What Is Emotional Cheating? Signs & Solutions

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01 March 2024

9 Mins

When we hear the word cheating, we usually think about sexual acts like one-night stands, virtual intimacy, or ongoing affairs. However, within committed relationships, "cheating" extends beyond sexual encounters or secretive flirtations. At its core, it's about betraying trust and emotional cheating is one of them.

Instead of physical intimacy, emotional cheating is about sharing deep feelings with someone else, which can harm relationships just like physical cheating. So in this blog, we will talk about what is emotional cheating definition, how to recognize it, and what to do about it to keep relationships healthy.

What Is Emotional Cheating?

Emotional cheating refers to forming a deep emotional connection with someone other than your partner that goes beyond friendship. It involves sharing intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences with this person, often at the cost of your relationship with your partner.

Emotional cheating may include keeping secrets from your partner, confiding in someone else about personal issues, or seeking emotional support and validation outside of the relationship. While it may not involve physical intimacy, emotional cheating can still be damaging to trust and intimacy within a relationship.

Emotional Affair vs. Platonic Friendship

Emotional affairs involve secretive emotional connections that can harm your relationship, while platonic friendships are open, supportive relationships that enrich your life without causing problems in your partnership.

For maintaining healthy relationships, it’s important to understand the difference between an emotional affair and a platonic friendship:

What an emotional affair means:

  • You share deep emotional connections with someone other than your partner
  • You might keep secrets from your partner about the extent of your relationship with this person
  • It can lead to feelings of betrayal and mistrust in your relationship
  • Sometimes, there might be romantic or sexual feelings involved, even if you have not been physically intimate

What platonic friendship means:

  • This is a friendship based on mutual respect and support, without romantic or sexual feelings
  • You are open with your partner about your friendship and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Your friendship does not threaten your relationship with your partner
  • Both you and your friend prioritize your respective relationships and respect boundaries

Emotional Affair vs. Micro-Cheating

While emotional affairs involve deep emotional connections outside the relationship, micro-cheating consists of small actions that could be seen as breaches of trust. Both can harm relationships if not addressed and understood within the context of mutual respect and boundaries.

Here's a simplified comparison:

What an emotional affair is about:

  • Forming a deep emotional connection with someone outside of your relationship
  • Sharing intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences with this person
  • Secrecy or hiding the extent of the relationship from your partner
  • Significant emotional harm and breach of trust in the committed relationship

What micro-cheating is about:

  • Small, subtle actions that may be interpreted as emotional or physical infidelity
  • Flirting with others, hiding messages from your partner, or sharing inside jokes with someone else
  • These actions may not be as severe as an emotional affair but can still erode trust and intimacy in the relationship
  • Crossing boundaries that would make your partner uncomfortable if they knew

21 Signs of Emotional Cheating

So, how do you know if your partner is emotionally cheating on you? Here are various emotional cheating signs that may be happening in your relationship. If you recognize these behaviors in your partner, it's essential to have an open and honest conversation about your concerns and seek couples therapy to address underlying issues and rebuild trust and intimacy in the relationship.

1. Secret behavior

Emotional cheating often involves secrecy, in which your partner may become secretive about their phone, social media accounts, or other forms of communication. They may hide messages, delete conversations, or even change passwords to keep their interactions private.

2. Hiding phone

When someone starts guarding their devices more closely, it could be a sign that they are hiding something. They may become defensive when you ask to see their phone or laptop, or they might suddenly start taking their devices with them everywhere, including to places like the bathroom where they previously wouldn't have.

3. Withdrawal from emotional connection

Emotional cheating can lead to a withdrawal from the emotional connection with you. Your partner may seem distant, disinterested, or preoccupied with their thoughts. They may avoid meaningful conversations or spending quality time with you.

4. Lack of transparency

In a healthy relationship, partners are typically open and transparent with each other. However, in cases of emotional cheating, your partner may become less forthcoming about their feelings, thoughts, and activities. They may avoid discussing certain topics or become evasive when you ask questions.

5. Sharing intimate details with someone else

Emotional infidelity often involves sharing personal or intimate details with someone outside the relationship. Your partner may confide in another person about their hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations instead of turning to you for support and understanding.

6. Excessive time spent online or messaging

If your partner is constantly glued to their phone or computer, it could be a sign of emotional cheating. They may spend an excessive amount of time messaging or chatting with someone else, often at the expense of quality time with you.

7. Comparison to you

Your partner may start comparing you unfavorably to someone else. They might praise the qualities or attributes of another person while criticizing you or expressing dissatisfaction with aspects of your relationship.

8. Erosion of Trust

Trust is essential in any relationship, but emotional cheating can erode that trust over time. You may start to notice inconsistencies in your partner's behavior or catch them telling lies related to their interactions with others.

9. Being defensive

When confronted about their behavior or questioned about their interactions with someone else, your partner may become defensive or irritable. They may deflect blame onto you or dismiss your concerns altogether.

10. Emotional intimacy with someone else

Emotional cheating involves the development of a deep emotional connection with someone outside the relationship. Your partner may share intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences with this person, blurring the boundaries of emotional fidelity.

