Relationships Spouses & Partners Marital Problems 9 Signs You're Having an Emotional Affair By Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT Marni Feuerman is a psychotherapist in private practice who has been helping couples with marital issues for more than 27 years. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 30, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Biddiboo-Taxi / Getty Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is an Emotional Affair? Signs Impact Coping Emotional affairs can wreak havoc on your marriage as well as your family. You only have a certain amount of “emotional energy.” If you are focusing your energy elsewhere, it can start to have a detrimental effect on your relationship and your family. This article discusses the signs that you or your partner might be having an emotional affair. It also explores the impact this may have on your relationship with your partner. What Is an Emotional Affair? An emotional affair is a non-sexual relationship involving a similar level of emotional intimacy and bonding as a romantic relationship. Emotional affairs usually begin as friendships. Some platonic relationships can slowly morph into deep emotional friendships. When you find this other person attractive or when you share sexual chemistry, you face a slippery slope pulling you away from your marriage. There usually is no intention for these bonds to become anything more. Regardless, the line is thin between close friendships and emotional affairs. Furthermore, emotional affairs can also quickly lead to flirtation and sexual encounters. What Is an Emotional Affair? Signs of an Emotional Affair If you are not quite sure if you are having an emotional affair, here are nine signs that indicate you probably are: Frequent Contact Emotional affairs are usually characterized by a great deal of contact with one another. This includes spending time together in person but also having frequent contact when you are not together. For example, you often communicate with this person at questionable hours. You devote a lot of time texting, emailing, or video calling this person. You may even neglect your partner, family, and other obligations in order to maintain constant contact with this person. Frequent Sharing Emotional affairs are also characterized by a tendency to prioritize this other relationship to the point where you confide in them more than you do your own partner. They become the first person you want to call with any “news.” For example, if you have some exciting news to share or you have had a bad day, they are the person you call. You may not be sharing with your spouse very much at all. You might not be intentionally hiding things from your partner, but the lack of communication means that your partner doesn't really know what is going on in your life. Constant Thoughts The person you are having an emotional affair with becomes the focus of your attention. This person takes over your thoughts. You may also find that you have a difficult time concentrating on anything other than this person. You think about your friend constantly. This person is on your mind when you wake up in the morning, when you go to sleep at night, and a lot of time in between. When you are getting dressed, you have this person in mind, hoping they will notice your appearance. While emotional affairs start out as non-sexual, you might also start having romantic or sexual fantasies about this other person. Feeling Understood You believe this person really “gets” you. You start to feel like they really understand you, even better than your spouse. You might feel that this person has a lot in common with you or that you have a lot of shared interests. Because it seems that you have a unique connection, you might feel like this person understands you in a way that other people don't, including your partner. This sometimes means that you start holding back sharing things with your partner even more, which further degrades your intimacy, connection, and communication. Inappropriate Sharing Emotional affairs may begin with conversations about work and other topics but they often shift into more intimate details about your life, relationships, personal issues, and sex life. This tendency to make yourself emotionally vulnerable while disclosing intimate details about yourself and your feelings deepens your attachment to this other person. You discuss very personal topics, such as the problems in your current relationship. You share all or most of your problems and concerns with this person. As you do this, you also grow more discontent with your spouse. Unfair Comparisons As you grow closer to this other person, you may also begin to judge others in comparison to them. You frequently compare your spouse to this person. You may get angry with your spouse for not doing things like the other person. Because you are idealizing this other person, your partner begins to look worse in your eyes. You may find yourself being more critical of your spouse. It also means that you tend to look for mistakes and overemphasize your partner's flaws without giving them credit for their strengths. These unfair comparisons also mean you overlook any negative traits in the person you are having an emotional affair with. Spending More Time Together In addition to always being in touch with this other person, you spend a lot of time together in person. You find excuses or create reasons to spend time with them. You might stay out together after work or make plans on the weekends with them. You may even find excuses to avoid spending time with your partner so that you can spend more time with