Is Your Spouse Having an Emotional Affair? Signs to Watch For

How do you define infidelity in a marriage? Does it mean having a physical or sexual relationship with someone other than a spouse? Or do you consider an emotional affair as also being unfaithful – even though nothing sexual has happened? How much closeness in a friendship can be considered okay?

Emotional Affairs: Infidelity of the heart

An emotional affair is present when your spouse is spending a lot of energy, emotion and time with another person outside of the relationship so much so that it is affecting your relationship. When a partner is having an emotional affair, he is putting an emotional distance between himself and his partner. He may be doing this out of feelings that the other person can give him something that he isn’t getting at home. There is a certain type of excitement in knowing that there is someone other than your spouse whom you can have an intimate relationship with.

The result is a loss of intimacy between the two partners – a wedge has been created and if this is not addressed, the wedge may widen and shake the foundations of a marriage. Although nothing physical may have happened, the damage an emotional affair may wreak on the relationship can be equal to or even greater than a sexual affair. There is an element of betrayal and deception that will certainly be hurtful to the other partner.

There are also emotional affairs that progress towards becoming sexual in nature. A spouse may cross the line by looking for ways to become more intimate that might be seen as acceptable to some.

How do you know if there is an emotional affair?

An emotional affair may have started out as a harmless connection with someone who’s “just a friend”. However, when left unchecked, it can spiral into an emotional affair. You may have reason to believe that your spouse is involved in this type of relationship with someone.

Here are some signs that point to an emotional affair:

–          Being secretive. There is such a thing as respecting each other’s privacy, but if your partner is too gung-ho about protecting his or her privacy, this may raise some questions. He or she may try to hide friendships from their partner. If the partner already knows, then he or she might try to hide the extent of the friendship. Your spouse may decline to talk about e-mails, calls or texts that they receive from that friend. They may also become agitated or express irritation when you walk in without warning while he or she is on the computer.

–          Being defensive.  You may have noticed your spouse getting his or her back up when asked about the friendship, saying that the spouse is over-reacting to a “harmless friendship”.

–          Becoming aggressive. Your spouse may start being critical of you. There is also the tendency to pick fights and argue over the littlest things.

–          Becoming distant. Your spouse may be having an emotional affair when he or she looks forward to spending time with the “friend” rather than with their partner. They seek to have opportunities to see the friend. Meaningful conversations with the spouse fizzle out and so does intimacy. The couple’s sexual life may also be affected by this emotional disconnection. There may be sexual fantasies and daydreams about how it would feel to cross the line and make the affair into a physical one.

–          Being pre-occupied. The “cheating” spouse may start daydreaming about the friend and plan to spend time with him or her. Another sign would be if you notice your spouse becoming too pre-occupied with the affairs of someone who is “just a friend”. He or she may criticize that friend’s known relationships.

An emotional affair sometimes happens in the workplace, or with a civic group or with a friend of the family. The “cheating” spouse may start feeling that the “friend” understands his or her situation more than the spouse does. Emotional affairs may also happen through chat rooms and social networking sites.

It is important to recognize the signs of an emotional affair and address them. Seek professional help and get couples counseling to address the issues properly. Both partners must be willing to work through this infidelity in order to fix the problem before it is too late. The help of a third party such as a marriage therapist (who has the training and skills necessary) can be invaluable.

Mending the Marriage

Sometimes you (as a couple) will need outside help to deal with this problem. With the help of marriage counseling, couples can start rebuilding trust and develop accountability with each other. It is advisable for the couple to get help quickly so that the offended spouse can begin the process of forgiveness. The family counseling sessions will cover tools on how the couple can rebuild trust and repair damages in their relationship.

A good marriage counselor will also work to find out the weaknesses in the marriage that caused one of the spouses to even consider getting into an emotional affair. Your counselor can help discover how to strengthen these areas so that the relationship is less vulnerable to temptations in the future. Marriage counseling can also help to put the emotional affair into perspective and guide the couple in learning how they can grow from the experience.

It takes experience and a wealth of insight for marriage therapy to help couples through difficult times such as these. This is what Triston Morgan offers his clients. Triston practices marriage and family therapy in Provo, Utah. He is also ENRICH/PREPARE certified. These are courses for engaged and married couples.

Triston Morgan has helped couples and families in Utah for years. He also serves as a substance abuse counselor particularly for teens. Triston holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Loma Linda University and a PhD from Brigham Young University.


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