Emotional Cheating: Are You Doing Your Relationsh​ip a Disservice​?


Captain’s log: 21st June 2013

Emotional Cheating… The absence of physical infidelity; this isn’t given a lot of attention or credence by many, because many don’t see it as an actual ‘thing.’ Many are still stuck on the archaic construct that espouses that the absence of a physical component means that they are neither breaking any rules, nor hurting anyone. This however is wrong. Words hurt. Actions hurt.

emotional cheating

A person does not need to be punched in the face to suffer from abuse. Emotional abuse is just as crippling. In a similar vein, a person does not need to have had sex outside of their relationship to have shattered their partner’s trust, and/or disrespected them and their union.

But how does one spot these behaviours? Honestly, as someone who’s been on both sides of this coin, I can say “it isn’t easy.” Why? Well… it requires an honesty with yourself that will, undoubtedly, push you out of the comfortable box to which you’ve grown accustomed. Nobody wants to feel uncertain, unsafe, or even uncomfortable…but, if you read my previous piece (“The asshole who hurt you“), you’d know that pursuing comfort over growth won’t take you to your better self. Quite frankly, you owe that manifestation of ‘you’ to yourself…as well as to your partner & your relationship(s).

So… Are you an emotional cheater?

If you’ve asked yourself the question even once, then the likelihood is the answer is ‘yes.’ That said, I’d encourage you to follow through with the attached quiz regardless.

1. Have you said ‘we are just friends?’

Other people have commented on your interaction with your ‘close friend.’ Maybe no one has, but you get a niggling in the back of your mind from time to time that some of your interactions may be skirting a fine line. If you’ve comforted yourself with the reminder ‘we are just friends’, the likelihood is… you aren’t. If you’ve had to vehemently defend them to your significant other (particularly where said behaviours are some that you would not accept yourself), the likelihood is… you aren’t ‘just friends.’

2. Have you ever crossed the line?

Most people don’t have ‘lines’. Usually, there’s a black area, a white area, a grey area, and an ‘oh-shit-I-think-I-fucked-up’ area. Usually the grey and the latter areas overlap. Everybody talks about ‘boundaries’… but no one actually wants to be the one drawing lines in the sand.

But here’s a dose of reality:

If you’ve shared your significant other’s personal secrets with your ‘just friend’, you’ve crossed a line.

If, during your conversations, you tell your ‘just friend’ things that you would never risk saying if you were having that phone-call while sitting right next to your significant other, you’ve crossed a line. (“I wish you were here”, “I wish you were holding me”, and “I miss you so much”, being prime examples. Admittedly these are just generic examples ~ some may fit in to some relationships, depending on the relationship’s dynamics.)

If you’ve discussed stuff you’d do with your ‘just friend’ if either of you weren’t in relationships, you’ve crossed a line. (Many people think that fantasy does not affect reality. As a writer, I have to tell you this is a joke.)

But here’s a dose of reality:

  • If you’ve shared your significant other’s personal secrets with your ‘just friend’, you’ve crossed a line.
  • If, during your conversations, you tell your ‘just friend’ things that you would never risk saying if you were having that phone-call while sitting right next to your significant other, you’ve crossed a line. (“I wish you were here”, “I wish you were holding me”, and “I miss you so much”, being prime examples. Admittedly these are just generic examples ~ some may fit in to some relationships, depending on the relationship’s dynamics.)
  • If you’ve discussed stuff you’d do with your ‘just friend’ if either of you weren’t in relationships, you’ve crossed a line. (Many people think that fantasy does not affect reality. As a writer, I have to tell you this is a joke.)

3. Have you deleted messages (etc.) from your ‘just friend’ because they ‘might look bad’ (if read by someone else)?

If you’ve thought that they ‘might look bad’, you know that they are.

4. Is there any sexual chemistry, tension, or attraction to/with your ‘just friend’?

Flirting is fun. It’s empowering. It’s enjoyable. Like sex however, it’s also dangerous. It is dually so when it isn’t given the respect that it warrants, and when there are no boundaries.

5. Do you confide in your ‘just friend’ about your relationship?

The above should have read: “do you tell your ‘just friend’ about your relationship’s tensions, failings, inadequacies?” The negatives: Because hardly anyone talks about the positives. We tend to just live in those happy moments.

