An emotional affair is more than a friendship. It’s a secretive closeness that oversteps the line of intimacy.
Even if things haven’t gotten physical, there is often a sexually charged energy present in the connection.
Everyone’s definition of what counts as cheating is going to be different. But many of us say that we’d find the betrayal of an emotional affair even more upsetting than something sexual (56% of men, 73% of women).
If you fear your partner could be engaged in emotional infidelity, here’s what to look out for…
1) They start mentioning someone more often in general conversation
An ex-boyfriend of mine had what started as an emotional affair with a colleague of his, and eventually turned into fully-fledged cheating.
My first clue was how her name started to pop up frequently in conversation.
Although it was nothing major, it was a sign of a deepening friendship.
He would borrow dvd’s from her, or mention antidotes with her in the story.
It can seem a stupid thing to do, talk about the person you’re having an affair with to your partner.
But especially when the affair is emotional, they may not even think about it. It tends to subconsciously happen
We naturally talk more about the people who are filling our time and are in our thoughts.
2) They’ve been spending more time apart from you
In order to have an emotional affair, you need to make space and time for it, just like any other type of affair.
It’s trickier when, like in my case, it’s happening at work. As in those instances, you may not notice the time they are spending elsewhere.
However, even then, they may start spending more time at work.
My ex started doing extra “training” with this woman and suddenly started joining work nights out that he was never interested in before.
Has your partner been spending more time on hobbies, interests, friends, and groups recently?
There may be someone in particular they are keen to be with.
3) They seem distant
Recently, there seems to be a growing gap between you that you just cannot bridge.
There may not be anything “wrong” per se, but you just don’t feel as close as normal.
Things are friendly, but your intimacy isn’t the same as it was.
They may be less cuddly or affectionate with you. You’re not laughing and joking together like you once did. They don’t make as much time for you. You no longer feel like a priority to them.
You may have even tried to make more of an effort, but it doesn’t appear to be matched by them.
4) They’ve stopped sharing important things with you
One of the hallmarks of emotional affairs is someone else becoming your partner’s confidant, instead of you.
We all need close connections in life.
But if you are no longer your partner’s go-to person when they need to talk about something, you might be wondering if someone else has taken your place.
They don’t open up about what’s on their mind.
You might even feel like they are being secretive.
5) You suspect them of lying (or at least withholding the truth from you)
We all lie — yep, even to our significant others.
But most of the time, they are what we might call fibs. We may tell what we see as a harmless white lie to keep the peace.
Yet if your partner has started to be deceitful, they may be trying to cover something up.
They may try to play down certain facts. They may tell you one thing, and then change their story later.
They may be intentionally vague about details when you ask them about something. Or they could do the opposite — offering up strangely embellished accounts.
All of these things are signs someone is lying to you.
6) They’ve recently become more guarded over their phone
Here, just like with many of our other signs, the key is changes in their behavior.
I once had an ex who was always protective over his phone, right from the very beginning. As weird as I found it, that was just how he was.
Yet my current partner happily leaves his phone around. He doesn’t take it with him or put it in his pocket when he leaves the room.
Neither does he have a password on his laptop. He’s perfectly happy for me to use it.
That’s not to say couples aren’t entitled to privacy. But it feels more like secrecy when your partner suddenly gets extra controlling about these types of things.
Small shifts in these sorts of behaviors are some of your strongest signs that they’ve got something to hide.
7) They’re constantly glued to their phone these days
A lot of emotional affairs take place online.
It’s an easy way of keeping in touch and having private conversations that can go unmonitored.
Some people even have emotional affairs with someone they have never actually met in person.
If your partner is always texting and messaging, or simply engaged with their phones, then you might wonder what’s captivating them so much.
They may seem quite distracted when you are together because of how immersed they are in it.
8) They’re acting weird, even if you can’t put your finger on it
It’s a tricky one, as our fears can make us paranoid and so we may end up reading too much into things.
Especially if you are naturally quite jealous or insecure in relationships, this is always something to be mindful of.
But if you’re not, then listen to your gut.
Our instincts are hard-wired into us. They are like powerful detectors that pick up on signals we may not be consciously aware of.
If your intuition is sending alarm bells ringing, don’t ignore it, because it could be onto something.
9) They’re picking fights with you
When your partner grows closer to another person, they increasingly pull away from you.
There’s usually quite a bit of guilt involved with any affair.
That’s why they may seek to justify it. And an “unhappy home life” can do that. So they set about trying to create one.
They seem to start arguments over nothing as they try to feel better about their own betrayal.
10) They are immediately defensive if you try to bring your suspicions up
Wild and unjustified accusations are always more likely to be met with frustration or irritation.
But have you tried to calmly raise your concerns and you received a very guarded response?
“We’re just friends.”
“Why don’t you trust me”
Or, the line that I was given…
“I haven’t cheated on you.”
They’re denying it, but something doesn’t seem quite right in the way that they go about it.
It’s a very defensive and impatient rebuttal.
Rather than seek to reassure you, they want to shut the conversation down and quickly move on.
11) There are changes in your sex life
We touched on intimacy earlier, and sex is just another form of that.
If your partner is engaged in an emotional affair, you may notice some shifts in your sex life.
They may be less interested in sex than normal
It’s part of their gradual withdrawal from you, as they pull further away and toward someone else.
They may be more interested in sex
As horrible as it is to hear, this can happen as the desire and connection they feel for the other person then plays out in your bedroom.
12) They’ve been making comparisons
Maybe about you, maybe about your relationship.
They say that so-and-so does this, has this, or believes this.
It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong, or suddenly you’re not enough and don’t stack up.
It seems like your partner is measuring you against a certain someone they have recently gotten close to.
13) They’re bending over backwards for someone
They’ve started to go above and beyond for this person.
It’s more than just doing the odd favor. They make a lot of time and effort for this certain someone. It’s clear that they are a high priority for them.
If they call, your partner will come running. That may even mean dropping other commitments to do so.
They insist they’re just trying to help them out, but they’re acting more like a love-sick puppy.
14) They buy them a special gift
They may, or may not have told you about it themself. Maybe you find the receipt.
But there is a lot of care and attention, or expense that has gone into it.
So even if it is a special occasion, it just feels a bit too over the top to give to someone who is just a friend.
It might not even be one, it could be multiple little gifts that they seem to be buying for them.
Even though they have excuses for their “gestures” and try to pass them off as just being nice, you aren’t convinced.
Your relationship needs some work
Recognizing quite a few of the signs on this list won’t tell you conclusively whether your partner is indeed having an emotional affair.
But it 100% does tell you that something isn’t right in your relationship.
Your suspicions alone mean something is missing for you to feel safe with your partner.
Without making accusations, you can ask them how they feel the relationship is going and any things that they may feel are missing or would like more of.
It’s important to talk with them honestly but calmly about it, so you can try to move forward together.