We are often asked by readers about the emotional affair signs that a person should look out for – both from the standpoint of suspecting their spouse of an emotional affair, and also from the standpoint of trying to determine whether or not they themselves might be involved in an emotional affair.
So just what is an emotional affair?
How do you know if you yourself are involved in one, or how can you tell if perhaps your spouse might be involved in one?
I will first give you the “expert” viewpoint and then I will discuss the emotional affair signs I saw from my own experience with Doug.
David Moultrup has broadly defined an extramarital affair as a relationship between a person and someone other than (their) spouse (or lover) that has an impact on the level of intimacy, emotional distance and overall dynamic balance in the marriage. The role of an affair is to create emotional distance in the marriage.
This viewpoint does not require sexual play or sexual intercourse in order to define the presence of nor the impact of an affair on a committed relationship. Moultrup is the author of “Husbands, Wives & Lovers: The Emotional System of the Extramarital Affair” and has contributed to “The Handbook of the Clinical Treatment of Infidelity“.
An emotional affair has the capacity to injure a committed relationship sometimes more than if it were a one night stand or about casual sex. There is a gender difference in perceptions of harm. Research has confirmed that ‘men are especially bothered by evidence of their partner’s sexual infidelity, whereas women are troubled more by evidence of emotional infidelity.’
Those involved in an emotional affair are often in denial. They don’t think they’re having an affair at all. The denial keeps them guilt-free, and they feel they don’t have to give it up. They tell themselves, “It’s just a friendship.”
So What is an Emotional Affair?
- An emotional affair is when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage, but also receives emotional support and companionship from the new relationship.
- In an emotional affair, a person feels closer to the other party and may experience increasing sexual tension.
- If you believe that your spouse’s emotional energy is limited, then if he/she is sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with someone else, an emotional affair has developed.
- Although cheaters are often guilt-free in an emotional affair because there is no sex involved, their spouses often view an emotional affair as damaging as a sexual affair.
- Much of the pain and hurt from an emotional affair is due to the deception, lies, and feelings of being betrayed.
- A platonic friendship can evolve into an emotional affair when the investment of intimate information crosses the boundaries set by the married couple.
- An emotional affair is opening relationship doors that should remain closed.
- One of the differences between a platonic friendship and an emotional affair is that an emotional affair is kept secret.
- Another difference is that people involved in an emotional affair often feel a sexual attraction for one another. Sometimes the sexual attraction is acknowledged and sometimes it isn’t.
So how do you know if a relationship has evolved into an emotional affair?
- When most meetings and conversations are kept secret from your partner.
- When you say and do things with someone you never would do in front of your spouse.
- When you make a point to arrange private talk time with them.
- When you share stuff with them that you don’t with your partner.
- You are withdrawing from your spouse.
- You are preoccupied and daydream about your friend more and more.
- You are not interested in being intimate with your spouse, either emotionally or sexually.
- The amount of time you and your spouse spend together is less.
- When confronted about the apparent emotional affair, you respond, “We’re just friends.”
- You find yourself anticipating when you can communicate or be with your friend again. Alone time together is important to you.
- You are sharing your thoughts, feelings, and problems with your friend instead of your spouse.
- You find reasons to give your friend personal gifts.
- Your friend seems to understand you better than your spouse does.
- You are keeping your friendship a secret from your spouse, or you no longer feel comfortable telling your spouse about this person and begin to cover up your relationship.
- You touch your friend in “legal” ways, like patting him on the shoulder or picking lint off of his shirt.
- You pay extra attention to how you look before you see him.
- Think crush-like thoughts like, He’d love this song!
- Tell him more details about your day than you do your partner.
- You experience increasing sexual tension; you admit your attraction to him but also insist to yourself that you would never act on it.
Emotional Affair Signs That it Might Get Physical
- You find yourself feeling vulnerable and turn to the other person for support rather than to your spouse or a trusted relative or friend.
- You accelerate the level of intimacy through sexual or suggestive talk over text, Facebook, e-mail or the phone.
- Put yourself in a situation where the two of you could be alone.
The Danger Zone
If you answer “yes” to more than 2 or 3 of these questions, you are courting disaster in your marriage by being in an emotional affair.
- Are you experiencing repetitive hostility and conflict in your marriage?
- Do you feel an emotional distance from your spouse?
- Do you find it difficult to talk with your spouse?
- Are you sharing more with your friend than you are with your spouse?
- Do you think your friend understands you better than your spouse?
- Are you sexually attracted to your friend?
- Is the phrase, “We’re just friends”, your rationalization for your close friendship?
- Does your spouse know about your friendship or is your friendship a secret?
- Do you look forward to being with your friend more than being with your spouse?
Emotional Affair Signs in Doug
At the time I felt that we were drifting apart–that I was losing touch with Doug. I often tried to connect with him, but was unsuccessful.
Looking back I now really see the emotional affair signs and behaviors that confirmed that Doug was having an affair. However, at the time I was in denial and could not believe that he would go outside our marriage, nor could I believe that he was that kind of husband.
- One thing that stands out is that Doug was overly critical of my behavior, appearance etc. I remember one day, he told me how much he hated my sunglasses, Doug is not one to pay attention to what I am wearing etc., but on this particular day he said my large sunglasses looked “stupid.” Ironically, when I found out about his affair, the first thing I did was went out and bought smaller sunglasses. Boy was I stupid.
- He was quite withdrawn. He would go off by himself, listen to his Ipod or stay in his office all evening and not want to engage in family activities. He seemed quite preoccupied most of the time.
- He would exercise excessively and was generally more concerned about his appearance than usual.
- He drank more
- He was very possessive about his phone. He would carry it with him and would be talking on it often. He always seemed to walk away from me when he was on the phone. He was also texting often and would lie about who he was texting. As a result we had very large phone and text bills (could not get access to actual bill so I had no idea why the bill was so large).
- Longer work hours, even though his business was very slow at the time.
- He became very defensive when I would ask questions concerning our relationship and would turn it around and blame any of our marital problems on me.
- Lack of affection. He would not be as interested when I initiated physical contact.
- He would not talk about our future together.
- He would start fights about trivial things and always making me feel that I was wrong or not good enough.
- He generally devalued me as a wife. For example… he said he wouldn’t care if I found someone else and always saw the negative rather than my positive attributes.
I believe that the hardest thing to deal with when I found out about his affair was that all the emotional affair signs and related behaviors came flooding back to me. All the behaviors were evident, yet I didn’t see them. Or maybe I did, but chose to ignore them or chose not to say anything. I should have known and should have tried to stop it before it became so serious. I was very angry at myself for being so stupid and trusting.
This is something that I deal with today, because I don’t ever want to feel like that again. That is why today I still struggle with trust and am always on high alert to any change in Doug’s behavior. It is a terrible way to live a life and a marriage, and I try everyday to overcome these feeling and I hope with time the feelings of fear will go away and we will truly have the marriage that we both deserve.