How would you feel if you found out that your spouse had maintained a 20-year-long connection with someone they had dated in high school? Even though they never had sex, you may be shocked by how much an emotional affair can hurt. Emotional affairs, also known as emotional infidelity or emotional cheating, are worse than physical affairs for a couple of reasons.
By definition, emotional infidelity is where one partner shares an emotional connection or intimacy with someone other than their spouse or partner. This is not a platonic friendship but one where both people have intimate thoughts, feelings, and conversations with one another.
Emotional affairs can take place over long distances, or they can involve two people meeting up at a coffee shop every Sunday.
It is easy to confuse an emotional affair with friendship from the outside because it looks like two friends. Because it can be difficult to detect an emotional affair, it could end up going on for many years before it is discovered or ended.
Here are some signs that your spouse may be emotionally cheating on you:
- They are withdrawn from a conversation with you
- Sexual intimacy is diminished or nonexistent
- Your spouse openly criticizes you or compares you to their friend
- They are more secretive around you, such as hiding their phone or shutting off the computer whenever you are nearby
- Your spouse devotes more time to their friend than to you
- They mention their friend a lot—almost too much
- When you question your spouse on their behavior or their friend, they get defensive and argumentative
- Your opinions count for less than the other person’s
Is Emotional Infidelity Worse Than Cheating?
A lot of people believe that, because there is no sexual intimacy between those having the affair, that emotional infidelity is not as bad as cheating. In some cases, you may be able to bounce back from emotional infidelity easily, but for most, that is not how it goes.
With an emotional affair, the two people are maintaining a level of contact that sometimes distracts them from their actual partners. They will exchange thoughts, gifts, and time. Intimate letters and statements that express love and compassion are often given to the partner in the affair, not their spouse. The investment of time and emotion is what makes these kinds of affairs so intense.
A physical affair may happen once, but emotional infidelity is a relationship that has developed and evolved throughout the years.
Most people bounce back from a physical affair because there is often little love involved. Emotional affairs speak to a level of intimacy. You are sharing thoughts, feelings, and emotions with someone who isn’t your spouse. Often, it is difficult to turn those emotions off and disengage from that relationship.
So even when an affair comes to an end, it does not mean that your heart is back in the right place. For the spouse who was betrayed, knowing that their partner has been lying to them for years is jarring. For the one who had the emotional affair, it may feel like they are giving up everything. That they are losing someone very special.
Emotions run high in emotional affairs.
Is Emotional Cheating Harder To Forgive?
In many ways, it can be a disturbing notion to know that your partner has such a strong emotional connection to someone else outside of your marriage. Not only that, but they have breached your trust in the worst way possible. Relationships cannot thrive without trust or a level of commitment—both of which were neglected during the emotional affair.
When those things are taken into account, it can be far more difficult to forgive your partner for their emotional infidelity. Also, because of the relationship they had, you may feel like you are the “other person” in the relationship, or that it was your fault in some way.
Getting over being emotionally cheated on is going to take time. Professional help is highly recommended for this kind of situation. Infidelity therapists can help you and your partner work through the aftermath of the affair, as well as show you how to communicate with one another. Over time, you can rebuild the trust that was lost, but it is going to take time to heal.
Overcoming Infidelity Together With Couples Academy
Finding out that your spouse has been emotionally cheating on you is going to be devastating. While you may be able to forgive and forget an accidental one-night stand, a long-term emotional affair may feel overwhelming. You can recover if you receive the right help. Seeking professional help in this particular area could be the best course of action, so consider contacting Couples Academy today. Our team of marriage counselors can walk you down the road toward recovery and help you save your marriage.