11. Decreased intimacy with you

As your partner becomes emotionally invested in someone else, they may show less interest in physical intimacy or emotional closeness with you. They may withdraw affection or intimacy, leaving you feeling neglected or unloved.

12. Increased focus on appearance

Your partner may suddenly become more concerned about their appearance and grooming habits. They may dress differently, wear cologne or perfume more often, or make other changes to their physical appearance in an effort to impress someone else.

13. Not addressing relationship issues

Rather than addressing relationship issues with you directly, your partner may avoid confrontation and seek solace in someone else's company. They may confide in another person about problems in your relationship instead of working through them with you.

14. Seeking validation outside the relationship

Emotional cheaters often seek validation and approval from someone other than their partner. They may crave attention, compliments, and reassurance from this other person to fill a void in their life.

15. Unusual gifts or gestures

Your partner may exchange gifts or gestures with someone else that seem overly personal or intimate. These gifts may be a way of expressing affection or building a stronger emotional connection with the other person.

16. Being secret about activities

If your partner suddenly becomes secretive about their whereabouts or activities, it could be a red flag for emotional cheating. They may start making excuses for why they can't spend time with you or become evasive when you ask about their plans.

17. Fantasizing about someone else

Your partner may frequently daydream or talk about another person in a way that suggests romantic interest. They may idealize this other person or express longing for a life that doesn't involve you.

18. Excessive communication with someone else

Emotional cheaters often maintain constant communication with the person they are emotionally involved with, even when it's not practical or appropriate. They may send frequent texts, emails, or messages throughout the day, prioritizing their connection with this other person over everything else.

19. Comparing relationships

Your partner may compare your relationship unfavorably to theirs with someone else. They may express dissatisfaction with aspects of your relationship or romanticize the connection they have with the other person.

20. Emotional distancing

Emotional cheating can lead to emotional detachment from you. Your partner may become less invested in your relationship and more focused on their connection with someone else, causing a breakdown in communication and intimacy between you.

21. Blaming you

Rather than taking responsibility for their actions, your partner may blame you for their emotional detachment or justify their behavior by pointing out perceived flaws in the relationship. They may refuse to acknowledge the impact of their actions on your feelings and the health of the relationship.

How to Protect Your Marriage From Emotional Cheating

By taking proactive steps to protect your marriage from emotional cheating and nurturing a strong foundation of trust, communication, and intimacy, you can strengthen your relationship and cultivate a lifelong partnership built on mutual respect, love, and commitment.

Protecting your marriage from emotional cheating requires effort and commitment from both partners. Here are some steps you can take to safeguard your relationship:

1. Open communication

Encourage open and honest communication with your partner to share thoughts, feelings, and concerns openly without fear of judgment or criticism.

2. Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries regarding what is acceptable behavior within your relationship. Discuss and agree upon appropriate boundaries regarding interactions with members of the opposite sex, social media use, and other potential sources of emotional temptation.

3. Prioritize quality time

Make time to connect with your partner regularly. Schedule regular date nights, engage in shared hobbies or activities, and prioritize quality time together to nurture your emotional connection.

4. Be mindful of interactions

Be mindful of your interactions with others, especially those of the opposite sex. Avoid engaging in intimate or flirtatious conversations that could undermine the trust and intimacy in your marriage.

5. Maintain transparency

Be transparent with your partner about your activities and interactions, especially those involving members of the opposite sex. Avoid secrecy and deception, as they can erode trust and breed suspicion.

6. Boost trust

Work on building and maintaining trust in your relationship. Trust forms the foundation of a healthy marriage and is essential for navigating challenges and weathering storms together.

7. Address issues in your relationship

Address any issues or concerns in your relationship promptly and constructively. Avoid sweeping problems under the rug or allowing resentment to fester, as unresolved issues can create opportunities for emotional distance and infidelity.

8. Be respectful and considerate

Treat your partner with respect, kindness, and consideration at all times. Show appreciation for their contributions to the relationship and make an effort to understand their perspective.

9. Reconnect emotionally

Make an effort to reconnect emotionally with your partner on a regular basis. Engage in meaningful conversations, express affection and appreciation, and reaffirm your commitment to each other.

10. Focus on intimacy

Prioritize intimacy in your relationship, both physical and emotional. Make time for intimate moments, express love and affection regularly, and keep the spark alive in your marriage.

How Can Now&Me Marriage Counselors Help

Dealing with emotional cheating in your marriage? Now&Me offers a safe space for you to find support. Our platform connects you with qualified marriage counselors for confidential chats at no cost. If you need more, further conversations are available for just Rs 30/-.

You can also explore articles, guides, and forums tailored to relationship challenges. For more, join our supportive community, which is ready to listen and support you. So, download the Now&Me app and start your healing journey towards marriage and relationships.


Now&Me articles are written by experienced mental health contributors and are purely based on scientific research and evidence-based practices, which are thoroughly reviewed by experts, including therapists and psychologists with various specialties, to ensure accuracy and alignment with current industry standards.

However, it is important to note that the information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individual circumstances vary, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice and guidance.

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