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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Emotional cheating?

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Author Topic: Emotional cheating?
pinkskies
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Did a search and it didn't come up with much on emotional cheating. Is this something other people think about? What does emotional cheating mean to you?

For instance, with my current boyfriend (the same one as the last time I posted two years ago!), I wonder whether he would consider some things emotional cheating that my ex wouldn't have considered such?

What's clear is that we all need several people in our lives - to talk to, exchange with, go out with, and spend our time with. But what kind of emotional stuff would you consider only for your partner(s) and not for others?

Personally, I'm not comfortable talking about my sex life in detail with other people than my boyfriend - because I wouldn't want him doing so either, and I don't think it's helpful. I also am not comfortable saying much more than 'all is good' or 'we're having a rough couple of days' because, likewise, I don't find it constructive. I'd rather talk to him personally about it and sit down and find some solutions.

But, I do have friends with whom I share things that I don't, or rarely share with my boyfriend - e.g. fiction or acticles which haven't yet been published but later will be, perhaps in some obscure journal, and not necessarily shared with my boyfriend. And yet there's a heck of a lot which I share with my boyfriend that I don't share with anyone else and he knows and 'accepts' (I think!) that I have this relationship with a couple of friends.

One friend, notably, is someone I've now known for around 6 years, who I met at a (literary) conference and have kept in touch with ever since, seeing each other sporadically when we can. And although in this case, there is a mutual attraction, we both respect each other's lives and our conversations don't disintegrate into talking about our partners, even if they perhaps touch on spiritual or important emotional issues. For me, as long as nothing physical happens, and we don't just communicate when things go wrong (which we don't, not at all), then for me this is okay. Perhaps for others it wouldn't be okay, and perhaps others wouldn't even bother thinking about it?

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Heather
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I've never even heard that term.

Here's the thing: people can't control their feelings, only their actions. So, even the idea of "emotional cheating" strikes me as very problematic, because when people use the term cheating around relationships, they usually mean someone taking actions which are outside the defined boundaries or limits of the relationship.

Certainly, those limits can and usually do include disclosing certain things which one partner feels are very private and doesn't want to have shared with others. If and when a partner betrayed a confidence, though, that'd be an action about disclosure, not "emotional," you know?

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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pinkskies
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I wasn't sure how to put it, I was chatting with a female friend about this last night, and I found the idea interesting - personally I do think emotional cheating/ betraying confidence exists and that it can be more damaging than your partner having sex with someone else, or being naked with them, or whatever other physical activity.

I agree the idea is problematic - it's not so clear as 'cheating' which generally means sleeping with someone else, but I do think it exists. What do you think about disclosing things not about the other partner yet about yourself? I have quite a few friends who are artists - poets, visual artists, musicians. And often they cannot share their work with their partner, or do not feel comfortable doing so, choosing someone else, which can create problems such as jealousy or misunderstanding. Or they share their work only once published and in the public space and sometimes their partner finds it difficult not to leave their work alone. I imagine, however, that these kinds of issues exist for other people too, and maybe it's something people struggle with sometimes?

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Heather
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I'm having a tough time answering your question because I feel like you're asking for an answer that's universal rather than individual.

In other words, I think all of what you're asking about is going to tend to vary from person to person and relationship to relationship. It's not like any of this is going to be all true or not true for everyone or for every relationship, you know?

For instance, if you're saying that for you, your partner talking about your sex life to others would be more hurtful than them having a sexual relationship with someone else, I believe you when you say that's true for you. At the same time, I'm sure any of us can think of many people who feel the opposite, or feel that sharing both of those things is acceptable or that sharing neither of them is. And all of those variances may or may not vary for individuals through all their relationships.

As well, if you're asking if it's okay for any given partner to not be someone a person shares absolutely everything with, I don't think that's automatically problematic. I'd also say that very few people in the world ever meet and know anyone with whom they share absolutely everything, so I think that expectation can be a bit unrealistic.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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pinkskies
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I guess I was interested in knowing what emotional cheating means to other people because considering my relationship with my friend who I've known for years and my relationship with my boyfriend, I realise that for some people this might be considered emotional cheating, but for me it's not (and I certainly don't have the expectation that one person can suffice for everything). Yet other people may wonder how you can carry on a relationship like that whilst still being with someone else, which I sometimes wonder. And I know that my ex, for example, thought very differently about this than my current partner. I know it's not the same for everyone, it's very individual, but I would be interested to know about other people's experiences and thoughts on the topic - what does emotional cheating/ betraying confidence mean to them?

This all came about through talking to a recently-married friend actually, and her saying how being married (and for her, committed in a different way) has changed her relationships.

Perhaps I didn't express myself very well - I don't think my partner talking about our sex life would necessarily be more harmful than him sleeping with someone else, but rather perhaps emotionally commiting too much to someone else, would be more harmful than say, ending up with a colleague and having a one-night stand.

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Heather
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It might be best, then, that I leave this thread for others to contribute to.

Because personally, something about that term just really doesn't work for me, but then I feel the same way about "cheating" as a term in general.

