We’ve all been there before. No matter how happy you are together, or how committed they seem to be, you can’t help but wonder—would my partner cheat on me? According to data from the General Social Survey, 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women reported having sex with someone other than their spouse while married. But what if the cheating isn’t so explicit? How can you tell if your partner is having an emotional affair?
What is emotional cheating?
Similar to its sister-term “micro-cheating,” which involves simply thinking about receiving attention from someone other than your partner, emotional cheating, or an emotional affair, occurs when one partner engages in emotionally intimate behavior with someone outside of their relationship. At best, it results in a breach of trust. At worst, it can dissolve a marriage. Here are five signs your partner is emotionally cheating on you, and how it can affect your relationship.
They spend more time on their phone or computer
You see them with their phone in their hand all the time, but when you text them, they take forever to respond. If your partner is constantly texting, and vague about whom they’re talking to or completely unwilling to disclose a name, it could be a sign that they’re participating in an emotional affair. Extra signs include putting their phone away around you or getting defensive when you start to ask questions.
They know a lot about a coworker or friend
It’s completely normal to keep up with the details of a friend or coworker’s personal life. The problem arises when boundaries are crossed and sharing becomes oversharing. If your partner starts to know too much, such as specifics about another’s sex habits and love life, it could be a sign that their conversations are too intimate. If you notice this behavior, you should speak up. A good partner will put an end to the conversations if they make you uncomfortable.
They stop talking to you
This one goes hand in hand with the above. If your partner is beginning to have these deeply intimate conversations—which are the bread and butter of emotional cheating—it’s likely that they will stop sharing things with you. After all, they have another person to confide in. If they all of a sudden “forget” to tell you about important things that are happening in their life, you can probably bet they’re telling someone else first.
They accuse you of cheating
Whether they accuse you of emotional cheating, or the regular kind, it could be a sign that your partner is projecting their feelings of guilt onto you, especially if the accusation comes out of left field. Your partner could know that what they are doing is wrong, even if they aren’t explicitly cheating. If that’s the case, they may try to assuage their guilt or distract you by redirecting the blame.
Something just feels off
Sometimes the best evidence you have is right in front of you (or inside of you!). If your partner brushes off the signs above, but you still feel like something is going on, you should trust your gut. Science actually calls this phenomenon predictive processing framework. Your brain has made the connection before it’s able to reach your conscious awareness. So if you think your partner is emotionally cheating, chances are you’re probably right.
Even with the signs above, it’s important to talk to your partner before jumping to conclusions. No one wants to risk losing a valued relationship over a couple of insecurities. But if you can’t shake your discomfort, or your partner refuses to change their actions, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship.