11 Signs Of An Emotional Affair – You May Be Crossing A Line Without Even Realizing It

signs of an emotional affair

You may end up becoming emotionally invested in someone other than your partner without realizing that you’re displaying classic signs of an emotional affair. Does that mean you’re cheating in a relationship?

As new-age couples struggle with the ideas of monogamy, polyamory, and everything that falls in between, it’s hard to realize what’s cheating and what is not. They are faced with myriad dilemmas over where to draw the line of fidelity in a relationship.

There seems to be a consensus about getting in bed with someone other than one’s partner. Most people would agree that that is in fact cheating, unless, of course, you’re in an open or polyamorous relationship. But in the case of an emotional affair, the lines are not well-demarcated.

Rather they are so hazy that you may be crossing the line even without realizing there is a possibility of getting entrenched in an emotional affair.

Is An Emotional Affair Cheating? 

Is only having a physical relationship cheating? Or having an emotional dependence on someone is also cheating? You share your life’s every detail with them, you share your joys and sorrows and you share all your mood swings and achievements with them.

You have a very strong emotional connection with the person. This connection is just between the two of you and not many people are aware of this closeness. And if you are wondering if your emotional affair is cheating, yes it is. It is called emotional infidelity.

An emotional affair typically begins as an innocent friendship. As you invest more and more of yourself emotionally into a bond outside of your romantic partnership, this platonic friendship can turn into such a deep-seated form of intimacy that it can threaten your relationship. When any friendship crosses that threshold, it qualifies as the early signs of an emotional affair.

While a lot of people consider an emotional affair to be harmless and innocent, marriage experts and counselors agree that it is an act of infidelity. Just one that does not have a sexual dimension yet. More often than not, an emotional affair becomes a stepping stone for full-blown affairs and cheating.

Even if it does not, the lying and deception can leave your partner feeling betrayed when your emotional connection with a ‘friend’ comes to light. That’s because one of the warning signs of an emotional affair is a tendency to lie or keep secrets from one’s partner.

When transparency and honesty in a relationship are eroded, trust issues begin to take hold. That’s why it’s crucial to identify the signs of an emotional affair with a coworker or friend, and nip it in the bud. Well, at least, if you want to salvage your relationship.

If not, even then, it’s vital to be aware of your emotional state to decide what it is that you want for yourself.

11 Signs You Are Having An Emotional Affair 

In this confusing atmosphere, what does it mean if you’re emotionally attached to another person? When two partners work all day, have little or no sex, and find no time to be with each other, an emotional affair might take hold at the workplace or with one of your close friends.

Without going into the rights and wrongs of the whole deal, let’s look at the tell-tale signs of an emotional affair to help you decipher whether you’re unwittingly cheating in a relationship:

1. Who do you call first?

This may seem trivial, but experts hold this as the most common sign of emotional cheating. Usually, if something big happens, whether good or bad, calling your partner to share the news is the norm in relationships.

If you find yourself turning to your special friend in moments like these, and sharing important life updates with them even before your partner, you can count it among the warning signs of an emotional affair.

This rule does not apply in the case of parents, siblings or best friends. But if you gravitate toward a third party in times of need or joy, you might be having an emotional affair. This person dominates your mind space so much that they take precedence over the partner you’re sharing your life with.

early signs of emotional affair
Your special friend become the first one you share all important life updates with

2. They become your go-to person for advice

Typically, your partner is the go-to person for advice and counsel. Even if you may not take their advice, you do engage with them in discussions before making any important life decisions. Them being your sounding board is an important part of calling someone a partner.

If that role is taken on by this third person who has become an integral part of your life of late, it is among the most obvious signs of an emotional affair online or in real life.

Simone discovered her partner’s emotional infidelity this way. He had accepted a job offer in an up-and-coming startup without so much as discussing or running it by her. He broke the news to her after putting in his papers at his workplace. When she quizzed him about the details of the new opportunity, he remained elusive in his responses.

