What is an emotional affair, and what are the signs of an emotional affair? Well, it isn’t cheating in the classic sense, but it is a big problem. Looking out for these signs can help you work on your relationship if that’s the route you want to go down.
These days, as close as two lovers may be, they can’t always be by each other’s side all the time. Other than the weekends, most lovers spend a big part of their day away from each other. That leaves many of us with unfulfilled needs.
As humans, we have a need to feel loved and appreciated wherever we are. That can mean we look for that fulfillment and emotional support at work or school. The good times you share with your friends and colleagues may be one of the biggest reasons why you enjoy your workplace.
But, when that enjoyment gets out of hand, it can lead to an emotional affair. You don’t want that, especially if you’re wanting your relationship to work. Thus, here are the things that you need to know about emotional affairs. [Read: How do affairs start? The ways they play out in real life]
To begin to understand why an emotional affair is wrong, or why it even happens, we need to understand what it means to be in an emotional affair.
An emotional affair is nonsexual. It may move to that stage, but in essence, an emotional affair is a connection you have with someone outside of your relationship. This connection is deeper than a regular friendship and is on par with, if not deeper than, the connection you have with your partner.
You share secrets, look forward to spending time together, and talk about what’s on your mind. The problem is, you’re not doing that with your partner; you’re saving that time for the other person. [Read: To cheat or not to cheat? A guide to making up your mind]
At first glance, it doesn’t look so bad. But, consider this – your partner is wondering why suddenly you’ve disconnected from them. They’re worried and upset. When they find out, they will feel hurt and betrayed.
That’s why an emotional affair is bad. For many people, an emotional affair is considered worse than having a one-night stand with someone else. Neither is particularly good, but when feelings are involved, it just goes to another level. It’ll be difficult to pinpoint when the intimate feelings started, but the people involved in this entanglement will often end up draining their emotional energy. [Read: Dreams about cheating – What they mean and why you don’t have to panic]
To this point, we’ve talked about emotional affairs and why you might fall into one. But what if you think your partner is having one?
This is tough. It’s upsetting, and it’s going to hurt if you find out that your suspicions are true.
When your partner connects with another person, you feel left out. It’s normal to feel that way if it’s a close friendship and they seem to get along really well, but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. [Read: What is cheating in a relationship? The truth most people ignore]
If your partner is always with this other person, they don’t seem to have boundaries when it comes to them, and you suspect that there is far more going on than just regular friendship, you need to look out for the emotional affair signs.
That way, you can form a realistic view of what is going on. After all, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.
For many people, their partner cheating sexually is devastating, but when emotions are concerned, it’s ten times more hurtful. Neither situation is great, but when your partner admits that there are feelings involved, it makes you question every single thing about your relationship. [Read: How to trust again and give someone your heart when you’re scared]
Whether you want to know if the platonic friendship you’ve formed has crossed the line into emotional affair territory, or you suspect that your partner has connected with someone a little too much, it’s important to know the signs.
You’re generally very friendly and touchy with this friend of yours. But subconsciously, both of you keep some distance from each other when your lover is around.
There’s more awkwardness and formality in your conversations when your lover’s by your side. Why? If you don’t have anything to hide, why would your behavior change?
If you notice that your partner is doing this, it’s perhaps something to be a little suspicious of. [Read: How to share a platonic relationship with your friend and prevent it from turning into more]
A big sign of emotional cheating often includes the excitement of sharing new thoughts or ideas with this friend, be it your review of a movie you just watched or gossip about another coworker or classmate.
If anything interesting happens in your life, they’re the first person you want to share the news with, not your partner.
If your partner seems to always tell the other person important things before you, that’s one of the big signs they’re engaged in emotional cheating. [Read: Is it possible to learn how to regain trust after cheating?]
Do you ever feel incomplete or like something’s missing when you don’t speak to your friend or text them for a day or two?
Even when you’re on vacation, do your thoughts drift and leave you wondering what your friend is up to *or worse, you wish they were around*? We all think of our loved ones when they aren’t around, but if thinking of them is distracting you, it could signify that you already made an emotional investment in that person.
