Divorce & Adultery: Is It Cheating To Have An Emotional Affair?

It started off innocently enough. Amy (name changed), age 39 and married for 10 years, received a friend request on Facebook from Scott, her first “real” boyfriend in college. She was flattered that he had looked her up and quickly accepted the request, curious to find out more about his life. Going through his photos, it looked like he too was married, had children, and lived in a different state.

As with many friends from the past she had linked up with on Facebook, Amy thought that soon Scott would become just like the rest of those “sort of know them” people whose photos of kids, food, and funny internet memes she would scroll through and click like if she happened to be in the mood.

But that’s not what happened. Soon after becoming friends, Amy logged onto Facebook and saw that she had a message. It was from Scott, telling her how happy he was to finally reconnect and how much he missed their late night talks about life… and what were thoughts on life now? Innocent enough. It gave Amy a rush to look back at those hazy days of youth, so she messaged him back and within weeks, they were emailing and texting on a daily basis. When Amy found out she had gotten a promotion at work, Scott — not her husband — was the first person she told. When Scott found out that his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he and Amy had an all-night texting session. Scott thanked her for being there for him because, as he pointed out, his mom had loved Amy at first sight when they met 20 years ago, but his wife had never formed the same bond.

About six months after their initial contact, Amy and Scott’s communication took on a flirty tone on occasion and the two started working out a time when they could meet in person… alone. At this point, Amy’s husband didn’t even know of Scott’s existence. But that soon changed when one day he borrowed her laptop without asking and opened Facebook, still logged onto her account, and found her treasure of messages from Scott.

When Amy got home from work that night, her husband accused her of cheating on him. Amy, at first, laughed it off with a series of easy explanations… We’re just old friends! You don’t know him, so I didn’t see the point of telling you about him! He’s going through a rough time and just needs a sympathetic ear!

However, her husband didn’t buy any of it, and their marriage, which had had its shares of ups and downs over the past few years, quickly fell apart. The two are now separated, but Amy still denies that she and Scott, with whom she says she has cut off contact, were having an affair.

Is Amy in denial that her behavior could be considered cheating? If she is, then she is certainly not alone. According to a recent Huffington Post and YouGov survey of 1,000 American adults, there are still varying thoughts on what constitutes infidelity, especially when it comes to accusations of having an emotional affair.

According to the survey’s results, 60 percent of respondents said they would consider their partner unfaithful for having a deep emotional connection with someone else; of the other 40 percent on the other side of the coin, 18 percent said this kind of behavior was not cheating, and the rest were unsure. However, when broken down by gender, there is wider gap here: 70 percent of women said they would consider it cheating if their spouse formed an emotional connection with some one else, compared to 50 percent of men.

Age also matters when it comes to the perception of an emotional affair. While 69 percent of people ages 65+ would consider it cheating to form a deep emotional connection with someone other than their partner, only 52 percent of people ages 18-29 said the same.

And what about Facebook? For both men and women, it depends on the level of engagement on the social media platform. If a partner were to reconnect with an ex on Facebook by becoming friends, 26 percent of women would consider it cheating (42 percent would not) compared to 21 percent of males (56 percent would not).

Do you think Amy cheated or not? Is this kind of infidelity enough of a reason to get a divorce?