9 Signs You May be in an Emotional Affair and How to End It
Even if you are married or in a committed romantic relationship, you still need to have other relationships in your life. Usually, these relationships are with friends or co-workers. It's possible to be friends with another person without crossing the line into something more.
However, if you think about this person throughout the day, deliberately change your routine to connect with this person, begin fantasizing about what life would be like with them, and begin comparing this person with your spouse, you are crossing a line.
These connections can sometimes evolve into what is commonly known as an emotional affair.
Just because your situation isn’t physical, doesn’t mean that what you are doing is right. An emotional affair can have just as big of an impact on your committed relationship as a physical one.
Once you cross the line from friendship or co-worker into something more, it’s difficult to repair the damage that your spouse and other family members will suffer due to your behavior.
How Emotional Affairs are Different
While you may think of an affair as involving a physical relationship or clandestinely meeting in hotel rooms out of town, emotional affairs are often conducted right out in the open with little to no physical contact between the people involved.
Often people who are tangled up in an emotional affair convince themselves that since there is no sex involved, they’re not doing anything wrong. The important thing they’re denying is that what they are doing is still breaching the trust of the person they are in a committed relationship with.
What are some of the signs that you may be involved in an emotional affair? And if you want to save your committed relationship, how do you stop having an emotional affair?
Signs of an Emotional Affair
Here are some signs that indicate you may be involved in an emotional affair.
Making Excuses or Rationalizing the Relationship
Are you constantly having to defend your relationship with this person? Have you been the victim of rumors or snide remarks concerning your relationship with them?
If you find yourself constantly telling coworkers, friends or acquaintances that you two are “just friends” or that you’re “not dating each other, we’re both happily married” then it may be time to reevaluate what type of relationship you’re having with this person.
Altering Your Schedule
You’re suddenly making excuses to spend more time with this person, whether in person, online or over the phone.
Maybe a weekly water cooler talk with a co-worker turned into coffee breaks and eventually became daily lunches. Now you both hang out at a local restaurant after work.
Or you now stay up late so you can spend time texting an old friend from high school after your spouse has gone asleep. You are more active on social media, so you can see what they are up to.
If you would rather invest time in communicating and being with this person, it takes away from the time you need to spend in maintaining the relationship with your spouse and other family members.
Feeling Guilty or Ashamed
This is one of the most obvious signs that you have taken a relationship too far and strayed into emotional affair territory. When you go watch a game at the local bar with friends or get up early to go to Sunday brunch with your pals, you don’t feel guilty, because you aren’t doing anything wrong.
If you feel even a little bit guilty or uncomfortable about spending time or communicating with this person, then that should tell you something about the nature of your relationship. If you don’t want your mate to see or hear your interactions, then you are violating the trust your mate has in you.
When a person is truly just a friend, there is no need to hide what you are doing or feel guilty or ashamed of the relationship. If you can’t tell friends or family where you are going or what you are doing with someone, you should question what type of relationship you are having with this person.
Comparing Your Spouse
Living with another person isn’t always easy, and sometimes our mate’s habits or actions can irritate us. But there is a big difference between occasionally venting to a friend about the things your spouse does that drives you crazy and disrespecting or putting down your spouse.
If you are constantly talking with this person about how much you dislike your spouse and secretly--or not so secretly--thinking that your friend is a better person, you might be engaged in an emotional affair.
Wondering or Fantasizing What Life Would be Like
The nature of an affair can make them seem romantic and exciting. The fleeting moments together, the private jokes, the bond with this person that seems to be missing with your spouse is such a change from the boring day to day issues of your marriage!
You begin to wonder what it would be like to spend more time with this person--possibly fantasizing about things like going on long vacations together, living with or being married to them.
Affairs and fantasies provide an escape from reality. Relationships take work, work that is often hard and tedious, but if you love your spouse and want to make your marriage work, then you have to be willing to do both the tedious and exciting stuff in your marriage.
Do You Feel Closer to This Person Than Your Spouse?
Sometimes when we meet someone new that we share an interest with, have an intellectual bond with or we share some other interest with, it is easy to be infatuated with this person. This person stimulates your mind and connects with you on a level that you believe your spouse fails to achieve.
You find yourself looking for ways to spend more time with this person because the bond is so natural. In time, that bond grows as you feel more comfortable and you begin to discuss intimate details of your life with each other. This creates an emotional bond that can easily cross the line from friendship to an emotional affair.
Do you hide your phone calls, texts, Facebook interaction and meetings from your spouse?
If so, you may be guilty of emotional infidelity. One sure sign of cheating is lying about your interaction with the other person.
It could begin very subtly such as working late to spend more time with this person or going out with friends or co-workers just to see this person.
In either case, if you are lying to your spouse about your interactions with another person, you should consider whether you are investing more into this relationship than your spouse would approve of if he or she knew the truth.
Is It a Friendship or an Emotional Affair?
It is possible to be friends with another person without crossing the line into the area of an emotional or physical affair. However, you must be careful.
When you think about this person throughout the day, change your routines to connect with this person, begin wishing your spouse was more like this person, paying attention to your appearance more when you will see this person and putting this person before your spouse, friends, and family, you are crossing a line.
Once you cross the line, it may be difficult to repair the emotional damage that your spouse will suffer due to your affair.
Withdrawing From Your Spouse
If you have little to no interest in your spouse--either physically or emotionally--and are turning to another person instead, you are putting your marriage in jeopardy. If this person knows more about what is going on in your life than your partner does, that’s a big warning sign.
