17 Lesser-Known Signs You Are Having An Emotional Affair At Work

Affair and Cheating | | , Editor & Writer
Updated On: March 15, 2024
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Sometimes, in life, you come across a person who feels like a fresh breath of air on a cold winter morning. However, if that person happens to be your colleague,  is consuming your mind space, and keeping you away from your partner, it could be one of the signs of emotional affairs at work. 

Emotional affairs at work are not an unusual phenomenon. As per research, approximately 60% of affairs begin at the workplace. Mostly, the genesis of such affairs is rooted in innocent, platonic friendship which morphs into a deep, emotional connection leading to emotional infidelity. 

When you spend the majority of your day with a person working nearby, it is only natural to form a connection. However, if one or both of you are already in a committed relationship, it is important to recognize the signs of emotional affairs at work and stop them before you hurt your respective partners and each other. 

 17 Lesser-Known Signs Of Emotional Affairs At Work

Many people are concerned about emotional infidelity. Researchers from Chapman University discovered that emotional infidelity upsets 65% of heterosexual women and 46% of heterosexual men more than sexual infidelity, according to a study published by them. You might be the victim of emotional infidelity or you may be the perpetrator. Either way, it is important to know the signs of emotional affairs at work. But before we jump to the signs, let’s first understand the meaning of an emotional affair. 

Emotional infidelity is when you form a strong, emotional bond with someone who isn’t your primary partner in a relationship. Since most emotional affairs begin as friendships, it becomes difficult to discern if you are crossing the line. Here are 17 lesser-known signs of an emotional affair at work that you should watch out for.

1. Change in behavior 

We are not referring to the ‘butterfly in the stomach, giggling all day’ changes. One of the signs of emotional affairs at work is when your behavior changes around your colleague in the presence of your partner. 

With this colleague of yours, you’re normally really nice and tactile. When your lover is around though, you both instinctively preserve some distance from one other. When your partner is by your side, your conversations become more awkward and formal. Why? Why would your behavior alter if you have nothing to hide?

Notice this sign if you feel your partner is emotionally cheating on you or keep this in mind if you are the one slipping down the path of emotional infidelity. 

Related Reading: 15 Signs Your Male Coworker Likes You

2. Feeling their absence is a sign of emotional infidelity 

When our loved ones aren’t present, we all think of them. But if you are around your partner, and your mind keeps wandering to the thoughts of your colleague, it could indicate an emotional infidelity sign.

You wouldn’t think of a platonic friend all the time. Have they started to live rent-free in your head (maybe your heart too)? Are you disappointed when you can’t partner up with them on a project? If the answer to all these questions is in the affirmative, you, my friend, could get involved in emotional cheating. 

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3. There are no secrets between you two

Even in the strongest of workplace friendships, you conceal certain things because ideally, you wouldn’t want to mix your personal and professional life. However, coworkers who are into each other will share no secrets because romantic feelings are blooming. And when romantic feelings bloom, you want to confide in each other.

Do you open up to this colleague about your deepest secrets? You could be disclosing information that even your partner is unaware of. Strangely enough, sharing such personal information with this person makes you feel wonderful.

Also, you’re confiding in this person about your partner, their personal life, or the issues you have with them.  This isn’t a good indicator and is one of the lesser-known signs of emotional affairs at work. 

4. You feel jealous 

Jealousy is a green-eyed monster that serves as a looking glass into a person’s emotions. When your colleague or you mention your respective partners in front of each other, do you feel a pang of jealousy coming to the surface?

This could be a sign of emotional cheating at the initial stage. You haven’t quite crossed the threshold but you are walking a thin line. 

5. There is evident sexual tension between you two 

One of the signs you are emotionally cheating on your partner is the sexual tension with the colleague. Can you feel the sparks flying every time you are around them?

While we all feel sexually attracted to people who aren’t partners, it is not normal if it begins to make you question your relationship. In a recent survey, 88% of women responded that emotional adultery at the hands of their partner was more important to them than physical infidelity. 

Kim, 32, has been a victim of an emotional affair. Here’s how she realized her partner was cheating on her.