Simone felt something didn’t quite add up, so she dug into his phone to understand what was going on. In his private chat messenger, she saw long, late-night conversations with a woman. All along she had thought he only knew her casually, but here he was having a heart-to-heart with her about his dissatisfaction in his current role. It was on her encouragement, that he had taken the leap of faith to move from a well-paying, secure job to a relatively unstable one.

When confronted, he thought she was making a mountain out of a molehill. He was not able to recognize that he was perhaps cheating on her emotionally. Unlike physical cheating, most aspects of emotional cheating are subtle, which makes it harder to define, acknowledge, and accept.

Related Reading: 22 Signs A Married Man Is Flirting With You

3. Distance from the partner

One of the undeniable signs of an emotional affair is that you tend to replace your partner with another person. This replacement happens through actions which we may not always notice. This also means that a certain distance gets created in a relationship.

If you’re used to talking to your partner about your problems and you suddenly don’t, your partner will begin to take notice eventually. The signs of an emotional affair at work or outside of it will become apparent when your partner begins to realize that you no longer connect with them on the same emotional level you used to.

The fact is that you’re getting your fill of emotional sustenance from somewhere else, and in turn, denying your partner a whole emotional connection. Their role is diminishing in your life and you are indeed having an emotional affair.

4. Priorities change

The growing distance in a relationship shows clearly when it comes to priorities. Take the example of Devon, for instance. He used to rush home to his wife, Sonya, every evening so that they could have dinner together. Due to their schedules, this was the only meal they could share with each other properly and they had always made this a priority.

signs of emotional affair at work
A shift in priorities is a sign of an emotional affair

Ever since Devon became friends with his colleague, Rory, he didn’t attach much value to these nightly meals with his wife. He would still spend time with his wife. She waits for him to return home, and they sit together and talk while he finishes his dinner.

However, since he and Rory became the best of friends, staying late in the office became a norm for him. He failed to see that the fact that spending time with Rory took precedence over having dinner with his wife was one of the screaming signs of an emotional affair with a coworker, begging to be noticed.

This shift in priorities might be small but these things have a tendency to snowball into full-blown affairs.

5. Friend takes on the role of a partner

Friendship is a nurturing relationship. It is often more nurturing than any other human bond. However, this bond can enter a grey area when friends begin to play the role of a partner. This can become complicated when there is an actual partner in the picture.

Going clothes shopping, buying groceries, making plans for decorating the house, these small mundane things often hold great importance in the life of a couple. Things that you share with your partner, the roles that you play in each other’s lives are significant yet often ignored.

When there is someone else in your life that you can do these very things with that exclusive place that belongs only to a significant other is lost. You may risk making your partner feel ignored or replaced. The partner becomes affected by the emotional infidelity. Dealing with it can be akin to surviving an affair.

6. Texting throughout the day

warning signs of emotional affair
Text to special person all day

This is an absolute red flag. If you have to text this special person all day and if you are on instant alert the moment you hear the ping then this is a sure sign of an emotional affair.

If you have to delete all the conversations so that your spouse cannot see then there is something you need to hide. The conversations that you are having with this person whom you consider a great “friend” are not very normal ones.

Ray suspected something was amiss in his marriage. His wife seemed to spend an awful lot of time on her phone and was always hesitant in parting with it. He didn’t know how to read the signs of an emotionally cheating wife but knew something about her had changed.

One Sunday afternoon, he asked for his wife’s phone feigning some urgency while she was in the thick of texting, and saw that she was chatting with a friend. Though the context of the conversation seemed harmless, Ray felt that something didn’t quite add up.

Later that night, he browsed through her phone again after she had gone off to sleep and saw that the chat, as well as the contact, had been deleted. That’s when he knew for sure that his life partner had become emotionally invested in another man.

Related Reading: Dating A Younger Man At Work – An Office Romance With The Intern

7. You want to be with them more than your spouse

When you are planning a holiday or a day out at the movies you keep wishing in your heart that you could be with that person instead of having to tag along with the spouse.

