Skip to content

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

5 Warning Signs You’re Sliding Unintentionally Into an Emotional Affair

Sharing is caring!

Some infidelity is easy to spot. The inhibitions fall away with the clothes and the couple is doing things they wouldn’t want to be caught doing.

But other behaviors are much more nuanced and difficult to identify as potentially (and usually unintentionally) sliding into an emotional affair.

Here are 5 warning signs that “we’re just friends” is heading into dangerous waters:

You’re keeping things from your spouse. Not big things, not yet. It’s the omission of small facts that aren’t really a big deal, but for some reason you’d rather your spouse not find out. Over time, those lies of omission become lies of manipulation. Stop them early.

You tell this friend things you don’t tell your spouse or they get the big news first. This doesn’t mean you have to tell your spouse everything, but they certainly deserve to know anything of significance in your life. This can be especially tricky to navigate when you have an intense job that encourages strong coworker bonds (just think of the relationships on those doctor shows!) or you have an outside passion that you share with others. Your spouse may never really “get it” in the way those that also experience it do, but you owe it to them to not exclude them from your life.

Your spouse is feeling insecure. If you’re watering the wrong grass and focusing more energy outside than marriage than in, your partner will pick up on it, even if they’re not consciously aware. And this usually results in a feeling of insecurity. That’s a sign you should pay attention to.

There’s an excitement you feel with this person that you don’t feel with your other friends. That increased energy is a sign that you don’t see this person as simply “just a friend.” It’s a signal of increased interest that can breed an emotional intimacy that could threaten your marriage. It feels good now. But are the possible consequences worth it?

You experience disproportionate guilt. You shouldn’t feel guilty for meeting a friend for coffee. So if do, it’s a sign that this meeting possibly means more to you than just a chance to catch up. Guilt is your internal warning system. It’s usually best to listen.

Does any of this sound familiar? Here’s how you can stop the slide and regain your control.


Sharing is caring!

12 thoughts on “5 Warning Signs You’re Sliding Unintentionally Into an Emotional Affair

  1. yup, to all of the above. It’s amazing to me how many men and women will be adamant in their insistence that what they are doing is not an affair, just because it hasn’t become physical.

  2. This is such a great thing to talk about. I’ve been on both ends of this. When I was young and the one in the wrong, it happened without me knowing what was going on but those signs were all there. Since then, I’ve been super careful about my “friends”. It’s just not worth it.

  3. I have mixed thoughts on the subject of “emotional affairs” since I was accused of this concerning my counselor. In my search for information on this subject at that time, I found a lack of concrete information. I’ve concluded that “emotional affair” is just part of the thoughts in the affair process.

    1. Have you ever been the victim of an emotional affair? I understand you were accused of it, many questions from your comment that perhaps are unfair of me to assume. Yes I am living with the situation right now, my husband justifies it as a symptom of our problems, unfortunately physical or not the breach is the same.

  4. Good post, I have read much on the subject. I truly believe that we don’t do enough to rekindle the spark with our lover throughout the marriage and for many of us we discover it too late, my case anyway. We all have insecurities that in time we don’t even recognize to work on, instead finding something new to excite us becomes the easier path.

    1. Yeah, I think that’s it entirely. I believe there are a lot of underlying reasons that lead to things, but you’ve summed it up really well when you say “finding something new to excite us becomes the easier path”.

      It seems almost everyone is looking for the easy button, and too many people believe that good relationships should “just happen”. And that’s not at all true.

      Good relationships are built through consistent effort over time.

      In the world of basketball, one of my favorite players (Tim Duncan) just retired and over the past few weeks there have been all sorts of platitudes coming in for him from other players/coaches who played against him over the years.

      One of my favorite comments about him was a guy talking about how hard he worked during the off hours. He said:

      “those are things people don’t see. When players get better, year after year, people just assume. They say, ‘That’s just God-given ability.’ No! These dudes are working. They are putting in effort, and time, and sweat. But people don’t see that. And Tim was one of those guys. After hours, he’s doing what he needs to do. But still remaining committed to the things in his life that mattered.”

      Relationships are the same damn thing. You look at a couple who seems to have a good relationship, and it’s easy to assume they are just a good match, or they are just “meant for each other”.

      Sure people have different levels of compatibility, but I’m pretty confident that if you look at “good” relationships out there you’ll see a few constants – and one of the big ones is effort. Consistent effort. Working on issues, and not ignoring them. And not looking for easy ways out of things.

      1. I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you for taking the time to write. I am learning about the work to keep the spark. I am reading and viewing lots of the work of Ester Perel and Brene Brown. I wish you happiness, I hope you have a lucky gal by your side.

        1. I’ve just been reading through bits of your blog, and it sounds like I’m in a similar situation that you are in.

          My wife checked out emotionally and physically a few years ago now. I’ve stayed, due to lots of years together, a family, and the hope that things would eventually improve. It’s been a long time though, and nothing changes. Instead, this new “companionate” life has become the new normal, leading me to start questioning if it’s time to accept that things will never improve and just move on with my life (as I know I need more).

          One thing I’ve learned a lot about is how mental illness such as depression and anxiety can destroy “the spark”. I think that’s likely the main culprit in my scenario, but if so it’s up to her to ever get help – and she won’t.

          Ah well, it’s always up to us to choose how we will play with the cards of life that we have been dealt.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: