10 Red Flags Your Partner Is Having an Affair at Work
Take note of these signs in your relationship, which experts say could indicate infidelity.
There are several places that extramarital affairs can arise, including in online chats or while out on the town without a partner in tow. But affairs can also start at work, where we spend so much of our daily lives. According to experts, it's the number of hours we put in at the workplace that can cause coworkers to become close—your partner might even report having a "work wife" or "work husband." But when these "marriages" become romantic, that's where issues arise.
"Through casual conversation, [coworkers] may discover a shared affinity of a hobby or they connect griping about workplace frustrations," Beth Ribarsky, PhD, professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, tells Best Life. "These close but platonic emotional bonds with a high level of respect, trust, self-disclosure, and loyalty can evolve into what my former Nebraska colleagues Chad McBride and Karla Mason Bergen call 'work spouses' [in a 2015 study]."
But Ribarsky stresses the key word: platonic. Unfortunately, noticing a shift from a standard, professional relationship to something more can be tricky.
"When it comes to a partner having an affair with someone at work, it's often easy to miss tell-tale signs," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Date Smart, says. "Given that work naturally takes a great deal of our time and effort, a partner who is having an affair with someone in the work world can readily hide their infidelity."
With that in mind, if you suspect that your partner is developing a deeper connection with a coworker and may be cheating, experts identify some key red flags you shouldn't overlook. Read on for 10 signs your partner is having an affair at work.
They pay more attention to their appearance.
If your partner is spending extra time getting ready in the morning and really putting added effort into their appearance, it should send up red flags.
"Some people already make their appearance a priority, but if they've gone from not caring to suddenly putting forth extra effort before work wearing new clothes, extra grooming, or unexpectedly wearing cologne or perfume for the first time, it could be a sign they're trying to impress someone at work," Ribarsky says.
She explains, "They may lose weight, start to exercise more, and/or dress better than usual, even when going to work. They may minimize it when asked about these changes, [which] can be a sign of an affair, too."
They spend more time at work.
For most of us, once we're done with your workday, we want to head home and relax. But if your partner isn't being faithful, they may choose to spend additional time at the office.
"They might head in a bit early or find an excuse to work a bit later to spend time with their colleague (in or out of the workplace)," Ribarsky says.
Manly notes that this shift is one of the biggest red flags, "especially if a big project is not in progress."
However, Ribarsky offers a word of caution about jumping to conclusions.
"Just because someone is working longer hours, it doesn't mean they're cheating," she explains, noting that they may actually be working on a larger initiative or trying to earn extra money.
They change their work hours or attend more events.
While staying late at the office may indicate something is amiss, your partner might also change their work hours to hide infidelity or spend more time with the coworker they're involved with.
"[Other signs are] sudden and unexplained changes in work hours, working late, going in early, or attending unusual business trips," Daniel Rinaldi, therapist and life coach, explains.
Trotter adds, "Your partner may suddenly start working longer hours, change their schedule, or be focused on work projects that never seemed as important before. Work may take on more significance in these and other ways, including also attending more work events (both social and professional) without you."
There's a decrease in emotional intimacy.
In general, if there is a decrease in intimacy with your partner, it can spell trouble or indicate infidelity—and a workplace affair is no different.
"A significant dip in emotional intimacy or connection could indicate that your partner might be emotionally invested elsewhere," Courtney Hubscher, LMHC, LCPC, NCC, of GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, says. "They may seem distant, less interested in your day-to-day life, or less enthusiastic about shared activities. You may also notice a sudden awkwardness or lack of comfort during intimate moments. Emotional withdrawal can be a subtle sign, but if it's coupled with other red flags, it could point towards an affair at work."
Abbey Sangmeister, LPC, burnout coach, and founder of Evolving Whole, also cites emotional distance as a potential red flag, but notes that this is another situation where it might not always be due to an affair.
"If the partner seems to be more preoccupied or not interested in the relationship the way they used to be, this could be a sign of something going on with your partner … Might be an affair, might be burnout, or might be something else," she says. "Have the conversation!"
They're more secretive about their job or their work.
One of the key components of any relationship is the ability to confide in one another and share the ins and outs of your day. So your partner may be giving you a sign if they aren't interested in debriefing about their workday.
"Is your partner suddenly more secretive about their work conversations or reluctant to share details about their day? These could be signs of a potentially inappropriate relationship with a coworker," Hubscher says.
They're more protective about their work communications.
Some couples establish clear boundaries about going through each other's phones or computers. But if your partner is usually open and then suddenly switches to guarding their devices, it could spell trouble.
"A common indicator of an affair at work is a change in protectiveness around employment-related emails or other communications," Manly says. "Text communications between coworkers are common for workplace issues, yet emotional and physical affairs often leak romantic energy into texts. Even a pattern of emoji use—such as hearts or winks—can indicate that a partner is not being true to you."
Hubscher notes that your partner could take additional steps to prevent you from stumbling upon evidence of infidelity.
"They might start using passwords or changing them frequently, or even deleting messages and emails regularly," she says. "This behavior can suggest that they are trying to hide something from you."
They avoid sex.
If your partner is involved with someone else at the workplace, they may also come home and not be as interested in sex or physical intimacy.
"Sometimes when people are involved with someone else, they may become avoidant of physical intimacy with their partner," Trotter says. "They may make up excuses for not being interested in sex and it may be confusing for you if this is a sudden change."
They seem overly close with a coworker.
Having friends in the workplace is certainly beneficial, but experts have a word of caution for those who become a bit too close. This may manifest in them talking often about a colleague whom you hadn't heard of before, experts say.
"Regularly mentioning a specific colleague, especially if there was no mention of this person before [may be a sign]," Rinaldi says.
It's also probably not a good sign if your partner doesn't want you to meet this coworker, according to Sangmeister, and they may be evasive if your press for details.
Trotter adds, "When [your partner] seems overly and increasingly close with a co-worker and you are left out of that relationship when there are special events, it may be a sign of an affair."
They're late more often than usual.
Being on time is a common courtesy, but we're all guilty of running late from time to time. However, if your partner is showing up late more often and citing work-related engagements, proceed with caution.
"Workplace affairs can be signaled if a partner is repeatedly late due to unexpected or unusual after-work gatherings," Manly says. "In general, one overarching red flag is an inexplicable increase in workplace investment accompanied by a decrease in the romantic relationship."
Your gut is telling you something is wrong.
While you may be looking for signs that come directly from your partner, experts also suggest listening to your own instincts in these situations.
"If your gut tells you something is amiss and your partner gets defensive if you try to discuss your concerns, it's likely something vital is [wrong]," Manly says.
Rinaldi adds that "trusting your gut could be crucial," so don't ignore something if it feels off. In general, it's best to discuss your concerns with your partner when they do arise.
"If you suspect your partner may be cheating, this is the opportunity to open the lines of communication and check in with one another," Ribarsky says. "Oftentimes our minds and imaginations can get the best of us and jump to unfounded conclusions if we are feeling insecure with ourselves or in our relationship."
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