Am I really cheating if I’m not even having sex?
Relationships have many components, and yes, sex is one of them, but there are others. Friendship, childrearing, joint interests such as traveling, music, cooking . . . for every couple, they are different and each piece of the puzzle has its importance, but together, they make up a whole.
One major piece is emotional intimacy. And for most, not just women as is often assumed, emotional intimacy is critical to making the puzzle whole, and especially to fostering a healthy and mutually fulfilling sexual relationship.
For most of us, the emotional connection comes first. We become friends before we are sexually intimate. We share common interests. If we are in a committed relationship, especially a marriage or long-term partnership, we are likely emotionally intimate (or we want to be).
What does it mean to cheat emotionally? According to Psychology Today, this is when one partner is emotionally intimate, and in close friendship with someone outside the relationship. They may aslo be intimating future sexual intimacy. In many cases these are secret or semi-secret friendships where there is obvious mutual physical attraction. Others simply encourage the friendship to boost their ego or to distract themselves from issues with a current partner.
An emotional affair is when one partner is secretly channeling emotional energy, time, and attention into someone other than their partner.
An emotional affair is when one partner is secretly channeling emotional energy, time, and attention into someone other than their partner. And, although not necessary to make it cheating, says Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth, the affair is particularly damaging when the long-term partner actually begins to notice this and feel neglected.
Think about this: You’re in contact with someone new or from your past. You like each other and feel good together, you like talking to him or her and exchanging intimate, funny e-mails or texts. You joke, you flirt, and you find yourself dressing nicer when you know you’ll see each other. You meet for coffee or lunch. The problem? You’re not married and your spouse or significant other doesn’t know. Whether you are Facebook friends or coworkers or friends from the gym, is this truly an innocent friendship, or the beginning of the end of your marriage? And if there’s no sex, can you really call it infidelity? Yes, you can. It’s emotional infidelity.
The big deal is the abuse of trust. Sex is not the main issue, it is the lying and deception.
What’s the big deal you ask, if there’s no sex? The big deal is the abuse of trust. Sex is not the main issue, it is the lying and deception. Often, people recover from sexual infidelity more readily than when they are deceived. Getting over a sexual fling may take work, but it can be done. Finding out your partner’s been sharing themselves emotionally with someone else, and not with you, raises a big red flag. What else can’t I trust? Emotional cheating is about breaking trust in many areas of your relationship, not about having sex with someone else.
How would you feel if you knew your spouse did this? If you get a sick knot in your stomach, there’s your answer. That’s the big deal. It’s not about sex, and you need to take a look at your relationship. What’s missing? And what can you do to fix it? If that’s what you want. But don’t go elsewhere. It’s a betrayal.
How can you tell if you are in an emotional affair? Ask yourself these questions: What am I doing or talking about with this person? Are they things I don’t do or talk about with my spouse? Am I hiding? Am I rearranging my day and to spend time with this person? If any of these are issues, you are getting yourself into an emotional affair. The question is, why? You are in a committed relationship with someone else. What’s missing there?
As a society, we believe that cheating is sex with someone other than our partner. We also place a disproportionately higher value on the sexual component of relationships than on the emotional. And, that’s why it is so easy to deny emotional affairs. Because there’s no sex. I believe we miss the value of an emotionally intimate, deeply satisfying, personal relationship based on trust and years of growing together, knowing each other’s intimate dreams, hurts, and desires.
The trust that comes with emotional vulnerability is unparalleled. Break that trust and you have absolutely been unfaithful to your partner.
These are significant pieces of the relationship puzzle. The trust that comes with emotional vulnerability is unparalleled. Break that trust and you have absolutely been unfaithful to your partner. And, I know for me, it’s not easy to have sexual intimacy without emotional intimacy.
Emotional affairs escalate incrementally, and this is why they canseem innocent until it’s too late. They start with casual chats, then maybe lunch or even a drink after work. Soon, you’re keeping secrets, you are talking with your friend about your marriage, and you are sharing in a deeply personal way. You are emotionally entangled with someone other than your spouse.
An emotional affair doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage, but it is a red flag. I would imagine there is discord at home if you are looking elsewhere to meet your emotional needs. Do the repair with your partner whether it be therapy, a workshop, reading a self-help book, or even just talking about your feelings. And, do it before things get too far, and cut ties with this other person.
Maybe your marriage is over, and this is your subconscious’ way of telling you. Or, maybe you and your partner need a chance to reconnect and find each other again. Relationships are dynamic and need work. This may be your wake up call. Pay attention. You may be surprised at what you find, and at how rekindled and wonderful your marriage is after this misstep. Because that’s all it has to be.
