An affair is a violation of the marriage contract that occurs when the spouse is replaced by someone or something else. It is one of the worst things that can happen to a marriage because it violates everything you’ve built with a partner in such a personal way. We are often blindsided by these relationships because we didn’t see it coming. You might not have physically cheated on your spouse, but have you had an affair in a different way? There are a number of unexpected types of affairs that can become a diving point in a marriage.

They are less obvious ways for us to be unfaithful than by committing adultery. In these, you’ll find the same patterns of decreasing dependence on the marriage, emotional transfer to someone or something else, and the final crisis of making the decision either to rescue the marriage or to abandon it for the looming alternative. Before you know it, you’re so deep down the rabbit hole you’re not sure how or if you’re willing to even pull yourself out. Here are five types of nonsexual affairs you probably didn’t know about.

Emotional infidelity.

It might have started with a conversation online or with a seemingly innocent friendship in the workplace. It may have even begun with an uncomplicated thought: Unlike my spouse, this person really understands me. When there are problems in your relationship, you or your partner may look to someone else to fill the void. You begin to share intimate and confidential information about your relationship and ask your “friend” for advice. These romances may seem harmless – perhaps even “safe” alternatives to cheating on your spouse but these affairs are dangerous because they often lead to physical affairs and a whole lot of denial along the way. There is often a lesser degree, or absence of guilt and shame, justified as innocent fun due to the lack of physical contact. They may not initially lead to physical involvement, but they can still devastate marriages.

Family of origin.

The term “family of origin” refers to the family that you grew up in – your parents and siblings. It may also include a grandparent, other relative or divorced parents who lived with you during part of your childhood. These people strongly influence who we become. Some people never allow themselves to reach the level of absolute attachment and commitment of true love because they do not allow their lover to become the most critical person in their lives. Instead, their attachment to their family members makes them so controlled by their original family that their lovers never take their rightful places in their hearts. Typically, this type of affair is hard to recognize as an unhealthy relationship because it involves your family. Some signs of unhealthy attachments include neglecting other relationships because of a preoccupation or compulsion to be in the relationship, or when there’s a conflict or disagreement in your relationship, you feel extreme anxiety, fear or a compulsion to fix the problem.

Mental infidelity.

There is no way we can talk about physical affairs without talking about mental affairs. It is one of the biggest problems destroying marriages today. Having a mental affair is to look with an intentional and conscious desire to gratify lust, to picture situations in the mind, to think of cheating in the mind with a person to the point that if the opportunity were presented, you would commit the physical act. These can also be considered the “Just-In-The-Head” affair. How can it be considered an affair if there’s no sex? Often, one or both parties don’t want to disrupt or leave the primary relationship or “mess it up,” so they choose to keep it platonic. That level of intimacy and intensity makes it an affair of the mind. It is definitely more than a friendship. They also must hope their primary partners continue to believe they’re telling the truth about the dynamic of their relationships.


Could a thing as good as a friendship break up a marriage? Yes, it can happen. A person can get so caught up and thoroughly involved – nonsexually – with a friend that they leave their spouse. People in these affairs believe that their friendship is more fulfilling and emotionally valuable than their marriages. Good friends respect your physical and emotional connection to your significant other. Good friends foster a positive relationship between you and your partner: they don’t get in the way. One thing to look out for is how they acknowledge a person’s significant other. If you mention your spouse to that friend, do they change the subject? Do they ever ask how your partner is doing? If you keep referencing your mate, and the other person keeps acting like they don’t exist, it’s because they don’t want them in your life.

Visual infidelity.

A visual affair is the act of committing adultery with your eyes. This can be with a person you know, and it can also be with a person you’ve never met before but fantasize about. The typical affair used to start in the office and move to a seedy motel room, but the vast reach of the internet has brought infidelity into many couples’ homes. The growth in steamy social media and chat room conversations, in addition to online pornography, has triggered a rethinking of the meaning of infidelity.

It’s often deceiving and easy for those doing it to not think seriously because they’re not committing a physical act. Many people think as long as they aren’t physically touching someone other than their spouse, they are not being unfaithful. But the more you commit visual adultery, the more likely you are to end up physically cheating on your partner.

Just because there is no physical contact doesn’t mean it isn’t an affair. These five forms of infidelity are some of the easiest ways to damage a relationship. Sometimes, the harm is so great the marriage can seem beyond repair. The reason these affairs are so hard to work through is that they destroy trust, which is the foundation of any healthy working relationship. Infidelity can collapse even the strongest bonds and destroy your relationship from the inside out. Though you may not think these offenses are that serious now, if you continually participate in these forms of cheating, they can have some devastating consequences.

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