Infidelity: It Begins Before the Physical Affair

There are few things in life which are more devastating to a couple than marital infidelity. To have someone you love betray you on such a deep level is emotionally and even physically difficult to deal with. Whether you’ve gone through this in the past, are currently going through it, or are worried that your spouse may be having an affair, it is critical to understand how and why infidelity occurs. The more you learn about this terrible circumstance, the better you can pick up the pieces of your life and move on. If you’ve not yet experienced the pain of infidelity, learning about it may help you avoid it in the future.

The most important thing everyone should understand is that infidelity doesn’t start the first time your spouse sleeps with someone else — it begins when your spouse becomes closer to someone else than you. Trouble signs occur when, for example, your husband or wife wants to share exciting news with someone else more than they do you, or when they would rather have long conversations with another person than with you.

In many cases your partner may not even realize that he or she is beginning to move away from you and into the arms of another person. Unfortunately the more time they spend with this other person, either in person, talking on the phone or even emailing or texting, the closer the emotional bond becomes. Anytime a spouse is putting someone else before you it could be considered an emotional affair. An emotional affair often precedes the physical affair and should be taken seriously.

I often see that one spouse may believe that he or she is just friends with a friend or co-worker, and they are doing nothing wrong by spending so much time together. In situations like this the spouse may deny that there is even any physical attraction or desire to be with this other person. In fact, this could even be true but this type of relationship all too often slowly progresses to be more and more inappropriate and commonly leads to physical infidelity.

When faced with any early signs of an emotional affair, it is absolutely critical to address it directly and immediately to prevent it from going any further. Many couples find that working with a professional marriage therapist is beneficial in situations like this because it can offer an outside perspective. Whichever way you choose to approach this difficult situation, just remember that if you take no action at all, you’re putting your marriage at grave risk.


Dr. Judith Needham-Penrose PhD, LMFT