11 Signs Of Emotional Cheating With Examples

Affair and Cheating | | , Copywriter & Sports journalist
Updated On: February 7, 2024
signs of emotional cheating

As long as you or your partner are not physically involved with another person, your relationship stays far away from infidelity, right? It’s usually this simplistic perception of infidelity that makes emotional cheating examples slip under the radar. Could it be possible that your relationship might suffer because of a third person, even if they don’t indulge in physical intimacy with your partner? Is a close “friend” (as your partner likes to call them) becoming a hindrance to your bond? 

A recent survey conducted on over 90,000 men and women revealed that 78.6% of men and 91.6% of women admitted to having an emotional affair. However, the percentage of emotional affairs that turn physical is not as high as you would imagine it to be. Having said that, the possibility of emotional infidelity turning into a physical one cannot be overruled.

The trouble is, since there’s no real evidence of infidelity when it comes to emotional bonds, you might end up telling yourself that you’re imagining things. But is there something more to your hunch? Considering how it led you to this article, let’s talk about what emotional cheating in a marriage is, its causes, and the signs you need to be aware of.

What Causes Emotional Cheating & What Is It?

Before you jump to any conclusion, let’s take a look at whether that inkling you have holds any weight or not. First things first, it’s not really a sign of emotional cheating if your partner has a best friend you’re jealous of, just because they’re good looking. But if your partner’s extreme emotional connection with this person is leading to a decline in the quality of your equation, then there’s definitely something up.

Simply put, emotional cheating is when someone forms an intimate emotional connection with a third person leading to a decreased attachment with their partner. There may even be some sexual or romantic tension involved. Emotional dependence on this new “friend” is also a given. If your partner is lying about their closeness to someone else or sending inappropriate messages to a third person and hiding it from you, then these can be considered emotional infidelity examples.

The reason that emotional cheating examples are so elusive is that most people don’t usually equate cheating with a platonic (albeit emotionally dependent) relationship. The blurred lines are often enough for people to get away with their actions by claiming that the person they’re always speaking with is “just a friend” and nothing more since they never got physical. Or the partners never even notice the signs he’s emotionally cheating or the change in her behavior toward them.

However, if it gets to the point where the spouse is ignored and the “friend” becomes the primary pillar of emotional support, it’s bound to drive a wedge between a couple’s bond. Of course, the reasons that one person indulges in this form of disloyalty differ from relationship to relationship. Let’s take a look at the possible causes.

Related Reading: 11 Things You Didn’t Know Amount To Cheating In A Relationship

What Leads To Emotional Cheating?

Why does emotional cheating in a marriage or relationship happen? If you’ve ever seen something similar happen to you or are going through it currently, you might be trying to unearth what caused it. Since every couple defines cheating differently (if you haven’t, have a conversation about it right now), the causes might differ as well. Even so, the most common reasons are: 

  • Neglecting each other’s personal needs
  • Not getting validation from the primary relationship and opting to look for the same elsewhere
  • Your bond starts to feel like it is on auto-pilot mode
  • Not having clear boundaries 
  • Not developing conflict resolution skills
  • Not communicating your distress
  • Actively flirting outside of the relationship 
  • Letting a close “friend” develop emotional dependence with you 

Though you may be able to identify a cause, the trigger is usually subconscious, one that the cheating partner pulls without really knowing about it. It’s only when they realize they would rather tell this friend the biggest news of their lives before they tell you, that they might learn that something’s amiss or that there’s something wrong or inappropriate about what they are doing. By that point, of course, it might get too late to save the relationship

This is exactly why it’s so crucial to know what the examples of emotional cheating are, so you can distinguish when you’re letting your anxiety get the better of you from the times when you might actually have something to worry about. What is considered cheating over text? Should you be worried if your partner spends all their time with a person whose gender they are oriented toward? Is your partner constantly prioritizing someone else over you? Let’s answer all your questions by taking a look at the signs of emotional cheating first.

11 Signs of Emotional Cheating 

If you read the reasons we listed out for you and let out a subtle “Oh no”, there’s still no reason to give it the label of infidelity. Though things with your partner might be a bit rocky, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily out there trying to find someone else to connect with. Especially if you’re jealous and controlling in relationships, things can always be hard to decode from an unbiased perspective. 

