Emotional Cheating – Is It Really Cheating?
Let’s be honest here
The answer to What constitutes cheating varies from person to person and from relationship to relationship. In the traditional sense, cheating is becoming physical with someone other than the boy or girl you’re actually in a relationship with. But over the years, there’s been debate about emotional cheating and whether or not it’s worse than a physical affair.
Emotional cheating has been defined as an affair of the heart. It’s the kind of relationship that is sparked by a connection, is fueled by chemistry and is kept alive by fantasies, inside jokes and secret text messages. Think Rose in Titanic before that iconic car scene with Jack. Think Sari in The Mistress before she took that road trip with JD.
There’s tension, interest and entertainment, but there isn’t always intent. Emotional affairs happen even if you don’t look for them, but they only happen when nurtured. They begin when you walk past your office crush and take a moment to chat with him or her. They start when you say good morning without actually having something to say. They initiate when you dance around the idea of dinner and drinks. They develop when your phone vibrates and you hide the notification from your SO.
But the question remains: Is this affair of the heart still considered cheating when flesh doesn’t touch?
The quick and simple answer? Yes, having an emotional affair is cheating – but we all know reality is far from simple and that the real answer is far more complicated.
According to Dr. Gail Saltz, a professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell School of Medicine, there are certain boundaries you shouldn’t cross. And if you do, this is when red flags begin to pop up.
Spending a lot of emotional energy on a person, for example, is one thing to watch out for, especially if you’re sharing things with him or her that you don’t reveal to your SO. A few others are if you find yourself dressing up for them, if you’re going out of your way to see them and if you’ve become dependent on the emotional high that they give you.
And if these aren’t clear enough, it all boils down to the feeling. If you’re consciously hiding exchanges and meet-ups because you know it would hurt the one you’re technically in a real relationship with, there’s no longer any gray area. If you aren’t sharing these exchanges and meet-ups with your SO, then there’s no room for doubt. If you would feel guilty about being seen sharing a meal, what are you even questioning?
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The line between platonic friendships and romantic relationships is not a blurry one, though polls suggest that more and more people are losing sight of this. Emotional infidelity is a real thing that some consider even more harmful than a physical affair. It’s not just a question about consciously reaching out for even the most subtle touches; it’s about giving some real part of yourself to someone else and finding ways to fill the gaps of your relationship with someone outside of it. And—honestly—if you’re looking elsewhere, why bother even staying put?