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How to Protect Your Relationship From Emotional Cheating

An emotional affair involves having non-sexual emotional intimacy with someone who is not the individual's romantic partner. Someone having an emotional affair may hide it from their partner or even use deception to keep the relationship a secret.

An emotional affair generally starts innocently enough as a friendship. But when a person invests significant emotional energy and time in a close friendship outside of their marriage, it's possible for the friendship to form an emotional bond that ultimately threatens and hurts the person's intimacy with their spouse or partner.

While some believe that an emotional affair is harmless given that there is no sexual relationship, most marriage and relationship experts view it as a form of cheating. Emotional affairs can also act as gateway affairs, eventually leading to emotional and sexual infidelity. For many, the most hurtful and painful consequence of a partner's emotional cheating is the sense of being deceived, betrayed, and lied to.

What Is Emotional Cheating?

Emotional cheating is when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage but also receives emotional support and companionship from the other relationship

If you believe your spouse’s emotional energy is limited, and they’re sharing their most intimate thoughts and feelings with someone else, it's possible that an emotional affair has developed.

Emotional Affair vs. Platonic Friendship

A platonic friendship can evolve into an emotional affair when the investment of intimate information crosses the boundaries set by the married couple. Emotional cheating is opening a door that should remain closed.

One of the differences between a close platonic friendship and an emotional affair is that the extent of their emotional investment and intimacy is downplayed or even kept secret from the spouse or partner.

Another key difference is that people involved in emotional cheating often feel a sexual attraction to one another. Sometimes the sexual attraction is acknowledged, and sometimes it isn't.

Signs Your Spouse Is Having an Emotional Affair

Conversely, if you are worried that your spouse or partner is having an emotional affair, there are some warning signs to be aware of:

  • Your spouse starts withdrawing from you or criticizing you.

  • Your spouse acts secretive, hides their phone, or shuts down the computer screen suddenly when you are around.

  • Your spouse seems interested in certain technology or hobbies seemingly out of the blue.

  • Your spouse seems to always work extra hours on a "project" with this friend.

  • Your spouse's friend gets mentioned a lot. You seem to hear much about this person's opinions and yours seems to count less and less. (Or, conversely, you suspect your spouse is connecting with someone else, but they are being secretive about it.)

  • Your gut tells you something is going on. You are normally trusting and do not get jealous easily, but something feels off to you.

  • When you try to discuss any of these things with your partner, you are met with defensiveness or are made to feel like you're out of line.


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