“Coworkers sleeping together isn’t something unheard of, yet it is nerve-wracking when it happens to you. The first time I realized that my ex-husband was having an affair at work was at an office party. The moment that particular colleague walked in, his body language changed. There were physical signs he was cheating from the way his body reacted to her presence.” 

6. You make sacrifices for each other 

One of the signs of emotional affairs at work is that you’d be willing to give up important things to spend more time with your colleague. You may stay up all night talking to them after your partner has gone to sleep. Alternatively, you may leave your house and arrive at work an hour early to spend more time with your friend.

You don’t realize it, but you’ve sacrificed your life, love, and work to spend time with this person. Why would you do that if it were an ordinary relationship? In the case of men and emotional affairs, one of the lesser-known signs is their increased dedication to work. Keep an eye out and notice if your partner would rather take an “important call” at work than come to dinner with your parents. 

Related Reading: How To Find Out If Your Partner Is Cheating Online?

7. You want to make a good impression on them 

Remember the initial days of a relationship when you put extra effort into impressing your crush? Is that something you are doing for your special colleague as well? Then, my friend, it seems to be the beginning of a troublesome friendship. 

You may not recognize this as one of the signs of emotional affairs at work, but subconsciously, you always attempt to look your best when you’re around them because you want them to have a certain impression of you. Every touch-up of lipstick or an extra spritz of that sensual cologne aimed to impress your colleague is an indicator of you walking, nay, sprinting toward the path of emotional cheating. 

8. You fantasize about them 

Even when physical infidelity occurs, as per a study, three out of four males wait at least a month to form an emotional attachment before having their first sexual encounter. So, one of the biggest emotional infidelity signs is when you begin to have dreams (or daydreams) about cheating on your partner with your colleague.

Now, that doesn’t mean that your dreams are targeted toward actual cheating. Maybe the colleague is frequenting your fantasies wearing nothing but sexy black lingerie or showing up at your door, shirtless. It is a sign you have stopped being just coworkers and are shifting toward the reality of coworkers sleeping together, starting from your subconscious mind.

emotional infidelity signs
When a colleague begins to replace your partner, it could be a sign to look out for

9. You flirt with each other 

Flirting is fun, flirting is sexy, and flirting can lead to emotional infidelity. Wait, what? Yep, you read that right. While there is no harm in casual flirting when in a relationship, sharing too many flirtatious moments with someone at your work could be one of the signs of emotional affairs at work. 

Flirting is bound to happen between coworkers who are into each other. But should it happen when you are already in a relationship? If you are sharing elongated eye contact and too many flirty conversations, it could be an emotional infidelity sign. 

Flirting isn’t limited to the workplace. Emotional affairs and texting go hand in hand which means your flirting could have transcended beyond the office and into your personal life. Do you smile every time you see a text from them? Do they subtly flirt with you and you enjoy it? Well, it is time you ask yourself what this relationship means to you. 

10. They seem to be your secret soulmate 

One of the signs of emotional infidelity is when someone begins to follow every piece of advice given by a particular colleague. For example, your husband comes home and can’t be happier to share how Jenna taught him a new way to make a grilled cheese sandwich. The next day, it’s a new place she recommended, and the next day, it’s a lifestyle change that she suggested.  If the Jenna of your husband’s life is becoming a part of your relationship, it is time to have a confrontation. 

For the people who are having an emotional affair or on the verge of one, do you listen to everything this person has to say? Have they become your secret soulmate because you feel they understand you as no one does? It could be a temporary phase, or it could indicate something is missing in your relationship, or it could just mean you’re attracted to two people (your partner and this colleague) at the same time. Nevertheless, it is one of the signs of an emotional affair at work. 

11. Downplaying their importance 

It’s either sprinkling their name in every conversation or it’s this. When you talk to your partner about this friend, you talk about them as if they aren’t important at all. You attempt to avoid discussing this colleague with your partner, or you depict your friend as unimportant in your life.

For example, when asked how your colleague is doing, you react indifferently and try very hard to prove that you have no interest or knowledge of their life. Why would you do that if there was nothing to hide? It is a sure-shot sign of emotional infidelity. 

Related Reading: Dating A Coworker? Here’s How To Handle Office Romance

12. You imagine life with them 

When you are in a committed relationship, you imagine scenarios of your future with your partner. However, if there is a new character in your fantasy house who is threatening to replace your partner, it could be one of the signs of emotional affairs at work. 

