An emotional affair can be just as dangerous and destructive to a relationship as a physical one. It is a sign that your partner feels unfulfilled in the relationship as it currently stands.
There are, however, distinct differences between an emotional affair and a physical affair, which is the reason that people react to them differently. Many see emotional affairs as simply a symptom of a problem within the relationship rather than actually cheating, but either way, it means there is an issue that needs to be addressed.
This article is not written with a judgment of either emotional or physical affairs, but simply to inform others so they can recognise and address emotional affairs when they happen.
What is an emotional affair?
An emotional affair is different from a physical affair primarily due to the absence of a physical relationship, which means there is not a sexual aspect to the relationship. They usually begin as friendships, which can make them confusing and difficult to spot, but they can easily slip into a heightened emotional relationship and then into a sexual affair.
The partner involved in an emotional affair may not even feel a sexual attraction to their affair partner, but the intensity and intimacy of the relationship are what lead to the feelings of betrayal and infidelity to the innocent partner.
In an emotional affair, your partner may rely on the other person rather than their own partner for comfort, advice and general support and sometimes they will turn to this person rather than their partner in serious situations.
This leaves their partner out of the loop and breaks down communication between the two. Although this is not explicitly a betrayal, it can cause a lot of emotional and communication issues between the partners within the relationship.
Why do emotional affairs happen?
All affairs are very dependent on the individual and the relationship itself but, in general, they come from issues stemming from the relationship. Your partner may not feel properly supported or emotionally provided for in the relationship, which is why they have sought it out in another person.
It is important to remember that not all emotional affairs are intentional but can come from close friendships which are caring and supporting, offering your partner what they feel they are lacking in their current relationship.
It is also important to understand that not everyone who is engaged in an emotional affair knows that they are in one, which is why it is difficult to assess whether or not it is cheating.
Is it considered cheating?
As we just said, your partner may not know they are in an emotional affair and the lack of an intimate, romantic aspect of the relationship mean that many do not see emotional affairs as instances of actual cheating.
However, the closeness and intimacy of the relationship can badly hurt the innocent partner, and if your partner is sharing details of their lives with another person and not you, many see this as a betrayal.
Whether or not you deem it cheating is ultimately dependent on the circumstances specific to you and how you feel about the betrayal. If your partner is engaged in working toward repairing your emotional relationship, it may make you stronger as a couple in the long run.
How to tell if your partner is having one
1. Your partner begins mentioning a friend more often than usual
Most emotional affairs begin as simple friendships, so it will most likely begin with your partner becoming particularly friendly with one person, mentioning them more often and spending more time with them.
This usually leads to this friend being mentioned less frequently, as they may be afraid that you will be jealous or worried about the new-found friendship.
2. They become secretive
Emotional affairs are similar to sexual affairs in this way because as your partner realizes that you may have an issue with the friendship or that they are telling this person more than what they are telling you, they will naturally want to hide this.
If your partner is more sensitive to their phone or social media, this may be a clue that something is wrong.
3. Heightened use of social media or technology
As with all new relationships, either friendships or romantic relationships, the closer you get to someone the more you want to talk to them. If your partner is using their phone or social media more often, it may be their means of communication with their emotional counterparts.
4. Your partner seems disconnected to you emotionally
Emotional affairs can be difficult to spot because they aren’t sexual, and usually, the sexual side to your relationship will not be affected; in some cases, it might even improve.
Keep an eye on the emotional side of the relationship, how much you talk and the depth at which your partner feels comfortable talking about emotional issues. If they seem uncomfortable or reluctant, this might be a sign that they are seeking this support elsewhere.
5. A gut feeling that something is wrong
The main way that you can tell an emotional, or even sexual, an affair is happening is that your gut is telling you something is wrong.
If you find that your partner is having an emotional affair, take some time to find out why the relationship has occurred and talked about how your partner may be able to start trusting you more so that they don’t have to rely on another person.
Not all emotional affairs are malicious, and can simply happen accidentally when people feel uncomfortable discussing personal issues with their partner.