What Is Emotional Cheating? Can Relationships Survive It?
What is emotional cheating?
Some people do it every day. Yet most will tell you that what they’re doing isn’t emotional cheating. It’s just a friendship with a person of the opposite sex that they enjoy talking to and spending time with.
For many, including a lot of men, there’s no such thing as emotional cheating. If there aren’t two bodies going at it in full-blown sexual ecstasy then it’s nothing. Just two people shooting the breeze, they say.
Might be true. Men and women can be friends, only that in some of these friendships there’s a whole lot of sharing of the problems that exist in the relationship with the significant others.
And the significant others don’t know about the friendship, the outings, the calls or the texts.
So, is it emotional cheating now?
Is Emotional Cheating Really Hard To Define?
Some relationship experts say that emotional cheating is hard to define because the line between where friendship ends and emotional intimacy begins isn’t clear. Others state that emotional cheating is whatever the person on the receiving end says it is.
Based on my personal experience, I agree with the latter. To me, emotional cheating is forming a strong, close emotional bond with another human being while detaching emotionally from your significant other. It’s the opening of a door to that part of your soul that is reserved only for the person you took vows with or made a commitment to.
Just like with emotional abuse in intimate partner violence, emotional cheating is very hard to prove yet it’s more damaging to the human spirit. It’s a form of betrayal that far outweighs sexual cheating because you can’t use the excuses “It meant nothing,” or “It was just a one-night stand.” Casual sex happens on the spur of the moment, but emotional bonds take time and a whole bunch of emotional intimacy to form.
To the experts who say that it’s hard to define, I say I disagree. As someone who has been on the receiving end of emotional cheating, I can say unequivocally that it’s not hard to define and that when it’s happening, the signs and clues are everywhere.
What Are the Signs?
As I stated at the beginning of this post, men typically define emotional cheating differently from women. They equate cheating with sexual acts. Consequently, they tend to downplay their significant other’s concerns by labeling them jealous fits or altogether blowing them off.
But emotional cheating does exist, and when it happens, signs and clues are everywhere.
For most women, the first clue is that nagging feeling in the pit of their stomachs warning that something’s not right.
Some people call it a gut feeling.
Some call it instinct.
I call it intuition.
Every woman knows her man, or at least I hope they do, and every woman has the gift of intuition. Women also know the behavior patterns of their significant others and when things are out of synch.
To demonstrate what I mean by signs and clues are everywhere, let’s examine a real-life situation.
Names have been altered to protect the innocent (I’m rolling my eyes and yawning, but don’t tell anybody).
Meet Jackie, Freddie and Aisha.
Jackie has been feeling really insecure lately. Freddie, her significant other, has become emotionally distant and has been leaving for work earlier than usual since he started working the night shift with a woman, Aisha, who attends the same church as they do.
Jackie has had a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach for weeks. The first thing that came to mind was Aisha and the changes in Freddie’s behavior patterns. Reasoning that Freddie would never go there, she ignored the gut feeling.
But then she started noticing that after church service, Aisha always gravitated to where Freddie was. She also noticed how Freddie’s eyes lit up when Aisha approached him, and how caring and gentle he was with her, something he hadn’t been with Jackie since he started working the new shift with Aisha.
I think we can all agree that something isn’t right with this picture; that there are some definite signs and clues.
But what are they?
- Intuition – Jackie has a gut feeling that something’s not right.
- Change in behavior patterns – Freddie is leaving for work earlier than his norm ever since he started working the night shift with Aisha.
- Freddie has emotionally detached from Jackie.
- He demonstrates an emotional attachment to Aisha.
For those who think that the lines between friendship and emotional cheating are not clearly defined, please refer to items 3 and 4. That’s the difference between friendship and emotional cheating.
Other signs of emotional cheating include:
- Constantly bringing up the other person in conversations.
- All of a sudden wanting to work out and buy sexy underwear.
- Having no sex with the significant other.
