An emotional affair can be even more painful than a physical one, and you may find that your trust in your partner is severely damaged. However, don't rely on your intuition alone to tell you all you need to know about your spouse's emotional affair. You may be hurt, but keep the lines of communication open and ask questions to get to the bottom of it.
Ask your partner how the emotional affair began. Chances are it began harmlessly enough with your spouse venting to her affair partner about some minor frustration. If she can pinpoint the start of the affair, you can work from there to determine how things got out of control. Second, ask your spouse when she first noticed that relations with her affair partner had crossed the "just friends" line. Was it immediately or did it take a few weeks? Third, ask what it was about her affair partner's responses that initially attracted her. Did he listen more attentively than she'd been accustomed to? Did he make her laugh and forget about her problems? If you can find out what initially led your spouse away, you can keep it from happening again.
Did your spouse and his affair partner meet for coffee before work or drinks after work? Did they simply shoot emails back and forth throughout the course of the day or use an instant messenger to chat during free time? Although it seems hard to believe, a person can feel strongly for mere "words on a screen." It's possible that your spouse has never even met his emotional affair partner; perhaps they met in a chat room or an online message board. If your spouse and his affair partner never met in person, it's possible that he simply wanted someone to talk to, not necessarily to cheat on you. If they did meet in person, ask your partner why. Was there something particularly irresistible about the affair partner's physical presence?
Thanks to everyday topics, such as children and bills, you and your spouse probably have no difficulty finding something to talk about, but you may not be connecting emotionally -- thus her emotional affair. Ask your spouse what she discussed with her affair partner. Did they discuss work, children or mortgages? If so, what benefits did she get from discussing these things with someone else? Did they talk about lost dreams or plans that never materialized? Sharing a bond of disappointment or loss can be powerful, and this can be an indication that something in your spouse's life is lacking. She may need to break out of her routine, return to school, switch careers or pursue a lifelong dream in order to feel more fulfilled and happy.
Ask your spouse how his affair partner made him feel to get a better idea for what he was really looking for. Did she make him feel strong, masculine or needed? He may be missing out on that from independent you. Did she make him feel like someone finally understood him? You probably need to work on reconnecting with your spouse and building a stronger emotional bond. Did she feed his ego? Maybe you need to take more notice of his accomplishments and contributions to your marriage.