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 April 21, 2021 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 Definition Signs Impact 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. What Is an Emotional Affair? Emotional affairs can wreak havoc on your marriage as well as your family. You only have a certain amount of “emotional energy.” When you are not focusing this energy on your spouse, where might it be going? Most emotional affairs and physical affairs start as benign friendships. 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. The Dangers of Emotional Affairs 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 You have frequent contact when you are not together. You often communicate with this person and at questionable hours. You devote a lot of time texting, emailing, or video calling this person. Frequent Sharing They become the first person you want to call with any “news.” You have some exciting news to share or you have had a bad day and this is the person whom you call. You may not be sharing with your spouse very much at all. Constant Thoughts 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. You have this person in mind when you are getting dressed, hoping they will notice your appearance. 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. Inappropriate Sharing 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 You frequently compare your spouse to this person. You may get angry with your spouse for not doing things as the other person does. You start to idealize this person while your partner begins to look worse in your eyes. You may find yourself being more critical of your spouse. This is sure to create a good guy/bad guy dynamic between these two people. Spending More Time Together You spend a lot of time together. You find excuses or create reasons to spend time 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, 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 two? 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. One important question you should ask youreslf: Would be upset if your partner was sharing this level of intimacy with one of their friends? 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 mostly based on fantasy and an idealized persona, which will certainly make this relationship very alluring. If you think you are having an emotional affair, it may be time to seriously evaluate the state of your marriage. Even when such affairs do not cross the line by becoming physical, the impact can be just as damaging and puts your marriage in the danger zone. The intimacy involved in emotional affairs can frequently have a degree of intensity deeper than a sexual affair because you are more emotionally invested. 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. 5 Signs Your Marriage Is on the Rocks 4 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 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.