The only way to figure it out is by analyzing the emotional cheating signs we’ll list out for you. So, are one too many comments like “You look lovely in this picture” a sign of emotional cheating on Facebook? Are you actually overreacting, as your partner claims, or is there something that needs to be addressed? Is your partner sending inappropriate messages to some “friend” of theirs? Are they lying about their closeness to someone else? Let’s find out. 

emotional cheating examples: insecurities crop up
Your insecurities may end up getting the better of you

1. The “friend” is first on speed dial for big news

One of the biggest warning signs of emotional cheating is if the partner in the primary relationship isn’t the first person to whom any important news is broken. Rather, this special “friend” is given a call before anyone else. They are always given more importance than the primary partner in the relationship. 

And no, we don’t mean “Jenna from work said this to me today” news, we mean “I’m pregnant!” kind of news. Though it may hurt that you weren’t the first one to find out what Jenna said, hearing about your partner’s pregnancy from someone else is going to hurt a lot more. It shows that your partner feels more connected and is emotionally dependent on this friend, which is why they are given priority over you.

Other emotional cheating examples include not being told about important instances in your partner’s life, or when your partner wishes to talk about all their problems with this friend instead of you. If you’re always sidelined, then it could be one of the signs he’s emotionally cheating on you. Or if your wife or girlfriend tends to make you feel unimportant, it could mean she’s emotional cheating in a marriage or relationship.

Related Reading: Everything You Need To Know About The 7 Types Of Affairs That Exist

2. Comparing partner with the “other”

This is one of the most common signs of emotional infidelity. If your partner says things like “Why can’t you be as funny as my friend?” or “You’re so uptight, be more spontaneous like Ken”, it may signify a bit more than just a harmless comparison. Perhaps your partner has been subconsciously comparing you two and prefers the qualities Ken has. Moreover, healthy relationships tend to not feature such a comparison. Though it may happen subtly, it’s bound to incite a fight if you or your partner do it more than a couple of times. 

3. The special “friend” has been the reason for a few arguments

When both of you are fighting about a particular friend always getting in the middle, it’s probably not a harmless friendship. When one partner clearly has an issue with the other’s indulgence, it’s something that needs to be addressed. Since most couples can’t discuss something like this without raising their voices, you’re probably going to end up fighting about it. What’s worse, the fights end without a solution, with something along the lines of “You’re just jealous, can you work on yourself instead?” being thrown at you. 

This is one of the major signs of emotional cheating. Since denial is a big part of the emotional cheating psychology, you might experience gaslighting in your relationship and that is not a healthy space to be in. Instead of admitting that they’re doing something wrong, your partner will make you believe that you’re the one who’s acting “crazy”. They’ll want you to believe that this third person is just a friend and nothing more.

4. Insecurities may crop up

The constant comparisons, the bickering, and the gaslighting may just lead the victim to develop self-esteem issues. Think about it, in a healthy dynamic, you’re more likely to believe that your partner appreciates you. You won’t be worried about being undesirable or unattractive. Moreover, your partner wouldn’t do anything to make you believe that you are undeserving of love and affection.

But when your partner would rather spend time with their friend than with you, you’re bound to start questioning yourself. You might ask yourself if your partner is choosing their friend over you because you’re not as funny or beautiful as this person. All these thoughts and questions will make you insecure about yourself ands the relationship. It’s going to make things a lot worse for you.

5. The “friend” is more important than the partner 

Picture this, you’re sitting with your partner on a Sunday afternoon, watching a movie together. Your partner’s phone rings, you hear them talking over the phone or texting this friend, and suddenly, it’s as if you don’t exist. Not answering that friend’s call is unheard of, and your issues and needs are put on hold till theirs are addressed. 

When you start feeling you’re not your partner’s top priority anymore, it’s a major sign of emotional cheating. Moreover, if you catch your partner sending inappropriate messages or see any emotional cheating texting examples (like flirting on texts, or over-sharing personal information on a regular basis), it’s something you definitely can’t ignore and need to have a conversation about right away.