Certainly, if there were things I had disclosed to or shared with a certain partner that I asked to be kept private, and they were not, I'd feel my trust was betrayed by that person and be upset by that. To me, that's not cheating, it's betraying my trust and it wouldn't be okay with me. In terms of having relationships with others that ask a lot of them emotionally or which they are very invested in, it's hard for me to say because frankly, given what I do for my living right here, and also given that I have deep relationships with several people in my life I'd have a hard time putting into some kind of hierarchy, if anyone was going to be the person in a relationship I'm in seen as committing too much to others, that'd probably be me.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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pinkskies
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I'm with you 100% on the term cheating, perhaps betrayl is a better way to say it: emotional betrayl?

Well, you know, I guess what I find difficult in some ways, is that I'm not sure if my partner entirely accepts what I commit to others - and that is something potentially problematic. And then there's this one person in particular with whom, well, there's a very strong link (and always has been, since we met - it is almost as if we had already known each other), despite only seeing each other sporadically, and it having been a while since we last saw each other (a couple of years), but we will probably meet again soon, and I'm not too sure how I feel about that.

What is between my partner and I remains between us, yet some things/ aspects of myself I feel like I share with others, and sometimes I wonder if it is too much, in this case with the writing, and the friend in question, who has become some sort of an editor figure throughout these important years.

My ex, however, for example, spread himself quite clearly amongst other people emotionally, something I didn't regard as betrayl, and do not, because again, the creative aspect (he was a musician) and other things mean that for me it was normal.

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Karybu
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Hey, pinkskies, hope it's okay if I weigh in here with a few thoughts.

It seems to me that maybe the issue here is that your partner expects your relationship with him to take care of all your emotional needs, for him to be the only person you need or want to share anything with. Ultimately, that's really not at all realistic, not for anyone, and so the problem isn't with your behaviour or anyone else's, but his expectations. No one can be happy and healthy with only one interpersonal relationship - far from it - and making a romantic partner your whole world that way is likely to result in a lot of unhappiness, because everyone needs many relationships and KINDS of relationships to thrive.

Unfortunately, this whole idea of "emotional cheating" seems pretty common with young people lately, and it sounds like your partner is buying into the notion that a romantic relationship is all you need. I do not see a problem with anything you're doing; from what you've said, you have a close friendship that's very important to you, no more or less important than your relationship with your boyfriend, perhaps, just different, one that fills different needs for you. That's not abnormal in any way, that's HEALTHY. Having other relationships outside of the one with your boyfriend is a good thing, not a bad thing. If you share some things with a friend that you don't feel right sharing as deeply (or at all) with your boyfriend, that's not betrayal, or cheating, or anything along those lines. It's the way - in my opinion - relationships are supposed to work, the way life is supposed to be.

Does that all make sense?

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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pinkskies
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Hi Karybu,

thanks for your response. Just to clarify, the mention of emotional cheating hasn't been brought up by my boyfriend, never, only I have been increasingly wondering about that one other relationship in particular and what meeting my friend again will bring.

I feel peculiar about it, excited but peculiar. There has always been a strange attraction and understanding between us but in some ways we felt like it would ruin things. I'm almost scared of spending more time with this person - there was a time when we talked about going on holiday together, going hiking, for a week or so, a tent our only other company. I made excuses not to go - I didn't know how I'd manage so much time just us without things changing. I just wonder what seeing this person again will stir in me and I do really care about him - I'm happy for him to live his life as he wishes - but I care about him immensely, always have done, and I'm not sure what seeing him again will do. Who knows, maybe I'll be disappointed? (I think sometimes I would like to be - it would be easier.)

And when I met his family, for instance, they seemed to realise it was important for us. Likewise, when he met my family, everyone noticed. I felt embarassed and I'd feel embarassed if my partner saw me with him. This person is not my partner, but what is he?! He's not just a friend either. I don't wonder about my relationships with other people like this, but with this one person, I do. Perhaps because he has been that editor figure for me (and me for him - he also writes and publishes), the figure no-one else has ever really filled for me, and that means it's quite special.

Whereas my ex openly had relationships like this with other people, meaning I felt quite normal about it, and also I didn't care about my ex as much as I do about my current boyfriend, my current boyfriend does not (as far as I know) have these kinds of relationships with someone else, and I'm not sure he'd understand.

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Ketrel
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I've heard someone talking about emotional cheating before, and from what I gathered, they defined it as being in a relationship while having feelings for someone else.

All I know is when I heard their definition, it really pissed me off as it struck me as just a way to control someone by attempting to make them feel guilty for how they feel, even when they don't act on anything.

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Britster
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I think it can include actively fostering emotional intimacy greater than that within the relationship to the detriment of the relationship: for example, a husband who instead of talking to his wife, goes to another woman to talk to about feelings very close to himself. It's not an affair, but it can definitely damage his relationship with his wife.

I don't think that it is comparable to sexually cheating because couples can make definite boundaries whereas emotions are a lot more slippery and difficult to control. Instead of trying to make emotional boundaries for what each partner can or can't do, it's better if each person were to foster better communication and openness in the relationship.

