Has YOUR friendship crossed the line into an emotional affair? Expert shares a 5-question quiz to find out – and reveals how to repair the damage

  • Sometimes close friendships cross the line into becoming an emotional affair 
  • Relationship expert Neil Wilkie says this happens when needs are not met
  • Shared a quiz to help you identify if you have slipped into an emotional affair
  • Offered advice on how couples can come back from ‘crossing the line’ 

Whether it’s an old school friend, a colleague, or even an ex, everyone has friendships outside of their romantic relationships. 

But at a certain point these friendships can cross the line from being strictly platonic to becoming emotional affairs, which can be a fatal blow to the primary relationship.

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. 

‘In many cases it starts completely innocently, as friendship, but builds into something more,’ UK relationship expert and psychotherapist Neil Wilkie told FEMAIL. 

‘The boundaries are lower and less clear with an emotional affair so a friendship can develop into a deeper emotional attachment unintentionally at first.’

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

Although there is no sex involved, emotional affairs still have the power to ruin relationships. Indeed, they can be seen as a greater betrayal because there is more thought and intimacy behind an emotional affair than, say, a drunken one night stand.  

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. But an emotional affair can be more painful to your partner and dent the trust between you further because of the deep emotional bond and feelings you have formed for someone who isn’t them. 

‘Having an emotional affair is a risk – likely ending in you losing both your partner and the other person. This can lead to a huge amount of hurt and unhappiness for everyone involved, including you.’  

Here, Neil, creator of online couples therapy programme, The Relationship Paradigm (www.relationshipparadigm.com), shares his expert advice with FEMAIL…  

Why do people have emotional affairs?

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

Affairs, whether emotional or physical, rarely come out of a clear blue sky. There are often unmet needs in the relationship, including intimacy, communication and feeling connected. This may well be a sign that something needs to change in your relationship 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 have been trapped in the primeval fight, flight or freeze mode with little chance of escape into work, friends, and fun. This has led people to seek new, virtual ways to escape.

Emotional affairs are on the rise  

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.

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. 

Instead, research shows we’ve been turning to emotional affairs instead. For example, a study of married people revealed 13 per cent had contacted 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

Think YOU could having an emotional affair? Take the quiz to find out if you’ve crossed the line… or you’re simply good friends  

1. Would you feel comfortable with your partner listening to everything you say to the other person or reading everything you write to them?

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

b. No, the thought of my partner reading our messages is terrifying

2. Are you sharing things with the other person about your intimate thoughts and feelings that you aren’t sharing with your partner or discussing problems in your relationship with them?

a. No, I’d always go to my partner to talk about this stuff

b. Yes, I’ve started telling them stuff I’d never tell my partner and wanting to tell them first if something exciting happens

3. Have you felt less connected to your partner since you became friends with the other person?

a. No, my relationship with my partner is just as strong as it was before

b. Yes, I’m starting to feel closer to the other person than I do to my partner

4. Do you ever fantasise or dream about what it would be like to kiss or have sex with the other person?

a. Eugh – no!

b. I’m scared to admit it, but part of me is really excited at the thought of this

5. Do you find yourself comparing the other person to your partner?

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

b. Yes, I’ve been finding myself getting more irritated by my partner recently and thinking of them in an increasingly negative light

Mostly As: It doesn’t sound like you’re crossing any lines here. You’re 100% loyal to your partner and everyone is allowed to have friends! Continue as you are – there’s no need to worry.

Mostly Bs: It sounds like you might be on dangerous ground here. There’s a line between friendship and something more and you could be crossing it. The good news is this doesn’t spell the end for your relationship if you don’t want it to, it just means you need to make some changes.

Revealed: How to come back if you’ve crossed the line  

Emotional affairs usually happen because there has been a connection lost between you and your partner. But you can fix it. The first step is to end the relationship you’ve been having with the other person. Rather than just ghosting them, tell the other person you want to end things and make a clean break of it. Explain that you feel you have crossed a line and need to focus on your relationship again.

The next bit might sound painful but, to really commit to starting afresh, you need to tell your partner what’s been happening. This draws a line in the sand and allows you to move forwards with honesty and without feeling guilty or being consumed by regrets. If you don’t tell them, you’re not only risking the guilt eating away at your relationship but also them finding out on their own. This would deal your relationship a much bigger blow than if you are straight with them.

Then it’s time to work on building a happy, fulfilling, loving relationship with your partner. To help rebuild trust, let your partner have full access to your phone to show you have nothing to hide. Affairs often happen as a result of a breakdown in communication, intimacy or connection. Here are a few ways you can rebuild these.


Talking to each other, being able to express how you feel to each other and being heard is key in any relationship. Reflect on what is positive in your relationship and what could be even better. Share appreciation of 5 positive things your partner does and then choose one issue in your relationship that could be better. Explain why this is important to you and what you would like.


In lockdown many couples got into a bit of a rut of not having sex. Sex is a really important form of connection. Discuss with your partner what you like and find out what their needs and desires are. Just imagine you could have a risk-free conversation to explore this knowing that there can only be an upside.


Set aside time and a place where the two of you can connect as a couple. Create those moments of intimacy where it is as if the world stops and nothing else matters. This can be a look, a touch, a word. You can also get really creative with this and, once a week, take it in turns to surprise your partner with something that you think they would enjoy. Let your imagination flow and see what 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 Check to find out how to build an even better relationship.

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