While most monogamous couples have subtly different views about physical infidelity, there are general themes that most couples agree on. However, emotional affairs are more complex. If you’re not engaging in any kind of physical intimacy with someone, how do you know if you’re being unfaithful? Here are eight key signs that you’re having an emotional affair.
1. Profound closeness
Most emotional affairs involve an intense connection. If you meet a compelling new person at work, this connection can be intellectually exciting and may stimulate your mind in ways that your partner typically fails to. Alternatively, you may feel more ‘known’ by this person due to an easy, natural bond that is validating and deeply intimate. You may start sharing secrets that your partner knows nothing about, and you might even feel comfortable divulging intimate details about the problems in your relationship.
2. Your priorities have changed
Are you prioritizing another person over your partner? Ask yourself who you want to go to when you get good news, who you would want to support if both people were going through emotional trauma, and whose company you would rather sacrifice if you had conflicting arrangements. Individuals in emotional affairs often spend huge amounts of time in communication, whether in person, through text messages, on the internet or on the phone. This amount of communication consequently reduces the energy, effort and care you can put into your primary relationship.
3. You are rationalizing ‘dates’
Think about the activities you do with this person. Do you spend a lot of time and thought to decide what to wear to these meetings? If you were single, would you be construing these activities as dates? If so, your failure to recognize the fact you are (in a sense) dating is most likely due to a deep desire to avoid the true nature of your relationship. Emotional affairs often involve a high level of denial because it is easier to describe them in innocent terms than it is to defend a physical fling.
4. You are keeping secrets about your interactions
Emotional infidelity often involves lying about time spent with the new person, or at least downplaying the significance of the time you spend together. You might tell your partner that a group of your friends are going to a bar when it’s really just you and one special other person, or you might neglect to mention that this individual is working late at the same time as you will be in the office.
5. Your partner has a ‘bad feeling’
If your partner expresses a sense that you are distant or even makes it clear that they don’t trust the new person in your life, it’s worth reevaluating your feelings to make sure that you are behaving appropriately. Some people only realize they are having emotional affairs when someone else points it out to them.
6. Mutual attraction is evident
While you may not be having sex with this person, you will know if there is a spark. If your heart is racing if you so much as brush your fingers against the person’s arm and you feel a level of sexual chemistry that dwarves anything you ever feel with your partner, you are most likely having an emotional affair. In some cases, you may even have discussed your mutual attraction and agreed not to act on it, but such an agreement doesn’t mean that your behavior is morally acceptable.
7. You feel guilty
Even if you’re not deceiving your partner about the frequency of your interactions with this other person, you will likely be feeling very guilty and uncomfortable if you’re engaged in an emotional affair. You may dismiss these negative feelings as irrational because you’re not committing physical infidelity, but if you think about how your partner would view your true feelings and thoughts then it will be clear that there is good cause to feel guilty.
8. You fantasize about a life with this person
While most couples accept fleeting, superficial attractions to other people, dreaming of a life with another person is a whole different story. If you’re having an emotional affair, you probably spend a large chunk of time imagining how things would be if you had met the other person first. You may even be in the throes of obsession, finding it difficult to do anything except think or daydream about the object of your affections.
If several of the above signs are familiar, it’s time to take a step back and consider the future. Whether you know in your heart of hearts that your primary relationship is over or you actually want to end contact with the new person in order to work on things with your partner, it’s important to recognize that an emotional affair creates an unsustainable state of limbo.