Everybody has friendships, regardless of whether they are old school friends, colleagues, or ex-partners. 

These friendships can sometimes become emotional affairs and go beyond the boundaries of a platonic relationship.

An “emotional affair” describes when two people have a deep emotional connection that is similar to a romantic relationship, but without any physical intimacy. 

FEMAIL was told by Neil Wilkie, a UK relationship expert and psychotherapist, that it often starts innocently as friendship. But, it builds into something more. 

“The boundaries of an emotional affair are less clear and lower so that a friendship can develop into an unintentional deeper emotional attachment.”

An 'emotional affair' describes when the depth of emotional intimacy between two people has built to the point where it is akin to a romantic relationship but, as the name suggests, without any physical intimacy. Stock image

An “emotional affair” describes when two people have a deep emotional connection that is similar to a romantic relationship, but without any physical intimacy. Stock image

Even though there is no sex involved in emotional affairs, they can still cause irreparable damage to relationships. These can be seen to be more betrayal as there is more thought and intimacy behind them than a drunken one-night affair.  

Neil continued: ‘It’s easy to pretend – to yourself and to your partner, if you get caught – that you haven’t crossed a line because you haven’t had sex with someone else. An emotional affair can make your partner feel more hurtful and less trustworthy. It can also cause you to have deeper emotional bonds and feelings for someone you don’t know. 

‘Having an emotional affair is a risk – likely ending in you losing both your partner and the other person. This can cause great hurt and unhappiness to everyone involved, even you.  

Here, Neil, creator of online couples therapy programme, The Relationship Paradigm (www.relationshipparadigm.com)FEMAIL’s expert advice is shared by…  

Why do people have an emotional affair?

Relationship expert and psychotherapist Neil Wilkie, pictured, shared his advice

Neil Wilkie (pictured) is a relationship expert and psychotherapist.

Emotional and physical affairs rarely happen in a vacuum. Unmet needs are common in relationships, including intimacy, communication, and feeling connected. This could indicate that your relationship is in need of change or that you have drifted apart.

The pandemic has exacerbated this – with financial worries, home-schooling, home-working and health fears putting huge pressures on many relationships. 

Many people find themselves trapped in the primate fight, flight or freeze mode. They have little chance of escaping into work, friendships, or having fun. People have started to look for virtual escape routes.

Emotional matters are on the rise  

Combining with lockdown cabin fever and social media, it is now easier than ever to meet potential love interests and exes through dating sites and social media.

The opportunities for a physical affair have decreased in the pandemic, as our worlds have shrunk down and we’ve had fewer opportunities to meet people in real life – with everywhere from the office to the bar being closed. 

Research shows that we have been turning to emotional affairs rather than physical affairs. One study of married people found that 13% had spoken to their ex in lockdown. 

Combined with lockdown cabin fever, social media and dating sites are making it easier than ever before to connect with potential love interests or exes. Stock image

Combining with lockdown cabin fever and social media, it is now easier than ever to find potential love interests and exes through dating sites and social media. Stock image

Are you thinking of having an affair with someone? Take the quiz to see if you are a good friend or if you have crossed the line.  

1. Would you feel at ease with your partner listening to all you say to each other or reading all you write?

a. Yes, I don’t feel like I have anything to hide.

b. No, my partner reading our messages is terrifying.

2. Are you sharing your intimate thoughts and feelings with the person you aren’t sharing with?

a. No, I would always talk to my partner about this stuff

b. Yes, I have begun to tell them stuff I would never tell my partner. And I want to tell them first if there is anything exciting.

3. Do you feel less connected to your partner after becoming friends with the other person or have you felt less connected?

a. No, my relationship is as strong as ever with my partner.

b. Yes, I feel closer to the other person now than I do my partner.

4. Do you ever dream or fantasize about what it would feel like to have sex with another person?

a. Eugh – no!

b. Although I’m scared to admit this, a part me is excited by the thought of it

5. Do you compare your partner to the other person?

a. No – I love my partner and no one could compare to them!

b. Yes, I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more annoyed with my partner lately and have started to view them in a more negative light.

Mostly as: It doesn’t sound as though you’re crossing any boundaries. You are 100% loyal to your partner, and you can have friends. Continue as you are – there’s no need to worry.

Mostly Bs You might be on dangerous ground. You might be crossing the line between friendship and love. This doesn’t mean that your relationship is over. It just means that you have to make some changes.

Revealed: How you can come back after crossing the line  

Emotional affairs are often caused by a loss of connection between you and your partner. You can fix it. First, end the relationship with the other person. Instead of ghosting the other person, tell them you are ready to end the relationship and make a clean break. You feel you have crossed the line and need to be able to focus on your relationship.

While the next part may sound difficult, it is essential that you tell your partner about what has happened. This allows you to draw a line in your sand and allows for you to move forward with honesty, without guilt or feeling weighed down by regrets. You risk your relationship being ruined by guilt if you don’t tell them. This would be a bigger blow to your relationship than if they were straight with you.

Then, it’s time for you to build a loving, happy, and fulfilling relationship with your partner. To build trust, give your partner full access to your phone so that you can show your partner that you don’t have anything to hide. A breakdown in communication, intimacy, or connection is often the cause of affairs. These are just a few of the ways you can restore them.


Communication is key to any relationship. It is important to talk to one another, to be able to express your feelings to one another and to be heard. Look at the positive aspects of your relationship and think about what you could do better. Identify five positive things that your partner does. Next, identify one area in your relationship that could improve. Explain why this is important to your relationship and what you would like.


Many couples found themselves locked down in a rut, unable to have sex. Sex is an important form of connection. Talk with your partner about what you like, and find out their needs and wants. Imagine a conversation that is risk-free and allows you to explore the possibility of a positive outcome.


Make sure you set aside time and a place for you to connect as a couple. It is a time when the world stops and everything else matters. This can be a glance or touch, or even a word. This is a great way to get creative. Once a week, surprise your partner by surprising them with something they’d like. Let your imagination run wild to see the joy you can bring.

Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm Series of Books and creator of online couples therapy programme, The Relationship Paradigm®. Take the Relationship Health Test to learn more about how to build a better partnership.