Emotional Adultery Is Your Spouse Committing Adultery?

Is Your Spouse Having an Emotional Affair?

stop meeting affair

“While my wife was in the shower, I checked her work phone,” Jim confessed. “I’ve never done that before, but lately she’s been getting a lot of text messages, the phone buzzing evenings and weekends. Something told me the increase wasn’t work-related, because she hadn’t mentioned any specific work issues going on. When I checked her messages, the same man’s name appeared, over and over. And then I read a few of the messages: they were anything but work-related. I confronted her, and she first tried to blame me for looking at her phone! Then, she broke down in tears and said this guy was just someone who listened to her, something she said I didn’t do anymore. She swears there’s been nothing physical, but I don’t know . His messages showed he had more than a friendly interest, and if they haven’t already, it’s probably a matter of time.”

Jim is not the first spouse to be tempted to check up on his spouse’s messages, whether it’s texting, phone records, or emails. With new technologies come new challenges-and opportunities for a spouse to be unfaithful. But “ease” doesn’t make it “right.”

When you find out that your husband or wife has developed a close tie with someone, and their relationship has seemingly crossed a line from friendship or a working relationship to one of a more intimate nature, you may experience a range of reactions:

1. Guilt-You may feel you’ve broken your husband’s or wife’s trust by crossing a line of privacy and “snooping” into a personal account.
2. Sadness-Your partner is sharing a connection with someone other than you.
3. Anger-Your husband or wife is putting effort into a relationship when it’s your marriage that needs work.
4. Neglect-It can highlight the fact that you and your partner now share only banal news, such as what the kids did or what to put on the grocery list.
5. Defensive-You go into protective mode because your husband or wife has pounced on you for going through his or her “private business.”

When I work with couples where one spouse spends emotional energy with someone else, they are often in conflict over the definition of what a close, intimate connection with someone outside of the marriage is called. In this blog, I’m going to help you understand what to call that extra-marital relationship, and how it relates to the state of your marriage.

What You Should Call It

If your husband or wife has a truly personal relationship with some intensity, the relationship has probably crossed over to an emotional affair.

When your husband or wife has an emotionally intimate connection with someone other than yourself, the intimacy that rightfully belongs in your marriage is diluted. To share your innermost thoughts with someone other than your partner means you are developing an emotional connection.

Generally, the response from the person who has been “caught” is to argue, “What, you mean I can’t have a friend of the opposite sex?” And, sometimes the hurting spouse will agree with this position.

Marriage is built on an emotional connection between two people who have shared marriage vows and their lives. When one partner goes outside of marriage to seek fulfillment, whether that fulfillment is sexual or emotional in nature, I consider that cheating on the marital relationship.

Many people struggle with how to define such a relationship. To help define whether or not your spouse is involved in an emotional affair, ask yourself the following .

Is the extent of the side relationship concealed from you, or transparent to you? Does your spouse announce when a text message comes in? For example, your wife says, “There’s Steve-he really understands me, listens to me.” Then, she reads the message to you? The odds are highly against such a scenario. Another indication is if your spouse feels “special” with the other person, but not with you.

In most cases the cheater knows that the behavior is wrong. It usually feels wrong to communicate with someone outside the marriage on an intimate level, and that’s why there is an effort to hide the truth. When you happen to stumble upon or snoop and find the truth, the cheating spouse is likely to go on the attack and accuse you of being unfair, or defend that it should be alright to have a best friend of the opposite sex.

Is Your Spouse Having a Physical Relationship with the Other Person?

Sometimes I am asked if I think the relationship in question is physical, despite the partner’s denial. I respond that I do not know, which is the only true answer I can give. Anything is possible, considering that your husband or wife went to some pains to hide the relationship, or at least hide the extent of the relationship.

I cannot answer whether or not your partner has taken the relationship with the other person to a sexual level. I can, however, point out that, more than likely, you’ve experienced an intimacy breakdown in your marriage, and that is where you can begin to focus your attention. If your husband or wife “comes clean” and admits to having at least an emotional affair, this is at least a step toward repairing your marriage bond and putting the work into building up your own relationship intimacy once again, beginning with the following steps:

Step 1: Assess Your Emotional Connection

There is no excuse for a husband or wife to cheat, whether emotionally, sexually or some combination of the two.

