Cheating breaks down trust, pretty much the stilts to any healthy relationship. You can have the love, the good times, but without that trust to hold it up, the romance is bound to collapse. But while most assume cheating to come in the form of a mistakenly drunken one night stand or a full-blown affair that your partner walks in on, there’s a whole other version of cheating that doesn’t even involve touching. Emotional cheating is having all those same feelings and thoughts with another person, just without the physical aspect. It can be a really close friendship that oversteps its boundaries into something a little too intimate, or maybe a colleague or a classmate you get too cozy with. Either way it’s a platonic relationship that doesn’t quite feel platonic.
Maybe you’re thinking a little office flirtation is completely harmless, but take it from me (a girl who knows), those butterflies you get could breed something far bigger. My two instances of emotional cheating (both from ex-boyfriends which spelled trouble to begin with) started off as casual conversations, but quickly turned into consistent texts, late night phone calls, and hang out sessions soaked in sexual tension. I went from being over my ex to gaining hardcore feelings for him again that just weakened the romantic tingles I had for the person I was dating—costing me a relationship. Emotional cheating often leads to physical cheating, and I learned that the hard way as friendly coffee meet-ups became guilt-ridden hookups.
Given I’ve done this emotionally cheating thing twice to myself already, I figured, third time being the charm (and hopefully the learning curve), I can recognize the situation and stop it before getting sucked back into a relationship death trap. So here’s my expert list of what to beware of and how to avoid the damage:
Beware of the Booty Call Hours
Texting and calling between the hours of say, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. are pretty standard for most friendships. But a Facebook message at 2 a.m. really is more appropriate/normal for a hook up. How to fix it? Turn off your phone and other gadgets when getting ready for bed so as not to be distracted (or tempted) in the wee hours of the night. Plus a little off-screen time will help you relax and tune out the constant buzz of the outside world as you fall asleep, guaranteeing a much more peaceful rest.
If you find yourself talking to the cute guy from work almost as much as you talk to your best friend, it’s best to put a limit on how much you chat. A “Hey, what’s up?” text every week is okay, but every day (or every hour) starts to feel on the level of a boyfriend.
To avoid the dilemma, you could be the person who just never texts back or gets back four hours later. Or when getting that “Hey, what’s up?” text keep the conversation simple and short, and say what you are doing and even how you are super busy and it would be better to catch up later. A few times of brief text conversations will definitely give the cute co-worker the hint that drawn-out, frequent text conversations just aren’t going to happen.
Keep your romantic quarrels to yourself
While confiding in your friend about the romantic hiccups you and your current beau are having is totally understandable, does it really make much sense to tell the guy you’ve recently been acquainted with? You have to take a step back and examine the motive. Are you looking for relationship advice or for him to imply what a non-fussy boyfriend he would be?
If you have a bump in the road with your partner, communicate with him first about it, and your close friends and family, but never the guy who really isn’t (and shouldn’t be) involved.
Hang out in large groups, not just you two
Just ban alone time. Get together with groups of friends for happy hour, and at parties or other social functions divide your time between friends—don’t get swept up in conversation with him all night and end up on the back patio for hours alone. Decline coffee or dinner invites unless you feel strong enough to give yourself a set time limit with the other person, stick to that time frame, and not go anywhere outside of a public setting for the cup of coffee or meal.
While keeping your distance is the best chosen path to avoid a potential emotional affair, if those thoughts and fantasies are driving you out-of-your-mind wild and staying in control is becoming impossible—reexamine your relationship. Decide who you want, and if your desires are sliding more outside of your relationship, then maybe you’re not as ready as you thought for a solid commitment and should break it off before damage is done. But if you decide the one you’re with is “the One,” then it might be best to break off the friendship instead. The choice is never that easy, but being straightforward with yourself simplifies your love life instead of having the chaos love triangles bring.
Have you ever dealt with emotional cheating?
Photo: rekre89 via Flickr