You might also like these from The Good Men Project:
|.. In Modern Relationships, We Cheat Every Single Day||Compliments Men Would Love to Hear More Often||.10 Things Good Men Should Never Do in a Relationship||It’s Not Just Sex That He is Longing For. It’s This|
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You might also like these other articles by Jenny Kanevsky
Men Don’t Cheat, Cheater’s Cheat
Avoiding Temptation, How Not to Cheat
Stock photo ID:1127685263
My wife has a “friendship” with a man she met on Instagram. He lives in England and we are here in the States so there is no fear of anything physical but he has been helping her with some marital issues that we have been having. I for one do not feel comfortable with this friendship as she is hanging on his every praise and looks at me like chopped liver and scorns any praise I give her. I told her I did not approve of this friendship as cheating never starts in the bedroom, it always begins with conversation.… Read more »
I found this article 8 weeks too late!! I had a suspicion that something was going on with my partner and their new “buddy”, but by the time I pieced it all together She had abandoned me to see if the grass was greener on the other side.
I have been physically cheated on before and was able to cope with that situation pretty well, but this has knocked the wind out of me. If they needed something different from me all they needed to do was ask.
My husband is having an emotional affair. I am beyond broken about it.He refuses to talk about it.We went to counseling once, but he pulled the plug on it because it wasn’t going his way. In fact counseling seemed to make things worse. I am scared to go again because he will yank the rug out from under me again. I am a stretched thin working mother who is so soul tired and physically not well, so on one hand, I see why he does it, but he wants his needs met, while I get mine demeaned and negated. Don’t… Read more »
My wife works with a single guy that she has been work friends with for years. We have drifted very far apart over the last few years. I found some of the texts she has sending him and it is obvious from the texts that she is jealous of another woman work friend he has, as well as of other women he texts. She also calls the friendship he has with the female work friend a “triangle”. She also tells him that she would care for him more than the female work friend ever could. Would you agree that that… Read more »
My husband had an emotional affair. Then I had an affair. He found out and divorced me. He says what he did wasn’t as bad as what I did. He is now with that person. He said I was jealous and insecure of their “friendship.” They would meet for coffee when I went to work. It was devesating. He said he didn’t lie to me he just never told me. I’m struggling to move on. Emotional affairs are devastating. When talking to people they say emotional affairs can be worse than physical. He is now so angry with me he… Read more »
So, men are not allowed to have or talk to female friends?
That is not what I got out of this article.
“The big deal is the abuse of trust. Sex is not the main issue, it is the lying and deception.”
“How would you feel if you knew your spouse did this?”
Most of the articles I have seen on this topic center on the secrecy. Men in committed relationships should not conceal relationships with others from their partner. I would expect this to include other men as well.
I been struggling with the same issue. My husband has been wanting to be in an open relationship. I agreed at first, thinking it will only be one night stands, so simply physical. Then I decided I really didn’t want an open relationship. he went on and cheated on me and lied to me. worse enough, he didn’t even used protection, and I have told him, regardless, in life, if he ever cheats or if we are open to take care of me that way, and he didn’t. I went into a bad depression, he tried to kick me out… Read more »
This is awful, get out of this.he obviously is selfish and doesn’t care for your emotions and you are allowing it. You will just continue to feel worse. I hope you are strong enough to break away, nor he cares for a family.
My ex cheated on me when I was pregnant with our second child and left with her, she too is 8 years younger. We were together 13 years. I cried every day it was horrible, he worked late and was too cheating then blamed it on me because I wasn’t supportive of him-? It was a nightmare.
Jenny, AWESOME article! I caught my spouse having an emotional affair a year ago. She ended it and we moved on. Now she has a new job and has been away in training for a month and I get calls from her every night after she has been to the bar (with other guys). It is driving me insane. I want to trust her, but she can’t understand my frustration and anger and how I could feel betrayed. I thought I had let it go and moved on, but a year later all that pain and feeling of betrayal and… Read more »
Thanks, Amerie. I don’t know about talking about it with your partner, I think that’s situation based. If you are a person with many opposite sex friends, you might need to, to establish boundaries. Early in a relationship, presumably, you are focused on each other. But, if you’ve been single awhile and/or have an opposite sex close friend, it may need to be addressed. It if your new partner feels threatened or jealous, then that’s an issue. Or if you notice you are saving parts of yourself for your “friend” I’d say that’s an issue. My two cents.
Thanks for writing this, Jenny. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot. This is one of the better articles I’ve read, along with the one on emotional cheating from ModernRomantix.com (don’t know if you’ve read that one, but it’s pretty good). Question: Do you talk about it with your partner early in the relationship, since it’s kind of a nebulous concept?