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Emotional Cheating vs Friendship – How To Identify and Deal With Emotional Infidelity?

by Sonya Schwartz

Did you know that human beings start to understand the concept of friendship as early as nine months old? This concept is therefore essential for our social wellbeing as humans. Likewise, you may have heard the phrase ‘whoever finds a friend, finds a treasure’, but when you find yourself in romantic friendships, how many treasures can you find and keep? 

In my opinion, the complexities of human relationships sometimes blur out the lines - especially when romance and emotions get involved. Most relationships start out as friendships, and so I can clearly see why it becomes a big deal for some partners when their other half suddenly forms a new friendship with a member of the opposite sex. 

I’m all for making new friends, but for someone with an existing romantic partner, the critical question here is ‘how far should this new friendship go?’ So what exactly does cheating entail? While some people think that cheating is only about having sexual relations with someone else outside your relationship, others believe emotional cheating is equally unacceptable. 

This article will explore emotional cheating vs friendship and when an external bond becomes a threat to the tie between you and your significant other.

Emotional Infidelity vs ‘Just Friends’

Friendship, in its purest form, is a mutual bond between two people or more who share similar ideas and values as well as feelings of respect, fondness, love and concern. This also qualifies as a relationship, but it does not include sexual relations. 

It’s easy to have a personal relationship with a friend, and even though you might differ in some aspects, you mostly share common values. The truth about friendships is that it is not void of emotional energy, in that it takes effort to maintain. 

Friendships have stages, and someone can move from being a friend to becoming a good friend and then a best friend. Friendships are also continually changing, and so the steps can be in reverse. Also, a bond with one person might be different from another person, and that speaks to the fluidity of friendships. 

Ideally, you might have different friends at the same stage but go to them for different things. Most people believe that one person cannot be everything to another, and so it’s okay to have more than one friend. By nature, we are social beings, and so it is reasonable to want to socialize and build relationships. 

Now let’s take a closer look at what happens when deeper emotions get involved and end up taking centre stage.

1. When Are Friends No Longer ‘Just Friends’?

Before tackling this question, let’s explore the dynamics of a romantic relationship and what it entails. The traditional romantic relationship involves two consenting individuals who are in love with each other. 

Ideally, both of them should have spent enough time with each other to know they want to be together and engage in certain activities to show for it. Some of these activities include constant communication, spending plenty social time together, and sexual relations.

I’m sure you’d agree that most of the time, the primary factor that separates a romantic relationship from a friendship is the sexual relationship that exists. When it comes to emotional infidelity, you might not explicitly engage in sexual activities with the other person but instead you engage in other activities that take your heartfelt focus away from your existing romantic partner. 

So, what are the obvious signs I hear you ask? Well, these include spending excessive amounts of time together, whether physically or through text messages, social media or phone calls. Other subtle gestures include flirting, encouraging sexual comments, and entertaining compliments from them. 

It’s not a surprise that the most talked-about apparent differences between emotional infidelity and friendship are about secrecy and sexual activity. From the relationship definition above, a spouse or boyfriend is someone you talk to about everything in your life. By this logic, your romantic partner should typically know about your friendships. 

The minute you have to hide who you are hanging out with from your romantic partner, then that is no longer a friendship. Secrecy should not exist in your romantic relationship since it can breed distrust and a sense of betrayal.

2. How To Identify An Emotional Affair

Let’s be honest, sometimes when in a relationship, you do not notice that you’re losing focus from your partner. Some argue that saying you’re ‘just good friends’ with someone might be a cover-up for something else. They also say that there might be an addiction to the other person, and you will be putting your relationship at risk. 

