Not Just Sex
Sandra, 45, a teacher in New York, meets a "totally beguiling guy" in a similar field. He helps her with a project; they start e-mailing, then phoning, having long talks over drinks. Thing is, she has a boyfriend. He has a wife. They're not having sex. Are they having an affair?
Yes. It's an "emotional affair," or "accidental affair," says Peggy Vaughan of DearPeggy.com and author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Dealing with Affairs (Newmarket, 2003). "Emotional affairs are most likely to affect the person who would never intend to cheat."
According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, 15 percent of wives and 25 percent of husbands have had extramarital sex. Add emotional affairs and other non-physical intimacy, and the numbers go up by 20 percent.
Many emotional affairs are a byproduct of increasingly intense and collegial workplace atmospheres. According to Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, author of Adultery: The Forgivable Sin: Healing the Inherited Patterns of Betrayal in Your Family (Birch Lane, 1993), over half of work friendships become something more.
"The stereotype is the VP of the corporation having a thing with the cute typist," says Shirley Glass, PhD, author of Not "Just Friends": Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal (Free Press, 2002). "But now the bonds between men and women working together are based on much more: similar interests and social backgrounds, in a highly-charged atmosphere."