What is Emotional Cheating & 15 Signs to Recognize an Affair ASAP

Physical cheating, we know. But what is emotional cheating? And how to read the signs of this low-key affair? Here’s what to look for and what to do next.

What is Emotional Cheating

We hear a lot about physical cheating, but what is emotional cheating? And, why does it feel like your world has come crashing down?

Cheating in any form is devastating. It takes your trust and rips it into shreds. It causes you to question every single moment of your relationship. It makes you reassess how you feel about yourself and how you feel about love in general. Put simply, it has the power to completely ruin someone’s life. 

The problem is that the line between what one person classes as cheating and what someone else considers to be cheating, can often be extremely blurry. You might think that kissing is cheating, but your partner might think that’s fine as long as no sex is involved. This is why so many issues arise. 

One of the blurriest issues of them all is emotional cheating. What is emotional cheating and how can it be one of the most devastating types of cheating?

Now, I should point out that I’m certainly not deeming physical cheating as not as devastating. It is. It’s terrible. However, when someone forms an emotional attachment to someone else, it has the power to question the love you shared to an even greater degree. Someone can have sex and not feel a thing, but when emotions are there, that’s when serious questions arise. 

Read how do affairs normally start and how it plays out almost always to know why people cheat emotionally in the first place.

What is emotional cheating in a relationship?

So, what is considered emotional cheating? Anything which creates a bond between a person and someone who isn’t their partner. By ‘bond’, I don’t mean a friendship or anything platonic, it has to be something which has an undertone of something else. 

For example, there might be flirting, sharing of secrets, talking about their partner behind their back, cancelling plans with their partner to see the other person, and wanting to be around the other person more and more. When those types of things start to occur, you have to question why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

You can’t rely upon your partner for every single one of your emotional needs. But they should be there to support you through most things. When you look to another person and start to rely upon them in the same way, you’re developing emotions for that person. This could cause you to question the relationship you have with your own partner. 

The question of ‘what is emotional cheating’ is hard to pinpoint without describing situations. So, let’s look at some signs to give it a little more clarity. 

If you want to know more about what is emotional cheating, how they begin, and the real details you should know about emotional affairs, check these articles out:

The 7 stages of emotional affairs and the tricks it plays on our own minds

Emotional affairs vs friendship – At what point is this line crossed?

Micro-cheating – What it is and the clear signs you’re unintentionally doing it already

The unmissable signs of emotional cheating you should never overlook

If you’re looking for signs of emotional cheating, use these clues as a reference. If you notice these signs in your own relationship with a friend, or see it with your partner and someone else, maybe it’s time to accept that perhaps, a friendship is starting to turn into something more… emotional!

[Read: The affair fog – What to do if your partner is under someone else’s spell]

#1 Sharing secrets with the other person. When you talk to the other person about things you haven’t even told your partner, that’s questionable. Of course, you don’t have to tell your partner every single thought that pops into your mind. But if you feel the need to share something with another person and it’s not your partner, why do you want to do that? What makes you not want to tell your partner? 

#2 Irritability with their partner. A person who seems happy when they’re around the other person but super irritable with their partner, is probably cheating in an emotional way. Put simply, they want to be around the other person and spending time with their partner is jeopardizing that. 

#3 They cancel plans to spend time with the other person. Cancelling plans happens sometimes, but it should only be for a good reason. Someone who is cancelling plans with their own partner, only to do things with the other person, should probably look up ‘what is emotional cheating’ in a dictionary.

In this case, they’re putting the needs of the other person before their partner’s, and they have to ask themselves why they think that’s okay. [Read: 18 emotional affairs signs you probably never noticed you’re doing]

#4 They make contact with the other person ‘out of hours’. There are certain times which are for couples. This could be late at night, early in the morning, in the middle of the night, on date nights, and on vacations together. If someone is messaging and texting another person constantly during those times, or hiding their communication during those times, you have to ask why. It’s a clear sign of emotional cheating because they’re not ‘in the moment’ with their partner. 

#5 They talk about their relationship in negative terms with the other person. There is never an excuse for talking negatively about a partner with someone else. If you have issues with your partner, talk to them and try and solve them. When a partner talks to another person and ‘badmouths’ their partner, explaining what’s wrong and why it’s not working, are they doing so because they’re trying to make it look like they could be available?

#6 They’re hiding messages from the other person. If nothing is going on, there’s no reason to hide messages, right?

