You’ve made a new friend at work, and the two of you are basically inseparable. You swing by each other’s desks, grab lunch together and text back and forth after hours. Maybe you’ve even felt a flirtatious spark, but you’ve kept things completely platonic.
Sure, your friendship seems harmless enough. Unfortunately, your partner may not see things the same way. Affairs of the heart aren’t always physical, and it’s possible you’re crossing the line into emotional infidelity.
Here, marriage therapists explain the warning signs that you might be slipping out of a friendship and into something more.
1. You’re spending time together outside of work.
It may seem like a friendly work happy hour, but spending time with a coworker outside of the office can blur the lines of your friendship.
“Most people have emotional affairs with someone they work with or spend a lot of time with,” said Alicia H. Clark, a therapist in Washington, D.C. “It just so happens that this person turns out to be a really good friend. But a friend can turn into something more when your spouse isn’t your number one anymore.”
2. You can’t wait until the next time you see each other.
How do you feel when you think about seeing that person again? If you can’t contain your excitement, that may be a major red flag.
“You literally count down the hours or days,” said Caroline Madden, a marriage therapist in Burbank, California. “When you text or Facebook [message] that person, you check a million times to see if they replied.”
3. You’re having fantasies about that person.
If you’re beginning to daydream about that other person, or even see them in your dreams at night, your subconscious may be trying to tell you something.
“The biggest warning sign is when you start having intimate fantasies about that person,” Clark told The Huffington Post. “That to me is the number one. In my view, you’re already kind of hooked. When you have your first dream about that person, that is usually a very powerful sign.”
4. When something important happens, you think of telling your special friend before your partner.
Did you get a promotion? Maybe you won your office fantasy football league, or beat your personal record at the gym. Who do you want to tell first ― your friend, or your spouse?
“When you start telling that person things you wouldn’t tell your spouse, or you think about telling that person when something good happens, that’s not great a sign,” Clark said. “That’s an indication of closeness and that you’re both very important people to each other.”
5. You are hiding the relationship from your partner.
A very basic litmus test for determining whether you’ve crossed the line is asking yourself if you would tell your partner about your interactions with that friend.
“If you are hiding texts, calls, meetings, conversations, online activity, even your browsing history from your partner, then there’s something more about your relationship with that other person, or you’d be open,” said Debra Campbell, a psychologist and couples therapist. “This is emotional infidelity.”
6. You tell that person things only your spouse knows, or worse ― things your spouse doesn’t know.
Be wary of divulging too much personal information about yourself or your relationship to this new friend. Ranting about your partner to the other person can create an opening for emotional infidelity.
“You start opening up to your friend about problems in your marriage,” Madden said. “On the surface this seems okay. You are just trying to get the other gender’s point of view, in an effort to help your marriage. But it signals ‘I might be married, but I’m not happily married.’ Your marriage is vulnerable. You also then give your special friend a list of things that bug you about your spouse so that they can provide you sympathy, but also now know perfectly how to give you what you are missing.”
7. If you’re wondering if you’re having an emotional affair, you’ve probably already crossed the line.
Madden summed it up this way: “Why are you reading this article unless you are already wondering if you are having an emotional affair?”
If you do recognize some of the aforementioned red flags in your recent behavior, there are concrete steps you can take to get yourself back on track in your relationship.
“You’re not a bad person for having feelings for another person,” Madden said. “You can’t help your feelings, you can control your behavior. [But] once you recognize you have the ‘feels’ for someone else, you should stop all one-on-one meetings, lunches, Twitter direct messages, etc. Don’t worry about how that person feels. Worry about how your spouse would feel about you cheating.”
For Clark, the solution is simple: go back to your original relationship, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
“You have to go back to your relationship and see for yourself if you can make it work,” she said. “It may be that you can’t fix that relationship, but I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t understand that they have to give it a try.”