Jane and Steve have been married for five eventful years. The first three years were mostly blissful but not without spurts of disagreements and mild tiffs. They have, however, been fighting a lot lately. But here’s the rub, most of their fights have gone unresolved. They have swept them under the rug and allowed resentment to take the better of them.
“Why don’t we go see a counselor?” Steve once suggested, but Jane would hear none of that. Frustrated at their festering marriage, Steve seems to have thrown in the towel and he now rarely talks to his wife. He feels trapped in the humdrum of their lifeless marriage.
Jane, on the other hand, has found a shoulder to lean on in Dave, her coworker. He too is knee-deep in a troubled marriage. He listens intently as she rants about their fights. He doesn’t judge her and he sometimes calls during the weekends to check in on her. Jane wishes Steve had half the patience and gentleness that Dave exudes. She finds herself thinking about Dave often, even wondering how life would be if she had married him.
Simply put, Jane and Dave are emotionally cheating.
What is emotional cheating?
Emotional cheating is a close (often secretive) intimate relationship with someone other than your spouse. It is different from a normal, healthy friendship because it negatively impacts your relationship with your spouse. It erodes commitment to a marriage or courtship by deflecting one partner’s attention and offering them an alternative emotional support system.
Many people shrug off emotional cheating as harmless. “We are not sexually intimate, so what the big deal?” An emotionally cheating spouse may opine. The Bible teaches that when a man and woman get married, they become one flesh.
The Bible further instructs that no man should separate what God has joined together (Genesis 19:5-6). An emotionally cheating spouse has disobeyed this scripture by allowing another man/woman to separate their marriage emotionally.
So, you are married alright, but you have this “special” friend of the opposite sex who tickles your fancy. They get you when no one else does, your spouse included. They laugh heartily at your jokes and always have a compliment or two for you whenever you meet. What’s more? They never forget your birthday, they even send gifts.
Check out these 8 warning signs you are emotionally cheating:
1. You hide your conversations with the other person from your spouse.
Would you be mortified if your spouse took a peek at your texts, DMs, or emails with this other person? Do you delete the conversations lest your spouse stumbles upon them? Would your relationship with your spouse keel over if they caught wind of your chats? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you are treading the murky waters of emotional cheating.
2. You refer to the other person fondly.
It’s common knowledge that some endearing terms are exclusive to lovers, in this case, your spouse. Enchanting terms such as babe, baby, sweetheart, honey, boo, sugar, and others are for your special someone. If you relish this other person so much that you don’t hesitate to lavish these terms on them, that’s a red flag fluttering right there. It shows that the lines are getting blurred in this relationship.
3. You feel sexually attracted to the other person
Is some chemistry brewing between you and the other person? Do they disarm you every time you meet? Perhaps they make your heart race, your knees knock, and your voice tremble. If you are nursing sexual feelings towards this other person you are emotionally hooked to, then you are courting trouble. Big trouble.
4. You stack the other person up against your spouse.
Unbeknownst to your spouse, this other person is in cutthroat competition with them. Perhaps your spouse talks to you while attending to their phone, a stark contrast to your special friend who gives you their full attention. Or maybe your spouse rarely compliments your appearance but this other person always remarks how great you look and smell. From where you sit, your spouse pales in comparison to them. Comparing your spouse to this other “friend” is a sign of emotional cheating.
5. You feel disconnected from your partner.
As aforementioned, emotional cheating erodes your devotion to your spouse. You are, after all, getting emotional support from a different source. Your spouse ceases being your go-to person and the other party takes over. The rift between you and your spouse rapidly widens and you get increasingly detached from them.
6. You rant to the other person after fighting with your spouse.
It’s perfectly normal for couples to fight. But if you have the unhealthy habit of seeking solace from your special friend whenever you lock horns with your spouse, then that’s a problem. Sharing your marital tussles behind your spouse’s back is violating their trust. Needless to say, you are shooting your marriage in the foot.
7. You get nervous and defensive while talking about the other person.
Let’s say an uneasy feeling starts gnawing on your spouse about your relationship with this other person. They ask if you have talked to them lately. This makes you as jumpy as popcorn and you fumble out an unintelligible answer. You even break out in a sweat. Your spouse hasn’t accused you of anything but you get all defensive. The writing is on the wall – you are cheating emotionally.
8. You feel detached from your spouse during sex.
Admittedly, there is a myriad of factors that impinge on the sexual health of a couple. But among them is when one of the partners is cheating emotionally. People want to be sexually intimate with their spouse they are emotionally connected to. An emotionally cheating spouse may dodge sex entirely or engage in it halfheartedly. They may seem unusually detached during intimacy and seem to be holding back. That’s because their heart has trailed off elsewhere.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Effects of emotional cheating:
Emotional cheating often starts with an innocent and seemingly harmless friendship with a member of the opposite sex that then spirals out of control. The offending partner begins to have their emotional needs met by this other (special) person who is not their spouse.
When they catch wind of it, the offended spouse feels betrayed, lied to, deceived, and stabbed in the back. Relationship experts state that emotional cheating is a stepping stone to sexual infidelity. It should, therefore, not be shrugged off as harmless; it’s a ticking time bomb.
How to Steer Clear of Emotional Cheating:
1. Guard your heart.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Emotional cheating starts in the heart. It happens when you allow your heart to get enthralled by someone other than your spouse. So guard your heart diligently because the vitality of your marriage is hinged on the state of your heart.
2. Don’t belittle sin.
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
“It’s just a harmless text!” or “I just feel so much better when I offload my worries on her.” An emotionally cheating spouse will often downplay their wrong actions. The scripture above shows that sin is progressive. It may start with a mere email followed by physical meetings and before long, you may be smack dab in full-blown sexual infidelity.
“Can a man take fire to his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27).
3. Stipulate healthy boundaries in your marriage.
Boundaries provide acceptable limits within which spouses interact both with each other and with others. Healthy boundaries in marriage allow each spouse to thrive as an independent person while at the same time remaining intimately bound to their life partner. They help protect a marriage, aid in conflict resolution, and create a sense of security.
Where relationships with people of the opposite sex are concerned, here are some boundaries you could enlist:
Don’t do or say anything that you can’t repeat in the presence of your spouse.
Do not share with others issues relating to the marriage unless by mutual consent.
Alert your spouse when any member of the opposite sex expresses unusual interest in you.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Makidotvn
Keren Kanyago is a freelance writer for hire and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, the Christian Faith, and an assortment of other lifestyle topics. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. You can shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org