Emotional cheating isn’t always easy to define. Usually, emotional cheating occurs when one partner finds a degree of intimacy, companionship and fulfillment outside of their relationship in a way that defies the nature or agreements of their commitments to the other person.
Often, emotional affairs begin as friendships or even innocent crushes before developing into a sore spot of your love life, so it can be hard to tell if you really are emotionally cheating.
Of course, you can’t expect your partner to provide every emotional need in your life. That’s not fair to them, and it’s unhealthy for you. It’s important to have close friendships and avenues to engage in activities or conversations that your partner might not provide the best support for. In many cases, this can help you have a better relationship with your partner by alleviating pressure you both may feel to be each other’s everything.
Boundaries are important, though. Where you draw the line is personal to you, your relationship and the standards you set together. However, there are some universal signs that you may be pulling away and emotionally cheating.
Being honest and open about close friendships with your partner is often a given, because you care about one another and want to know about each other’s personal lives. But sharing about harmless crushes or people you find attractive can also be very healthy!
Often, sharing things like small crushes with each other in a relationship can create an environment of honesty and trust, resulting in both parties feeling more secure and stable.
If you once engaged in this practice, but have begun to withhold things, ask yourself why. Is it because this friendship or crush no longer feels innocent and harmless?
Sharing various levels of intimacy across your social circle is a great practice to make sure you feel connected with the people in your life, and are getting all of your needs met emotionally. However, you might be at risk of emotional cheating if every emotional need your partner isn’t meeting is being instead met by one specific person.
It is totally alright to have a close best friend or confidant — someone you tell everything to. But when there’s too much crossover — perhaps a best friendship, plus a crush, plus a level of attraction — it may be worth examining if this relationship is actually the primary emotional provider of your life rather than your partner.
When you think about emotional cheating, does one specific person come to mind?
Firstly, your partner should never be going through your personal property without permission. If they regularly snoop in your things in a way that makes you uncomfortable, it’s totally understandable that you may feel the desire to hide your things in order to maintain your personal privacy, and that’s on them, not you.
But if you turn your screen away from harmless glances, flip your phone face down when your partner comes near or delete text messages and emails so that your partner won’t see, you might be looking at a problem.
Digital communication is a prime avenue for emotional infidelity. If you constantly feel like your digital footprint is somehow incriminating, the truth is that it might be.
While they don’t have to be at the forefront of your mind at all times, if you actively try to keep them out of your thoughts or conversations when you’re with other people, it might be a good idea to ask yourself why you feel that way.
Do they stress you out? Do you wish they weren’t a part of your daily life? Would you rather have someone else on your mind? Are you trying to come off as possibly single around specific people?
It’s always important to give your attention to the person you’re with and let the conversation flow naturally, as this lays a foundation of respect for healthy communication. But if you try not to think about your partner or mention them around certain people, there might be an unconscious reason for that.
If, after some reflection, you don’t think you’re emotionally cheating, remember that you never need to feel guilty about having friends and close relationships outside of your romantic relationship. Friendships — and sometimes even crushes — are a healthy part of life. Building a support system that includes your partner rather than making your partner your entire support system is key.
If you’ve determined that you are emotionally cheating, there isn’t a set path of exact actions to take — it depends on what is best for you and your relationship. It could be beneficial to think about what in your relationship led you to need that emotional intimacy from someone else, which can help you address the issue head-on.
However you choose to solve the problem, coming to terms with your behavior is often the hardest part. Now you can think about the needs of both yourself and your partner in order to move forward.