Many of you want to know why it happened. There’s rarely a clear answer. It happened because the cheater made poor choices, stepped over a line, and began being unfaithful to you. This typically begins with thoughts of dissatisfaction in the marriage and as time goes on, the cheater begins to nurse those feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment. At some point, the cheater might unwittingly precipitate arguments or other problems in order to strengthen the rationale for cheating.

Examine your own relationship. Do you see signs of wear, or some neglect issues? Is communication healthy, or non-existent?

An honest examination of your marriage will show you where you could make your partner feel special, and where you could be more communicative. Both of you need to be working toward a good relationship, otherwise you’re likely to find areas where your emotional connection has eroded.

Step 2: Understand the Types of Communication

When you read or hear the word “communication,” is the first thought that springs to mind the idea of a lot of talking?

Understand that there is more to communication, though talking with your husband or wife is a very important component. There is verbal communication, and there is also non-verbal communication. Both contribute to a deepened intimacy between you.

For example, non-verbal communication could include sharing time with your husband or wife, sitting together and watching a movie, flirting with your partner while out to dinner, or leaving a card on the table to say “thinking of you.”

Your partner went outside of the marriage to communicate with someone other than you, and usually to find the feeling of being “special” in someone’s eyes if you’re not providing that.

If you wish to save your marriage, you will need to strengthen your communication bonds, both verbal and non-verbal, by experimenting with new ways to connect on a more intimate level. For example, if you can’t remember the last time you and your spouse sat down together to sip a cup of tea and watch the sunset, or play a board game, or go for a walk together, this would be a good time to initiate or re-initiate an activity like that.

If your verbal communication has eroded to the point of being non-existent, maybe your first step will be to think about topics to discuss such as a book you’re reading, a story you heard from your neighbor, or a trip you’d like to share together. You could ask about your spouse’s work and future plans. If you’re feeling up to it, you could discuss your desires for your relationship, or aspirations for the future.

If you’re both out of practice in communicating in this way, it may take some time to develop the habit of more intimate communication than you have right now. You will need to be persistent in a friendly way because your partner may even resent your attempts.

Or you could try some non-verbal communication techniques, such as the ones I gave in Step 2. Commit to trying one new way to communicate with your partner.

These steps are a beginning as you work toward a deeper emotional connection. There are other elements to work on to expand intimacy in your relationship. There is more relationship “work” to do to create a more fulfilling marriage as you move beyond your partner’s emotional affair.

In my program Saving Your Marriage today, I provide more communication techniques for you to incorporate in your marriage, and more steps for rebuilding that all-important emotional connection.

My best wishes for you as you rebuild the emotional connection with your partner.

Frank Gunzburg, Ph.D.

P.S. For more step-by-step information on working through the problems that could potentially destroy your marriage, please see my program Saving Your Marriage today today. Inside you will find crucial exercises that help you strengthen your marriage bond and provide you with a guide to building your emotional connection. The program gives you a workable, realistic plan to support your efforts as you take the steps necessary to heal yourself and your marriage.

P.P.S. Now, I’d like to hear from you. Have you suspected, or caught, your husband or wife investing himself or herself in an emotional affair? Simply scroll down and click the comment link at the bottom of this page.


It wasn't until I read this a couple of times that I realized that I was guilty of at least one instance where I showed appreciation for someone other than my partner on an intense level. To make matters worse, we all worked together. I amended my behavior but it still turns my stomach to this day to think that I may have been committing emotional adultery.


