8 signs you're emotionally cheating on your partner with your 'work spouse'
- Cheating isn't always a physical act. You can cheat on your partner in an emotional sense, too.
- Emotional cheating typically happens through small yet intimate actions and a lack of transparency about those actions with your partner.
- If you purposefully create distance between you and your partner, hide your emails or texts, or pick fights with your partner, it could mean you're emotionally cheating on them.
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Cheating isn't always a physical act. You can actually cheat on your partner in an emotional sense too, which typically happens through small yet intimate actions and a lack of transparency about those actions with your partner.
Emotional cheating "is characterized by these kind of microcheating behaviors that could lead to more intense sexual behaviors," Tammy Nelson - a psychotherapist and independent consultant for Ashley Madison, a dating platform with the slogan "Life is short. Have an affair." - told Insider.
These "microcheating" behaviors might include confiding in someone other than your partner about your relationship, or choosing to spend the majority of your free time hanging out with or texting a person you aren't actually dating. Often, these emotional affair partners are co-workers, aka "work spouses."
In the moment, you may not even realize you're emotionally cheating, but there are some signs that can help you decide if you're guilty.
You can't stop talking about your best friend at work - especially to your partner
valentinrussanov / Getty Images
It's normal to come home after a long day at the office and want to catch up with your partner, but if the bulk of your conversation is fixated on your work spouse, it could mean you're a little too invested in that relationship, Nelson said.
Spending the majority of your day with a co-worker can often result in a close bond, but if you notice you're spending most of your energy on that relationship, it could mean you need to re-evaluate your priorities.
You vent to your co-worker more than your partner
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Although it can feel easier to be open and honest with a new person, those conversations and support should come from the person you committed to in the first place.
Many people fall into this behavior, Nelson said. "We take more risks with people we don't know that well," she said. "It's like trying on new clothes, trying on different parts of ourselves before we go home [to our partners]."
Those feelings of emotional freedom can lead to a physical affair too, according to Nelson.
You make up excuses to hang out with your co-worker
It's fine to enjoy time with people other than your partner, but if you jump through hoops to buy yourself more time with a certain someone, it could mean you're betraying your partner in an emotional sense.
"You're allowed to have your own friends, but there's a difference between secrecy and privacy," Nelson said.
Constantly justifying why you're spending time with a person who isn't your partner or minimizing your closeness to them could mean you shouldn't be spending so much time with them in the first place.
You lie to your partner about your whereabouts
According to Nelson, some people might stop justifying meet-ups with a work spouse or emotional cheating partner at a certain point. Instead of getting defensive, they'll lie about where they are.
"If your partner knows you're constantly with Joe after work and they don't like that and tell you, it's easy to just start saying you're actually with Sarah when you get home and they ask where you've been," Nelson said.
You hide text messages, phone calls, or emails
Shannon Fagan/Getty Images
Like lying, hiding your correspondence with another person may mean you're emotionally cheating. That's because keeping certain messages private suggests they contain intimate material, which is typically reserved for your actual partner.
"Text messaging provides an opportunity for wandering hearts, hearts not fully committed to their spouses, to seek pleasure from someone other than their spouses when their relationship grass may be losing its color," Zack Carter, a professor of interpersonal, intrapersonal, and family communication, wrote for Psychology Today.
You don't prioritize your relationship
While it's important that each person in a couple has their own life, if you notice you're purposely filling up your calendar with activities that don't involve your partner, it could mean you're not emotionally invested in your connection.
Pushing back date nights, constantly working late nights at work, or saying you're already busy every time your partner wants to spend time with you could suggest they're an afterthought in your life.
You constantly pick fights with your partner
All couples fight from time to time, but if you catch yourself trying to start arguments or insult your partner more often than you have positive experiences with them, it could mean you're emotionally cheating because you could be comparing your real relationship with your relationship to the person you're emotionally cheating with.
You feel guilty
Perhaps the most straightforward sign of emotional cheating is feeling guilty. If you have fleeting moments where you are unsure you should be spending so much intimate time and energy on one specific person, it probably means you should take a step back, Nelson said.
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