Similarly, if you know your partner is always talking to this other person, either by voice calls or messages, you know deep down that it’s crossing a line. [Read: How to get over trust issues in your relationship and move forward]
Do you share your innermost secrets with this friend? You may be confiding in someone about your personal problems that even your partner doesn’t know about. And the weird thing, it makes you feel good to share such intimate details with your friend.
At times, the idea of sharing a new secret may even excite you or make you feel more connected to each other. This is not a good sign if you are confiding in this person, maybe even about your partner.
Obviously, being comfortable sharing information like this with somebody else instead of wanting your partner to know about them is a type of infidelity. But, if you hear things on the grapevine that have got out via this other person, that’s a pretty solid tick in the box. [Read: How to forgive a cheater – questions to face the betrayal]
You get annoyed if you call your friend up late one night and realize they’re busy on another call with someone else. Maybe you find yourself feeling jealous if they date someone else or speak highly about someone else to you.
You’re not dating each other, but both of you like getting each other’s attention. There could be some deniability that it was just an infatuation versus emotional cheating but it could really be something more. You’ll be able to see this in your partner if you suspect that there is something more to the friendship they have with this other person. [Read: How to handle a coworker crush like a real adult]
Your attraction to this new person feels like an addiction. Both of you feel really happy to meet each other after a long weekend. And you feel like you’ve missed out on a good time if you don’t get to spend some time talking to this friend, you always yearn for closeness with this person.
If you miss this person more than you miss your partner when you’re not together, that’s a sign your friendship is bordering on the edge of an emotional affair. [Read: What should you do when you start liking someone else?]
Do you get easily aroused when you’re having a conversation about sex with this friend?
If you feel good talking about your own intimate sexual details with your friend and it somehow arouses you, there’s clearly an emotional affair in the making already. And chances are, it will lead to something more as well.
Though it’s not always the case, an emotional affair may involve sex. However, if your partner has started changing their appearance or seems to take a lot more care than they normally would, that’s something to consider. [Read: How to rebuild trust after even the worst type of betrayal]
There’s a lot of sexual tension in the air. Even when both of you sit close to each other, you can clearly sense every part of your body that is touching.
We all find people attractive, but when that goes beyond and there already is some sexual attraction that makes you question or doubt your primary relationship, it could be a sign of an emotional affair and more. [Read: 20 strong signs of sexual tension to know if you make each other horny]
Both of you don’t always realize it, but there’s a lot of flirty conversations when both of you share a moment, and there’s no one around. Other people around you may even comment on how in sync or cozy you seem. People could even mistake you for a couple.
Do you notice a slight undercurrent of flirting when you hear your partner on the phone to the person they swear is just a friend? Let’s be honest, they sound like more than just friends, right? [Read: 15 obvious flirting signs between a guy and a girl]
If you always find yourself dressing up better when youare going to be together with this friend, it is a sign of something.
You may not consciously see this as a sign of an inappropriate emotional affair in the making, but you always try to look your best when spending time with your friend. Do you touch up your makeup or spray an extra spritz of cologne?
Again, if your partner seems to make more of an effort, perhaps it’s a sign that things have gone a little too far. [Read: The 4 most common yet painful types of cheating in a relationship]
If you’re showing signs of an emotional affair with a friend, big chances are you take their compliments pretty seriously.
If your friend tells you that you look prettier with your hair styled a particular way or that red looks beautiful on you, you feel butterflies in your stomach. And you follow up by wearing your hair that way or doing what they suggest more often.
If you suspect your partner is having an emotional affair, you might notice that they tell you about a particular compliment several times. For instance, maybe the person told them their hair looks good a certain way. They let it be known and they change their hair. [Read: What is micro-cheating and signs you’re unintentionally doing it without realizing it]
This affair partner of yours understands you better than anyone else in the whole world. And you respect your friend’s advice more than you care about your own partner’s.
This is usually a temporary fluke because something in your relationship isn’t quite right. But feeling like this is a major sign of an emotional affair.
You’d be willing to sacrifice the big things just to make more time for your friend. You could stay up the whole night just to talk to your friend after your partner’s asleep. Or you could leave your place and head to work an hour early so you can spend more time with your friend.
Similarly, does your partner cancel dates or do you find them sitting up in the night on their phone? Ask yourself why. [Read: Understanding your mind – To cheat or not to cheat?]
