Has her friendship with someone else grown into something more?
When your partner shuts down, it can be hard to tell if what you’re dealing with is just a rough patch in your relationship—or if she’s hiding something from you. Maybe she’s being faithful physically, but what about emotionally?
With developments as subtle as lingering glances, it’s not always easy to see when a friendship has blossomed into something more. If your gut is telling you that something is off, here are seven signs to look out for that might indicate your significant other is having an emotional affair. If several apply, consider having a discussion to clear the air.
1. YOUR SEX LIFE HAS DRASTICALLY IMPROVED—OR DROPPED OFF When a person is having an emotional affair that hasn’t yet turned physical, the frequency of sex with his or her partner can actually increase.
That’s because the passion for the one she desires is played out in the relationship she’s already in, says psychotherapist Ginnie Love, Ph.D. Of course, everyone is different—for some, when there’s an uptick in emotional intimacy with someone new, the level of sexual interest in her current partner takes a nose dive.
2. SHE SEEMS DISTANT OR DETACHED If she is scoring attention and emotional support from someone else, she might stop discussing the intricacies of her life with you. We only have so much emotional energy to go around, says Love, and our attention tends to go where we are most drawn.
Over time, this can also lead to physical detachment. If your partner is spending the time she previously spent with you on someone else, that is an immediate warning sign that needs to be addressed, adds Love.
3. HER ATTITUDE TOWARD YOU HAS CHANGED In addition to pulling away, she may start praising her new obsession and criticizing you—say, throwing shade about your cooking skills or taste in movies, even though these aspects of your personality never seemed to bother her before.
This is especially dangerous territory because she may be unconsciously sizing you up, says Love, comparing you to a fantasy version of the other person and idealising what it might be like to be with him.
4. HER TECH HABITS HAVE CHANGED If she doesn’t text very often and is suddenly glued to her phone or spends more time browsing on social media than she used to, something might be up, says Love.
And if she starts dodging details about who she’s keeping in touch with, this could be a subtle admission of guilt. On some level, she knows what she’s doing isn’t quite right and that you’d understandably feel jealous, so she avoids and evades, thinking that what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
5. SHE DROPS HIS NAME CONSTANTLY “We mention friends from time to time, but a constant name drop is disrespectful and inappropriate,” says Love.
It’s basically an invitation for you to call her on it. And when you do, take note of her reaction. If she’s super-defensive about their friendship, reiterates that there’s nothing going on between them multiple times, or is super-forceful about wanting you to believe her, it might be time to take stock of her loyalty.
6. SHE ARGUES WITH YOU DIFFERENTLY If you’re hearing new and surprising comments from her in response to disagreements you’ve been having for a long time, it could be a sign that she’s been spilling on your relationship issues with him, and then absorbing his commentary on them.
Chances are these are his responses when she tells him about fights the two of you have, and she’s taking them in and using them in your arguments.
7. YOU’RE STARTING TO FEEL LIKE THE THIRD WHEEL IN YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP Say you’re at a party with your mate and her friend shows up. If your girl immediately leaves you alone to tend to his needs, that’s the big red flag.
“If you start to feel like you’re not number one and that everything significant isn’t being shared with you first, you may not be on solid ground in your relationship,” says Greer.
If several of these signs do apply to your S.O. and you can’t shake the feeling that something’s up, it’s better to be upfront about your concerns sooner rather than later.
“Bring it up by saying you feel your partner’s been distant, and that it has something to do with the closeness they’ve developed with another person,” says Saltz. “Be honest about wanting them to stop and reinvest in your relationship, discuss any problems, and rebuild your bond—but the emotional affair has to end first.”
Expressing your hurt and concern doesn’t mean you’re pointing fingers—it just means you care about what happens to your relationship and you’re willing to do the work.