Is having a friend of the opposite sex a sign of emotional infidelity? Here's how psychologists see signs of emotional cheating.
Emotional cheating can be difficult to wrap your mind around. It’s not like a “real” affair (with intercourse) or a “sort-of-but-not-really” affair (everything but the intercourse). Emotional infidelity doesn't necessarily break spoken vows, create unwanted pregnancies or spread sexually transmitted diseases. Emotional cheating can't always be spotted in the traditional ways.
Emotional infidelity can be as devastating to a marriage or partnership as sexual unfaithfulness – if not more so. Determining the difference between harmless flirting versus cheating is important to a healthy relationship.
How Emotional Cheating Starts
Most people don’t plan to be emotionally unfaithful. Emotional cheating starts by casually chatting with coworkers or people they see regularly – and it grows into more than “friends.” They go for lunches, take business trips, or make special efforts to see the person to whom they’re getting attached. They think about their “friend” more and more, until it becomes a definite emotional bond. Those are signs of emotional cheating.
Internet relationships are more and more popular since everyone’s wired up. Emotional cheating now begins in chat rooms, forums or discussion groups. They evolve into private conversations and emotional infidelity.
Emotional Cheating and Internet Relationships
In emotional infidelity over the internet, “friends” may never meet. This means that relationships can flourish in public places like the office or in private places, like one’s own home. Bonds can grow and emotional cheating can occur even when the coworker is at the other desk or the family is in the same room.
Anonymity is a potential problem with internet relationships and emotional infidelity. There’s greater intimacy because you’re anonymous; you’re free to share the deepest, darkest parts of yourself (parts you're reluctant to share with someone in person). Further, you can build your friends up into the most wonderful, kind, smart, and funny people in your mind because you haven’t met – and you certainly haven’t dealt with dirty socks, disciplining kids or getting lost in a new city together. Your relationship hasn't been tried or tested. Emotional cheating becomes a slippery slope when you're involved with a mysterious stranger.
If you know you have a weakness with emotional infidelity, you can learn to resist temptation.
Note that the above are stereotypes with regard to emotional cheating! There are men who do become highly emotionally involved with more distant women, both over the internet and in person. Bonds and emotional infidelity aren't the sole activities of either women or men alone.
Signs of Emotional Cheating
Emotional cheating happens when you:
- Discuss your partner and relationships with your “friend.” You share your fears, hopes and dreams (this is emotional intimacy).
- Meet your “friend” for dinner or lunch without telling your partner.
- Keep your computer, files and internet sites password-protected.
- Hide or are secretive about your life, relationships and activities.
- Keep your partner waiting while you spend time with your “friend.”
- Stay in regular, intimate contact with ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. Emotional cheating can spring from close relationships with past lovers.
Instead of assuming or vowing emotional infidelity will never happen to you, spend time with your partner. Have open and honest discussions about your relationship. Have fun together; the more you make your partner happy, the more likely he/she will reciprocate!
Don’t forget what brought you together in the first place. “It’s so easy,” says psychologist M. Gary Neuman, “to forget why we fell in love.” Emotional cheating can make you forget why you love your partner in the first place.