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 signs of emotional cheating slip by the radar.
Could it be possible that without physical intimacy, your relationship might still suffer because of a third? Is a close “friend” (as your partner likes to call him/her) becoming a hindrance to your bond?
Since there’s no real evidence of infidelity in such a situation, you might end up telling yourself you’re imagining things. But is there something to this hunch you’ve got? Considering how it led you to this article, let’s talk about what is emotional cheating in a marriage, and the signs you need to be aware of.
What Causes Emotional Cheating & What Is It?
Before you jump to any conclusions, let’s take a look at whether that inkling you have really does hold any weight to it or not. No, 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, there’s definitely something up.
Simply put, emotional cheating is when someone forms an intimate emotional connection with a third, which leads to a decreased attachment with their partner. There may even be some sexual or romantic tension involved, and emotional dependence on this new “friend” is a given.
If it sounds familiar, 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 it elsewhere
- Your bond started to feel like it was 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’d rather tell this friend the biggest news of their lives before they tell you that they might realize something’s amiss.
Related Reading: 11 Things You Didn’t Know Amount To Cheating In A Relationship
11 Signs of Emotional Cheating
If you read the causes we listed out for you and let out a subtle “Oh no”, there’s still no reason to give it the label of infidelity we’re talking about today. 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 the jealous kind in relationships, things can always be hard to concur from an unbiased perspective. The only way to figure out if this is what you’re really going on is by analyzing the emotional cheating signs we’ll list out for you.
So, are one too many comments like “You look absolutely 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? Let’s find out.
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 who any important news is broken. Rather, this special “friend” is given a call before anyone else.
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 wife’s pregnancy from someone else is going to hurt a lot more.
2. Comparing partner with the “other”
If your partner has said something like “Why can’t you be as funny as my friend?” or “You’re so uptight, be more spontaneous like Jen,” it may signify a bit more than just a harmless comparison. Perhaps your partner has been subconsciously comparing you two and prefers the qualities Jen has.
Though it may happen subtly, it’s bound to incite a fight the minute you/your partner does it more than a couple of times. This brings us to our next point; there must’ve been an argument about this person.
3. The special “friend” has been the reason for a few arguments
When you two 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 single 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.
The emotional cheating psychology a person has might end up with you experiencing gaslighting in your relationship. Instead of admitting they’re doing something wrong, they’ll make you believe you’re the one who’s “crazy”.
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”.
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 it really is because you’re not as funny as this “friend”.
Related Reading: Everything You Need To Know About The 7 Types Of Affairs That Exist
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 to 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.
6. You’re constantly jealous of this friend
Unless you’re the type who gets jealous when someone hugs your spouse for a few seconds longer than they hugged you, a constant sense of jealousy might be one of the emotional cheating signs in a marriage.
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.
Who wouldn’t want to throw mashed peas at both their faces when they’re blissfully smiling away without a care in the world like you don’t even exist? Though some healthy jealousy might even end up being good for your relationship, this definitely isn’t the kind that’s “healthy” in any way.
7. They’re 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, 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 going to be hesitant to discontinue their affair.
Your request might have been met with anger, questions, and even accusations of jealousy. In fact, one of the major emotional cheating examples is if a partner immediately calls up this person to tell them about the latest fight you two had.
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 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 why you Googled something like “emotional cheating signs” was because your partner now spends a lot more time with this friend than you. The worst part is that your partner might not even come to realize that they’re doing something wrong.
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 away. 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 very clear indicator is when you (or whoever’s cheating) are romantically/sexually fantasizing about this person. Having a fleeting crush is something we all experience even whilst in relationships (though we wouldn’t like to admit it), but lingering sexual or romantic feelings are a cause for concern.
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 and the 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:
1. White lies to avoid fights
Perhaps your wife said, “I was hanging out with everybody” when she was just with a single person. Likewise, a sign your husband is having an emotional affair could be if he lies about the gender of a coworker he’s extremely close to.
When you uncover the truth behind these lies, know that their seemingly harmful “slip-of-tongue” nature is just a facade. Your partner was probably aware that if they tell you they’re meeting this person yet again, you’d find out something’s up.
2. Spending more time with them
Emotional cheating 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 actively has stopped spending time with you and would prefer to be with the “other” instead, looking for any further signs of emotional cheating would be a fool’s errand.
3. When relationship problems aren’t discussed within the relationship
Got in a fight? You can bet your top dollar that the emotional affair partner knows all about it. They probably know about all your fights, all the things you do wrong, and how unhappy you two are, even if they’ve been given an exaggerated image of your discontent.
4. Deleting texts/calls
Perhaps the biggest emotional cheating example is when you/your partner are selectively deleting texts of a conversation with the third, in an attempt to hide it. When a person knows that if the conversation was read by their partner, it’d cause an issue, but continue to indulge, it’s a definite sign.
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/ husband, but that’s not to say it’ll keep those two from getting attached.
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 marriage/relationships is an absolute must. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of when a relationship with that friend can get damaging for 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.