Friendship to Relationship: Defining Emotional Infidelity

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Shelly Smith-Acuña

Second Advisor

Ragnar Storaasli

Third Advisor

Donna Follansbee


Emotional, Infidelity, Technology, Couple's therapy, Relationships


For many years, researchers have studied the dynamics of romantic relationships, including the ways in which infidelity is experienced between partners. Researchers have considered the definition, impact, and consequences of physical (or sexual) infidelity. However, there is limited research on emotional infidelity and the distinct ways in which it has been experienced in relationships. Additionally, the Internet has played an important role in how infidelity is conceptualized. With the rise in technology, it has never been easier to communicate or stay connected to others within or outside the confines of a romantic relationship. Given that communication is an integral facet of romantic relationships and the role technology plays in staying connected, this project seeks to explore how individuals are understanding emotional infidelity and the role technology plays in this context.

The current study utilized a qualitative, modified grounded theory design to analyze interviews of nine individuals who have experienced or have a close friend who has experienced emotional infidelity. In-depth analysis of the data resulted in the following themes: Investing Emotions in Someone Other than Partner, Creates Distrust in the Relationship, Enhances Connection, and Increased Accessibility. Limitations of the current study and directions for future research are explored.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


44 pgs

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