Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Dangers of Head Sex and the Emotional Affair

Believe it or not, extramarital “head sex”–the emotional bond formed with a secret lover of sorts–may be worse (at least for depression) than real sex outside a marriage, according to Peggy Vaughan, author of “The Monogamy Myth” and creator of

“Most people recover from the fact that their partner had sex with someone else before they recover from the fact that they were deceived,” says Vaughan. “An affair, in the final analysis, is more about ‘breaking trust’ than about ‘having sex.'”

A few years ago Vaughan took an online poll, asking readers: “If your partner had an affair, what would be more difficult to overcome: the deception, or that he/she had sex with someone else?” Almost three quarters of the men and women polled said deception.


Vaughan believes that secrecy is what distinguishes a close friendship from an emotional affair.

For example, you’ve crossed the line if you are:

• keeping the details of the relationship secret from your husband
• saying and doing things with your “friend” that you wouldn’t do if your husband were present
• sharing things with the guy that you don’t share with your husband,
• making an effort to spend lots of time with your “friend.”

“In most instances emotional affairs are just affairs that have not yet become sexual,” says Vaughan. “They either end or they escalate. So (as with any type of affair), it-s critical that all one-on-one contact with the third party be severed–before it escalates.”


Romantic friendships are especially dangerous for women because women typically invest much more of themselves into them than men. A woman may ache and suffer for years as she grapples with her relationship issues while her male counterpart considers the extra attention a mere bonus to his family life, says Vaughan. In other words, a female sees her soul mate; a man sees fun. And, according to Aaran Ben-Ze’ev, author of “Love Online,” it’s not uncommon for men to be conducting two or even four affairs at once.

Even innocent flirting with co-workers can hurt a marriage. “We only have so much emotional energy in life,” says M. Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist in Florida and author of “Emotional Infidelity.” “By chatting and joking with your crush during the workday, that’s emotional energy you should be sharing with your partner, and it drains your marriage of the vitality it needs.”

  • http://HASH(0xcfc75f0) Suzanne

    I found the comments about “head affairs” interesting. I’ve been married, and widowed, twice, but never during my marriage did I have any close, emotional attachments to anyone I would consider a “crush.” You get into murky semantics when you have a male friend with whom you share intimate secrets or details about your daily life you wouldn’t share with your husband. It’s way too easy to segue into a real “affair” when either working closely with another male co-worker, or meeting your male friend in secret. Now that I’m single again, I’m in the process of the “search;” my word for on-line dating. The writer is right in saying women look for soul mates; I’m currently consecutively dating three men; and I have a “soul mate” with whom I share “tea and sympathy” once a week. He and I have known each other for 23 years. Obviously, a lot of sharing goes on, but we would never take it UP a step. We’re both in our mid- to late fifties, and are far too mature to initiate a sexual relationship at this point. We both enjoy each other’s company. Nuff said.

  • http://HASH(0xcfc7b24) anonymous

    What a load of garbage.

  • http://HASH(0xcfc7e48) anonymous

    One of the hardest things I ever had to do was end a friendship with a married man that had turned into just what you described here. I knew I had to end all contact when he told me that he was so glad he had ME in his life because there were so many things he couldn’t discuss with his wife… Thank you for this blog, and stating the truth.

  • http://HASH(0xcfc8eb8) Pat

    I found the artical very intresting, but there is another problem that I would love to see addressed. Thats online sexual cybering by spouses, and the emails and porn pictures and vidio’s that are hidden to and from their encounters with the opposit sex and how they ruin a marriage and relationship. My husband is a womanizer, and does the above. Or relationship has gone from great to who gives a crap in 22 years. I know that I’m not alone.

  • http://HASH(0xcfc9e38) BAP

    :) I Must Say That I Can Relate With your Comment.. I’ve been In a Marriage For 24 years and I’ve Practically never been really Happy or Satisfied. My Spouse Acts More Like a Teenager than a Grown Man Sometimes. It Really Makes You Want to “Throw In The Towel” and Say (Like You Said”, ‘Who Gives a Crap Anymore’!! BAP

  • http://HASH(0xcfcaaa8) noneed4greed

    Most marriages i’ve found to be this way. Partly,it is like going to work for years;the excitement wears off. But i have found in my own life,that the few women i would have enjoyed to be with always picks someone else to go with. And in most cases don’t last either. So anything we had with someone else wears off in time. That dose not mean we don’t love them. It just means it could have been much better. But then,most men don’t seem to have this choice. So if we want a partner at all,and this is the life we would like to have,we get married regardless.I’ve been married four times now. So go figure!

