Hide Things From Your Partner

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Photo by Sam McNamara on Unsplash

You hide your new ‘friendship’ from your partner because you either think that they will not understand or get jealous for no reason.

Because really, there is nothing to worry about, right?

4.3. Comparing Your Partner With The Other Person

And then comes this, one of the stages of emotional affairs, where you compare your partner with that someone else.

Like, “He was so calm when I broke down in tears. Roney would have gotten so angry!”

And somewhere in between, you make them your first-person when you have to go and share something.

4.3. You Feel Like You Have Changed A Little

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Image by svklimkin from Pixabay

You start feeling like a new person.

Someone funnier, better-looking, captivating, and lively. And you give all the credit for that to that ‘someone else’ you had started a friendship with.

You think that you are no longer that bland and depressed 2person you used to be.

4.4. Conversations Starting To Get Deeper

You start talking about your primary relationship with that other person, sharing all the tips and bits. Most of the time, it includes your frustration with your partner in that primary relationship.

You talk about everything and nothing in particular, but there is just one topic you both are afraid to touch and skirt around in circles. Love.

You have long and deep conversations, but you never say a word about your love life. Or that you ‘love’ your partner in that primary relationship.

4.6. Your Subconscious Always Wonders About Getting Physical With Them

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Image by Tú Anh from Pixabay

Infidelity in marriage starts with your subconscious wondering, “What if someday you and your ‘friend’ are not just ‘friends’?”

Not all emotional affairs turn into a sexual affair, but your mind is a devil and likes to play games when you are most vulnerable. It can be in the form of a dream or random thought while you are sexual with your partner.

It is so normal for relationships nowadays to go through this pedestal of infidelity and affairs. So, here we have explained the various aspects of emotional affairs and the stages of emotional affairs.

Describing how a person falls for an emotional affair with someone and what drives them there. Also, the signs that you will notice when you start falling for someone other than your spouse.

5. Conclusion

Emotional affairs can be complex and emotionally charged situations that can have a significant impact on individuals and relationships. Understanding the stages of emotional affairs can provide insights into how they develop and potentially help prevent or address them. While these stages may not apply to every situation and individual, they can serve as a general framework for understanding the progression of emotional affairs:

Emotional affairs can lead to emotional and sometimes physical withdrawal from the primary relationship. Individuals might become less engaged and invested in their partner or spouse, focusing more on the emotional connection with the affair partner.

In some cases, emotional affairs can escalate to physical intimacy or a romantic relationship. At this stage, the emotional affair becomes a full-blown affair, potentially leading to the breakdown of the primary relationship.

It’s important to note that emotional affairs can vary greatly depending on the individuals involved, their circumstances, and the dynamics of their existing relationships. Preventing emotional affairs involves open communication, setting healthy boundaries, and addressing any underlying issues within the primary relationship. If an emotional affair has already occurred, seeking professional help, such as couples therapy or individual counseling, can be valuable in navigating the challenges and making informed decisions moving forward.


1. Are emotional affairs the same for everyone?

A. No, emotional affairs can vary depending on the individuals involved, their personal circumstances, and the dynamics of their existing relationships. While the stages provide a general framework, the specifics can differ.

2. Are emotional affairs always intentional?

A. Emotional affairs may start innocently without the intention of developing into something more. However, they can gradually progress as emotional intimacy deepens and boundaries become blurred.

3. Can emotional affairs be a sign of deeper relationship issues?

A. Yes, emotional affairs can often be a symptom of underlying problems within a primary relationship, such as communication issues, lack of emotional intimacy, or unmet needs.

  1. Karami, Amir, et al. “Unwanted advances in higher education: Uncovering sexual harassment experiences in academia with text mining.” Information Processing & Management 57.2 (2020): 102167. ↩︎
  2. Halahakoon, D. Chamith, et al. “Reward-processing behavior in depressed participants relative to healthy volunteers: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” JAMA psychiatry 77.12 (2020): 1286-1295. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Suchi


Akanksha Raj
  1. Fantastic article! I really enjoyed reading this article. It’s a reminder that emotional affairs can happen to anyone, and it’s important to be vigilant and honest with ourselves and our partners.

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