You think of long conversations sitting in a log cabin overlooking the hills as you keep sipping a hot cuppa on the balcony. If the thought of a long weekend with the family dampens your spirits because you wouldn’t be able to see that coworker you’ve grown incredibly close to , it’s among the classic signs of an emotional affair at work.

Similarly, if you prefer staying home rather than accompany your partner on a shopping outing or to the movies just so that you can chat with that special friend in peace, it counts as one of the signs of an emotional affair online.

8. You compare your partner to them

Another one of the unmistakable signs of an emotional affair is a tendency to compare your partner with the person you’ve grown close to. Whatever the situation, you inevitably find yourself wondering what would they do or how would they react.

In these comparisons, the other person always has an edge over your partner. From their taste in music to the way they dress, their professional accomplishments to their sense of humor, you find them slightly better than your current partner on all counts.

You may or may not voice these comparisons, but there is a tiny voice in your head always keeping score. And your special friend inevitably emerges as the winner.

9. You dress up for them

Tia was in her late 30s and had been married for half a decade. Her life had become as predictable and settled as they come. She was perfectly content with the life she had built for herself with her husband until a young man at the office knocked off her socks.

She was attracted to this younger man who was the opposite of her husband even though she didn’t want to admit it. Until one day, she caught herself carefully choosing an outfit and shoes and putting extra effort to style her hair because he was accompanying her for a business conference.

The two had grown immensely close in a very short time, and Tia could no longer deny the fact that she looked forward to his company way more than her husband’s.

Related Reading: From An Innocent Friendship To A Sexual Affair – How Emotional Infidelity Ruins Relationships

10. You discuss your relationship troubles with them

‘No airing your dirty laundry in public’ – that is one of the thumb rules of a healthy relationship. No matter how difficult things may be in your relationship, you just don’t go bad-mouthing your partner or discussing the trouble in paradise with someone who is an absolute outsider.

However, when you’re caught in an emotional affair, venting about your relationship comes naturally to you. You don’t give a second thought to sharing your innermost thoughts, reservations, disappointments with the person you have become attached to.

There may even be times where you share with them things you may not even have shared with your partner. This is not just among the warning signs of an emotional affair but also one of the most worrying of them all.

If left unchecked, your feelings can quickly spiral out of control, destroying your relationship in their spate.

11. You start keeping secrets from your partner

You may tell yourself that this newfound special person in your life is just a friend. Deep down, you know how you feel about them. You are attracted, enamored, smitten. That’s why you do everything in your power to hide your growing closeness to them from your partner.

They may not even be aware of the existence of this friend. Even if they do, they definitely don’t know how close you two have become. It is the guilt of overstepping the boundaries of friendship that causes you to keep secrets and lie to your partner.

The deeper you go down this rabbit hole, the harder it will be to recover. At some point, your partner is going to find out about this other person, and the lies and deceit will leave them crushed.

The fact remains romantic relationships are a labor of love. To keep one active requires a lot of love and care. Small actions and reactions matter in these bonds. Unless attention is paid to the roles we play in a relationship and the love that is exchanged we run the risk of an emotional affair.

And once we are entrenched in one it becomes very hard to push it away. Because you always tell yourself you are not sleeping with the person so you are not cheating. But the fact remains that there is more than one type of infidelity.


1. What qualifies as an emotional affair?

An emotional affair is a connection outside of your relationship or marriage where you not only invest emotional energy in a third person but also receive comfort and affection from them.

2. How do emotional affairs start?

Emotional affairs typically start as harmless friendship or bonding between two people who feel that they get each other. However, over time, the lines of friendship and fidelity are blurred, and you start relying on each other to have your emotional needs met.

3. Do emotional affairs turn into love?

Yes, emotional affairs can turn into love because their basic premise is attraction and affection. The two people in such a relationship already rely on each other emotionally and are drawn to one another. If these feelings are left unchecked, love can certainly take hold.

4. How long do emotional affairs last?

There is simply no concrete timeline for the duration of emotional affairs. It is possible that one of the parties to the affair may decide to pull the plug or the emotional infidelity may turn into a full-blown affair.

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