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Emotional Affairs: Cheating Or Not?

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You be the judge.

emotional affair couple flirting

Jodi Bryson: I cheated once in my life on my boyfriend of nine years. And you know what? It was worth it.

I'm not in the minority on that opinion. Cheating happens. And there are levels of cheating. The arguments are not black-and-white about what is cheating and what is not cheating. Sleeping with, kissing, and otherwise touching another man? That's cheating.

But some "affairs" aren't as discernible. What would you call trading heated Facebook messages to a guy who you think is e-sexy? Whether or not that's cheating depends on you, your man, and...your other man. Collective reasoning says if it's cheating for one of you, then it is for all of you.

But what about a fantasy? Brad, George, Johnny, Clive, and Terrance Howard aside, most of us have had an emotional affair. That elusive crush somewhere in the past who you knew or didn't know? That guy? He had your intimate attention. That's an emotional affair.

Likewise, who among us hasn't been preoccupied with a guy friend but we didn't go there for myriad reasons, the least of which (or most of which) because you were already involved with someone else?

This story talks about how to recover from an emotional breakup. The idea that we invest emotionally into an extra-curricular someone or something takes energy from the place where we should be directing our attention, and it is more gray area.

Love or lust, affairs take away from a partnership. It's like a game with two teams: the relationship you're in and the relationship you want. No matter how vested you are emotionally or physically, it's one relationship against the other, and one person has three roles: player, witness, referee. Not many people have that much emotional bandwidth. Eventually, someone's letting someone else go. Depending on the level of discreet, the end burns a hole through two--and maybe three--broken hearts.

I'm sure some of the details of my affair are similar to many women's tales of rationalized scandal. I loved both guys, but only one would be with me long-term. It was year six of my relationship and I couldn't not cheat. Or better stated, I couldn't not be with the other guy.

It's not the sexual implications that will keep me from cheating again. I won't cheat because it's wrong. And yes, it was so draining. I thought about that guy sexually for nearly three years before we made things officially dishonest. That desire was profound, and I'm no Jane Austen. But I was exhausted with guilt and, prior to my indiscretion, there was no improvement in my relationship with my boyfriend for holding back.

Whether or not the physical boundary is crossed, it's the trust that's compromised. Trust has a slow recovery time.

It's been years since I slept with the other guy, but there are times when I'm doing something mindless, like washing the dishes or driving in commuter traffic, and I will think about him, and then I think about my ex. What made the affair worth is I finally knew what it meant to be with him, and I could let go of wanting him. I didn't marry either of them, of course.

Have you emotionally cheated? Do you think your man is emotionally cheating? We'd love to hear your story.


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21 comments so far | Post a comment now
Honey February 24, 2010, 6:55 AM

By law you are only guilty of a crime once you commit it. People are not convicted for just thinking about committing a crime. Fantasies are just that, thoughts. If you don’t actually physically touch or have sex with someone else IT’S NOT CHEATING! Get over it people. You are not the thought police!


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