Five Signs That Your Spouse Is Having An Emotional Affair

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

It can be hard to know for sure if your spouse is having an emotional affair with someone, simply because the signs are often vague. Suspecting that something is going on with your spouse and proving it are two totally different things. Cheaters tend to be very careful, which means they tend to go out of their way to hide the affairs from their spouses.

This isn’t easy

Unfortunately, recovering from an emotional affair can take a very long time. Trust has to be rebuilt, feelings have to be soothed, and respect has to be regained before the couple can move on with their marriage. In addition, both spouses must want to devote the time and effort to save the marriage – otherwise, it won’t work.

So, what are the signs of an emotional affair?

There are some signs that could indicate that your spouse is emotionally involved with someone else, such as being overly secretive, staying on the phone for long periods of time talking to a “friend” or co-worker, becoming moody and distant,  talking about someone else all of the time, and/or “putting you down” for no reason. The good news is if you know the signs, you can address your concerns with your spouse before your marriage become unrepairable.

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Emotional cheating, also referred to as an emotional affair, can be just as damaging and painful as physical cheating (i.e. going on dates, having sex, etc.). In fact, in some cases, emotional cheating may be worse than physical cheating because the heart is involved. As a result, it can be hard to work through the betrayal. It takes re-programming to cut off the emotional affair and rebuild the trust in one’s marriage.

What causes someone to emotionally cheat on their spouse?

Well, the truth is it can be hard to pinpoint the exact moment when an emotional affair begins. It is usually a gradual process. For instance, maybe the emotional affair began at work amongst two co-workers. Over time, the two individuals became friends, then close friends, then they fell in love with each other (or so they thought).

Still, knowing when the actual emotional affair began and what caused it can be confusing. The important thing to remember is…

Regardless of when your spouse began emotionally cheating, he/she still crossed the line.

Transitioning from “just friends,” to emotionally-involved, to a physical/sexual affair can be a very slippery slope.

And, although the emotional cheater may not feel inclined to “physically sneak around” or have sex with his/her co-conspirator, he/she may have formed a deeply-intense emotional connection with the other person. Because of this deep emotional connection, it can feel like the ultimate betrayal to the other spouse.

What’s next?

Knowing the signs of an emotional affair can help you put your marriage into perspective. More specifically, it can help you decide if you still want to be in the marriage. If so, it can spur you to seek help to repair your marriage. First, you must recognize the signs of a spouse who is forming a deep emotional connection with someone else.

Signs of an emotional affair

Your spouse has suddenly become secretive around you…

If your spouse has suddenly become super secretive around you, there is a chance he/she is emotionally cheating with someone else. Eventually, you will “catch on” to the emotional affair, simply because you know your spouse. You know his/her mannerisms, behaviors, moods, and everything else, so you are bound to notice that something is amiss with your spouse and in your marriage.

You’ll know something is going on if your spouse suddenly starts hiding things from you, prohibiting you from looking at his/her smartphone, going into another room to talk on his/her “friend” or “co-worker,” and/or shutting down texting sessions or phone calls when you walk into the room. Your spouse may also become extremely defensive if you bring up the matter to him/her.

And, you may notice a change in your spouse’s mood and/or behavior. Moreover, if your spouse has deleted his/her browsing history on his/her phone and/or computer, changed all of his/her passwords so you no longer have access to his/her accounts, or unfriended or blocked you from his/her social media accounts, something is going on – something you need to know about.

If your spouse starts to “distance” himself/herself from you – physically and emotionally – he/she may be having an emotional affair right under your nose.

~ Psychologist’s Tip!

Lastly, if your spouse begins to focus more on his/her “privacy,” and drift further away from you emotionally, there is a chance he/she may be in the midst of an emotional affair with someone else.

Your spouse stays on the phone…

Has your spouse started spending more time chatting to a “friend” or “co-worker?” If so, you’ll probably want to find out why. Who is your spouse really talking to and what are they really talking about? Also, why is he/she on the phone all of the time – talking and texting continuously? These are important questions.