You spend more time with someone else than you spend time with your own partner.
And even if your partner tries to communicate with you, you subconsciously push them away because you’d prefer to have intellectual conversations only with your friend. If it’s your partner you suspect to be having an emotional affair, look at whether the amount of time you normally spend together has dropped.
Your friend pops into your sexual fantasies all the time. You’re imagining the things that you can do if you are alone together. You may be having sex with your own partner, but somehow, you can’t stop thinking about how amazing it would be to make love to your friend. This is a big sign of an emotional affair and should really push you to take action. [Read: In a relationship but you like someone else? What you MUST know right now]
Whenever you speak about this friend with your partner, you talk about this friend like they’re not important at all. You try not to speak about this friend with your partner, or you portray your friend as someone insignificant in your life.
Additionally, you make a conscious effort to downplay your friend’s role in your life, and you try hard not to bring up this person’s name while in conversation with your partner.
As the suspicious partner, you know in your gut something isn’t right. [Read: Gaslighting – what it is, how it works and 22 signs to spot it ASAP]
Even if you’re in a long-term relationship with your partner, you spend a lot of time secretly wondering about how your life could have been if you and your friend had met earlier, before you started dating your partner.
If you think your partner is far too close to another person, you’ll be able to see if they start taking you for granted. This treatment will usually start when this person enters their life. [Read: Does everyone secretly get sexually attracted to others when they’re in a relationship?]
You and your friend avoid talking about each other’s partners too much. And even if one of you talks about your own lovers, it’s only for a few minutes before the conversation gets back to flirty talk, or how nice both of you feel talking to each other and having each other as such good friends.
It’s a subtle way of reassuring each other that even though both of you are in relationships with other people, there’s still something magical about your emotional relationship. [Read: How to fall out of love when you see no future]
Not only do you downplay your relationship with this person but you outright deny it. You may even get angry if your partner asks about them. Even a simple question about how they’re doing might set you off because you are on edge.
When you know you’re doing something wrong, you’re sensitive about the topic and lash out.
So, if your partner becomes very defensive when you bring this person up, you know why. [Read: Why do people get defensive?]
A major sign of an emotional affair is going overboard denying that anything is going on. You don’t just get mad or downplay it, you may actually mock or make fun of this friend in front of your partner. You say they are gross, or weird, or needy, just so your partner believes you don’t find them attractive.
And, this can add to your guilt because you actually like this person so not only are you lying to your partner, but you are saying cruel things about the person you have feelings for. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and your partner]
You may not have cheated physically, but an emotional affair can come with certain other inappropriate moments. Calling this person pet names like baby or sweetheart can take things to a new level.
You aren’t just harmlessly flirting anymore. You consider this person a big part of your life and view them as a partner, even if in secret.
A subtle sign of an emotional affair doesn’t always have to be about the affair, but also your relationship. You may be putting more energy into this other person than your partner. Instead of trying to fix things, you would rather hang out with this other person and put effort into that because it is new and exciting.
You are pulling away from your relationship but you barely notice because you have another person occupying your time and filling that void. As the partner who is potentially being cheated on, you’ll feel a major disconnect and change. [Read: The 7 stages of emotional affairs and the games it plays on your mind]
Even though your relationship is falling through the cracks, you aren’t upset. You don’t feel like you’re losing something because you’ve gained something else. You are happy with this emotional affair and have sort of forgotten your actual relationship.
If you are having problems in your relationship or even if other aspects of your life, which you probably are, friends might ask you why you seem so giddy and happy all the time. [Read: Emotional cheating and 10 bad things it can do to you]
You hide your phone and emails. You don’t want your partner or anyone else scrolling through your photos. With the signs of an emotional affair, you may convince yourself you’re doing nothing wrong but deep down you know you are, so you hide the evidence.
If your partner is hiding their phone when they don’t normally or you see a passcode on there when there wasn’t one before, that’s a red flag. Secrecy is largely involved in an emotional affair [Read: Do emotional affairs ever stop? The best ways to break the connection]
Now, let’s look at a few others signs from the cheated-on partner’s side that really highlight the possibility of an emotional affair going on …
This is not a red flag, but it is an easy way to know who your partner might be having an emotional affair with. If your partner has met someone who you think is a possible candidate for a relationship, had your partner been single, then it’s okay to watch over them.
