What is Emotional Infidelity: 20 Signs & How to Address It
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What is an emotional affair or emotional betrayal?
Emotional infidelity in marriage works in subtle ways. Some even question if emotional cheating accounts for infidelity in marriage.
According to the statistics, 22% of men and 13% of women have been unfaithful to their partners. A staggering 60% of marriages suffer the blow of infidelity over the lifetime of their marriage.
The article dives into what’s an emotional affair, emotionally cheating signs, reasons for emotional affairs, and tips on how to survive emotional cheating for the betrayed spouse.
What is emotional infidelity?
Before we deep-dive into emotional affair signs, here’s a shot at knowing emotional infidelity meaning.
- It starts out as two friends getting to know one another
- Suddenly talk of work turns into a deeply personal conversation
- Before you know it, you’ve begun fantasizing about what a romantic or sexual relationship might be like with this person who is not your mate.
It may seem innocent to share your thoughts and feelings with someone who you are not in a relationship with.
After all, how can it be an affair if you aren’t physically cheating?
The truth is, getting emotionally attached to someone other than your mate can cause romantic feelings to rise. Want to know if you are unintentionally starting up with someone else?
20 signs of an emotional infidelity
How do you know if you are involved in one? Here are 20 signs of emotional infidelity:
1. You feel understood by this person
Many emotional affairs begin when you no longer feel fulfilled or appreciated by your partner.
One of the evident emotional cheating signs is that you feel you can’t talk to your spouse anymore, or that they don’t care about your needs, goals, and feelings. With that comes the sudden need for appreciation and understanding elsewhere.
You start sharing things with this new person, Be it your co-worker, friend, or ex-lover, and feel understood by this person in a way you don’t by your mate.
2. You go out of your way for this person
Do you find yourself rearranging your schedule to help this person out, even in the minutest way, where you wouldn’t even head out to the corner store for your boyfriend or girlfriend without an eye roll?
That’s one of the glaring signs of an emotional affair. You go out of your way for this new companion.
Going out of your way to spend time with someone who is not your mate may be a sign that there is something more to your friendship than you first thought.
3. You share intimate details with someone else
When conversations about friends or work suddenly turn into conversations about romantic relationships, sex, and other deeply personal issues you may have emotional infidelity on your hands.
It’s not that you shouldn’t be allowed to share private parts of your life with someone, it’s about the bond that you create when you open up so deeply to another person.
One of the signs of emotional cheating husband or wife is that either of you has allowed yourself to become vulnerable to someone else and something in your mind triggers an attachment because of it.
4. You are different when your mate is around
Even if you don’t mean to, you may feel something shift when your partner is around this other person. You may not even act like yourself anymore or may become hyper-aware of how close you’re standing to your friend.
You may also not want to be affectionate with your partner around this person. If you feel a gnawing in your attitude when your partner and your friend collide, you may be engaging in an emotional affair.
5. Sexual tension, fantasies, and arousal
One obvious sign of emotional infidelity is if you are not only emotionally attached, but are also having sexual fantasies about this person.
Dwelling on sexual fantasies about another person can lead to hurtful actions if you are already in a committed relationship.
If the accidental touching of your fingers or arms passing in the hallway ignites a spark of arousal in your everyday interactions with this other person you may be on your way to a full-blown affair.
Related Reading: 10 Signs of Incredible Sexual Tension
6. You compare your new friend to your romantic partner
If you are truly in an emotionally compromising relationship you may find you are comparing this person to your romantic partner, or vice versa.
You think about the qualities of this person that you wish your partner had, or note annoying qualities in your partner that you could never fathom this new person doing.
Comparing your partner to your crush is unhealthy and unfair for all parties involved.
7. Imagining a potential future together
As if sexually fantasizing wasn’t bad enough, you start dwelling on what it would be like to be in a romantic relationship with this person. You’ve thought about whether you would be compatible together if you were both single.
You may have even pictured your future together once or twice. Thinking about a romantic relationship with someone who is not your mate is a surefire sign you are stepping into an emotional affair at work or other social setups.
8. You hide your friendship from your mate
It’s natural to want a certain level of privacy, even while you’re in a romantic relationship, but carefully consider how much you are hiding from your romantic partner.
One sign of emotional infidelity is when you are hiding your friendship from your mate, or at least downplaying certain aspects of it.
If you are hiding texts, social media interactions, or phone calls from this person even when they are innocent in nature there might be something about your exchange that your partner would not be comfortable with.
9. You want them to like you
People naturally want to be liked. But do you go out of your way to do nice things for this new person in your life? Do you think of ways to make them smile, laugh, or connect with you?
If the need to gain someone else’s approval is not a normal part of your personality, you may have a crush on someone who is not your partner.
10. You dress up for them
When you know you’re going to see this other person, do you go out of your way to dress up?
When you are attracted to someone, emotionally or physically, you naturally want to gain their attraction in return.
If you are going above and beyond when it comes to your appearance and always want to look your best around this person, you may be involved in emotional relationships outside marriage that are on the cusp of physical cheating.
Emotional infidelity can slither in unnoticed and cause a heap of trouble in your relationship.
If you feel you are experiencing several of these emotional infidelity signs, you may want to reconsider how happy you are in your current relationship and take the appropriate steps to end things before your emotional affair turns into a physical one or consider working on improving your relationship if you both are willing to do so.
11. You stop reaching out
When people are sad, depressed, happy, excited, scared, bored, or just for the heck of it, they first reach out and share their feelings with their partner. If you have stopped sharing their feelings with your partner, despite them reaching out, it’s a sign of being emotionally unfaithful.
12. You complain about them
Private matters between couples are, well, private. If you find comfort in consistently talking about your relationship matters with someone else – that’s a big sign.
