Emotional Affair Warning Signs
Most emotional affairs start innocently enough. For example, a woman in your husband’s workplace is having trouble in her marriage, and in the middle of their busy days, she begins to confide in your husband. She says her husband doesn’t understand her.
Before long, an emotional affair husband and his affair partner start spending more time together at work and then they start spending more time on the phone and then more time physically together outside of the workplace. By then, he is usually telling her that things are not so good in his marriage either.
At this point, he usually looks for, and finds or creates, flaws in you and feels an increasing dissatisfaction with your marriage.
My husband and I were striding along in our midlife marriage of 30 years. We were busy with four amazing, active, involved children. His work was demanding, and I had a small business I worked on from our home. Life was good, fun and full.
At one point, however, I had become vaguely concerned about our relationship and thought something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He seemed disconnected.
I asked him about it, and told him that I felt like something was coming between us. He seemed more critical and less engaged at home. He assured me that he was just extra busy at work, and there was nothing to worry about.
When I actually found out my husband was having an emotional affair, it had been going on for more than three months. One day I found him in our two-car garage. He was behind his van talking on his phone in a low voice. I asked him who he was talking to, and he said one of his partners, but when I asked what was he was talking about, he was vague and unconvincing.
Changes In Behavior
During the time of my husband’s emotional affair, I started noticing other things that were out of sync. I always had some simple breakfast ready for him to eat before he left early for work. All of a sudden, he was out of sorts if anything took a few minutes longer than expected. He said he didn’t really want anything to eat before he went to work. I had been doing that for 30 years and suddenly he didn’t want it.
I later found out he was meeting his co-worker, not only during work, but before work, after work, over lunch-time and whenever else that they could sneak away. They also talked constantly on their phones.
Distant Or Secretive
Most men having emotional affairs become increasingly secretive and distant. They often seem disengaged and distracted at home. They spend more time with the door closed in their home office, or they want to go outside to work in the yard, or they find excuses to run errands. They keep their phones with them at all times.
Different Habits or Patterns
A man who is having an emotional affair often changes his long-established patterns. Any extra-marital affair, emotional or sexual, includes deception, lying and secrets.
If the emotional affair is with someone at work, our partners tell us that there is extra work at the office or they were called out to another appointment or whatever. They also start working out, paying closer attention to their appearance and maybe even introducing new sex positions or techniques at home.
I also noticed when my husband was deep into the emotional affair, he increasingly wanted to take our youngest child on excursions that didn’t include me. I found out the affair partner had boys about the same age. Sometimes they would meet at the theater complex, send the boys to a certain theater and they would meet in another movie.
On another occasion, when there was a school snow day, they both took their boys to a small ski slope about an hour away from our home. The kids were busy skiing while my husband and his emotional affair partner were together in some other spot on the mountain.
With A Coworker
Many emotional affairs start at work. Our spouse often spends more time at work than he spends awake at home. The workplace provides a perfect cover for emotional affairs.
In many cases, the men hook up with women below them in the workplace hierarchy … for example, a doctor and his nurse. An attorney with his administrative assistant. Sometimes, however, two people in the same department or on the same economic level who work together every day or even travel together begin to develop an emotional affair as well.
Most businesses now have in place very strict rules about any man being able to use his power to influence a woman whose job depends on his approval. Office-place harassment has more controls than it used to, but it doesn’t always stop workplace affairs from happening.
In many cases, one of the partners in the affair has to leave and get another job. Usually, one of the people is let go or moved to a different office or department. In some cases, the person lowest on the totem pole is given a bonus to leave her job, and she is expected to sign an agreement not to press charges in the future.
Another perfect place for emotional affairs to get started is online. In fact, there are still sites dedicated to helping married people hook up. Often the partner who goes to these sites is dissatisfied in his or her marriage and is looking for excitement or fulfillment they don’t think they are finding at home.
Just look at the damage done years ago by the online hookup site Ashley Madison. The site was hacked and people were outed to the public. Marriages were ruined because of these emotional online affairs, and many led to sexual infidelity as well.
More often an online emotional affair is carried on by two people who know each other or were friends in high school or college and who reconnect and become emotionally involved through the internet. Internet affairs are fantasies lived out online. Many people try to replace their real relationship with less demanding relationships online.
He Denies The Affair
After working in the Divorce Recovery area for more than ten years, I’d guess that 90-100% of men involved in emotional affairs, deny there is anything but platonic friendship going on. They almost always say, “She is just a friend.” or “She is having some trouble in her marriage. I’m just trying to be a listening ear.”
When my wasband told me one time that his “friend’s husband was angry and abusive,” I said, “I would probably be angry too, if I knew my wife was spending lots of time with, and confiding in, someone at work instead of confiding in me.” He said he was just “worried about her safety.”
Often women who suspect their husband of being involved in an emotional affair start becoming our own private detectives because our husbands are being evasive and often lying outright. For me, the lying to my face was as hurtful as the fact that he was becoming more attracted to his co-worker and more distant from me.
Often, the angrier and more suspicious we become, the more our husband seeks understanding and comfort with the affair partner. It becomes a downward spiral into an unhealthy relationship that destroys two marriages.
Don’t Blame Yourself
After our husbands have been caught in an emotional affair, they often start blaming us for their bad behavior. One of the worst parts about any kind of affair is the damage it does to the primary relationship of husband and wife. Instead of coming to us and saying, “This marriage isn’t working for me, we need to fix it, or I need to find something else,” our husband sneaks around, lies to us, tries to make us feel crazy for suspecting him and generally makes fixing our relationship more difficult.
Another huge problem is that during emotional affairs, the girlfriend usually knows everything about the wife, while the wife knows nothing about the girlfriend. Our husband starts sharing private, intimate information about us to the woman he is having the emotional affair with. They have secrets between them that we aren’t privy to. So, we become more isolated while they become closer.
The sense of betrayal is one of the hardest things to deal with if our husband is having an emotional affair. And, emotional affairs often lead to physical affairs.
An emotional affair can be just as hurtful as a physical affair. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to accept that our ex simply wanted more sexual variety than we understood. But an emotional affair means that they connect on a deeper, more complex level than just the sexual.
Neither emotional nor physical affairs are acceptable or easy, but sometimes I believe the emotional affair is even more destructive to a relationship than simply a sexual one.
Should I Get Divorced?
An ongoing emotional affair is dangerous to any relationship. If our husband wants to repair the relationship, he must do three things before any reconciliation can happen.
He must “get it.” He must understand how destructive his actions are to your primary relationship. He must understand the pain he has caused you by his emotional affair.
Sharing his most intimate emotions with a third party changes your relationship in ways that are hard to repair.
He must “own it.” He can’t blame you for his bad choices. It doesn’t work for him to say “If you had been different, I wouldn’t have had to do this.” If he didn’t like how your relationship was going, he should have honestly talked to you about that and figured out how to fix it or end it.
He must “fix it.” The person having the emotional affair must take responsibility to do whatever it is you need to start rebuilding trust. Change jobs. Give you the passwords to his electronic devices. Be accountable for where he is and making it possible for you to confirm that he is where he says he is.
If he is not willing to do those three things, a reconciliation usually doesn’t happen.
I encourage everyone to try to fix a marriage in trouble. Every effort should be made to make changes that will make your marriage stronger and better than ever.
The key is for the person who is having or has had the emotional affair to take full responsibility for it, stop it and make the changes necessary to start the healing and rebuilding. Without that, repairing your marriage is impossible.
If your husband had or is still having an emotional affair that is causing distress or even divorce, please let us help.