12 Red Flags of an Emotional Affair You Can’t Ignore!

emotional affair

Emotional Affair Signs

By: Dr. John D. Moore

Finding out about an emotional affair can be devastating. It is perhaps one of the most difficult forms of cheating that a person can come to terms with because it obliterates trust on a deeply primal level. According to some experts, around 80% of all affairs are emotionally based.

Emotional Affair Background

Infidelity and cheating are topics that come up often with couples who are seeking guidance on how to heal the hurt after an affair. What we try to do is help our clients to understand that not all affairs are the same.

This isn’t to say that one form of cheating is “worse” than another, although I acknowledge that some would disagree. Instead, I’m simply saying that affairs that are exclusively emotionally based are different than their sexual counterpart.

Given how frequently the topic of infidelity and the entire business of cheating pops up in couples therapy, I thought it might be helpful to offer a primer on the unique differences that exist between the two constructs.

Afterwards, I’ll outline the 12 warning signs of an emotional affair that you really can’t ignore.

Types of Affairs

Different types of affairs

Emotional Affairs

These types of relationships are all about emotional attraction but typically involve no physical involvement.

Characteristics include:

  • Partner turns to someone outside of relationship to meet emotional needs.
  • Usually more common among women but not exclusively gender based.
  • Common among couples where relational satisfaction is low.
  • Usually, an element of fantasy is involved.
  • Harder to “get over” than cases of physical infidelity.
  • Can be harder for a partner to forgive.

Sexual Affairs

In this type of affair, is it almost always based on physical contact and touch. Think of this as more of a carnal connection than emotional.

Characteristics include:

  • More are likely to engage in this form of cheating than women.
  • Greater emphasis is placed on physical contact.
  • Often transaction based and provides unmet needs in primary relationship.
  • Fantasy based elements with an attraction to danger.
  • Common among partners who have not formally agreed upon exclusivity and one mate is looking for an “excuse” to step out.

Signs of Emotional Affair

Now that we have explored the two different types of infidelity, we can now look at the 12 signs of an emotional affair that you need to know.

I’ll preface what follows by saying that some of these indicators can apply to a sexual affair. I just want to give you a view at 30’000 feet  for the purposes of insight.

What follows is a quick walk-through of what each type of cheating means along with accompanying characteristics. I acknowledge that some of this material will strike you as obvious. Still, it’s important to review them all in order to contextualize what may be happening.

Additionally, some of these behaviors may be at odds with one another. The truth is, cheating is never the same in relationships because each situation is different.

Let’s take a look:

12 signs of emotional affair

1) Emotional needs being met elsewhere

A tell-tale sign of an emotional affair is when a partner’s emotional needs are met outside of the primary relationship.

2) More attention paid to personal appearance

If a partner is spending more time grooming him or herself in ways they historically have not, this may indicate they are putting their best foot forward for someone else and not you.

3) Increasing amount of time away from home

An indication your partner is having an emotional affair is when they spend an increasing amount of time away from home. Sometimes your mate will tell you who they are with and use the “friends” label to describe that relationship.

4) Emotional Withdraw

If your partner seems distant and disconnected from you but happy when interacting with their “friend”, almost as if they have a different personality – consider this a major warning sign of emotional infidelity.

5) Protective of electronic communications

Does your partner guard their phone, email accounts and other forms of electronic communication? You might want to ask yourself why. There’s a very good chance that infidelity is taking place.

signs of emotional infidelity and cheating

6) Your refers to you by the wrong name

If your mate calls you a name other than your own and it happens to be their “friend”, it could be a sign of emotional infidelity. Typically, this will happen more than once and is patternistic in nature.

7) Acting more emotional

While this may seem counter-intuitive, if your partner is emotionally cheating on you, they may actually get more emotional. Here, the person might laugh or cry at things they haven’t had this kind of response to in the past.

This could be because they emotional affair they are having is causing stimulating areas of the hippocampus responsible for emotional output. It’s called “feeling more alive” and you need to be on the lookout for this.

8) Acting more secretive

If it feels like your mater is keeping secrets, it’s possible an emotional affair is taking place. A tell-tale sign something’s up is lying about their whereabouts.

emotional cheating infidelity

9) New clothes, jewelry and keepsakes

Individuals who are involved with emotional affairs often get trinkets for one another. These run the gamut from new shirts to jewelry items to little keepsakes. If the person you are with has any of these items and doesn’t have a good (honest) explanation about where it came from, your alarm bells should start going off.

10) Compares you to the other person

If your partner is saying things like: Why can’t you be more like (fill in blank) you need to be very concerned. This means they are directly doing side by side comparison between you and the person they are emotionally having an affair with.

11) You notice they seem closer than they should

If your mate seems closer to the person than they should be, consider it a red flag. You will know something is going on when they share private smiles or giggles that only the two of them “get”.

Also under this point, if your mate seems “happier” more charming or generally more “up” when in the presence of this person, you need to ask yourself why?

12) Your inner voice

More than any of the signs listed above, your inner voice is the primary way you will know your partner is having an emotional affair.

You likely know your partner better than anyone else in the world. Through the power of that knowledge, coupled with empathic abilities that are innate in all of us, you need to pay attention to that voice.

emotional cheating and affairs

Emotional Affairs Poll

I am going to include a poll on emotional affairs that will allow you to join others who may be experiencing the same issues you are. Sometimes, know we are not alone in our pain can help encourage healing.

Emotional Affairs: Why They Happen

Knowing what type of affair is taking place is important in terms of the healing that we spoke about earlier.

When an emotional affair takes place, it is usually an indication of some unmet intimacy need within the primary relationship.

In our experience here at Couples Counseling Center, emotional infidelity is common among couples who have been together for longer periods of time – meaning multi-year.

Physical (sexual) affairs on the other hand, commonly occur in relationships that are somewhat newer.

That is not to say either type of affair can’t or doesn’t happen with short and long term relationships. They most certainly do. And there can obviously be a combination dynamic where both forms of cheating take place simultaneously.

Emotional Affair Video

To help shed further light on this topic, I’ve included a video about physical vs. emotional cheating to help offer more insight.. You might find this material useful in trying to understand an “affair of the heart”.

Emotional Affair Recovery

Recovery from affairs (both types) is never easy. This is particularly true if there has been a history of cheating with repeated promises of change.

And to keep it real – some people have very real problems that fuel “cheating” behaviors. These run the gamut, including psychological issues, love and sex addiction and problems with self-esteem.

There are certainly a number of options available to recover from an emotional affair. It is important to state however there is no magic bullet or “quick fix”.

In some cases, individuals therapy for the cheater is required. In other cases, counseling for the one who has been cheated on is necessary to process feelings. And yes – couples/marriage therapy is part of the equation.

One resource I would like to recommend on the entire topic of emotional and physical affairs is Not Just Friends by Dr. Shirley Glass. What I like about this read is the unique insight the author offers on what empowers affairs in the first place.

I’d also like to suggest another article appearing on our website: Is He Cheating on Me? 10 Signs You Can’t Ignore.

Final Thoughts

Affairs of anytime can be heart-wrenching. Emotional affairs, however, can be the most devastating type of hurt because they represent an abandonment of love in a way that violates trust that can often be indescribable.

If you are having an emotional affair, consider seeking out some type of one on one relationship therapy to figure out what’s going on inside of you.

If you are on the receiving on of being cheated on, it might be helpful for you as well to work with a counseling professional to process all that you are feeling. This is particularly true if you have historically suffered from strong abandonment fears.

Thanks for visiting the Couples Counseling Center online. If you found this article helpful, please share with others!