Relationships and marriage are not always the fairytales they are made out to be. They are hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. Each comes with its own set of challenges, and neither is free of complications. Struggles over financial issues, miscommunication and discord, conflicting values, and pressure from external sources can overwhelm a relationship and test its endurance. Cheating and affairs are struggles that are, by nature, more difficult than others to overcome. When hearing these words, many believe them to refer to physical or sexual relationships with someone outside of the marriage or partnership. Cheating, though, is not limited to the purely physical.
What is emotional cheating?
Think of the ways in which you communicate to the person you love. Do you hug them? Do kind things for them? Praise or encourage, even if it is not needed? The ways in which you show affection to your significant other may seem appropriate enough to share with others. For example, you may find yourself connecting to a parent in the same ways you connect with your spouse, through spending quality time together. Hazards quickly arise if no boundaries are placed on who receives this kind of affection and attention from one or both partners.
Emotional cheating does not rely on physical contact. It is a giving and receiving of affection from someone other than your significant others in ways only that person should connect with you. Your spouse should be the only one allowed into the most intimate parts of your life. If you are letting another person touch those places of your heart and being, you may be toeing the line of emotional infidelity.
There are different kinds of emotional cheating
Emotional cheating does not always look the same. Some share their dreams and desires. Others share their heartache and regrets. Some connect with someone in ways they have never been able to connect with a partner. No couple is perfect; there will be details missed and innermost places that are overlooked. Emotional infidelity takes place when one allows someone else to fill that void. If you are unable to connect with your partner and turn to another to share your life events with, you may be engaged in unfaithfulness. It is not unusual for couples to seek connection outside of the partnership, but when others have taken the place of knowing your secrets, you may find your significant other on the outside looking in.
Emotional cheating has serious repercussions
There are conflicting studies as to which type of infidelity is more harmful to a relationship. Some report physical contact with another person is something a spouse or partner will never forget and both parties suffer equally. Others have indicated that emotional infidelity is more difficult to overcome; an emotional connection between two people who are not actively engaged in an open relationship can be detrimental to those relationships which already exist. With emotional cheating comes distrust, decreased communication and physical contact, and hindered closeness.
Preventing emotional infidelity
Knowing the impact that emotional infidelity can have, have you considered how you can prevent it in your own relationship? There are several precautionary measures a person can take to ensure their relationship is protected from this kind of cheating. First, be open and honest with your partner at all times! Even if you feel it is silly to say who it is that called or who messaged you on Facebook, be willing to talk about it with your spouse or partner. Be mindful of controlling and abusive behaviors, but know that dishonesty and hiding information has no place in a healthy relationship. Second, be mindful of who takes up most of your time. Do you find yourself spending too much time with someone who is not your spouse and are beginning to feel a deeper connection? Stop and think about it! Reverse the roles and consider how you might interpret that kind of behavior were it your spouse engaged in an outside relationship. And third, create and stick to boundaries.
There is nothing wrong or “old-school” about creating boundaries with others. Friends the same sex as your significant other can gradually become someone more significant if you let it happen. So take steps now to consider how far is too far; talk it over with your spouse or partner to refine or determine appropriate boundaries.
Affairs happen; some are worse than others. Many will never experience the temptation to emotionally cheat; some may never experience the pain of being on the receiving end of cheating. Prevention is your best protection – if you find yourself creeping closer to the edge of your boundary, take a big step back and reevaluate those things which are important to you. You can go too far, but it is never too late to ask for forgiveness and start anew.