Should emotional adultery be grounds for divorce

A Huffington Post blogger found herself on the open road a few years ago with someone she considered a great friend, someone who was “funny, brilliant and nerdy in the best of ways.” She never had feelings for him, and even while they were on their epic cross-country trip—a long-held dream fulfilled for the writer—their relationship was nothing but platonic. The writer was, after all, married and had been with her husband about a year before she met her road trip partner. And yet when she returned home from the trip, less than 18 months later, she realized that “some things just weren’t worth risking, like my future children.” The marriage may not have ended because of the trip, but it had changed her in such a way that she was unable to be with her husband afterward. She writes, “I began to look around and ponder why I was willing to take my ex’s abusive treatment for so long.”  

It was only post-split, in the midst of some confusing and somewhat erratic behavior, that she began to realize that perhaps she had been in an emotional affair all along. According to Redbook Magazine, “the signs of an emotional affair may be more subtle than those of a sexual affair, but they’re just as unmistakable.” Psychotherapist M. Gary Neuman told Redbook that, “an emotional affair happens when you put the bulk of your emotions into the hands of somebody outside of your marriage.” It’s not that you’re not speaking with your spouse—after all, households take conversations to run effectively—but rather that you’re not sharing in any significant way.

Dr. Shirley P. Glass wrote in her 2003 book NOT “Just Friends” that while emotional affairs aren’t new, they do seem to be on the rise. This could be in part because of the increasing isolation many people feel in today’s packed and isolating world. “This feeling of emotional detachment plants the seeds for an emotional affair,” Dr. Steven Stosny told Redbook. And an emotional affair could be a lot less work than the commitment to work on your marriage.

Emotional affairs and emotional isolation can certainly lead someone to seek a divorce, but the important question to ask is this:

Does a husband or wife having an emotional affair give the other spouse legal grounds to file for divorce?

The answer is not so simple.  Illinois law provides several different grounds for divorce that might come to mind when someone is having an emotional affair, including adultery, mental cruelty, and irreconcilable differences.

While having an emotional affair would not constitute adultery (which is traditionally defined as sexual infidelity), such an affair could be used to establish grounds of mental cruelty or irreconcilable differences, depending on the facts of the case.  If you or someone you know is suffering from emotional isolation from a spouse or believe your spouse is having an emotional affair, and are considering filing for divorce, it is important to contact an Illinois divorce attorneywho concentrates in the practice of domestic relations law.

 

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