  • http://HASH(0xcfcbda0) anonymus

    My husband and I have been through alot, he had a affair with a women 12 years older and then his best friend tried to help us work things out. Next thing I know we were in a relationship never meant to be but over 10 years laterwe continued, we agreed we were soulmates…maybe but he and I never got together and he married a few times in between. My husband wrote his parents to try and stop it and this man said we could never be together because of the way we did things and his mother said she would not respect him if he ended up with me. Well it continued and finally in the last few months it has finally ended and I was the one who kept the talking going because he moved away from me we never touched each other for 2 years since he moved but that attcjment I could not let go. He finally said it just wasn’t what we should be doing anymore and that I will always be the special woman in his life but we could never talk agin it was to damaging. I am trying to get over all this and stay married to my husband. I have a problem being sexual with my husband and he knows it, it breaks my heart to hurt him like this . All I know is this is a living “HELL” and I am working on this but I feel so empty and horrible! And feel really stupid to for being the 2nd woman in his life on and off all these years. I am a smart woman but it surely doesn’t sound or look that way does it?

  • sue

    I have been going through alot in my marriage lately…One of the things is that I have had what you would consider 9 emotional “friendship affairs”” on line with others while I have suffered through my marital problems and cried that my husband was so bad..Im not proud of this..In fact until this week I never even acknowledged that I was doing anything wrong..i justified it all..I have alot of work to do on myself and in our marriage but I believe if you are doing something or saying something you wouldnt say in front of your spouse then its wrong..plain and simple…I preached that for a long time but never made it apply to me…its going to apply to me from this moment on!!!

  • Wendy

    This message is for anonymus and for anyone who needs to hear it. I have wanted to share this somewhere, somehow for quite a while so that maybe someone could relate or be helped by it. I can’t possibly tell everything so I will try to make it short. I was married for almost 26 years and had 4 children when I began an emotional relationship with our pastor who I had know for about 2 years. It really started when I went to him about my marriage. I knew he cared too much about me and I let myself tell him how I felt at church camp. I knew better but did it anyway. Once the words were said, I was never the same. I realized about a year later I was “addicted” to him. Noone understand unless they have been there, but I could stay away from him. I told my husband and children and everyone found out, but I didn’t care about anything but him. Remember I had lived my whole life for my family and raised them to believe in God’s principles for life and I would have left my husband for him. He wouldn’t do that although we agreed we were soulmates. No, I was not happy in my marriage but I have destroyed the life I had…… husband (ex), my children, now a grandchild, lost my church and friends and had to go to work and struggle through life. It was not worth it, but I can promise you I could not help it. It was so overwhelming. My husband and I tried to stay together but like you said…It was hell and we couldn’t fix it. My life will never be the same.

  • chocoholic

    I have been with my love for almost five years and nothing makes me ever want to be without him but lately he has been on the internet alot, he clears the history most of the time, except for the other day, when i saw he looked up his old girlfriends, it hurt me so bad i did not know what to say. what do i do? he never wants to have sex, but every month or six weeks, i have been on a diet for about 6months now and lost alot of weight, still no reaction, tell me what to say or do, i think he is cheating on me and i am afraid.

  • un known

    me and my boyfriend been together for 5 years and i know he is seeing someone else.He says no but i catch him in lies alot why,i say that is because this number pops up on his phone and i called back and its this girl thats picks up.i really love my boyfriend alot and i just wish he could stop what he is doing especially for his daughter so please help me.

  • Sparkle

    This is for WENDY! I know how you feel, I am in the same situation, I have been having an emotional affair with my pastor for over 9 years! It is a constant battle for me. I am taking the necessary steps to end all communication. I think for him it is just extra attention and he does not magnify it the way I do in my own head.
    He was there for me when no one else was and yes he is wrong to continue to play games with my emotions but I am the one who has to find another church and end all communication with him. I am on month 2 without talking to him it is sooooo hard but I am determined.

  • jacqueline

    I’ve responded to an emotional affair, initiated by my pastor, within the last year, and a half.
    I’ve asked him to allow me to leave the congregation, at least 3 times.
    He hasn’t allowed me to go; but I’m taking matters into my own hands and leaving that congregation.
    I really feel stupid for allowing my heart to respond to his advances.
    And yes, I’m married.
    Your article is great, thanks…pray for my strength and courage to leave, and to never look back.

  • SurvivorGirl007

    I want to clarify that the term “affair” where your pastor is concerned is a misnomer. It is NOT an affair — it is ABUSE. There is a tremendous power differential between clergy and parishioners, so a relationship with a pastor/priest can never be consensual. Clergy have a fiduciary responsibility to those in their congregations: They must be the one to establish and maintain boundaries, even if women are throwing themselves at their pastors. Congregations need to be educated on clergy sexual abuse (CSA) and clergy sexual misconduct (CSM). It is rampant in the church. For more information, please go to http://www.thehopeof This organization helped pull me from the pit!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment sad

    i had an affair more on the phone then with the person and he also was married and his wife left him and then he wanted me but when i didnt jump when he wanted me to he would make me jealous of all these woman that he said wanted him that is why i hesitated to go be with him …… well in the end he got a mail order bride and got married and i am so lost because he was my true love and i didnt make a move quick enough for him that is when he go this mail order bride he talk to her for a month went and spent a week with her and brought her here seven months later and married a week after she was here does he really love her or is just desperate to have a woman in his life

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