When I was younger, I thought of cheating as a very black and white act. It seemed to me that there was a clear line between faithful and unfaithful partners, and that line was crossed when inappropriate physical contact was made. But as I've gotten older, I've realized cheating isn't just a kiss that shouldn't have happened; it's anything that betrays your partner's trust and boundaries. Committing emotional infidelity is just as painful as physically cheating on someone, and more people are guilty of doing it than you'd think.
Seth Meyers Psy.D. defined emotional infidelity as "the behavior that one partner engages in which fosters emotional intimacy in the here-and-now with someone else, and sometimes promotes the possibility of sexual intimacy in the future" in Psychology Today. That definition is pretty vague, and ambiguity is a big part of emotional cheating; whether or not an act crosses a line depends on the boundaries you and your partner set up in your relationship. Many people don't know they're emotionally cheating when they do it, as some of the actions might seem innocent, but it's still a very common issue: 35 percent of wives and 45 percent of husbands will have an emotional affair at some point in their lives, according to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, as reported by Health Research Funding.
If you're starting to wonder if your coffee dates with a pal aren't as innocent as you once thought, read on for seven signs that you might have emotionally cheated.
1. You've Kept Plans With Someone Else From Your Partner
Feeling the need to keep a meet up with your "friend" from your partner (for a reason besides planning a surprise party for them) could be a sign of emotional infidelity. If it was truly an innocent hang out, you could tell your partner without worry. The secrecy indicates something isn't right.
2. You've Flirted Online With People Outside Of Your Relationship
There are all kinds of ways to emotionally cheat online, whether it's by sliding into someone's DMs or writing texts you wouldn't want your partner to see. Social media doesn't cause emotional cheating, but it does make it easier to do, as Michael Aaron, Ph.D., explains to Romper via email. "It's always been omnipresent, but certainly social media makes any kind of communication faster and more accessible, especially between people who don't have strong social ties otherwise," says Aaron. If you send someone a message you wouldn't want your partner to see, maybe consider why you're sending messages like that at all.
3. You've Kept Your Partner A Secret From Others
Why wouldn't you want a friend to know about your partner? A significant other is typically an integral part of your life, and not wanting to tell a friend you're dating someone might mean you want them to think you're available.
4. You Went To Someone Else For Emotional Intimacy
Intimacy is one of the top distinguishing characteristics of a romantic relationship as compared to platonic relationships, and it doesn't just come from sex. If you've started thinking of someone outside your relationship as your go-to person for emotional support over your partner, you might have a problem.
5. You Complained To Someone You're Attracted To About Your Partner
Everyone has to vent about their partner's annoying habits sometimes, but airing your concerns to someone you're attracted to and then comparing your partner to them is problematic. You're betraying your partner's trust by sharing private details about your relationship to someone you might have impure motivations towards.
6. You Felt More Excited To Spend Time With Someone Else Than Your Partner
The fantasy of wanting what you can't have is pretty common, and people can often be feeling desire for the forbidden when they emotionally cheat. As Michael J Formica M.S., M.A., Ed.M. explained to Psychology Today, "the constancy of a lover-at-a-distance can turn that person into a drug." Because talking to someone constantly doesn't make you feel as guilty as sexually cheating would, you can trick yourself into thinking the butterflies you get when you see this person aren't really all that bad.
7. You've Told A "Friend" About The Sexual Fantasies You Have About Them
Whether you're telling them in person, sexting, or writing a love note, confessing your sexual attraction to someone who isn't your significant other is a major no-no.
If, that is, you want to actually stay with your significant other and have a healthy relationship. But if you're committing emotional infidelity, you might want to ask yourself if that's really the case anymore.