Related Reading: 7 Ways on How You Should Complain in a Relationship?
13. You talk a lot about this person
Becoming more interested in another person means that you have a lot of interesting discussions. So if a certain person’s name starts popping up every now and then with or without any context, that’s one sign.
You have become protective about your phone: If you get annoyed when they touch your phone or get anywhere near it, spend a lot of time texting and using social media, and don’t leave the phone unattended, it can be a sign.
14. Keeping secrets from your partner
You are unconsciously guilty. You lie and pretend that nothing is going on, and try to convince your partner (and yourself) that nothing really is going on. This is one of the most common emotional affair signs.
There is ongoing research on the reasons why people turn to cheating, including the number of people who resort to an emotional affair and it has seen some interesting responses from different genders.
15. You feel withdrawn and distant
Your emotional needs are being fulfilled elsewhere; hence it stands to the reason you will pull away from them.
It could be that the emotional gap that has been created is increasing the physical distance too, and they feel isolated and ignored.
16. You are more defensive
Are you getting defensive when they try to point out something is wrong? Do you try to blame them to be the suspicious and guilty one for bringing these questions?
Gaslighting isn’t always a sign of emotional cheating. However, if it is new, it can be an effort to hide something you feel guilty about by putting the blame on them.
17. You lash out on yourself more frequently
Arguments are part of any relationship, and after a while, you learn where the major “landmines” are.
With an emotional cheating spouse, you feel everything is a cause for a battle. You lash out on yourself out of frustration or guilt about things you never used to get mad about.
18. You are defensive about the ‘friendship’
The depth of the emotional connection that has taken place is one of the reasons why emotional affairs are hard to end.
Hence, when you feel they are endangering that ‘friendship,’ you will defend it passionately. You are not willing to see it end or have anything come between the “friend.”
19. You are not interested in physical intimacy
A big part of any relationship is the physical aspect of it, be it kissing, hugging, holding hands, or sex.
When you suddenly feel disconnected during the act of physical intimacy or reject it altogether, without them being aware of any major issues happening in your life, this could be cause for concern.
20. They are not a priority anymore
When somebody else starts becoming emotionally important to you, this is bound to happen. Suddenly, you may start canceling dates saying that you’re busy, don’t remember things they told you recently or seem distracted even when you both are together.
Impact of emotional infidelity
Emotional unfaithfulness inevitably affects the spouse’s marriage, whether the spouse finds out or not, since the emotional investment is directed elsewhere. What is emotional cheating’s influence on marriage and how to recognize it before it is too late?
Unlike sex affairs, emotional ones can’t be blamed on poor decision-making or alcohol. Building an emotional connection requires time to develop.
Since emotional affairs are a result of many small decisions made over time towards keeping the extramarital relationship alive, once it is all out, dealing with it is more troublesome than dealing with a one-night-stand affair.
So, what is emotional cheating’s effect on the marriage? Let’s find out:
- Distancing and alienation of spouses (even when the emotional affair is not revealed)
- Broken trust and seeking assistance due to pain and hurt feelings
- Breaking up or divorce due to irreparable damage done to the relationship
- Feelings of guilt, betrayal, shame, and anger
- Changed perspective about future relationships
- Loss of self-confidence
- and relationship damage in parent-child relationships.
Potential consequences speak to why dealing with emotional infidelity can be extremely challenging and why so many people seek professional help when faced with it.
Listen to relationship expert Susan Winter talk more about the consequences of an emotional affair:
What are examples of emotional cheating?
How you feel about someone is sometimes uncontrollable; it is a deep-seated instinct in our soul and psyche. Check out these emotional cheating examples:
- You think continuously about the person
- You are aware that you are attracted to the person
- You are aware they are attracted to you
- You notice the chemistry between the two of you
- You are okay with them flirting a little with you
Can a marriage survive emotional infidelity?
While emotional affairs may happen, they don’t happen overnight. Unlike physical infidelity where a couple may cross the line in the spur of the moment, emotional infidelity develops over time. There can be times that your partner could even be wondering what an emotional affair is and if they are having an emotional affair.
Make it a priority to rebuild your marriage and to be transparent and accountable to your spouse. Consider getting help through counseling if you are struggling before it gets too late for reparations.
In the end, you will realize that in order to enjoy a happy and healthy marriage it is worth guarding against the dangers of an emotional affair with a man or woman.
Tips to recover from an emotional affair for the cheating spouse
For those who are looking for helpful strategies to get back on track, here is some useful advice.
- Make a conscious effort to distinguish true love from a passionate, whirlwind romance
- REcognize that you will be held accountable in your marriage for your actions
- The best to circumvent an affair is to invest mindfully in your marital partnership
- Ask yourself what the other person is providing and look for ways to accomplish the same in your marriage
- If you comprehend your marriage is over, deal with that first so you can know the end came due to other factors, not your affair
- Journal your feelings to overcome the grief and gain perspective
- Find support in working with a professional who can help you gain clarity and strength to make the decisions that await you.
Coping when your partner is unfaithful
- Take time to grieve before deciding to end the marriage
- Expect extreme mood swings and an unexplainable mix of emotions
- Don’t succumb to the urge to seek revenge
- Focus on self-care
- Don’t be guilted into believing that you are responsible for the affair
- Don’t wallow in self-pity
- Seek help from a credible, experienced counselor to process the feelings of shame, and humiliation
- Since post-trauma stress following infidelity is common, focus on living one day at a time and seek help
- Surround yourself with people who support you and if needed work with an expert
Emotional affairs are just a manifestation of a weak relationship. Dig deep and strengthen your bonds together as a couple and be emotionally and physically available to each other.
As you work through the post-affair aftermath, you will get a clear vision of how to go forward and take the judicious decision to stay together or go your own separate ways.
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