Just remember not to suffocate your partner or start accusing them of something you’re not sure of. [Read: What to do about that nagging cheating suspicion]
If your partner is talking about personal things with someone else and refusing to talk about it with you, no matter what, it’s possible that they might be engaging in an emotional affair.
Their decisions about your relationship are influenced by someone else’s point of view. You’ll find your partner comparing how this new person thinks to how you approach your relationship. They will express how highly they think of this person as opposed to your own faults and shortcomings. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
Hanging out is different from dating. When we say dates, we mean a get-together scheduled for the purpose of talking. People do not plan these types of things with people who are not their friends.
If your partner is seeing someone for coffee or drinks “just to talk,” it might be a sign that your partner is engaging in said affair.
When you confront them about it, they don’t look or act innocently enough. They know they’re not doing anything wrong, but their gut and instincts are telling them otherwise.
This will be reflected in the way they talk or act when confronted with the idea of an emotional affair. [Read: What should you do about that nagging cheating suspicion]
If you get the chance to observe your partner with this person, try to compare it with how they treat you or your friends. If something doesn’t look or feel right, you need to talk to your partner about it. People in emotional affairs tend to look like they’re in love, even when they swear that they’re not.
Trust your gut and your instincts. Don’t act rashly, but do take the time to think about how you feel and what you plan to do with it.
A harsh confrontation will just push your partner away, so try to think of a plan that will allow you to express your feelings without insisting to your partner that you’re right. Give them a chance to explain and then you can decide what to do next. [Read: Online cheating and how people cheat without realizing it]
The number of emotional affairs which end in divorce is pretty depressing. That really does show you how difficult this type of situation is to overcome as a couple.
So, what leads to that point? What are the key things to be aware of? What are those deadly stages of emotional affairs so you can know for sure just how deep in you already are? Read on to know them all.
The first stage of an emotional affair is usually when one partner feels somehow unappreciated in the relationship. They may also feel like they’re not playing their part or providing as much as they should.
This inadequacy can cause problems to crop up and it can cause them to turn on their partner, perhaps with resentment starting to boil to the surface. [Read: Are you happy? How to spot the subtle signs of resentment in a relationship]
Okay, so sex isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it is an important way for a couple to stay connected. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and be available every time your partner wants sex. But, you do need to make sure that as a couple, you’re focusing on sexual intimacy too.
One of the main stages of emotional affairs is that one partner felt that they weren’t getting enough sex within the relationship and they felt deprived.
As a result, your spouse may went looking for it somewhere else. Unfortunately, that led them towards an emotional connection at the same time, or instead. [Read: The lack of sex in a relationship – Why it happens & what it means]
It comes to the best of us at some point but it’s vital that you spot the signs and do something about them before problems arise. If your romantic relationship has become boring, if you feel like siblings or friends, then it’s important that you try and spice things up and reconnect.
Usually, emotional affairs start when the romance goes out of the relationship. You’re left just co-existing in the same space. Try date nights, try heating things up. Just remember that you’re supposed to be connected on a deeper emotional and sexual level. [Read: 15 common reasons why almost all couples end up getting bored with each other]
We need to make time for one another. If one partner feels like the other one doesn’t have time for them when they want to talk or they want to do something together, they’re going to become fed up pretty quickly.
Without a doubt, one of the strongest stages of emotional affairs is when a partner wants to talk but they’re not heard. Perhaps they’re going through a hard time, but they can’t find that support from their partner.
When this happens, they seek this support from another person, albeit completely innocently at first, but an emotional connection is formed. [Read: How do guys get emotionally attached? 11 ways a woman can draw him in in no time]
We all go through stressful times in life and it can often lead us to shut off from our partners. If the other partner is complaining about it, making demands and not being understanding of what they might be going through, this can easily lead to a major rift.
It’s vital that you check in with each other occasionally and make time to talk. Avoid placing unnecessary demands on your partner. Instead, work towards achieving things together.
