You’re laying in bed and your phone goes off – you have a text, and as you see that name pop up on the screen, your stomach does a little belly flop and your heart starts beating like you just popped an adderall. You send a response, smiling. Then you glance nervously at your partner, sleeping next to you in the bed. Ouch.
Emotional cheating is a gray area of infidelity. It can be hard to determine if you’re crushing on someone or just excited to make a new friend, but what is really dangerous about emotional infidelity is that it’s easy to deny – not only to your partner, but even worse, to yourself. Emotional cheating is based solely on Feelings with a capital F, and those pesky little suckers are much easier to hide than coming home with a rogue hickey or waking up in your ex’s bed to a hangover and a bevy of “where are you?!?” texts.
Some people think emotional cheating is not big deal, or not a thing, but it shares many common factors with physical cheating: it’s a breach in trust, and it often occurs when there is a problem in your primary relationship you’re unable or unwilling to address. Instead of working out your shit together, you look elsewhere for comfort, connection and those serotonin-inducing, electrifying brain pulses that accompany new infatuation. I mean, who doesn’t love a good old fashioned I-think-I-might-joy-vomit crush? Brings me right back to high school, braces and all.
One of the most difficult things about emotional affairs is that they’re often hard to identify. When feelings aren’t acted upon, it can be hard to tell if your “friendship” could be considered infidelity. Even worse, it can be hard to determine if your partner is having an emotional affair. I mean, who are they snapchatting all day anyway? Jealousy can turn even the most level-headed person into a hydra.
If you think you might be having an emotional affair, but you aren’t sure, then ask yourself how your partner would feel if they knew about your emotional ties to someone else. How would they feel if they read your emails, or texts. If you think they would genuinely be hurt and—be honest with yourself here—for good reason, then you may be in the wrong. If your partner is important to you, then back off from the harmful relationship and focus more attention on your primary one. Or, maybe just pay attention to why you’re seeking outside attention and connection – is it time to end your main thing?
Have you ever had an emotional affair? In high school I found out my boyfriend was “cheating” on me with a girl on MySpace. Yeah, remember Myspace?
I originally wrote this post for iEatGrass.com.