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pinkskies
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Britster and Ketrel, thanks for your input! Perhaps, as you say, so long as you don't physically act on it, all is fine. I think the fact that my boyfriend doesn't have these kinds of relationships with other women, whereas I do, is perhaps what makes it feel different. And as to the openness and better communication - so long as it's not written stuff (or things I will publish) I am very open with him and him with me. But for me, this part of my life, for the moment, has to stay outside the relationship with my partner. Perhaps in the future that will change, I don't know.
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Destinee Carols
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Pinkskies, I was in a situation like this not too long ago in my previous relationship (which ended about four months ago).

Let me give a bit of background...I had/have a friend (I'll call him V) whom I met in grade seven and with whom I hung out briefly. In grade eight we didn't much talk...in grade nine, we hung out again, which meant mostly talking in school and emailing outside of school. In grade ten again communication dropped - and I met the person who would become my boyfriend.

My bf-to-be was two years older than me, and I was 15, so the relationship was never official but we might as well have been dating. In grade 11 though, fickle as I am, the relationship dissolved into "just friends" and I began to be romantically interested in V. We never dated, however...and come grade 12, communication dropped once again, I realized I had feelings for my sort-of ex, and resumed that. We officially became a couple the summer after I graduated.

Thing is, in my freshman year I picked up my friendship with V again and we IMed each other almost all the time, for hours on end, talking about everything and nothing. Important things, stupid things, silly things...and relationship things, because he had never stopped liking me, and I didn't really dislike him. I never told my bf about the depth of the relationship with V, partially because I felt like I was cheating emotionally, and because as the year progressed, I began to like V romantically again. I never acted on it...but we talked about it a lot, how it was conflicting, and difficult, but I told him - and myself - that I was committed to my bf and would never cheat on him or dump him to hook up with V.

However, ultimately, either because of the striking difference between my convos with V and my convos with my bf (the latter were lacking in depth and we never spoke of much), I realized that my relationship with my bf wasn't working out. Not long after V told me that he no longer liked me romantically, and this, I think, was the catalyst to my finally breaking up with my bf.

And then for a while I kept acting in a very affectionate manner towards V, which now I realize were probably more than platonic and me rebounding without making it an actual relationship, until we purposely stopped talking for two weeks (a bad time for me, since he and my ex had been the only two people I spoke to regularly, excessively), and then after the two weeks...we're done again. He's no longer talking to me. And I have a new bf.

This was horribly long-winded but my point was that I believe I had been emotionally cheating in a sense, though I hadn't done so deliberately and with a mindset of "my bf doesn't fulfill x so I will look for it elsewhere". It wasn't so much betrayal of trust...it was just that V was my best friend, and my ex no longer was... I don't know which came first, whether it was because my relationship with my ex had already been lacking, or because my relationship with V took over.

Either way, I think emotional cheating is a real issue.

And on a side note, I'm mildly concerned at the moment. My relationship with V to this date has been very consistently year-on, year-off, and this seems to be the year off. I worry about next year...

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pinkskies
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Destinee Carols,

Thanks for your message. For me it is a similar thing I think, except this time I am still in the relationship, and well, I'm not sure what to do about seeing this person. I understand you worrying about next year too.

One thing I have been thinking recently though, is that love is supposed to be liberating, to be given to all people, in different ways, and that by choosing to limit our affection to one person, we are choosing dependance and NOT love. I think there is a distinction between the two. Love for me is increasingly becoming close to an idea of final liberty, the greatest liberty - loving others for their choices, for what they do in their lives, and not who they are in relation to us or how much time they spend with us. That isn't, for me, love.

However now I wonder what my relationship is, and I also wonder why we need to say 'I love you' so much to people, as if it was some shampoo or necklace that we have to put on daily, as if saying it proves its existence - but in fact it doesn't show love, it shows dependance, something society sells us with the idea that one-sexuality (male-female) is the accepted thing, that marriage is to be held up as an ideal, that sex is only good if there's a baby at the end and all of that kind of stuff.

Personally I think I will meet my friend if we're both in the same place next time I am there. I think I need to see him - to reassure myself that I am going mad or to make some kind of a decision perhaps, even if it is just one to spend more time together (something I would really like to do but am hesitant to do because of my boyfriend).

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Heather
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quote:
love is supposed to be liberating, to be given to all people, in different ways, and that by choosing to limit our affection to one person, we are choosing dependance and NOT love. I think there is a distinction between the two. Love for me is increasingly becoming close to an idea of final liberty, the greatest liberty - loving others for their choices, for what they do in their lives, and not who they are in relation to us or how much time they spend with us.
I think you absolutely hit the nail on the head here.

I apologize if I was a little dense when you first posted this. I got very tripped up by the words you were using, not realizing that what you appeared to be asking about was (I think!) this idea of being emotionally monogamous or exclusive which, in pretty much every framing of healthy relationships I know of, would be considered unhealthy.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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