Is An Emotional Affair Considered Cheating?

Intense & time-consuming- do emotional affairs classify as cheating? While most therapists, sex & relationship experts agree, it might not always be the case.

First and foremost it is imperative to establish the ‘definition’ of an emotional affair, otherwise known as emotional infidelity.

“An emotional affair is when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage but also receives emotional support and companionship from the new relationship.”

Moreover, in an emotional affair, the person feels closer to the other party than they do to their monogamous partner and may experience a constant increase in chemistry and sexual tension.

Differentiating between emotional affairs & platonic friendships

The fundamental difference between the two is that an emotional affair is kept a secret. A platonic friendship can evolve into an emotional affair when the investment of intimate information increases from what is considered ‘normal’ by the married couple. While platonic friendships, be definition, are harmless, emotional affairs, on the contrary, are gateways to total collateral damage of a marriage (in most cases) that must remain closed.

Another key difference is that people involved in an emotional affair often feel a sexual attraction for one another over time. However, it is not necessary that this tension is addressed between the two, although both people feel it.

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Gail Saltz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell School of Medicine has outlined a few signs that indicate that you have crossed the line from a platonic friendship into an emotional affair-

  1. You spend a lot of emotional energy on the person. “You end up sharing stuff that you don’t even share with your partner — hopes and dreams, things that would actually connect you to your partner.”
  2. You dress up for that person.
  3. You make a point to find ways to spend time together, and that time becomes very important to you.
  4. You’d feel guilty if your partner saw you together; you are doing things and saying things that you would never do or say in front of your spouse.
  5. You share your feelings of marital dissatisfaction.
  6. You’re keeping secret the amount of time you’re spending with the person (including emailing, calling, texting).
  7. You start to feel dependent on the emotional high that comes with the relationship.
  8. Anticipating alone time or communication with your friend.

Is it really cheating?

Most sex and marriage experts believe- subsequently suggest- that there is no common ground, meaning- to give your marriage a chance, you just have to end the emotional affair. However, that may not always be the case.

Many couples today discuss and agree on their mutual definition of cheating. This can be done by beginning to ask each other this question: ‘how do you define cheating?’ – be as specific as possible. Discuss boundaries and the consequences of cheating. Although emotional affairs are widely considered cheating by most people, however, if you and your partner have established a mutual definition for yourselves which does not classify emotional affairs as cheating then for you it isn’t an act of infidelity.

We aren’t programmed to desire all attention from only one single partner for a lifetime, nor is our partner built to fulfil our every waking desire. Thus if you and your partner both feel that some harmless flirting and friendships with the opposite sex is all healthy and totally normal, then it’s totally acceptable for you.

On the contrary, however, if an emotional affair is bringing total collateral damage to the monogamous relationship then it is imperative for both partners to address it and to explore its roots. Instead of playing the blame game, identify the contributing factors to this conflict from both sides. Communication, as always is KEY.

It takes a lot of personal investment in another person, time and energy that would otherwise be spent on and with your partner, therefore, in simple terms, emotional affairs do classify as cheating by definition, however, the issue is far more complex and varies from relationship to relationship.

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