When we think of infidelity, we usually associate the word with physical or sexual intimacy and encounters. However, emotional infidelity may cause issues within a relationship as well. Emotional infidelity is when boundaries in a relationship are broken by one partner having an emotional relationship with someone they're attracted to outside of their primary relationship. Emotional infidelity may often lead to physical or sexual infidelity.
How To Recognize Emotional Infidelity
Signs of Emotional Infidelity
If you're unsure if you or your partner are being emotionally unfaithful, here are some signs you may want to look out for:
Signs Your Spouse Is Emotionally Unfaithful
While it's most likely relatively easy to determine if you are having an emotional affair, it may be more difficult to know whether your partner is. A part of the reason is that they may be hiding it from you, making you believe you're wrong. Because of this, you may begin to doubt yourself. If you feel that something is going on but don't know whether it's your imagination or not, consider these possible clues.
Causes Of Emotional Infidelity
There is no exact reason or cause as to why emotional infidelity occurs. However, there are a few factors that may contribute to a partner committing emotional infidelity. These may include relationship dissatisfaction, lack of boundaries, inability to express themselves, and poor communication. It may also even be a combination of these things or, for reasons, entirely different. Below we will look at some of the factors that may cause emotional infidelity
When someone is having an emotional affair, they may become more dissatisfied with their primary relationship. However, the dissatisfaction may be what led to the partner having an emotional affair in the first place. When a couple has been in a committed relationship for a long time, the honeymoon stage usually begins to fade, and partners may become comfortable. They may put less effort into the relationship like they did in the beginning. This may result in one or both partners' needs not being met, and they may seek to get their emotional needs met or validation elsewhere. A new person may show the partner more attention, and they most likely haven't gotten to the point of conflict yet with them. This new emotional relationship may seem like an escape from the issues in their primary relationship, leading to an emotional affair.
Failure To Set Boundaries
Just as in other aspects of life, it's important to set clear boundaries of what is okay and what isn't okay in your relationship. Every relationship will have different boundaries as each individual has different needs and feelings. Each partner may need to express their boundaries and respect each other.
When you don't set healthy boundaries, you leave the potential for miscommunications and boundaries being crossed. It may be helpful to set these boundaries in the beginning, so each partner understands what they deem as "cheating" or infidelity.
Good communication is a vital part of any relationship. Without it, you may find it difficult to resolve your differences when they come up. If one of you feels dissatisfied with or worried about the relationship, you most likely won't address those feelings in any effective way. Strong and healthy communication may resolve conflict before it begins or can keep things from becoming out of control.
Impact Of Emotional Infidelity
Emotional infidelity can have harmful effects on a relationship. Infidelity, whether physical or emotional, can break the trust within the relationship. The partner who had an emotional affair most likely hid it and kept secrets from their primary partner. This may make the other partner feel as though they can't trust them again.
Seeking emotional intimacy and validation in another person also most likely won't fix the issues within the primary relationship. It may potentially create confusion as to what you want or need. Emotional infidelity may lead to something more physical, which can be incredibly hurtful to the primary partner.
How Can You Prevent Your Partner From Being Emotionally Unfaithful?
You can never fully prevent your partner from being emotionally unfaithful, as you likely don't have control over someone else's thoughts, emotions, or behaviors. However, you can build a strong, fulfilling, and nurturing relationship that may be more resistant to emotional infidelity. Partners who are happy and fulfilled in their relationship may be less likely to seek support or emotional intimacy elsewhere. Here are some tips that may help protect your relationship and keep it strong.
How Can I Save My Marriage After Emotional Infidelity?
Emotional infidelity can be considered a form of betrayal in a relationship. For some partners, emotional infidelity may end the relationship. However, you can use strategies that may repair the broken trust and strengthen relationships after emotional infidelity.
End the Affair and Hold Yourself Accountable
If you're having an emotional affair and want to save your primary relationship, you must end the affair immediately. To make this step successful, it may be most helpful to have no contact with the person you had an affair with. It is also important to hold yourself accountable to your partner and own up to your mistakes.
Analyze Why it Happened
To begin rebuilding your relationship and preventing an affair from happening again, it may be beneficial to analyze what factors contributed to your behavior. It can help to be introspective to figure out why this has happened. It may also be important to have open and honest conversations with your partner to help find out what needs are not being met.
Possibly one of the most difficult parts of repairing a relationship after infidelity is rebuilding trust. If you were the partner having an affair, it's important to be completely open and honest with your partner from here on out. You have complete transparency, and doing what your partner needs may help to create trust again.
