When an “innocent” friendship causes problems in a love relationship, it’s emotional cheating. This description of emotional cheating includes tips from psychologists and marriage counselors.
Emotional cheating can be difficult to wrap your mind around. It’s not a physical affair; it’s a meeting of the mind and heart — which is why it’s called an “affair of the heart.” It’s an intimate friendship with someone of the opposite sex – not your partner.
Emotional infidelity doesn’t necessarily break spoken vows, create unwanted pregnancies, or spread physical illness. It’s an intimate friendship that crosses boundaries.
If you know your spouse cheated – or if you cheated on your partner – read After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful.
Intimate friendships cause serious problems in love relationships, and can be as devastating to a marriage or partnership as physical unfaithfulness — if not more so. Determining the difference between harmless flirting versus cheating is important to a healthy relationship, and can strengthen your relationship or marriage.
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, and they definitely don’t help you achieve your marriage goals!
Internet relationships are more and more popular since everyone’s wired up. Emotional cheating now begins in chat rooms, forums, or discussion groups…and evolves into private conversations and emotional infidelity.
“Innocent” Friendships Online
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 online 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’re wondering if your husband is cheating – emotionally or physically – read Is Your Husband Cheating? 5 Signs of an Affair.
Are Women More Likely to Have an Emotional Affair?
Women are usually the ones who push the relationship further. Women want relationships to move from friendship to love, from computer to reality. Women tend to get more emotionally involved and are more emotionally invested than men. Men, on the other hand, see the online relationships or emotional infidelity as part of their lives – a nice part, but just one part. Women envision soul mates or life partners; men are just having fun and connecting with other people.
Some marriage counselors say that emotional cheating is more difficult to survive than physical infidelity.
If your boyfriend isn’t just cheating emotionally, read Is Your Boyfriend Emotionally Abusive? 4 Ways to Get Strong and Leave.
6 Signs of Emotional Cheating
An affair of the heart happens when you:
- Discuss your partner and relationships with your innocent 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! And, work on achieving your relationship goals together.
And, sometimes it helps to learn why good relationships go bad.
Don’t forget what brought you together in the first place. “It’s so easy,” says marriage counselor Gary Neuman, “to forget why we fell in love.”
Have you had an innocent friendship with a member of the opposite sex that caused problems in your relationship? I welcome your comments below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.