July 9, 2008 -- Is an affair of the heart better or worse than an affair of the loins?
It's a question central to the breakup of Alex Rodriguez and his wife, Cynthia. On Monday, Cynthia filed for divorce from the New York Yankees slugger, who has been nursing a friendship with pop superstar Madonna and an interest in kabala, the Jewish form of mysticism.
Cynthia's attorney, Earle Lilly, told People magazine A-Rod's relationship with Madonna was "an affair of the heart" -- not "sexual infidelity." But Lilly added their relationship was "the last straw" for Cynthia, who has been married to the baseball star for six years.
"This is an action for dissolution of marriage, which is being filed only after [Cynthia Rodriguez] has exhausted every effort to salvage the marriage of the parties," Cynthia's divorce papers state. "However, Alex has emotionally abandoned his wife and children and has left her with no choice but to divorce him."
The filing goes on to say the Rodriguez's marriage "is irretrievably broken because of the husband's extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct."
Alex Rodriguez's representatives did not respond to ABCNEWS.com's requests for comment.
Over the weekend, Madonna issued a statement to People, denying a tryst with the Yankee, saying, "I am not romantically involved in any way with Alex Rodriguez."
But even if their relationship wasn't physical, Madonna may have tarnished Rodriguez's marriage by opening her heart to him.
"If he was connecting with Madonna on a spiritual level, that's incredibly intense. It can create a very strong bond very quickly. If he couldn't share that with his wife, they must have been headed down the road to trouble," said Shannon Fox, Momlogic.com family therapist. "You can't have every single need met in one person. But you should feel comfortable sharing the deepest part of yourself with your spouse."
Dodd Romero, Alex Rodriguez's former trainer, said on "Good Morning America" Monday that the Yankee took up a sudden interest in Madonna's music last year, the same time he dumped his sports agent for her manager, fellow kabala follower Guy Oseary. Romero speculated Rodriguez's friendship with the pop star "pulled him away from his strong family values."
That's a telltale sign of an emotional affair, which, according to Dr. Jacqueline Olds, can be as damaging as sexual infidelity.
"When the excitement of a new relationship causes someone to be obsessed with the friendship, and causes them to confide in the friend, as opposed to the spouse, that's when things have crossed the line," said Olds, who co-wrote "Marriage In Motion: The Natural Ebb & Flow of Lasting Relationships" with her husband, Richard Schwartz. "It's hard to get into a partner's brain, but a spouse can usually tell when someone is being emotionally absent. Most wives would not want their men out trolling for partners, either emotionally or physically."
Emotional Affairs Worse Than Physical?
Long before Madonna, Cynthia Rodriguez had to contend with the threat of her husband bedding other women. In 2007, rumors swirled that he was cheating on her with exotic dancer Joslyn Noel Morse. But, as her lawyer said, the slugger's intellectual connection with Madonna, even without the physical infidelity, led to her giving up on their marriage.
"It sounds like she could put up with random women that didn't have an emotional connection to him," said Fox. "If a man is having a sexual affair and his wife discovers it, her first question is always, 'Do you love her?' She might be able to forgive the physical aspect if emotion wasn't a part of it. But if he transferred the sharing of all his emotions to someone else, then why stay in the marriage? A lot of people talk about a sexless marriage, but really, a loveless marriage is unbearable for most women."
Fox added that if Rodriguez and Madonna had turned their alleged kabala study sessions into a double date, he perhaps could have salvaged his marriage, and the pop star could have avoided getting caught up in the rumors about why it fell apart.
"It's not that a man can't have any female friends," Fox said. "But for him to exclude his wife from a significant friendship -- that's a big red flag. If it were Madonna and [her husband] Guy, and A-Rod and Cynthia talking about kabala, that would've been better."
So, it seems cerebral affairs can cause as much damage, if not more, than their sexual counterparts. What recourse can Cynthia take now that the divorce papers are filed? Asked by ABCNEWS.com to weigh in on the saga, Marla Maples, Donald Trump's second ex-wife, offered heartfelt, albeit ironic advice:
"Kabala was very helpful to me when I was going through my divorce," she said. "It helped me to learn not to be a victim. It will help her move through life without chaos and pain."