Are You More than Just Friends?

You spend as much time with him as possible, seeing him is the bright spot of your day, you share your fears and your secrets, and you simply feel good when you're with him. Nope, not your husband--but a dear friend upon whom you've come to rely. But is he really just a friend, or something more? If the following scenarios resonate with you, your relationship could be in jeopardy.

1. Your fantasy about a life with him is very strong.

2. You discover yourself not telling your spouse or partner about all the encounters you have with this person. "And you withhold information from your partner," says Sharyn Wolf, LCSW, author of Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce.

3. You feel cut off and distanced from your partner. "When you are not feeling close to your spouse or partner, it's much easier for an emotional affair to start," says Jennifer Freed, Ph. D., a psychotherapist based in Santa Barbara, California. "When the primary relationship has become dead or cut off in some way, often an emotional affair starts up as compensation for real intimacy at home."

4. You confide more in your friend than in your spouse.

5. You take better care of yourself before you see your friend than you do when you're with your spouse.

6. You start getting into fights with your partner about how much time you are spending with your friend.

7. You find yourself being much kinder and more forgiving with your friend than you are with your spouse, Freed says, and you give your friend (but not your spouse) special gifts and treats.

8. You simply enjoy the time you spend with your friend much more than the time spent with your partner.

9. You want exclusive time with your friend, and will go out of the way to arrange it.

10. You're defensive to your spouse about your friend's faults, and you tend to become angry if your spouse criticizes your friend.

11. You wake up thinking about him every morning and go out of your way to bump into him.

If you're wondering whether your friendship has crossed the line and become an emotional affair, it's easy to rationalize that the two of you are just friends, Wolf says. But if there's even the slightest doubt in your mind, it's important to back off, Wolf says. "Limit conversations and don't be having lunch alone with him," she advises. "Stop the quiet talks together in the hallway." Discuss with your friend what you think is happening, and explain that you don't want to cross the boundary.

Be aware that big events--a death in the family, serious illness, a milestone birthday, losing a job--may precipitate the start of an emotional affair. If the emotional distance between you and your partner seems to be on the increase, it may be time to get some professional counseling and to work toward making each other the priority again.