Infidelity can be devastating.
Whether you've been in a relationship for a few months or a few years (or longer), finding out that your partner hasn't been faithful can be one of the most difficult things for anyone to experience.
Dr. Martha Tara Lee, a clinical sexologist (DHS, MA, BA) and founder of Eros Coaching, says an emotional affair, like a physical affair, is about betrayal:
The word 'affair' already implies secrecy, deception of the partner and betrayal. It also has to do with the amount of emotional energy that you put into the other person, and consequently denying or unable to give to your partner.
This, Dr. Lee says, is one of the worst things to experience: "Most people are more disturbed by the breaking of trust and the intimacy in the 'rival' relationship, than whether there is sex involved."
If you suspect your partner might be emotionally cheating on you, experts tell Elite Daily there are certain red flags to look out for.
1. You Feel Like You Are The Pursuer All The Time
If you feel like you've been chasing your partner, it may be a sign you're being emotionally cheated on.
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist and marriage counselor, says if you are the one putting work into the relationship, communicating and trying to grow, and your partner doesn't seem to care, watch out.
Additionally, Dr. Fisher says if your partner has lost interest in you sexually, and if they are "increasingly unaware and insensitive to your needs or [their] impact on you," you may want to investigate what's going on further.
2. They Are Being Unusually Defensive
Dr. Jason Whiting, a relationship researcher and professor at Texas Tech University (PhD & LMFT), says the warning signs for emotional betrayal are similar to other kinds of betrayal — even if they happen primarily online.
"Essentially, we found the same kinds of rationalizing and deception happen in online verbal and emotional infidelity as happen in physical infidelity," he says.
In his research, Dr. Whiting says people noticed a spouse being evasive about their activities or generally defensive. And according to him, a partner that is "irritable about being questioned" may also be having an emotional affair.
Dr. Fisher echoed these thoughts, saying if your partner becomes "defensive over your concerns with him spending time with women who are colleagues or defensive over your concerns with him staying in touch with past lovers," this may not be a great sign.
3. The Amount And Quality Of The Time You Spend Together Has Decreased
In emotional cheating, like other forms of cheating, your partner's attention may be elsewhere (and they are also probably feeling guilty), so they'll want to be around you less.
According to Dr. Fisher, a partner that is emotionally cheating will not only spend large chunks of time away from you, but they'll also be "emotionally shut down and detached" when you are together.
Dr. Lee says they may even go so far as telling you not to attend or join certain events of theirs — things like work functions.
If you notice that your partner is purposely avoiding you or making an effort to be apart from you, even when you're in the same place, this may be a sign they are emotionally cheating.
4. They're Online More — And More Secretive When They Are Online
In one of Dr. Whiting's studies, he examined infidelity that happened through Facebook: "In many cases, the betrayal was emotional, and this happened through flirty messaging, posting pictures, or other behaviors that were kept secret from the partner."
In an emotional affair, Dr. Lee says a partner may be sharing personal information about you or your marriage with someone else, which would make them grow closer to the person they are emotionally cheating with.
Online, this is easy to do through messages or even just simple interactions on social media platforms.
So if your partner is staying up late and spending a lot of time online, as well as keeping their online activities more under wraps, they may be having an emotional affair.
5. Your Intuition Tells You Something Is Off
Unfortunately, there may be no way to know if your partner is having an emotional affair unless you find damaging evidence or they directly fess up to it.
That said, many times, especially when you've been in a relationship with someone for years, your gut will be a good guide to telling you if something is off.
If you feel that something significant has changed in your relationship, or that your partner is behaving in a way that you wouldn't have expected, these may be signs that they are having an emotional affair.
Finding out that your partner is having an emotional affair can be very damaging to you individually, as well as to the relationship as a whole. Once you find out, it's up to you to determine if you want to try to fix the relationship or move on.