{ 1 trackback }

Victoria Accommodation
November 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

James June 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I have been guilty of this for years and with different persons but it wasnt intimate as such, it was just persons I shared the problem with to ease the stress that was threatening to become depression. This has gone on for over ten years. One of the persons was my sister in law who was equally having a serious problem and was in the verge of committing suicide.
I have no regrets though. It was mainly through ocasional office chat, internet chatting and email exchange to encourage each other that things will work out for us and others too. The cause was communication breakdown with my spouse who will never admit a mistake even when it is very plain. I could not live with it. I lived and let live. But for my emotional stability, I needed a connection. For this realization, trust me I have had it with many (including an inner emotional connection with christian sisters unknown to them expecially when I recall that in heaven we shall all embrace and no physical sensations will be present). To those we shared through encounters, email, chat etc, there was no intimacy, no lunches together just " A problem shared is a problem half-solved".  Trust me it works for the strong hearted as you give your spouse time to heal and come to reality.
And by the way, I have been married for over two decades and never had an affair outside marriage, never had other girl friends in my life and never tried to exploit the opportunity with any of my encounters even when the opportunity was ripe such as work related travel where as a Christian, I still preached fidelity. I however sadly say, this is the number one cause of the fall of many clergy and counsellors as they get to tackle the problems of emotional members of the flock / clients. After all when you become a victim of providing a physical crying shoulder, what do you expect? The physical senses take over and the reasoning mind is put on hold. SO?.  THE GOLDEN RULE IS KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. FLESH AND BLOOD (BODY AND ITS FIVE SENSES) HAS NEVER AND NEVER WILL RECEIVE REDEMPTION.


Connie September 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I found my husband getting a little too friendly with a neighbor. He was doing things like conversing with her about purchasing a used computer from the school where she works behind my back. I didn't know about the computer until she brought it to the house.  Again when she needed a white skirt for a church function she asked him if I had one instead of asking me. When her daughter could not take her to the airport he agreed to take her and did not tell me about it until the day she was leaving.  Of course I went with him to drop her off.  I was wondering why she did not ask me to do it. Someone stole a hubcap off of her car and he got on craigslist and found her a set and we all drove about 15 miles to pick them up. He has a lawn service and does her lawn which she pays him for. She also asked him to paint her storage house which he considered painting.  That's when stopped it right there and told him he does not even paint at home and I knew damn well he was not going to paint anything for her. I told him painting is not in his job description just lawn service.  I told him all these things were very disrepectful to me as the wife.  He replied he was only trying to do her a favor and that nothing ever went on.  I told him that this type of relationship with her opens the door for something more.  I advised him to let her go as a customer because I did not feel comfortable with him having this type of relationship with her.  I advised him to just speak to her as a neighbor from across the street and to never step foot in that yard again. I let him know I am not crazy and I am a woman and I know another woman.


admin April 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Thanks for sharing Connie. While reading this I couldn’t help thinking that you were describing my dad. He would do yard work and plantings for the female neighbors and odd jobs around their homes, but my mom had to be after him for three months to put up a ceiling fan in the living room. He also wouldn’t touch a paintbrush or roller. So either my mom painted or she’d pay my younger brother to do it.

Bravo for putting a stop to it. That is exactly how some of these affairs start. 

While I can’t speak on your husband’s motive, my dad’s were clear… he was laying a foundation to cheat. He’s openly cheated on my mom for decades and has just stopped about 10 years ago, probably due to age (just turned 70).

You’re not a crazy woman.

God Bless

Victor (admin)


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Jimmy January 5, 2012 at 11:44 am

Useful information. I am currently emotionally cheating on my spouse, and this has been going on for about a year, without getting physical, anyway. There is a particular female friend. Although my wife has had her suspicion and has confronted me, I have never been willing to accept I am cheating on her. Intimacy and communication has suffered greatly.
Started almost a year ago when my wife travelled to her mum's to deliver our third child. There was this emptiness, which was to be filled…the end is still.
reading your piece on the topic, I very much agree with some traits you highlighted. I know I am on my way to getting help, to save my over 6 years affair proff marriage.