If someone is hiding messages from a particular person, it’s because there’s something clearly going on between them. It doesn’t have to be physical, but they feel their connection important enough to hide from their partner and probably because they know how it would make them feel. [Read: When does flirting become cheating? The guide to know for sure]

#7 They start to compare their partner and the other person. If you want to know what is emotional cheating, this is the biggest definition. When someone starts to compare their partner to someone they’re spending a lot of time with so-called platonically, something has changed. It means they’re looking at the other person in a different way, and there’s nothing platonic about it. 

#8 They’re detached and moody. They simply don’t want to be around their partner, and they want to be around the other person. This is devastating for their partner because they have no idea what they’ve done wrong or what is going on with the other person.

If they have a suspicion of something going on between the two, it can be even more upsetting because they start to put two and two together. Put simply, they’ve checked out emotionally and they’re extremely detached as a result. [Read: The key things you should always remember if you find yourself married and flirting]

#9 They communicate less with their partner and more with the other person. Conversations with their partner become less and less, and conversations with the other person increase. Again, they’ve checked out emotionally and this is causing them to seek emotional support from the other person instead. They may think they’re not cheating, but they’re cheating in the most emotional way of them all. 

#10 They start to use pet names for the other person. There is no need to have pet names for someone you’re not in a relationship with, unless it’s a jokey name with a friend. If someone starts to call a so-called friend ‘babe’, ‘honey’ or something equally as loving, it’s crossing lines that are already pretty blurry. 

#11 They deny there’s a problem, but go just a little too far with their denials. Their partner is likely to start questioning the amount of time they’re spending with the other person or their connection, but they’ll just deny it. Not only that, but they’ll deny it to the point where there is clearly something to be suspicious about. Going just a little too far with denials makes their partner extremely cautious, and rightly so. 

#12 They don’t involve their partner with the other person. They’ll go to great lengths to make sure that their partner and the other person don’t see each other and don’t become friends. This is because they want to keep both sides of their life separate, and it will become too complicated if they meet. However, if there is really nothing going on, surely the two meeting wouldn’t be an issue at all, right? [Read: How to know if an emotional affair is turning into love whether you’re ready or not]

#13 They feel the other person understands them better. An occasional bout of feeling misunderstood is normal and that simply means that you need to work on being closer.

However, if a partner feels that they’re not understood and the other person really ‘gets’ them, it’s because their emotions are involved. What is emotional cheating? Feeling understood and sharing too much with the other person. 

#14 They go out on inappropriate ‘dates’ with the other person. There are some things which you just shouldn’t do with someone who isn’t your partner. If someone is heading off for romantic dinners for two with someone who they’re not in a relationship with, why aren’t they doing that with their partner? They may swear it’s innocent, but it’s very unlikely to be in this case. 

#15 Their partner feels extremely left out and frustrated. Whilst all of this is happening, their partner is likely to feel left out of things and very frustrated. They’ll have a strong inkling that something isn’t right, but the constant denials will cloud their judgement and leave them not knowing what to believe.  

[Read: The most ingenious ways to catch a cheating partner in the act]

What should you do when your partner is emotionally cheating on you?

Ah, the big question. We know what is emotional cheating now, but what should you do if your partner is doing this to you? Firstly, you need to be sure that it is actually happening and you’re not just putting two and two together and getting twenty five. Trust me, it happens. However, you should trust your gut on these things.

If you have evidence and you’re extremely uncomfortable with what is going on, whether your partner has admitted to it or not, you need to sit down with them and talk it through.

Be clear that you’re not happy with the connection they have with this other person and explain your reasons why. If your partner is loving, committed and they’re not actually cheating in an emotional way, they’ll see that they need to pull things back and spend more time with you. That’s fine. Sometimes people are blind to what they’re doing and there really is no ill meaning behind it. [Read: 15 cell phone rules every couple must follow to build real trust]

However, if your partner really doesn’t see anything wrong in what they’re doing and they continue to do so, you have to question whether there is a future in the relationship. You do not deserve to be second best or to be pushed aside for someone else. It’s not your fault that any of this has happened and you need to put yourself first. 

[Read: How to survive infidelity and come closer without tearing apart]

What is emotional cheating, if not completely devastating the trust of your partner? Any form of cheating is painful and heartbreaking. But once the dust settles and you start to recover from the whole ordeal, you really will see things through clearer and stronger eyes. 

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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