Talk to a Relationship Therapist
If you or your partner has had an emotional affair and you're finding it difficult to overcome, a relationship therapist may be able to help. Therapy can help partners develop tools and strategies to communicate more effectively and overcome the breach of trust in the relationship. ReGain is an online therapy platform specializing in helping couples overcome challenges within their relationship. They can match you with a therapist that best suits your specific needs. Reach out today to begin your journey to a healthy and more fulfilling relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Does It Mean To Emotionally Cheat On Someone?
Emotional affairs involve connecting with someone intimately emotionally rather than physically and becoming emotionally invested in them. Hence, you begin to rely on them more to meet your needs rather than your partner. This can lead to feelings of romantic interest toward this person instead of or in addition to your partner, and, unless you’re in an agreed-upon open relationship, emotional affairs can be incredibly harmful to your committed relationship with your existing partner. Emotional intimacy and emotional cheating generally involve somehow betraying the trust of your partner and the boundaries of your relationship. Generally, becoming emotionally invested and emotionally intimate with someone who isn’t your partner is considered a non-physical form of cheating that can be quite harmful and dangerous. One study found that 35% of wives and 45% of husbands have some emotional affair, and around half of those become a sexual affair over time.
How Do Emotional Affairs Start?
Emotional affairs often start when at least one member of the marriage is somehow emotionally dissatisfied. This is often the greatest contributor to all of the emotional affair signs. Maybe they’ve been fighting, feel like they don’t talk much anymore, or just haven’t been connecting and feel emotional distance because, well, life happens, and relationships and love naturally wax and wane. Some people may cope with this by seeking out someone else to fulfill their emotional needs. They may start telling others about their problems and feel connected with them when they listen and empathize. Over time, emotional intimacy builds, and the individual can feel more emotionally invested in and fulfilled by this other person than by their spouse or partner. This in and of itself is often considered a form of an extramarital affair and, as mentioned above, could over time develop into a sexual affair.
What Are Emotional Affair Symptoms?
Some emotional affair signs include feeling emotional distance with your partner, becoming emotionally involved with someone else, developing into becoming emotionally invested in them and depending on them to fulfill at least some of your non-physical needs, and emotional intimacy. If you or your partner feel emotionally dissatisfied with your relationship, this can also be a precursor to emotional affairs or develop emotional intimacy with someone outside of your relationship. These emotional affair signs are quite common to experience and don’t mean that your relationship is over. Rather, they can be an opportunity to help you figure out what you and your partner want and need, and if that still involves each other, then you can grow together through it.
Can A Marriage Survive An Emotional Affair?
Whether or not marriages can survive emotional affairs depends on the marriage, individuals, and circumstances surrounding the extramarital affair. Though lying isn’t advised by any means, some marriages can survive emotional affairs if they don’t progress to a serious or physical stage and their partner never knew about it. Over 70% of people who have emotional affairs never disclose this to their spouse, either due to shame and guilt surrounding it or simply not viewing it as “real” cheating. However, emotional affairs are the most prevalent form of cheating – about doubly as common as sexual affairs. Not knowing about an emotional affair could help preserve the marriage…but it could also greatly worsen or even end.
The hurt of deception is rated as one of the primary reasons why emotional affairs are so damaging. Many people can’t understand why their spouse didn’t just talk with them if they were unhappy or their needs weren’t met. Some didn’t even know there was an issue (around 56% of men who cheat say they’re happy in their marriages). Your spouse developing emotional intimacy with someone else while you experience emotional distance from them can be incredibly damaging. However, avid communication, patience, and a willingness to work through any issues in your marriage can go a very long way to helping repair things, whether emotional intimacy and becoming emotionally involved with someone else played a role or not.
What Do You Do After An Emotional Affair?
After an emotional affair, whether you or your spouse engaged in it, it may be important to reflect inward and assess how you feel about yourself, about what happened, and about your relationship with your partner. Write things out if you need to. Writing everything out is a great exercise that may enable you to reflect, as it can help you organize your thoughts a bit better and enable you to read through them again later. You can even write out talking points with your partner to help address issues in your relationship. Then, the two of you can determine if you’d like to work through them or not. Becoming emotionally involved with someone often occurs at the height of relationship dysfunction because both partners feel somehow unfulfilled or unhappy. Though either of you developing emotional intimacy with another person can certainly be harmful to your relationship, you can also both choose to view it as an opportunity to work through it and develop greater emotional intimacy with each other as you learn to communicate through things and, hopefully, grow through it.