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What if You Suspect Emotional Infidelity?

Emotional infidelity can be as heartbreaking for the betrayed partner as a physical affair. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s going on when your spouse assures you that a relationship with a friend, coworker, or social media acquaintance is innocent. But if you are concerned that that emotional intimacy is developing, you can look out for the signs listed below and then decide how to deal with the issue.  

Signs of Emotional Infidelity

  • Your spouse is texting the suspected emotional affair partner more often than you and turning off his phone or computer when you show up.  
  • Your partner is dressing differently, spiffed up as in courtship mode.
  • Your credit card statement shows payments at bars and restaurants different from the ones you frequent, and other unexplained expenses show up.
  • Your partner detaches from you emotionally by becoming withdrawn or unusually critical toward you. Physical detachment can easily follow a lack of emotional intimacy. The “cheating” partner may sense that having sex with his or her spouse would be disloyal to the emotional affair partner.  

Expressing Your Concern

If you suspect your partner of having an emotional affair, first process your feelings (fear, betrayal, anger, hurt, helplessness, or confusion) enough to have a calm manner when initiating the conversation. If you come across as angry and accusing, your partner is likely to become defensive, dismiss your concern, or counterattack, like by calling you paranoid or irrational.

Say kindly and respectfully that you want to discuss something that concerns you. Ask if this is a good time to talk before proceeding, or agree on a different time. Then say:

  • which signs of an emotional affair you’ve noticed;
  • how you’re feeling about the apparent emotional affair  insecure, uncomfortable or , anxious, something else;
  • what you would like your partner to do. Examples of what you might want your partner  to do:  
  1. Discontinue contact with suspected or actual emotional affair partner;
  2. include you in all interactions with that person;
  3. agree to transparency regarding emails and texts sent and received;
  4. get a job elsewhere if the person is a coworker;
  5. see a therapist with you to talk about both of your concerns in a safe setting;
  6. tell you what might be missing in his relationship with you makes him look for intimacy elsewhere.
  • what you are prepared to do if your partner is not willing to do what it takes to end a developing or current emotional affair. You might decide to separate, divorce, get therapy for yourself to help you make a wise decision, or do something else.

Prevention Is the Best Strategy

We can control only our own behavior, not our partner’s. The best way to prevent the prospect an emotional affair from happening is to keep our marriage fulfilling  ⎯ with romance, intimacy, teamwork and kind, respectful resolution of issues. By holding a weekly marriage meeting that uses the simple agenda and positive communication skills explained in detail in Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, most couples can create this kind of emotionally intimate relationship. Partners who keep their bond strong are more likely to stay emotionally and physically faithful.

What if You Suspect Emotional Infidelity?

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Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). What if You Suspect Emotional Infidelity?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Aug 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.