It’s easy to rationalize an emotional affair by thinking that you have a special connection with this person and that your spouse doesn’t understand you. Withholding information about your life from your spouse only drives a wedge between the two of you.
Rather than spending your energy on this other person, think about putting the effort into reconnecting with your spouse.
What Should you do Next?
No affair happens in a vacuum.
Whether you decide to let your partner know you’ve become involved emotionally with someone else--although your spouse probably has figured out that something is wrong--is up for debate. But it is a sign that you need to work on your partnership.
Whether or not you decide to let your spouse know about your emotional affair, you do need to let your partner know that your marriage needs work. You might be surprised to find that your spouse feels the same way.
A long-term relationship can become ‘comfortable’ after a few years, and some people find themselves wishing for the rush of excitement and attraction they felt when the relationship was new.
You and your spouse need to work together to make this happen. It may involve counseling, workshops, or just spending a few long weekends together with only each other, you will both have to decide what works best for you as a couple.
How to end an Emotional Affair
An affair is an easy way out because it usually takes less effort to seek passion and intensity outside of a relationship than working to bring back those feelings to an already existing one.
The important thing to remember is that even if you decided to break off things with your current partner, getting into a relationship with your crush won’t make things suddenly perfect in your life. All relationships have problems and many of us tend to repeat the same relationship patterns over again.
If you decide to stick it out in your current relationship, there are some steps that you can take to end your emotional affair.
The first step to ending an emotional affair is to take responsibility.
You need to be honest with yourself and admit that what you have been doing is an affair, even if nothing happened physically. What you did was still a violation of the trust between you and your partner.
You also need to accept responsibility for your actions. You can’t put all the blame on your spouse or the person you became involved with. You chose to let things cross the line, even if some part of you didn’t want to.
It’s also important that you are dedicated to truly ending this affair and working on your marriage.
Cut off all Contact
You’re not going to be able to go back to being friends, no matter how much you think that’s possible.
The best course of action is to cut off ties completely. Talk to this person and explain the guilt and fear you are experiencing.
Be clear that the relationship is going to end and that you are going to concentrate on your relationship with your partner. Let them know that you do not want any contact with them.
If the person is a co-worker, things can be a bit more complicated, especially when it comes to contact, but there are steps you can take.
Most businesses have policies concerning co-workers being in relationships, especially if one is in a supervisory position over the other one. It’s important to remember that both of you could be fired or one of you could be charged with sexual harassment.
Even if your company does allow some kinds of relationships between co-workers, most company cultures frown on extra-marital affairs. You still want to have as little contact with this person as possible.
It may be in your best interest to see if you can transfer to another department or office location, or even start looking for another job.
This may seem like a radical step, but consider your spouse, especially if they know about the situation.
Is it going to restore their trust in you if they know you are still around this person all the time? How would you feel in their situation? You may have to decide which is more important--your current job or your spouse?
Unfriend your crush on social media. Erase their information from your phone. Delete their email addresses. No texting or calling. If they contact you, ignore them.
Why is cutting off contact important? Because seeing or communicating with this person regularly will only tempt you to start up a relationship with them again.
Allow Time to Grieve
This may seem like strange advice, but think about it--we all get used to having someone in our lives.
That’s why ending a relationship is so difficult--even when it was the right thing to do for everyone involved. The relationship you were involved in wasn’t right, but it was still a part of your life that you had grown used to.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but that is another reason why cutting off all contact is important. You will only remain stuck and unable to get over the relationship if you are still involved with the person.
Your spouse may also be grieving--although in a different way. Your relationship will be changed and the rules will be different. Your partner will have to mourn the old relationship and work with you to develop a new one.
Make a List...or Three
You might want to try to make a physical list of things that you didn’t like about the other person or the affair. Write down everything you can remember.
Would this person be someone you would have truly hung out with or were you just thrown together a lot? Was your emotional affair with your high school sweetheart a real relationship or was it all about nostalgia and a temporary escape from your current situation? Were they the person you thought they were or were you projecting your fantasy on them?
Put together a list of the bad things you felt about the affair and the possible consequences of continuing it. Were you guilty and ashamed? Did you have to sneak around and lie?
Write down some of the consequences be if you continued the situation Would you lose your job? Hurt your children? Disappoint your family? Become the subject of gossip? Make your spouse suffer emotionally?
Make a list of positive things about your spouse and your relationship--even if you are recalling things that happened awhile ago.
These lists can help you when you’re thinking too much about your former lover--which is likely to happen. Go over this list whenever you feel the temptation to contact the person or are feeling lonely. It will also help you focus on your relationship with your partner and why you decided it was worth saving.
Determine What Problems Caused the Affair
You wouldn’t have had an intimate connection with your coworker or friend if there weren’t issues in your primary relationship. Unless you address these problems, the chance of the situation happening again someone else--or the same person-- is liable to happen again.
Address the emotional and communication question in your real relationship. Do you love your partner? What was the reason you embarked on the affair? What changes do you think your committed relationship needs? What can the both of you do to change the way things are now and make it better?
Concentrate on Restoring Your Marriage
A relationship needs love and understanding to grow and succeed, and the way to do this is through genuine effort.
Involve your partner more in your life. Confide in them and listen to their problems. Let them know what you need out of the relationship--sexually, emotionally and intellectually.
Part of the appeal of an affair is excitement. What can you do to bring more excitement into your committed relationship? Learn something new together? Should you plan a couples weekend? Maybe go somewhere neither one of you has been before? Find activities and ideas that work for both of you.
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