Even if you and your partner have been together for a long time, you secretly wonder how your life might have been different if you and your colleague had met before you started dating your partner. You wonder why you didn’t meet them before, or you both jokingly point out how you would make the perfect couple in an alternate universe. This is a definite sign of coworkers being into each other. 

13. You avoid mentioning your partner 

Not only do you avoid talking about your colleague to your partner, but you also avoid talking about your partner to your colleague. You and your colleague try to stay away from discussing each other’s partners. This is one of the signs of emotional affairs at work which hasn’t quite bloomed but is in the process of it. 

Even if one of you mentions your own partner for a few minutes, the discussion quickly shifts back to flirting or how lovely it is to talk to each other and be in a wholesome platonic relationship. It’s a subtle way of comforting each other that even though you’re both in other relationships, your emotional bond is just as important.

14. You get too defensive about your relationship with the colleague 

Downplaying is one thing, but getting overly defensive about the nature of your relationship is one of the signs of emotional infidelity. If your partner inquires about them, you become enraged. Because you’re on edge, even a simple question about how they’re doing can set you off.

It is only when you’re aware that you’re doing something wrong do you become irritated and lash out. Defensiveness is your subconscious effort to hide your feelings being exposed. 

emotional infidelity signs
Emotional infidelity can be as damaging as physical infidelity in a relationship

15. Inappropriate conversations 

There is a certain boundary you create in a professional environment. However, one of the signs of emotional affairs at work is when these boundaries disappear. Although you may not have physically cheated, an emotional affair might lead to other inappropriate things. Using terms of endearment like baby or sweetheart to refer to this person might take things to a new level.

If your relationship with your colleague has reached this stage, you’re no longer flirting harmlessly. You regard this person as a significant part of your life and, even if secretly, as a partner. 

Related Reading: Are Cellphones And Relationship Problems Going Hand In Hand?

16. You are beginning to ignore your relationship 

The signs of emotional affairs at work aren’t just about the affair; they’re also about your relationship. You may be devoting more energy to this person than to your relationship. Coworkers sleeping together isn’t the only result of an emotional affair. You’d rather hang out with this other person and put effort into nurturing your bond since it’s fresh and interesting than trying to resolve things with your partner.

Statistically, only 34% of women who have had emotional affairs claim to be happy in a marriage. Are you drifting apart from your partner, but you’re barely aware since you’ve found someone to occupy your time and fill the vacuum? 

It could be because there is a void in your relationship which is being filled by the presence of this person. Or it could be that you both are extremely compatible. Either way, if your partner is bearing the brunt of your newfound obsession, it is a sign of emotional cheating. 

17. You are extremely secretive 

As mentioned before, texting and emotional cheating go hand in hand. But, one of the signs of emotional affairs at work is when this excessive texting or talking becomes secretive. You hide everything about this person from your partner. If asked who you are texting, you reply with a nonchalant ‘nobody.’ You immediately delete your chats with that colleague. 

You might have convinced yourself that this is not emotional cheating but when you are putting extra effort into hiding the evidence, you must accept that a crime has been or is about to be committed. 

Emotional infidelity is a common type of cheating and can be as damaging as physical cheating. In this case, you are getting your emotional needs met through someone who isn’t your partner. And while one person can’t fulfill all our emotional needs, it is important to ask yourself why you feel this attraction or connection to your colleague. 

Analyze your relationship with your partner, and try to figure out why there was space to allow another person to enter the emotional bubble between you two. There is nothing wrong with feeling a strong connection with another person, but if you are already committed to being monogamous, respect your partner enough to not cross boundaries with someone else. 


1. How do workplace affairs start?

More often than not, workplace affairs start as harmless platonic friendships. However, the more you get to know each other, the more attraction you feel. 

2. How often do emotional affairs turn physical?

Emotional affairs can turn physical, but in most cases, they don’t. According to a study, 91% of women admit to having a strictly emotional affair at work. 

3. How do emotional affairs usually end?

Emotional affairs usually end with either or both parties accepting their emotions and putting an end to them.
In some cases, people confess to their partners, while in others, the colleagues change their place of work.

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