Cheating, infidelity, adultery. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not big and it’s not clever, and you don’t even need to physically have sex with someone other than your partner for your behaviour to be classed as cheating, by some metrics.
We’ve previously discussed the prevalence of micro-cheating, but what about emotional cheating? You may have already heard of both terms and believe them to be one and the same, but there are some differences to look out for.
So, what is emotional cheating and what are the signs? Read on to find out.
What is emotional cheating?
Samantha Jayne, Australia’s leading relationship expert, told DMARGE that emotional cheating is “a form of infidelity where the boundaries of the relationship are overstepped. It’s when a person is sharing intimacy on an emotional level with someone outside of their romantic relationship.”
In essence, you seek out an emotional connection that you’re not getting from your main relationship, something you would expect all committed relationships to have.
Samantha adds that emotional cheating “might seem like it’s innocent, after all, it’s not physical but just mental, but the reality is there can be serious consequences.”
And, while it has been suggested women are more likely to cheat than men, it’s still unclear which sex is more likely to emotionally cheat on their partner.
MindBodyGreen builds upon this by saying, “It’s one person making a unilateral decision to cultivate nonsexual intimacy with someone other than their primary romantic partner in a way that weakens or undermines the relationship.”
For some people who are aware of this fact, they may think about going down the route of an ethical non-monogamous relationship, wherein one person may have multiple partners, but all partners are aware of the relationships and all are in agreement. An ENM relationship may be formed if someone is sexually satisfied with a partner, but doesn’t get the emotional connection and so seeks out just this aspect of a relationship with someone else.
Why is emotional cheating problematic?
Mainly, because it’s cheating. But to explain further, Samantha tells DMARGE, “the foundation of a good relationship goes beyond physical, particularly after the honeymoon period is over. Going outside of the relationship means the foundations are rocky and the relationship is at risk of breakdown.”
How do I spot emotional cheating?
Emotional cheating isn’t always so easy to spot, in a similar vein to micro-cheating. The New York Post cites American woman Rachel Gebelein as being emotionally cheated on by her partner. At six-months pregnant with their second child, her partner started going away more regularly, and he eventually admitted to having an affair with another woman.
But what Rachel said was worse, wasn’t the fact he’d had sexual relations with another woman, but it was that “she found email exchanges between the two, in which they referred to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend and noted that ‘fate had brought them together.'”
It’s this kind of language, usually conducted in secrecy, that makes someone an emotional cheater. SiriusXM podcaster Megyn Kelly has also recently touched on the subject of emotional cheating, saying “I’d much rather [my husband] have a one-night stand with a woman than sit and cry with her.”
Kelly’s podcast show guest, Canadian professor Gad Saad, added women “get more triggered and more angry and more jealous by emotional infidelity rather than sexual infidelity.”
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine found himself in the headlines recently as well, for sending flirtatious messages – pretty shit flirtatious messages, we might add – to women other than his wife. While he insisted he hadn’t formed any real relationship with any of the women, nor had he slept with any of them, he did admit he’d done wrong.
I used poor judgment in speaking with anyone other than my wife in ANY kind of flirtatious manner. I did not have an affair, nevertheless, I crossed the line during a regrettable period of my life.Adam Levine
Samantha also tells DMARGE, “signs your partner is emotionally cheating is that they talk less with you, and the calls and messages stop. They stop sharing news, they close their eyes all the time during sex, they have difficulty maintaining eye contact and they just seem so distant.”
“There is a feeling you get when someone is emotionally cheating and it all comes down to feeling empty, alone and frustrated.”
Am I emotionally cheating on my partner?
But, this is if you want to find out if your partner is emotionally cheating on you. What about signs to look out for to self-diagnose yourself as a potential emotional cheater?
The most obvious is, as Mind Body Green states, “is to tune in to how you feel.”
“Does this outside person temporarily relieve a sense of loneliness but leave you feeling lonelier in the long run? Is your closeness with them something you crave – like a sugar fix – that comes with a lingering sense of guilt when you get home to your significant other?”
Indeed, Samantha expands upon this further, saying “If you are feeling like something is missing in your relationship where you don’t feel heard, or validated or you can’t talk about simple pleasures such as dreams or hard times, then you are missing emotional intimacy.”
“Sometimes it’s because you’ve just grown apart and stuck in a rut, you need to get back to what you love about each other, get out and date, and reconnect. If you are more playful you’ll start to reconnect and bring back the emotional intimacy.”
“The signs that you’re emotionally cheating can be easy to pick out. Maybe you’re thinking or fantasising about someone outside of your relationship frequently. If you hear exciting news or sad news, or anything that brings up emotions your partner should be the one you share things with first, if you are going elsewhere it is a sign you are emotionally cheating. You need to look at why?”
Healthline lists some other signs to look out for that could indicate either you are an emotional cheater, or that your partner is emotionally cheating on you. They include:
- spend more time talking to (or thinking about) the other person than your partner
- avoid mentioning them to your partner
- know they’re attracted to you
- notice physical signs of chemistry around them
- feel less physically or emotionally attracted to your partner
- share frustration or dissatisfaction with your relationship with them
- wish your partner could be more like them
- avoid open communication with your partner
Samantha adds “emotionally cheating may be done out of pure loneliness. If you feel lonely in your relationship and you go outside of your relationship for validation, it’s a sign you’re emotionally cheating.”
“Emotionally cheating can even happen during sex when you close your eyes and imagine someone else. Women are often guilty of this too. It’s better to connect with eye contact and be present rather than live in fantasy land.”
Emotional cheating vs micro-cheating: What’s the difference?
As we said earlier, you may think emotional cheating and micro-cheating are pretty much the same thing. And, while they do share many similarities, there are some key differences – although, Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, reckons “micro-cheating doesn’t exist,” when he spoke to Bustle.
Emotional cheating sees one person of a couple seek an emotional connection with someone else, to an extent where they will avoid talking about deep topics with their main partner. They’ll instead divulge their true feelings to the person they’re emotionally cheating with.
Micro-cheating, meanwhile, is carried out through smaller actions, but actions that still indicate you’re romantically interested in someone else. In today’s world of social media, micro-cheating is commonly carried out by regularly liking someone else’s Instagram posts or sparking up conversations online and lying about your relationship status.
But micro-cheating could even be as trivial as wondering what it would be like to have a certain someone else as your partner. Just the very fact you had the though could be grounds to be deemed a micro-cheater, some (arguably the neurotic, but that’s a story for another day) may say.
However, the type of cheating and the extent to which you pursue it could all depend on the boundaries you and your partner set, and what you both consider to be loyal or disloyal. Some partners may be perfectly fine with their other half liking another girl’s Instagram posts. But, subsequently, she wouldn’t be happy if her partner had a late-night Tinder swiping session.
RELATED: Liking Your Insta-Crush’s Photos: What It Means
As is the case with any trouble in paradise, no matter how big or small, the best way to navigate it is through open, honest communication with your partner. If something is missing in the relationship, such as an emotional connection, then be upfront with your partner.
You can then use this time either talk through problems and hopefully come to a resolution. Or, in the worst case, the relationship comes to an end, but it’s at least ended on good terms rather than finding the other has cheated.
Remember, emotionally available men are attractive. F**kbois are out.