What Exactly Is an "Emotional Affair"?

Is it different from the other kind?

By Leslie Gornstein Oct 13, 2010 1:24 AMTags
David Arquette, Courteney Cox ArquetteJeff Vespa/Getty Images

I'm reading that Courteney Cox may have had an "emotional affair." What is that? Can David Arquette use that against her if they divorce?

—Reid24, via the inbox

Whoa, there, Sparky. Let's parse this out. Depending on who's talking, Cox—now separated from her husband of 11 years—may have developed some sort of attachment to another guy in what's being termed an "emotional affair," an "emotional bond" or just an "emotional thing." (Super enlightening, I know.)

Such attachments are, apparently, real, if not physical. But could it end up costing the Friends millionaire tons of cash in family court?

Nope. Let's just say that the couple divorces—something they may or may not end up doing. In that case, they'd probably file in California, a state that does not assign blame in divorces. It's what's known as a "no fault" state, meaning you really don't need any reason—physical affair, emotional affair, formal affair—to get a divorce.

What if they file in another state, one that does assign fault in a divorce? Well, even then, an emotional attachment to another man wouldn't count for much.


"First of all," reasons Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin, chair of the family law department at the law firm Weber Gallagher, "what does that mean? It means that she got friendly with somebody? If it's not, that how do you prove that stuff? Legally, it's not adultery. Adultery has to be physical."

Not that an emotional affair can't be real, at least in the eyes of marriage counselors. Julie Hanks, who is indeed such a creature, says emotional affairs happen all the time.

"A good definition is a connection with another person that you hide from your partner," Hanks tells me. "Usually it's not physical. But there is the desire to be with that person in a romantic way."

Of course, there's no way of knowing for sure what's going on inside Cox's head. Unless she would, perhaps, like to give Howard Stern a call?