6. You’re constantly jealous of this friend

Unless you’re the type who gets jealous when someone hugs your spouse for two seconds longer than they hugged you, a constant sense of jealousy might be one of the emotional cheating signs in a marriage or a relationship. When, at the back of your mind, you’re convinced that this person is now taking center stage in your partner’s life, you’re bound to be angry. 

Chances are, you’ve sensed the connection between them when they lock eyes with each other and giggle away like two peas in a pod. At this moment, who wouldn’t want to throw mashed peas at both their faces when they’re blissfully smiling away without a care in the world, pretending like you don’t even exist? Though some healthy jealousy might even end up being good for your relationship, this isn’t the kind that’s healthy in any way.

7. The partner is unable to end that relationship 

If you’ve noticed the warning signs of emotional cheating in your partner and asked them to stop spending so much time with this person, chances are that your plea wasn’t met with kindness. Since emotional cheating psychology tells us that this person may not even realize they’re doing something wrong, they’re likely to be hesitant to discontinue their affair. 

Your request might have been met with anger, questions, and even accusations of jealousy. If your partner immediately calls up this person to tell them about the latest fight you two had, it could be a sign of emotional cheating. As we stated earlier, the percentage of an emotional affair turning physical is low. But the more emotionally attached your partner is to this person, the harder it is for them to end the affair.

Related Reading: Surviving An Affair – 12 Steps To Reinstate Love And Trust In A Marriage

8. Lying about the friend is a sign of emotional cheating 

Perhaps they’ll be lying about this friend’s gender or just how much time they spend with this person. If you spot ‘Dominos’ texting your partner all the time, it either means they’ve now bought a 51% stake in the company or that they’re trying to hide who they’re texting. If your partner has lied to you about the gender of a colleague or how much time they spend together, it’s probably one of the signs of emotional affairs at work. 

9. The “friend” gets more time than you 

Perhaps the whole reason that you Googled something like “emotional cheating signs” was because your partner now spends a lot more time with this friend than with you. The worst part is that your partner might not even come to realize that they’re doing something wrong. This kind of behavior is bound to hurt, and may even lead to you doubting yourself. By constantly prioritizing this friend over you, all they’re doing is giving you damaging insecurities that will be hard to shake off.

10. The relationship is in turmoil 

When either of the partners is involved in such an affair, the only thing that’s guaranteed is that the primary relationship is going to suffer. You’re probably not talking as much, you’re actively avoiding touchy subjects, and conflict resolution is a thing of the past. The more you notice the signs of emotional cheating, the more you’re going to realize you’ve already drifted apart. When you’re miles offshore, you’ll realize you never felt like you had a life jacket on anyway. 

11. Romantically fantasizing about the friend

Though it’s hard to tell the emotional cheating vs friendship difference, a clear indicator is that whoever’s cheating begins romantically/sexually fantasizing about this person. Having a fleeting crush is something we all experience even whilst in relationships, but lingering sexual or romantic feelings for the crush are a cause for concern. 

This is especially worrying if you spot the signs on text all the time. Wondering what is considered cheating over text? If you see your partner texting them something like “I wish I could be in your arms right now, I need the support” or “I want to spend all my time just being with you, I miss you”, it’s time to set the alarm bells ringing.

Now that you know what the signs are, it’s important to take a look at the emotional infidelity examples, so that you don’t let the everyday manifestations of these signs slip by you. Ignorance is how emotional cheating started in the first place, so don’t let it get any worse. Read on to know more about the common emotional cheating examples in a relationship.

on cheating

Common Emotional Cheating Examples In Relationships 

How do you differentiate between someone who’s just a close friend and someone your partner is involved in an emotional affair with? Once you’ve acquainted yourselves with the signs of emotional cheating and its causes, what’s it really going to look like the next time your partner is engaging with this special friend? 

