The definition of an affair used to be simple. One partner in a marriage was having sexual contact with someone outside the marriage, whether long-term or a one-night stand. The internet has left “simple” in the dust.
Today, emotional affairs are not always easy to define. To clarify, two people of the opposite sex being friends, having lunch, or talking on the phone does not equal any type of affair. Usually, the spouse is a part of the friendship, so it escapes being sexually charged. One huge difference is that as a rule, people don’t share their emotional affairs with their spouses.
What Is An Emotional Affair?
As the definition implies, a person having an emotional affair is highly invested emotionally, to the point where it can interfere with the essential relationship with the spouse. It can create an emotional distance between the married partners. The one not involved in the emotional affair is left confused and lonely.
How Do Emotional Affairs Happen?
These affairs happen for a variety of reasons. A person may spend more time with a coworker than he or she does with a spouse. The relationship can subtly but effectively turn from pure business to something far more personal.
Other times, a spouse may meet someone at a function by chance. If the marriage is having some rocky moments, it can be easy to be drawn to someone sympathetic and caring. Someone who pays attention instead of ignoring you. This would be prevalent among partners who don’t know how to work on improving communication in their marriage. It becomes easier to communicate with some else, who is available and willing to listen. Emotional affairs can very much begin as affairs of convenience.
Signs Of An Emotional Affair
Below are some signs that a partner may be having an emotional affair:
- It can be a simple “gut” feeling. Something feels askew. If you sense your partner is pulling away, he or she might be doing just that. A major problem is that in an effort not to appear jealous, many spouses don’t acknowledge or bring up these gut feelings.
- You sense your spouse is being secretive. Your relationship used to be open. Now, your spouse seems to have strange reasons for being away from home (“Need to help my old college buddy move”). He or she is checking their cell phone while making sure you can’t see what is happening onscreen. Along with the time spent on the phone is the additional unexplained time spent on the computer.
- There is less intimacy than usually between the couple. You are not having sex as often as you used to. Your spouse seems to be increasingly busy with something else or too tired. He or she is suddenly spending a great deal of time at work on some unspecified project or has discovered some irresistible new hobby.
- A huge clue to a possible emotional affair is a change in appearance. A spouse may lose weight, invest in a nicer wardrobe, change his or her hair, etc. Perhaps he or she has joined a gym. A woman may purchase new make-up.
- When your spouse is having an emotional affair, he or she may be justifying these feelings by becoming overly critical and highly judgmental. If your spouse feels guilty about the affair, it becomes easier if the blame can be laid at your feet. You are actually responsible for his or her behavior.
When You Suspect An Emotional Affair
A spouse will have an emotional affair if something is lacking at home. It’s a great idea to raise the issue nonjudgmentally as soon as you get that “gut” feeling. Be specific about questionable instances – working late, hidden texts, etc. Explain to your spouse how his or her behavior appears to have changed.
He or she will probably deny that anything is wrong. However, if you gently hold your ground, you might find out what your partner is not getting from you that he is enjoying outside of the home.
Know and communicate exactly what your boundaries are. Will you tolerate the third party? Are you prepared to walk away if the affair does not end? Make sure your partner understands where you draw the line.
When communication and intimacy are lacking at home, couple’s therapy may provide both partners with enough insight to repair the relationship. However, therapy may also confirm that the relationship is past the point of reconciliation.
Either way, it is best to know than to wonder.
The Internet and Cheating
The internet provides us with a world of information every day. It allows us to communicate with anyone around the world. It is also a great place to meet someone for a cyber affair – an emotional affair that takes place online.
The signs on an online affair can be the same as an in-person affair, the major sign being an obsession with the phone. Your partner is never without the phone. Many even take it into the bathroom. He or she takes it to the kitchen to fix a snack. Or the phone is password-protected, and your spouse refuses to tell you what the password is. It is clear that you are never to have any access to your spouse’s phone. There is likely something he or she does not want you to see.
If your spouse has met someone online, there is a good chance he’s spending more time on social media. His or her list of friends is growing. Your spouse keeps “liking” comments from people you don’t know. Who are they?
If your spouse seems unusually engaged with someone on one site, check other sites. Is he or she engaging with the same person there, as well? While interacting on social media is usually innocent, if one name keeps popping up, there might be a reason. Why that person? It may seem like snooping, but it couldn’t hurt to look at that special person’s own profile. Also, note if your spouse has stopped posting pictures of the two of you as a couple.
No one should be snooping in a healthy relationship. But if you feel something is wrong, and your spouse won’t communicate, some pro-active investigation is usually justified. It does, after all, involve you, as well.
Is A Cyber Affair Cheating?
The answer to that question can be different for everyone. Some people will claim that if your spouse has never met the other person, it can’t possibly be infidelity. You are the only one who can determine the answer. How do you feel about the issue?
It might be best to raise the topic before it arises. You and your spouse can have a general discussion about how you feel about interactions over the web. Does liking a sexy Instagram photo amount to cheating? When is it innocent, and at what point does it turn into a problem? If it is innocent, why the need for secrecy? Have an honest talk with your spouse.
Why Do Partners Have Cyber Affairs?
As we have already discussed, an emotional affair provides a person with something he or she is not getting at home. However, other reasons that can lead to a cyber relationship.
- Cyber affairs can become an escape from real life. It’s a way to remove oneself emotionally from the demands of a job, parenting, or financial obligations. It’s like walking through a portal into a safer world where fantasies become real.
- Life can become demanding. Having a cyber affair can offer a thrill and ego boost not available in reality. In the cyber world, you can be anyone you want to be.
- Cyber affairs are filled with exciting anticipation (when will he or she post/call next?) without real-life obligations (Don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning).
An emotional affair may not be physical, but it can interfere with building a trusting and successful marriage. A couple in this situation needs to communicate freely and without pointing fingers. There is every chance that lack of listening and understanding has contributed to the emotional affair. This is something that can be dealt with and rectified.
While it is one person having an affair, usually (not always) two people contribute to the deterioration of communication. The problem is rarely one-sided. Any discussion should include the feelings and actions of both parties involved.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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