Are you trying to convince yourself that you’re “just friends”? Do you find yourself thinking about a friend more than your partner or spouse? Although many relationships in life start innocently, there are times when these relationships develop into something more, like an emotional affair. Though this kind of cheating doesn’t involve sex, it’s still wrong and can cause a lot of pain for you and your partner.
Emotional cheating is problematic and disruptive; it can ruin everything you built between you and your partner. That’s why you need to know what emotional cheating looks like, why it’s wrong, and how to stop it.
What is Emotional Cheating?
Residing within the gray space between a platonic adult relationship and a romantic sexual relationship is the emotional affair. Many people cross into this territory without ever realizing it because personal boundaries and ideas about cheating vary between people. Yet, emotional affairs, also known as emotional cheating, usually unfold the same way.
It begins with joking around, sharing secrets and feelings, and spending time together. At first, an emotional affair feels like a normal friendship, until your focus shifts to this individual instead of your partner or spouse.
Emotional cheating relationships are often intoxicating because:
- You can openly discuss your marital dissatisfaction with someone else
- Emotional needs are fulfilled that your spouse may be ignoring or not interested in
- You receive much-needed social interaction
- You have an escape from an emotionally or physically distant partner
- You and the other person have chemistry or click, even if you don’t know one another in person
Furthermore, emotional cheating doesn’t require any physical contact. You can meet someone online, on a dating app, or even through social media and fall into an emotional affair.
Why is Emotional Cheating Wrong?
Emotional cheating is difficult because it’s not going to feel like cheating at first. The relationship is going to feel like speaking with a best friend. However, emotional cheating becomes wrong when the energy you once invested in maintaining your relationship or marriage is redirected to this other individual. Eventually, your bond with your partner or spouse suffers, and you begin questioning the validity of your relationship.
Emotional cheating isn’t friendship. There are inherent boundaries with friendship. Yes, friendships can be more deep and fulfilling than others, but they don’t carry the same weight as emotional cheating.
If you find yourself nervous about interactions, worried that your partner might overhear or see the conversations you have, or if you would feel betrayed if the tables were turned, then it becomes emotional cheating.
If There is No Physical Contact, is it Really Cheating?
Infidelity takes many forms. What we discuss with others and what we let into our consciousness can greatly affect how we feel and what we fantasize about. This is why non-physical relationships can be so alluring because it is sometimes easier to feel close with someone you can’t see or touch or don’t spend much time with outside of work.
Imagined connections beyond the mundane are distracting and will take away from what is real. When thoughts and feelings for someone else start encroaching on your reality, impacting how you feel for a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife, you know you have crossed the line.
22 Signs of Emotional Cheating
Still don’t know if it’s an emotional affair? Here are some examples and signs of emotional cheating:
- You tell the outside person things that you would never tell your partner. This includes marital or relationship frustrations.
- You are more irritable towards your partner after connecting with the other person.
- You turn to the outside individual whenever your partner is unavailable.
- You connect with your “friend” after unresolved conflicts and then leave those conflicts hanging.
- You have increased the periods of connection with your “friend” and avoid your partner.
- You have difficulty handling periods of loneliness, frustration, or anger in your relationship. You turn to your “friend” to help resolve these problems instead of communicating with your partner or spouse.
- You exchange gifts with the outside person.
- You can’t help but compare your partner to the outside individual.
- You don’t want your partner to see the messages, emails, pictures, or texts from your “friend.”
- You don’t want to have sex with your partner anymore.
- You no longer express your needs or communicate about deeper issues.
- You find yourself acting differently around the outside person versus your partner.
- You have given up on your relationship or marriage.
- You use endearing terms for the outside person, such as “babe,” “sweetheart,” “honey,” and may even tell them you love them.
- Whenever your partner asks about the friend or wants you to take time away from them, you react poorly.
- If you meet your “friend” in person, you dress up for them.
- You feel like the outside person truly understands you and listens to you more than your partner.
- You begin fantasizing sexually about the outside partner.
- You have difficulty concentrating on much more than your “friend.”
- You start to get butterflies whenever you think of them or they are around.
- If the situation was reversed and your partner was behaving this way, you would be deeply upset, hurt, and betrayed.
You get anxiety whenever you think about your partner finding out about the relationship and know you would be ashamed if they did.
Do any—or all—of these sound familiar in some way? Now that you know whether or not you’re emotionally cheating on your partner (or being cheated on), it’s time to face the facts: It has to stop.
Stop Emotional Cheating and Stay Committed
Emotional cheating happens when friendship and intimacy are on a knife’s edge. Even if you aren’t in a sexual relationship with someone, you can still cheat on your spouse and cause lasting damage to your marriage or relationship. Now that you know what emotional cheating is and the signs, it’s time to start working towards putting the affair to an end.
Couples Academy can help you recover from emotional affairs and infidelity. Created by an infidelity recovery specialist, Couples Academy gives you insight on the causes of infidelity, as well as tools to help you and your partner recover and transition into a stronger relationship. Fill out the contact form to learn more.