Even though a friendship requires some amount of emotional intimacy, it should not be beyond the point where you begin to ignore your partner. There are some warning signs that you can use to check whether you or your partner might be engaging in mental infidelity. Here are a few of them:

  • Withdrawal is one of those warning signs that are not hard to miss. When you or your partner are withdrawing from each other, you do not want to spend time together as usual. You will notice a distance between you two, and things will no longer be as romantic as it once was.
  • You find yourself or your partner wanting to do thoughtful things for the ‘friend’ which you would not do with each other. Getting gifts for a friend is usually normal, but when you become more excited about it than your partner, then it’s a problem.
  • When there is a ‘psychological love affair’ going on, you will notice you fight more with your partner. Even if it does not turn into a full-blown fight, you will be irritated a lot by the things they do. You will look for all the things they are doing wrong to fight with them over, which will not usually happen

3. How To Protect Your Relationship From Emotional Affairs.

Excuses aside, human emotions are quite challenging to predict and control, but there is a part that everybody can play in securing their relationship. Communication is a key factor that must be present and in my opinion, comprehension should also be present so that whatever is being communicated is understood. Also, you can find other ways to spice up your relationship so that it does not get boring. 

Honesty should be held in high esteem to prevent the likelihood of emotional affairs occurring. Not only must you be honest with your partner but also with yourself. This means you would have to come clean about what makes you emotionally connected to another person. Once you do this, you have taken the first steps to find a solution to your problem. 

Above all, it is best to establish boundaries when it comes to friendships. There are some things you should reserve for your partner alone to set that relationship apart from others. These tips reduce the chances of cheating, but you must note that dishonesty is a choice that you can make. It comes with consequences that you must be ready to deal with if you choose that route. 

4. What To Do When Your Partner Is Being emotionally unfaithful

So, you know for sure that you (or your partner) is having an emotional affair with a ‘friend’, what is the next step? Emotional cheating, just like sexual cheating, may or may not be the end of the relationship. It depends on how you and your partner deal with the situation. If you both can look past it, then great but know that it will take time for whoever was cheated on to regain trust. 

This means that it might take a long time for the relationship to get back to normal, and you should be ready to deal with that. It will take a lot of communication with each other to build reassurance that psychological betrayal does not happen again. 

If necessary, you may have to cut off the friend for the healing process to be more straightforward. Otherwise, set clear boundaries with this friend to protect your existing partnership. The scenario I have just talked about is the best case. In the worst case, your relationship might end if whoever was cheated on considers it as a deal-breaker.

FAQs 

What Is An Emotional Friendship?

An emotional friendship is a relationship where there is an investment of time, energy, and emotion into a bond. In this case, things that your friend does affect you, and you seek their opinion on issues that are important to you. Emotional friendships are not unusual or necessarily wrong because it takes that investment to maintain them.

You may also be interested in: 3 Easy Ways to Find Out If He's Cheating On You

What Defines Emotional Cheating?

Emotional cheating is when you invest more emotion, time, and attention to a friend or someone other than your partner. People consider this type of infidelity as equally hurtful because it breeds distrust and disloyalty, and the person being cheated on feels betrayed.

Do Emotional Affairs Last?

Emotions can be tricky, and while some come and go, others linger for a while. The emotions that lead to affairs can be defined as a powerful rush that usually does not last forever. However, if nurtured, it can definitely go on for a very long time. How long a psychological love affair will last will depend on the individuals involved and whether or not they want it to.

What Are The Signs Of Emotional Infidelity?

Apart from the warning signs mentioned above, here are other things to look out for if you suspect an emotional affair is going on:
- Overthinking about the other person
- Comparing the other person to your partner
- Talking more to the other person than your partner (even about issues in your relationship)
- Believing that the other person gets you
- Choosing the other person over your usual activities with your partner

What Is Emotional Betrayal?

Emotional betrayal is another way of describing mental infidelity or emotional affair where one person in the relationship invests more emotion into an external person. The person being cheated one might feel a sense of betrayal, which can hurt the bond.

In Summary...

Unfaithfulness, whether physical or emotional, is never a good idea, and the tips in this article can help you monitor yourself and your partner. What do you think about this information and how useful has it been to you? Share your thoughts in the comments section and also share the information with your friends if you find it helpful.

You may also be interested in: 3 Easy Ways to Find Out If He's Cheating On You

Sonya Schwartz
A hopeless romantic that struggled for many years to find her Mr "Right" and made all the mistakes you could think of while dating. Known for always choosing the wrong guys or messing up relationships, Sonya was finally able to change her approach and mindset when it came to dating which helped her eventually find the man of her dreams and become happily married. You can read more about me here...

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