Are you just friends or is there something more going on? Have you really crossed a line? Are you betraying your partner by continuing your interactions with this person? Is it cheating even though there’s no sexual contact involved? If you’ve been pondering these questions, it’s probably because you suspect that you might have entered into a not-so-innocent relationship with someone other than your partner. Emotional affairs usually aren’t black and white, but if you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take a step back and do some emotional math.
You rush to tell them things first. When something happens to you, good or bad, this other person becomes the one you want to share the news with first. You go to them to unburden any emotions you’re feeling rather than discussing them with your partner. You save all your best stories for them. This is because they’ve come to mean more to you emotionally than you’re willing to let yourself admit.
You’re hiding the relationship from your partner. Unless you work in the CIA or some super-secret organization, you should be able to tell your partner about everyone in your life. I’m not saying that you have to share all your communications, but if you’re putting extra effort to prevent them from discovering the nature or extent of your conversations with this other person, that’s a sign that you’ve crossed the line into an emotional affair.
You change your physical appearance for them. Have you taken up running or working out so you can get into shape and look better? Do you take a lot more care with your appearance whenever you know you’re going to see them? Are you buying clothes or wearing a new hairstyle that’s a little sexier than your usual style? This is because you (sub)consciously want to look good for this “friend.” You want to get them to notice you even more. To compliment how attractive you look.
You constantly compare your partner to the other person. When you start comparing your partner to this other person, it’s a sign that you deprioritizing your partner and forming new loyalties elsewhere. You’re starting to see this person as a potential significant other, and you wish your current partner was more like them. You become more critical of your partner while idealizing the other party. You get mad when they fail to understand you or do things like the other person does.
You say things to them you wouldn’t want your partner to overhear. One quick test for whether you’re involved in an emotional affair or not is to ask: Would I be comfortable talking to them this way if my partner was watching? Would I be okay saying the things I say to them within my partner’s earshot? Would I even want my partner to see the (body) language used in these conversations? If the answer is no, it’s a sign that you recognize there’s something inappropriate going on.
You’re finding more and more reasons to spend time with them. You’re willing to stay late at work or come in early just to spend a few extra minutes with them. You cancel plans and drop everything you’re doing to show up for them when they need you. You text and call them constantly outside of normal hours. If you find yourself carving out more time for this person, you might need to rethink the nature of the relationship. They’re not your partner and you don’t act this way with your other friends, so what makes them so special?
You tell the other person things you don’t share with your partner. How depressed you’ve been feeling lately. The exes that you miss. The promotion you’ve been working your ass off trying to get. The troubles in your family. Your fight with your best friend. Instead of sharing information like this with your partner, you confide in this other person instead. The more you do this, the more you deepen your emotional bond with this person.
You daydream about them all the time. You go to bed thinking of this person and wake up with them on your mind. You replay your last conversation over and over in your head. You fantasize about what you’ll wear or say the next time you see them. You imagine what it’d be like to kiss or date them. They even start showing up in your dreams. All this indicates that this person occupies tremendous real estate in your mind and emotions.
You share negative criticisms of your partner with them. Sharing secrets or frustrations about your partner can ruin your relationship. You might think you’re only doing this to understand your partner better. But you’re just creating room for a deeper connection with this other person and discontent with your partner. If you really want to address the issues in your relationship, bring it up with your actual partner or talk to a therapist.
You’re withdrawing from intimacy with your partner. Have you been reluctant to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner since you started interacting with this other person? Do you shy away from initiating sex or do you think of this person when you do it. Do you hold hands, touch, kiss, hug, or spend time with your partner less than before? When you start withholding these things from your partner, that could be a sign of an emotional affair. You’ve basically transferred these intimate displays of affection to the other person.