If your ‘just friend’ is the person you turn to, to lament about all of your relationship’s failings… then you’ve built an emotional dependency in to that ‘just friend(ship)’. Worse still: that person only know about, and will only advise you based on, your significant other’s negative attributes.

Which brings me to another question:

6. Has your ‘just friend’ ever suggested that you should break up with your significant other?

This should have read: “Has your ‘just friend’, with whom you may have crossed the line of secrecy, and with whom you may share sexual tension, suggested that you leave your significant other?”

Spelled out like that, the suggestion seems less ‘benign’, ‘supportive’, ‘in your best interest’, or whatever comforting phrase you may have fed yourself when you allowed the line in to your subconscious.

…doesn’t it?

 

7. Do you seek the attention of your ‘just friend’?

Does your ‘just friend’ give you the attention that you feel you lack from your spouse?

Swap ‘attention’ for ‘affection’ or any other facet important to your well-being here, and the question will still be the same.

If you’re going out of your way to fill the void you perceive in your relationship, you’re doing that relationship a disservice.

 

8. Do you look forward to hearing that person more than you do your significant other?

“Sometimes”, and “Often” still equate to a ‘yes’ here…and both are causes for concern. This is especially so if these feelings coincide with arguments and/or rough times between your significant other and yourself.

 

9. Do you try to impress that person?

Do you send this person pics when you’re ‘feeling sexy’ (namely because you know that they’ll say the right things; i.e. what you need to hear)?

Is this person the first (or one of the first) you call when you’ve achieved some personal success?

Like point #7, the above falls under attention-seeking behaviour…and is a definite red-flag.

10. Have you ever compared your ‘just friend’ to your significant other?

If, in your head you’ve thought “this isn’t how [insert ‘just friend’ here] would do it”, “I wish (s)he was more like [insert ‘just friend’]” etc., you’re on a slippery slope.

 

11. Have you ever lied to your significant other about your ‘just friend’?

Maybe you don’t lie… not straight-out at least. Maybe you just omit details. Omissions, just like point #1, are seen as benign… harmless; they hurt no one. However, that’s how the cycle starts: one ‘not-really-a-lie-I-Don’t-Think’ lie… then bigger ones.

 

12. Have you ever wished that your significant other treated your more like your ‘just friend’ does?

Maybe you wish your significant other called you more (something your ‘just friend’ does, because [s]he has heard you complain about your significant other not doing it enough; as per point #5).

Maybe you wish your significant other sent you more flirty messages.

Maybe you wish that your significant other seemed to miss you more.

Maybe you wished your significant other was always ready for cybersex or sexting.

Regardless, you’ve already slipped out of the grey area … and in to ‘oh-shit-I-think-I-fucked-up’ territory.

 

13. Do you think that as long as you haven’t physically cheated, you’ve done nothing wrong?

“Man you already opened with this.” Yes… I’m aware. Still, let me reiterate: many people think that once there is no delivery of the penis, then they’re in the clear.

This is a joke.

Nobody’s laughing.

 

So what now?

First, we add up your score. Next, you decide on which relationship is more important. If the ‘just-friend(ship)’ happens to be the winner here, then you have things to consider. Playing devil’s advocate, I’d ask you something like “why are haven’t you left the relationship you’re in to pursue it?”

If the only reason you haven’t done so, is because the ‘just friend’ is somehow off-limits, then you have some even deeper stuff to consider.

For one, the relationship you’re currently sounds over. Will the ‘just friend(ship)’ lurk in the background only to affect subsequent relationships?

Food for thought.

Anyway… I’ve digressed. Let’s get back to scoring!

  • 1 or 2 Yes’s ~ You aren’t in an emotional affair, but you are skirting along the line.
  • 3 to 5 Yes’s ~ You are in an emotional affair. The trickle-down effects from your friendship are likely affecting your relationship, and you need to do something about it before it’s too late.
  • 6 of more Yes’s ~ You are in an emotional affair. Also, by the way, your relationship is more or less over. You’re in denial. You’ve crossed multiple lines. You’ve betrayed your significant other, as well as his/her trust. You *will* repeat this relationship’s mistakes in future relationships, because you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. Emotional cheating gives you what your mind believes to be a safe conduit to a better place; a pocket of ‘happiness’ built in to each day.

All of that said: whether you have or haven’t cheated emotionally, I hope this brief reflection gives you pause to think.

Feel free to discuss, and/or disagree.

Yours in happiness,

-C. Narkissos Springer

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