Emotional cheating examples may slip right by you, even when you’re aware of what’s going on. They can be as subtle as suddenly canceling on a partner to go and meet a friend instead. Let’s take a look at what it looks like in everyday life, so you don’t end up turning a blind eye to the damaging habits of your partner, can see the signs of a failing relationship, and stop it from getting worse:

1. White lies to avoid fights

Those involved in an emotional affair often tell their partner white lies to avoid arguments or fights. Perhaps your wife/girlfriend said “I was hanging out with everybody” when she was only with one person. Likewise, one of the signs he is emotionally cheating on you could be if your husband/boyfriend lies about the gender of a coworker he’s extremely close to. 

When you uncover the truth behind these lies, know that their seemingly harmless “slipped my mind” nature is just a façade. Your partner was probably aware that if they tell you they’re meeting this person yet again, you would find out something’s up. More often than not, the friend they lied about is also the one they’re the closest to.

2. Emotional cheating examples – Spending more time with them 

Emotional infidelity examples can be subtle, and so can the damage that eventually creeps up in your relationship. When you start feeling lonely in your relationship, it can all go downhill pretty quickly. You’ll notice that your partner has actively stopped spending time with you and would prefer to be with that “friend” of theirs instead.

You’ll also notice emotional cheating texting examples since your partner will always be texting this person when they’re not actually with them. They’re probably so busy texting this special friend that they’ve become completely oblivious of your presence or existence. Looking for any further signs of emotional cheating would be a fool’s errand. 

Is My Partner Cheating On Me?

3. When relationship problems aren’t discussed within the relationship

Got into a fight? You can bet your top dollar that the emotional affair partner knows all about it. They probably know about all your fights and arguments, all the things you do wrong, all the habits of yours that your partner doesn’t like, and how unhappy you two are, even if they’ve been given an exaggerated image of your demeanor. 

What’s worse is that the problems won’t be discussed with you, but they’ll be discussed in depth with this friend. Though it’s okay to seek the opinion of a friend after a fight, a pattern of such behavior and revealing personal details is bound to hurt you more than you know. Pretty soon, the resentment that grows as a result of this can cause long-lasting problems like disrespect in the relationship.

Related Reading: How Does Cheating Affect A Woman – An Overview By An Expert

4. Deleting texts/calls 

Perhaps one of the biggest emotional cheating examples is when you or your partner are selectively deleting texts of a conversation with the third person, in an attempt to hide it. When a person knows that if the conversation was read by their partner, it would cause an issue, but continues to indulge, it’s a definite sign of emotional infidelity. 

One of the biggest emotional cheating texting examples is when there aren’t any for you to find at all. The mysterious lack of texts with this person your partner is so close to signifies that something’s wrong, doesn’t it? Go ahead and ask your partner why that has happened and watch them struggle to come up with a response. If they’re finding it difficult to come up with an answer, it’s a sign they are having an emotional affair with this person.

5. Having a work husband/work wife

It looks like a cute, platonic dynamic on paper, but it can soon end up taking over every aspect of a person’s life. You might even know about your partner’s work wife or work spouse, but that’s not to say it’ll keep those two from getting attached. It’s one of those things that have been normalized in the modern world, but can still be dangerous for your primary relationship if left unchecked. Make sure you get information about this person your partner calls their “work spouse” so you can assess the situation. After all, it’s where your partner spends most of their working day.

6. Romantic flirting on text is one of the emotional cheating texting examples

Have you seen some very questionable texts come in from this completely “platonic friend” your partner has? Are they getting a bit too mushy for comfort? Are they always talking about cuddling each other and swearing that there’s nothing weird about it? It might be time to have a conversation about it with your partner. Don’t let these emotional cheating examples slip by you. If your partner is receiving texts that you’re not okay with, the least they can do is hear you out about it.

Since pop culture and media doesn’t shine the spotlight on these affairs, they can so easily be disguised as harmless “friendships”. Understanding what is emotional cheating in a marriage or relationship is an absolute must. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of when a relationship with that friend can prove detrimental to a marriage. If you’re currently experiencing something similar in your dynamic, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced counselors who’d love to help you and your partner through this trying time.

The 8 Most Common Types Of Cheating In A Relationship

12 Tips On How To Ignore A Cheating Husband – Psychologist Tells Us

The 3 Types Of Men Who Have Affairs And How To Recognize Them


Ask Our Expert

Tags: