That relationships are complicated is not exactly breaking news to any of us, and that is why the slender thread of trust that keeps the relationship together needs to be preserved and nurtured constantly. The relationship can enter extremely choppy waters when one of the partners strays from the straight and narrow. But can being ‘close’ to someone of your partner’s sex (other than your partner, of course!) count as ‘cheating’ if there are no sexual relations involved? Yes. Welcome to the world of emotional cheating.
Is your spouse spending a lot of time online, on the phone, or at or after work with someone else who’s “just a friend”? You may be a victim of emotional cheating. But don’t panic yet. Emotional cheating is usually an inadvertent move. With punishing working hours and brutal lifestyle adjustments that our lives today seem to have become synonymous with, it is the little friendships that we can find along the way that make life bearable. Bear that in mind before you fly off the handle. But it would be wise to remember that sometimes these friendships, that begin innocuously enough as office co-workers sharing lunch or a casual internet chat buddy, can develop into something more.
The graduation of the casual friendship into an intimate friendship can be a steady, barely-perceptible progression, and sometimes, even those in this ‘friendship’ hardly know what it has become. Some tell-tale signs of emotional cheating are when you find your partner constantly bringing up this ‘friend’ in conversations, and perhaps comparing you to them in a negative way; finding excuses to meet up and/or chat with them whenever possible; or avoiding bringing up their name at all in conversations and dismissing them as a trifling matter. Many people feel that emotional cheating is not really cheating because of the lack of sexual intimacy, but it is time that myth was blown up.
In the age of the anonymous internet, it is easy to share intimate information about yourself over a chat window online with a complete stranger. And sometimes, it just feels really nice to have let some steam off. This only gets dangerous when the friendship becomes the proverbial ‘something more’. It is easy to sustain this sort of relationship over the internet because it does not involve meeting up or dealing with any of the irritating aspects of each other. One can end up creating a mental image of the perfection of the person at the other end of the internet connection and believing in this fantasy. Such a relationship is, of course, harder to detect, but the damage it can cause is identical. Dealing with online emotional cheating can be hard, but it is easier to prevent it if you can see it coming. Encourage your spouse to talk about their online friendships, why they seem to need them, and whether they are getting more...shall we say...serious.
Emotional cheating can be just as, if not more, devastating than sexual cheating because it involves letting a third person into the emotional core of the relationship of which sex is but a peripheral part. Do you feel that your partner is talking to the ‘friend’ about your relationship, being their shoulder to cry on, or helping them get through some rough patches in life, while you stand by watching? Does this make you feel insecure or in some way emotionally threatened by that? Then it’s time you had that uncomfortable conversation with your partner. Begin by explaining your insecurities and be prepared for denial. The important thing is not lose your cool, and explain to your partner that even if there is nothing ‘going on’, why that particular relationship bothers you. You may even want to offer to spend some time together as a group with that person, so that you don’t feel so excluded and ignored. The important thing is to keep the channels of communication open so that things don’t go to breaking point before they can even come out into the open.