By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC
Emotional affairs are tricky. There’s not clear line between right and wrong, so relationships that could be emotional affairs are easily rationalized as nothing more than friendship. If you are wondering if you might be in an emotional affair at work or elsewhere, check out my previous blog post on signs of an emotional affair.
This post is for the partner who is wondering if their spouse might be having an emotional affair. You feel more distant lately, suddenly your spouse has a lot of more work activities outside of normal business hours. Inside your gut is just telling you something is off. How do you know if there’s someone else? What do you do about it?
Even having the thought that *maybe* your spouse *might* be having an emotional or sexual affair with another person is terrifying. The fear of knowing for sure might make you just pretend it’s not happening, and everything is okay. Here’s the thing: nothing good ever comes from ignoring problems. If you’ve been with me in counseling you’ve heard my volcano analogy. We push things down in our emotional volcano, ignoring them because we don’t want to face whatever the hard things are. I promise you; your volcano will erupt. Ignoring issues only works for so long, eventually, it all explodes. You are much better off facing the hard things before they blow up.
So, what do you do if you suspect your partner is having an emotional affair? First take a deep breath, and think through why you have these concerns. Here are some signs of emotional affairs from the spouse’s perspective:
You notice less communication lately. Your partner isn’t sharing as much with you, and seems more distant than normal. Your spouse doesn’t want to give details about work events or other activities they were at without you.
Your partner puts their phone away when you walk into the room. Chances are, if they are texting someone else, they will clear the screen and tuck the phone away when you come in the room.
Your spouse tells you that you just don’t understand them anymore. If this topic comes up with some frequency, pay attention. Most emotional affairs are fueled by the people in the affair feeling like they have a stronger connection together than with their own partners.
Your spouse is around less often. Maybe your partner is missing more family events, or works late more frequently.
These are red flags that need your attention. These are not guaranteeing your spouse is having an emotional affair. You won’t know for sure until you talk to your partner.
What Do I Do If I Suspect My Spouse of Having an Emotional Affair?
You are going to have to discuss your concerns with your partner. If you don’t, you will just keep worrying about it and creating terrible scenarios in your head that may or may not be true. There is no benefit in that. How do you go about this conversation?
Wait until you are calm. You cannot have this talk with your spouse when your anger and fear is leading you. Practice deep breathing (yes, it does really work), go for a run first, take a hot shower – anything that will help soothe your stress before you start the conversation.
Be smart about when you start this talk. Maybe right before bed after a long day isn’t the best choice. Pick a time when neither of you will be distracted.
Do not use accusatory language. Don’t start this conversation saying, “I know you are having an emotional affair! Why are you doing this to me?” I promise, this won’t get a helpful response, it will only create a huge fight.
Do share your concerns from a place of needing to understand. Say something like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been having to work late a lot. And lately I’ve felt like we’ve been a little disconnected. I don’t like feeling distance in our relationship. Do you feel that way? What do you think we need to work on to make it better?”
Often times, couples need help navigating these situations. At Lime Tree Counseling, our experienced counselors can help you and your spouse talk about the hard things you’ve been avoiding. We can help you learn new skills to communicate better, and also build a deeper connection through marriage counseling. Contact us today and let’s get started building a better relationship for you and your spouse.
Lime Tree Counseling also offers trauma therapy and anxiety treatment. If you or your spouse struggles in these areas, it’s likely impacting your marriage. Contact us for a free consultation and to schedule an appointment to start healing from past hurts that impact your life today.