The problem here is that if someone is already in the middle of an emotional affair, this type of behavior is just going to push them towards the other person even more. They start to feel like it’s not worth it anymore, that they’re getting more understanding from the other person. [Read: 15 reasons and signs why an emotional connection is so important]
When looking at the stages of emotional affairs, by this point it’s likely that the other partner has a suspicion that something isn’t quite right. This may lead them towards ultimatums or trying to keep their partner with offers of sex or being clingy.
The partner having the emotional affair feels guilty and this eats away at them. That leads them towards more arguments. It’s a vicious circle that unfortunately only ends in tears. [Read: Emotional cheating and the bad things it can do to a relationship]
The final stage is the point when either the partner breaks things off with the person they’ve been seeing and decides to dedicate themselves to their relationship, or they decide to leave completely.
The problem is the damage has often been done and the road back is extremely long. Can you ever trust your partner again? Can they forgive themselves? You might both wonder whether the entire situation might repeat itself in the future. [Read: Can emotional affairs ever end? The art of breaking this connection]
Many couples choose to try therapy after an emotional affair is over. This can be a mutual thing, because the other partner is now aware of what happened. Or, it can be that the person who had the affair feels they need to do this privately, in order to process what has happened and focus back on their original relationship. [Read: What makes affairs so hard to end? 12 reasons make it really hard]
Having an emotional intimacy with someone else is not okay. Saying it’s okay is not okay. When you promise your heart to someone, it means that you’re supposed to give them your whole heart. You can share it with your friends and family, but you cannot keep parts of it from your partner while choosing to give it away to somebody else. You wouldn’t like your partner to have an emotionally intimate relationship with someone else, right?
That is why you should act on this issue as soon as possible. No, they haven’t had sex yet. No, they haven’t even kissed or held hands, but physical evidence is not really the marker for emotional affairs. Sooner or later, they will progress from emotional expression to physical intimacy. [Read: 14 ways to handle a crush when you’re already in a relationship]
Before that happens, here’s what you should do.
Do so calmly and rationally. Don’t lash out and don’t start pointing fingers. Start by telling them what you think and how you came to this decision.
Use your feelings and the truth that you’ve been keeping inside while watching your partner have an emotional affair. [Read: How to communicate in a relationship – 16 steps to a better love]
The most common defense of people in emotional affairs is their insistence that they are not cheating. If you point out the errors in this scenario, they might start to understand that you have a solid case against what’s been going on.
You might want to ban them from seeing the other person, but you know that’s not going to work. If your partner is going to end their emotional affair, it has to be because they’ve chosen to. Otherwise, it will only restart again somewhere down the line.
Because of your partner’s emotional affair, you can now identify what your partner is getting out of their relationship with another person. Whatever it is that makes them happy with that person may be what’s making them unhappy with you. [Read: How to end an affair and get over it completely]
Your partner may not be receiving it from you, or they may feel that it’s not something you’re willing to give. Talking can clear things up and it starts with identifying the root of your problems.
Don’t push your partner to do whatever it is you need to end the affair. At this point, they are probably confused about the situation. Knowing that you’re against this friendship with another person and it is causing you pain can make them question why you started feeling that way in the first place.
Give them time to assess their feelings so they can approach this with an open mind. [Read: 18 ingenious ways to catch a cheating partner red-handed]
There is a chance that talking about it or trying to fix things might not work for you and your partner. You can take more time if you want, but know that when a person’s heart is taking them somewhere else, it’s best to just let them leave… or else you might rip each other’s hearts apart in the process of holding on. [Read: 18 emotional affair signs your partner probably hasn’t noticed]
If you’re someone who’s cheated on their primary partner, we’re not judging you. Obviously, since you’re reading this, you got yourself into a bit of a sticky situation. You’re emotionally attached to this new person.
If you ask yourself, “do emotional affairs ever stop?” The answer is yes. Is it going to be easy? No. Why? Because you’re basically breaking up with someone you care about. But, you’re not really able to grieve because you have a partner.
Get ready for some hard work, this ain’t gonna be easy. [Read: 18 subtle signs you’re having an emotional affair even if you don’t realize it]
If you didn’t have sex with the person, it doesn’t matter. Many people argue that emotional infidelity is even worse than physical cheating. Why? Because you’re emotionally cheating on your partner.