M March 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Very helpful information/ reflection, the excuses I got were "it's just a game" and "we didn't do anything" but how can you be sure of anything now that you realize she's been lying to your face about so much. What makes it worse is that they try and make you feel crap about yourself, for example.. My wife comes home with perfume, she asks me if I like it? I reply, strange you don't wear perfume… Then it's my fault because actually she wanted it for valentines day and I hadn't listened to her so she had to buy it herself. Turns out some other guy bought it for her.. What do you do?
Ive found it difficult to be rational as I used to confide in my wife when I needed to figure out something, and obviously that's now out of the question. She cries that she wants to rebuild the marriage, but I just don't understand why you would sacrifice it in the first place, we have a 1 yr old child to top it all off. 
This morning I walked into the bedroom for fresh clothes, I see her move under the bed covers and the charging cable for her phone is leading straight to where she is, first and only thing that come to mind, she's texting her boyfriend or whatever it is! When it come down to it, I want to make the marriage work I really do not for my sake but my child's and funnily hers, but I can't forget, I know I'll never forget and this means I will never be able to really move on.
A part of me that cared has literally died and now I'm finding myself only focused on the future of my child.


Marle April 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Wow! So, I am not alone. I have been with this man for five years now. My partner tells me constantly how turned on he is by me and this is reciprocated. However, I find it extremely difficult to be all excited about being with him after reading some of his texts. Yup! I am guilty. It makes me feel pretty bad. Like all the comments above and all that you hear it started for a reason. Suspicion, spidy senses, call it what you will. And it seems to be the suspicion that breaks the trust. I honestly wished to God that I would not have found anything. But that was not the case. Secret rendvous, lunch dates, would say he was one place and actually be somewhere else. The latter was a spidy sense of which I acted upon. Prior to living with the man I found him in bed with another woman. Why am I still with him you ask. Dunno! I have spent hundreds of dollars on psycologists to help me figure this out. I have confronted him and he will deny, deny, deny. Unless I have proof, then its; I don't remember I was too drunk. Or poor judgement, or I don't tell you because I don't want you to freak out! I have pleaded with him, saying lying to me is a breach of trust as well as disrespectful. He says how much he loves me. I say, "what does love hav to do with it"? When I read these texts (he has changed the names of the women he is in touch with, eg : Colleen is now "Cole". Cathy is now "strongarm". He has changed his password on his phone several times, but…well, you know!) and I look at him afterwards I want to imprint the phone in his skull. He doesn't know at present that I have just read an on-going conversation with an ex co-worker. I will not repeat what exactly I read, but it definitely would be considered quite adulterous. Sadly this gal knows me. It just doesn't stop. The angels and sending red flags, bricks, you name it! As I write this I feel like such a fool.


Ronnie Sue August 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I divorced a man who had a seven year affair with his Secretary. It start as a phyical affair and ended up emotional. He say the affair stopped. But he did not stay away from her. Not matter what was said about her, he would defended her. I think that the emotional ones are harder to overcome then the phyical affairs. When he finally told me the truth, it was to late. You can not trust after that. I had to cut the ties.


sharon October 23, 2012 at 3:21 am

My first husband passed away 12 years ago. I've got a daughter she is 16 and my son is 15. I  was single for a long time. Then I got married……….. I was married for 4 years to my second husband. My husband had an affair at work with his PA. 50 year old PA ? She is not sexy or hot at all. I just don't get it.She's been married for 27 years. She also got divorced.  I divorced him and he wanted to come back he did not want her. He did not go back to her at all…..so yes he just used her.  He told me the sex was bad. So why go back if the sex is bad? She is still working at the firm ? My husband even said he was treated like a king. He can't fault me. Yet he had an affair with a old women. He is 36 ?? He was always on his cell phone. He had more then one email address. We were not allowed to awnser his phone at ALL.
He is moving on with his life like he did nothing wrong ??


KATHLEEN September 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I am sick to death of therapists blaming the infidelity on the betrayed spouse.   It is not helpful in trying to save the marriage and "feeds into" the baloney that the adulterous spouse has been feeding.   Stop siding with the perpetrator.   The perp made the decision to start a new relationship while still married.   For those who want to pursue another relationship at least have the courage to get a divorce first.   Adultery is the coward's way out.


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