In addition, if you notice your spouse, who previously did not have a social media account, suddenly signs-up for one, there is a reason for the new account. Especially, if this out of character for your spouse.

Why does it matter?

Well, because your spouse could be using social media to emotionally cheat on you. In other words, he/she could be communicating with the other person on social media, so it doesn’t look so suspicious. The truth is social media is the perfect place to have an emotional affair, especially with private messages.

Pay attention to how much time your spouse spends on social media and if you notice it has suddenly increased – ask him/her about it. Don’t be kept in the dark about something that affects you and your marriage.

~ Psychologist’s Tip!

The most popular platforms for those who are wanting to cheat in some form, are Facebook and Snapchat. However, a person can hide his/her deception on any social media platform – even work-based social media groups.

Your spouse constantly references another person…

If your spouse constantly references another person, when you’re together, he/she may be emotionally involved with someone else. It’s hard to hide feels when you feel emotionally connected to someone, so it makes sense that it would be difficult not to bring that other person up during conversations with a spouse. For instance, say you and your spouse are talking about where you want to go for summer vacation and he/she mentions that “so and so” went on vacation there last year and loved it.

Beware of a spouse, who can’t stop referencing someone else, especially someone of the opposite sex, or a “close friend” or co-worker, it could mean there’s troubled waters in your marriage.

~ Psychologist’s Tip!

If your spouse stops there, there may be nothing to worry about, however, if he/she goes on and on about what “so and so” did there or if he/she mentions “so and so” a lot when you’re together, there may be a problem in your marriage. Lastly, if your spouse shares a lot of personal details about the other person with you, he/she may be emotionally cheating on you behind your back.

Your spouse seems “distant” towards you…

If your spouse seems “distant” towards you, your spouse may be having an affair of the heart with someone else. One of the main signs of an emotional affair is being emotionally and/or physically “distant” from a spouse. In other words, if your spouse’s heart is wrapped up in someone else, he/she may “detach” from you in the process. For instance, your spouse may stop talking to you about his/her day, issues he/she is having at work, dreams, fears, goals, etc.

Why does this happen?

Because, your spouse is getting his/her emotional needs met somewhere else, so he/she no longer has a need or desire to share those things with you.

If your spouse is beginning to drift away from you emotionally and/or physically, it may be a sign that he/she is emotionally involved with someone else.

~ Psychologist’s Tip!

There is even a possibility that your spouse will “disconnect” from you in the bedroom as well – not because he/she is having sex with another person, but because he/she feels like physical intimacy with you is a betrayal to the other person – even though you are his/her spouse.

Your spouse suddenly starts “putting you down” and belittling you…

If your spouse “puts you down” and belittles you, it may be because he/she is drifting away from you. Maybe your spouse has started to compare you to the other person. Or, maybe he/she is so full of guilt that he/she is trying to find things he/she dislikes about you to justify the affair. In addition, a spouse who is having an emotional affair may jump on you, if you say anything negative towards the object of his/her affection.

If your spouse suddenly starts “putting you down” and belittling you, there is a chance, he/she is comparing you to his/her object of affection.

~ Psychologist’s Tip!

Actionable Steps


Process how you’re feeling

If you discover that your spouse is emotionally cheating on you, the first thing you will need to do is process how you’re feeling. Therefore, I suggest that you purchase a journal or create an online blog to write down how you feel about your partner, the affair, and your marriage. Writing down (or typing) what’s going on in your head can help you figure out what your next step will be. It will also help you see your partner and your marriage in a whole new light.
You may also want to check out these self-help books for understanding emotional affairs – Getting Over An Affair: 5 Big Secrets Experts Want You To Know On How To Deal With Your Partner’s InfidelityAfter the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, and Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On — Together or Apart.
Before you confront your spouse about the affair, process how you’re feeling. Make sure you know how you feel and what you want to say to him/her, so your message doesn’t get muddled in the process.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


“Fake it until you make it”