- Having way too much sex with the significant other (This one’s because they’re fantasizing, and in their minds, you’re really not there).
- Invalidating and minimizing the significant other’s concerns about the relationship with the other person.
- Showing signs of intimate familiarity with the other person.
- Attacking the significant other in defense of the relationship with the other person.
- Lying and keeping the relationship secret after the significant other has asked that he end it.
- Outright refusing to end the relationship with the other person (This is a major red flag. It can mean that you’re at risk of being sexually cheated on).
- And if you have the misfortune of knowing the other person, having her sit right in front of you, batting her eyelashes, and sighing while telling you how wonderful your man is then providing you with intimate details of your family, and your relationship with your significant other that only you and he knew.
In case you’re wondering, yes. That last bullet really happened to me.
So, you check out your list and now know beyond doubt that you’ve been or are being emotionally cheated on.
Can your relationship survive it?
Can Relationships Survive It?
Relationships can and do survive emotional cheating, and people can forgive and move forward together. However, the violation of trust and the betrayal can’t be placed on the back burner in hopes that it’ll go away all on its own.
It’s going to require some work, and there has to be a willingness on the part of both parties to salvage the relationship.
It’s not realistic to violate trust and expect the person whose trust was violated to forgive overnight, and pick up where things left off as if nothing happened. That’s like negating the person’s feelings. It won’t take efforts to overcome the emotional cheating very far.
Second chances exist so that people will give and get them, so here are some tips to help you forgive and survive emotional cheating, and for preventing it from happening in the present or in the future:
1. Start with figuring out what caused the emotional cheating to begin with. This kind of cheating is about emotional voids and the need to have them filled, so if you’re the one being emotionally cheated on, be ready to accept that you may have not been meeting your significant other’s emotional needs.
2. Communication is the foundation of solid relationships. Learn to listen to hear, not to defend. Use “I” statements to convey how you feel. They’re an excellent communication tool because they’re not accusatory, so they don’t place people on the defensive, which makes them more apt to listen.
I feel (however it is you feel) when you (the act that caused you to feel that way) because (whatever the reason is). What I really need is (state the actions you need your significant other to take).
It should look like this:
I feel unprotected and abandoned, when my concerns are blown off, because it makes me believe that I don’t matter to you anymore. I would really appreciate it if you’d take my concerns seriously.
Remember, if you’re not willing to listen someone else is. Make your significant other want to come to you, not run away from you. Don’t accuse, so he has to defend. Listen to hear.
3. Work on understanding where your significant other is coming from without getting offended, or passing judgment. Paraphrase what he’s saying to you so that he’ll know that you’re listening. Also, paraphrasing gives people an opportunity to clarify what they really meant to say.
NOTE: Parroting is not paraphrasing.
Parroting is regurgitating what he says word for word.
Paraphrasing is telling him what you understood him to have said (i.e., If I’m hearing you correctly what you’re saying is XY and Z).
4. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a therapist or a marriage/relationship coach. Forgiveness after a betrayal isn’t easy, but you have to let things go in order for your relationship to survive. A therapist or marriage/relationship coach can guide you toward solutions that’ll help mend the broken trust and get you, as a couple, back on track.
5. Be clear about your expectations and about what constitutes betrayal for you.
6. This one is for the one who emotionally cheated: Validate your spouse or partner. You chose to violate her trust. It takes time to heal. She needs to know that you understand how your actions affected her. So, validate her, and don’t rush the process. Give her time to grieve and heal, and be there for her, so that when she’s ready to rebuild she can see you as someone worth rebuilding with.
Last but not least, and I hope this will not be the case:
6. In the event that your significant other isn’t interested in salvaging your relationship, love you first and let him go. What belongs to you will always find its way back to you, and what doesn’t find its way back to, was never yours, to begin with.
If you enjoyed this post or have some additional tips on surviving emotional cheating, I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment.
Until next week.
Much love and peace,