If you were asked to define infidelity, how would you describe it? While some people might use a straightforward description like, “having a sexual relationship with someone other than your long-term partner,” it’s not always that easy to define in reality. That’s because infidelity doesn’t have to be a physical thing—it can also be emotional.

An emotional affair is often defined as a relationship between an individual and someone other than their partner that affects the intimacy, emotional distance, and balance of the marriage or long-term relationship. Some examples of emotional cheating might include:

  • Messaging an ex on Facebook
  • Sending flirty text messages to a friend or co-worker
  • Meeting for a lunch date
  • Relying on your “friend” more than your partner for emotional support

Emotional Cheating: Damage Comes from the Deception

Of course, not all of the examples above automatically point to an emotional affair. If you know that it stresses out your partner when you complain about work, you might turn to a friend to vent. Or you might meet up with a friend for lunch simply because you want to catch up – not because you’re romantically attracted to them.

These things only become an emotional affair for two primary reasons:

  1. The emotional energy you’re investing in this one person is taking away from the emotional energy you’re investing in your partner.
  2. You’re keeping information about your relationship with this friend secret from your partner.

In many cases, the damage caused by an affair isn’t about the act of infidelity, it’s about the deception. The partner who has been emotionally cheated on feels betrayed and may have trouble trusting their partner again.

An emotional affair doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end of a relationship, but it does take work to recover. The partner doing the emotional cheating has to stop, which can lead to feelings of confusion, guilt, and grief, and the person who has been cheated on has to be able to fully forgive their partner.

If you and your significant other are struggling to move past any kind of infidelity, you may want to meet with the Houston relationship counselor. I’ve met with many couples who have worked to overcome infidelity, and I’d be happy to provide a safe space for you and your partner to talk honestly to one another.