If you find out that your spouse having an emotional affair, the best thing you can do is “fake it until you make it.” In other words, if you want to save your marriage, even though your spouse has or is cheating on you, be as positive as possible. Don’t let your spouse see you break down.
Whenever you interact with your spouse, show him/her your best side – even if you have to fake the emotion. If you find it hard to look or interact with your spouse because of your disappointment, anger, and/or hurt feelings, pretend to be in a good mood. Practice smiling in the mirror and write down and rehearse what you’re going to say to him/her the next time you see him/her.
Fake it until your anger, hurt, and disappointment begins to fade and being around your spouse brings you joy again.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Encourage your spouse to tell you the truth

Once you have processed how you feel about your spouse and the situation, you should encourage him/her to tell you the truth – no matter how painful it will be for you. You deserve to know the truth. Explain to your spouse that the only way you can truly heal from the betrayal is for him/her to come clean about what really happened. Ask your spouse not to lie to you or withhold details because of his/her fears it will hurt you more.
Explain to him/her that lying will hurt you more than him/her telling you the truth. And, let him/her know that if you find out he/she lied to you or left out important information about the affair, the trust will be gone and your marriage may be over for good.
If you don’t feel you can talk to your spouse alone, enlist the help of a trained marriage counselor. This relationship expert will help you and your spouse navigate the “ins and outs” of the affair, so you can process what happened, heal, and decide if your marriage is really worth saving.


Grieve the loss of your ideal marriage

The only way you will heal from the betrayal is if you allow yourself to grieve the loss of your ideal marriage. What do I mean by ideal marriage? I mean the marriage you thought you had. It’s important that you accept that your marriage will probably never be the same after your spouse’s emotional affair.
As a result, you’ll have to look at your marriage in a totally different light. You will most likely experience a wide-range of emotions – hurt, pain, disappointment, anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and confusion. You may feel you don’t know your spouse as well as you thought you did. And, you may become curious about the other person – i.e. “What does he/she have that I don’t have?”
Still, don’t rush the process. Vent, cry, write down your feelings in a journal, talk to a trusted friend about how you are feeling, and focus on yourself more.
Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to grieve over the loss of your ideal marriage. Keep in mind that it will take time to forgive the betrayal and rebuild the trust in your relationship. 
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Decide if you even want to “save” your marriage

After you’ve processed your feelings, learned the whole truth about what happened, and possibly talked to a counselor, it will be time for both of you to decide if you even want to save your marriage. Repairing the damage in your marriage will take a commitment from both you and your spouse.
In other words, you’ll need to make a mutual pact to work on saving your marriage. More specifically, you’ll need to agree to work on rebuilding the respect and trust in your marriage. A marriage counselor can help you and your spouse identify the root cause of the affair. He/she can also teach you how to strengthen your communication and problem-solving skills. This will help so you don’t experience repeat episodes of infidelity in the future. 
If you mutually decide that your marriage is not salvageable, you’ll need to make a plan on how to transition out of the relationship with the least amount of damage. This is especially true if you have children together.

The only way you can save your marriage is if you are both on the same page. Your spouse will need to cut off the emotional affair and devote his/her energy and effort towards repairing the damage in your marriage. If that does not happen, your marriage will fail.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Focus on bettering yourself

Lastly, regardless of what ultimately happens with your marriage, this is the time to start focusing on bettering yourself. You are going through a really difficult time right now, so it’s important to do things that will lift your mood and give you a semblance of peace. If the affair is causing you a lot of stress, try mediating or practicing yoga techniques.
Spend more time with the people who give you joy like your friends and family. Or, start a new exercise routine and/or eat healthier foods. Sign up for a personal development retreat, so you can get back in-tune with yourself.
Or, try something new you have been dying to try like rock climbing, martial arts, or gourmet cooking. Emerse yourself in a new hobby. Follow your dreams and open up your world to new things. Taking care of your body and mind will make you feel sexier and more confident, so you can deal with the betrayal in a healthier way.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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