this other person. You might find that you get "butterflies" any time the other person texts, calls, or visits. Secrecy You start to lie or keep secrets. This usually entails lying by omission. Not only do you not mention your talks, meetings, lunches, texts, and phone calls to your spouse, but you also take steps to hide these communications. For example, you might delete messages from your phone or deny the communication you had when asked. You are hiding things or lying when you know deep down that the behavior is not okay. Would you be mortified if your spouse heard a taped conversation between you? Less Time for Your Partner Your spouse gets less of you while your special person gets more. Whether it is less communication, affection, your thoughts, or your innermost world, your time and focus are taken from your partner and transferred to this other person. Spending time with others outside your relationship and having emotional connections is not normally a problem. It is when your connection with one person takes over your life, interferes with your relationship, and becomes something that you feel like you have to hide that it becomes a problem. One important question you should ask yourself: Would you be upset if your partner shared this level of intimacy with one of their friends? Signs Your Partner Is Having an Emotional Affair In some cases, you might be worried that your partner is having an emotional affair without someone else. Some signs to watch for include: Your partner spends a lot of time at work or doing other things without youYour partner is careful to hide their phone and acts secretive about who they are communicating with onlineYour partner constantly talks about their close friend who they seem to share a special connection withYour partner start to criticize you and compare you to their friendYour partner seems to be drawing away from you and rarely shares information about their life with you Impact of Emotional Affairs These types of affairs can seem like a vacation from your everyday life. You only get the best of this other person, and they see the best of you. You do not see them “24/7” and learn about their bad habits and unattractive features. Your image of them is mainly based on fantasy and an idealized persona, which will undoubtedly make this relationship very alluring. Some ways that emotional affairs can affect your relationship include: Betrayal and hurtDamaging your partner's trust Damaged relationships with other family members, including childrenDifficulty forming future relationshipsDivorceFeelings of guilt, shame, and angerReduce self-confidenceWorse communication between you and your partner If you think you are having an emotional affair, it may be time to seriously evaluate the state of your relationship with your current partner. Even when such affairs do not cross the line by becoming physical, the impact can be just as damaging and put your marriage in danger. The intimacy involved in emotional affairs can frequently have a degree of intensity deeper than a sexual affair because you are more emotionally invested. How to Deal With an Emotional Affair Emotional affairs don't happen suddenly or out of the blue. It takes time and effort to build an emotional connection with another person. If believe that you are engaging in actions that might be an emotional affair, there are things that you can do to reestablish boundaries and protect your relationship with your partner. Avoiding emotional affairs doesn't mean limiting contact with others or not sharing emotional connections with your friends. Those relationships are essential for social support and psychological well-being. Strategies that can help if you feel like you are involved in an emotional affair: Create boundaries: Establish and maintain boundaries or expectations for how you and others will behave in relationships. For example, staying in contact with your friends is essential, but there should also be certain times when you focus on your partner and family. Communicate with your partner: Talk to your partner about the details of your life, from the events of your day to your personal feelings about different events in your life.Spend time together: Set aside time to spend quality time with your partner. Finally, consider talking to a mental health professional if an emotional affair is causing problems in your relationship. They can help you address issues that might cause you or your partner to seek out emotional connections with others in the first place. A Word From Verywell If you or your partner are experiencing an emotional affair, it is important to stay in communication with your partner. Talking about the issue is an important first step, but you might find that marriage counseling can be helpful. 10 Signs Your Marriage Is in Trouble 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Warning signs and risk factors for emotional distress. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Thornton V, Nagurney A. What is infidelity? Perceptions based on biological sex and personality. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2011;4:51-58. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S16876 Bisignano A. Is your friendship becoming an emotional affair? Goodtherapy.org. Buss DM. Sexual and emotional infidelity: Evolved gender differences in jealousy prove robust and replicable. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2018;13(2):155-160. doi:10.1177/1745691617698225 Northwestern University. Healthy and unhealthy relationships. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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