Ten Signs of An Emotional Affair

“I love Dave Willis’ blogs about key marriage issues and he is always so profoundly practical. The issue of emotional affairs is no doubt much larger than what is ever talked about. I appreciate his insight.”

I recently received an email from a woman who was having an emotional affair. The sad-but-familiar story began by describing a “friendship” she had developed with a man at work and it had progressed into something much more. The relationship hadn’t yet crossed into physical/sexual contact, but they were flirting with the idea and getting closer to those forbidden lines with each passing day.

She now found herself in a confusing web of mixed feelings, and she knew this new relationship now threatened to sabotage her marriage. She was frustrated to find herself in a position she never thought she’d be in. She’d been deceiving her husband and mentally planning out a new life with this other man. She was asking herself, “How did I let it go this far?”

I shared with her my wife Ashley’s great post on “How to save your marriage after an affair” and recommended our program for couple in crisis at FightingForMyMarriage.com.

Even though she never crossed the line sexually, her situation is messy and will undoubtedly cause pain, but healing is possible. Still, these situations are much easier to prevent than they are to heal after the fact. That’s why I often advise couples to be VERY careful about having close friends of the opposite sex, because most affairs start out as “friendships” that cross the line.

If you think that you (or your spouse) has let a friendship go to far, please take immediate action to create healthy boundaries and restore healing and trust in your marriage. Here are the 10 signs you’re having an emotional affair. If ANY of these are happening with you OR with your spouse, please take immediate action before it’s too late…

1. You’re having conversations you wouldn’t want your spouse to see.

If you’re ever in a position where you think, “I’m glad my husband/wife isn’t seeing this,” then you’re already out of bounds and you’re playing with fire. A healthy marriage requires complete trust and transparency. Don’t STOP flirting with your spouse and don’t START flirting with anybody else.

#2 is one of the earliest warning signs that you’re heading into dangerous territory…

2. You’re dressing to impress a specific individual other than your spouse.

When we’re trying to be visually attractive for an individual other than our spouse, we’re opening a very dangerous door. Wanting to be professional and look your best is one thing, but wanting to look your best for one specific person is something else entirely.

#3 is where sexual affairs begin…

3. You try to create opportunities to be alone with someone other than your spouse.

If you’re going out of your way to “run into” someone so you can have one-on-one conversations, that’s a huge red flag. You need to put immediate distance between you and him/her. Never trade temporary pleasure for permanent regret!

If #4 is happening, then there’s already an emergency in your marriage…

4. You delete text messages or emails from someone, because you don’t want your spouse to see them.

If you’re ever hiding messages, texts or calls, then you’ve crossed an obvious line and you’re having an emotional affair. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy in marriage. Confess to your spouse anything you’ve been hiding and start fighting to rebuild trust.

#5 reveals how your you thoughts will shape your actions…

5. You’re having consistent romantic and/or sexual fantasies about someone other than your spouse.

Affairs don’t start in the bedroom, they always start in the mind! If you allow your mind to play out fantasies, you’re giving a piece of your heart to the object of that fantasy and you’re opening the door for the fantasy to become a reality.

#6 happens fast when you start keeping track of someone on social media…

6. You’re constantly comparing your spouse to this other individual.

When you become emotionally involved with someone, the mental tendency is to see this new person as nearly flawless and, by comparison, your spouse’s flaws become much more obvious. If you’re more critical of your spouse while mentally comparing them to this other person, you’re falling into a toxic trap.

#7 is a telltale sign that tends to happen whenever an emotional affair is happening…

7. You find yourself always talking (or thinking) about this other person.

Our actions follow our thoughts. If you’re always focused on some other person (who is not your spouse), you’re entangled in an emotional affair. If you find yourself always talking about this other person, it’s a sign that your thoughts are being dominated by this relationship.

#8 is a physical reaction to a subconscious feeling…

8. You look for opportunities to get away from your spouse.

When you’re caught up in an emotional affair, you will subconsciously start seeing your spouse as a negative distraction and you’ll start pulling away. It won’t always be to spend time with this other person. Sometimes, it’s as subtle as running extra errands simply not to be home and face your spouse. If you (or your spouse) is doing this, it’s a definite warning sign.

#9 might surprise you, but it reveals how your sex life with your spouse can be a warning sign…

9. Your sex drive with your spouse becomes significantly lower OR significantly higher.

The lower sexual interest with your spouse might not sound surprising, but it’s just as likely than an emotional affair will trigger a much higher sexual interest in your spouse. This happens when the fantasies we’re playing out towards this other person become acted out with our spouse. If there’s a significant increase or decrease in the sexual intimacy, frequency or passion in your sex life with your spouse, it might be a sign that an emotional affair is happening and a physical/sexual affair could be the next step.

#10 is often the final stage before you walk away from your marriage…

10. You’re planning a new life together with this other person.

Once you start planning and romanticizing a new life with this other person, you’re in a very dangerous place. I urge you to rethink what you’re doing and confess to your spouse. Fight for your marriage! Check out our comprehensive online program for couples in crisis at FightingForMyMarriage.com.

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Dave Willis

Dave Willis is a pastor and writer who has become one of America's most trusted voices on issues related to marriage, faith and family. He and his wife, Ashley, are the founders of StrongerMarriages.com which reaches millions of readers monthly. Dave and Ashley live with their four young sons in Georgia.

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