Your feelings of connection are with someone other than your partner. Thus, you are being unfaithful. This shows the lack of emotional connection to your partner, something you need to explore deeper.
It’s tricky when trying to figure out if it’s actually an emotional affair or not. Listen, if you feel guilty when you’re with the other person or have to be dishonest with your partner about what you’re doing and who you’re seeing, it’s an emotional affair.
Why would you have these feelings if this was just a friend? If it’s a friend, you have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of. [Read: Lack of communication in relationships – How to fix the issue]
No one wants to see themselves as someone who cheats. But you cannot try to rationalize what you’re doing.
Own up to the fact that you’re cheating on your partner. You know exactly what you’re doing.
Sure, your partner may not be giving enough attention or working long hours, but express your feelings to your partner instead of going to someone else for attention. [Read: How to forgive yourself for cheating]
Why is this happening in the first place? If everything in your relationship was great, you wouldn’t feel the need to emotionally connect with someone else. The first step in dealing with your emotional affair is understanding why you’re having one.
Sit down with yourself and really think about why you started this emotional affair. What are you not getting from your current relationship? [Read: How to face relationship challenges and overcome them as a couple]
What are you trying to gain from this emotional affair? Do you want to leave your current partner for this person? Do you want to feel validated?
You went into this affair because you are unhappy in your current relationship, but what was the end goal? Now that it’s progressed, what do you really want from this affair?
Do you want to end this in hopes of keeping your current partner or do you want to end this affair and breakup with your partner? Have some self-reflection and about how you’d want to move next. [Read: Are you in love with someone else? 15 questions you need to ask yourself]
You need to end the affair. Now, this can be tricky depending on your relationship with this person. Is this someone you see all the time, work with, etc.? So, the best way to end it is to tell them. Don’t ghost them.
They deserve to know why you’re ending this relationship with them. Let them know that you feel you crossed the boundaries and you need to remove yourself from this situation. Now, whether you still want to remain friends is your decision. [Read: How to say goodbye to someone you love and find closure and happiness]
Listen, once you break it off, it isn’t going to be a walk in the park for you. You can think of this like a breakup. You have an emotional bond with someone and now you’re ending it.
Now, it’s a little tricky because unless you told your partner what happened, you kind of grieve in silence.
If you choose not to tell your partner, then the best way to process this is to seek professional therapy and write your emotions down. [Read: Movies about affairs: Sexy smut or poorly portrayed]
We’re not forcing you to tell your partner, what you choose to do is your decision to make. Though if you feel guilty, it may be better to let them know what happened.
After all, they have a right to know what you were doing behind their back, as well as deciding whether or not they want to be with someone who did that.
Your partner is going to be hurt, really hurt. The worst thing to do is beg forgiveness from them and suffocate them with your tears. Give them space. They need time to process what happened and figure out the next step.
They’ll come to talk to you when they’re ready, you just need to respect their space. [Read: You only cheated once – Should you confess or just shut up?]
You’ve talked to your partner and they’re willing to give the relationship a second chance. Now they probably acknowledge that your relationship wasn’t going down a good path, which is a very good start when it comes to recovering from an emotional affair.
You now need to sit down with your partner and talk openly about the relationship. What needs are not being fulfilled on both sides? Perhaps you need to do something fun together to rekindle the relationship. If you are married, you might want to consider attending marital counseling.
Making a plan is one thing, but sticking to it is a whole other thing. If one of you is slacking when it comes to meeting those expectations, remind each other.
In that situation, you should evaluate whether or not you both actually want this relationship to work. If not, sit down and talk about it. Maybe it’s better if you both moved on.[Read: Emotional cheating and 10 really bad things it can do to your life]
Whether you’re the person who had the emotional affair or it was your partner, the road back is a long one. There is a breach of trust within the relationship and feelings have been hurt. Repairing that will take time and effort on both sides.
Think long and hard about whether this relationship is worth continuing with. If there is any chance the whole situation will repeat itself again in the future, it’s time to move on. However, if you’re both dedicated to making it work, it’s time to sit down and work things out together.
[Read: Should you ever confess to cheating on your partner?]
There are just two things you can do at this crossroads. Break up with your partner. Or end the emotional affair. These emotional affair signs don’t lie.
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