Emotional cheating. It’s a taboo subject that no one likes to talk about.
Some believe it’s not “real cheating,” others believe it holds more significance than physical cheating.
Whatever your opinion the matter, emotional cheating is a fuzzy issue and when it happens in a relationship it can be very hard to place the blame.
Now I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for saying this, but let’s be real, most of us will eventually emotionally cheat on our partners at some point in our lives.
It’s a reality that most relationships cannot escape- but is the reality actually that bad? Can a long-term relationship actually happily sustain monogamy for years and years without a wandering eye? Or is the societal belief that monogamy comes first at all costs so strong that we consider anything outside of this to be a betrayal?
For the past 6 months I’ve been coaching one of my besties through a very difficult time in her relationship. She started dating her boyfriend in university and they’re now faced with the
age-old question millennial dilemma of can this work in the real world?
My friend is intelligent, charismatic, ambitious, successful, bubbly, and gorgeous. Men have been drawn to her for as long as I’ve known her. And while she has always loved the attention of other men, she never engaged in this attention until her relationship started having problems.
She has now had (what I would consider) emotional relationships with two men since she started having problems with her boyfriend, and while this behaviour has had many negative consequences, I have actually seen a lot of good come out of it as well.
Occasionally texting, flirting, and talking with new and interesting men has given her a small taste of what it would be like to be single and dating. As someone who has been in the same relationship for 5 years, she has never experienced dating as an adult. Having these connections with other men has taught her a lot about herself and what she wants from a relationship without throwing away 5 years with someone she loves.
Because here’s the catch: just because someone is emotionally cheating doesn’t mean they don’t love the partner they are with. It disrespectful? Yes. Can it hurt your partner? Yes. Can it create even more problems in your relationship? Yes.
But whether you’ve been with your partner for 5 years or for 25 years, questioning the status of your relationship is just part of life. And in many cases having an emotional affair with someone else can actually bring you back to a positive place with your partner, which is exactly what happened with my friend.
Because of these connections with other men, my bestie has actually realized that her boyfriend is the person she wants to be with and that their relationship is worth fighting for. (And no, she is not still talking to these men or any new men.)
Now, I am in no way saying that emotional cheating, or cheating in general, is okay. Participating in any behaviour that you know would hurt your partner is selfish and should be reason to re-evaluate your happiness.
However, cheating is complicated and the reasons people engage in emotional cheating vary from person-to-person.
As a generation that grew up with so much choice and endless options, it’s challenging enough for us to commit to an Insta filter let alone a life-long partner. Sometimes we need to make mistakes to find out what we really want.
And anyone who says that you shouldn’t have to explore other options to be sure about your partner is being naive. Not everyone has to explore other options, but some people might feel like they do.
Our emotions are not black and white. Being in love doesn’t mean you’ll never be attracted to anyone else ever again. It’s human nature to wonder what if. We shouldn’t judge anyone for the journey they need to take to figure out what a happy relationship means to them.