These days, conveniences like email, texting and social media have made it easier than ever to connect with others. But for people who are married or are in committed relationships, it also means innocent communication can slip into flirting or emotional cheating– a betrayal even if there’s no physical contact involved. So where is the line between harmless chatting and harmful cheating? We asked Sheri Meyers Psy.D, liscenced Marriage and Family Therapist and author of “Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love and Affair-Proof Your Relationship.”
GalTime: What is “Emotional Sex?”
Sheri Meyers Psy.D: Emotional sex is an affair of the heart that feels the same as romantic love and can manifest itself in numerous ways—physically, romantically, emotionally, lustfully, verbally, or virtually. Once emotional sex kicks in, fantasy takes over. The brain chemicals activated in emotional sex create the illusion that a “perfect love” exists and “destiny” is knocking. Emotional sex is an insidious form of infidelity that frequently occurs between two people who at first call themselves ‘just friends.’
GT: Who is more likely to get involved in this type of relationship?
SM: Women tend to have emotional affairs. Men tend to have physical and cyber affairs. Having an affair is usually a symptom of an underlying problem in the relationship. Often we feel like something is missing and we may consciously or unconsciously seek that something in someone else.
GT: How do these situations start? When does it cross the line between chatting and cheating?
SM: Emotional sex usually starts innocently. You become Friends with the sexy co-worker and decide to carpool to work together, or you reunite with an ex on Facebook and start to share stories and photos from the past. You know you’re crossing the line when…
Signs Chatting is Becoming Cheating
– You start sharing more about yourself with your friend than your partner.
– You prefer talking to your ‘friend’ over your primary partner.
– You check for messages CONSTANTLY.
– You think about him or her more than your partner or your kids.
– Thoughts of your friend bring relief and an instant high.
GT: What if YOU are the person having the affair? How do you break the news?
SM: Before confessing to your partner, you must confess to yourself and take full responsibility. Forgive your partner for anything they did or didn’t do that may have influenced your choice to cheat. Do not blame your partner for the affair– now or ever!
Start and end your confession with love. It might go something like this: “ I love you with all of my heart. I really screwed up. I want to get this out in the open and tell you the truth so that we can move on and heal our relationship together.” Then tell what happened. And close with a lot of love.
GT: Is ending the affair always the right goal– or could it be that the person that you’re cheating with is actually a better relationship for you?
SM: While you may feel tempted to do something wild, crazy and risky, like leave your relationship for your emotional lover, this is a BIG mistake. Biochemical research has shown that the effect of ‘love chemicals’ is twofold: they are released in RESPONSE to your friend, and they BOND you to your friend. Letting go of such intoxicating nourishment seems unimaginable, but if you want your primary relationship to work, then you have to END the affair. The lover must go.
GT: If you think you are being cheated on… What are your tips for spotting a cheater?
SM: Here are some trumpet-blaring red flags…
Tips for Spotting a Cheater
– Your partner starts withdrawing from normal activities, social plans and time with you.
– Your partner receives (or sends) regular texts at all hours from a ‘friend’ you don’t know or didn’t know your partner had.
-Your partner is taking mysterious calls in the other room and when you ask who called, they say “No one” “Wrong number” “It’s business,” or “Why do you ask?”
– Your partner is getting very secretive or defensive about how they are spending their time and money.
-Your partner’s desire to be ‘attractive’ is increasing, especially when leaving the house. This includes dressing differently when leaving the house, changing their style, losing weight, looking sexier.
– Your partner is running hot and cold when it comes to sex with you.
GT: Is there a “best way” to confront someone if you are having suspicions about them?
SM: It is essential that you have REAL, tangible proof, not assumptions. Preparation is being able to emotionally handle the truth. Have a plan in place in terms of the time and place you are going to have the discussion without interruption. When confronted, cheaters often lie or deny. Be prepared for escape clauses, denial, and dismissal of your claims, defensiveness, or distraction. These reactions come from fear. Being conversational rather than confrontational will allow your partner to feel safe enough to be honest.
GT: When do you cut your losses and move on…and when do you try and work it out?
SM: It’s not going to work if the cheater doesn’t give up the lover. That’s a non-negotiable.
If you are the cheater, it takes strength, patience, reliability and perseverance. You have to earn back the trust by being steadfast and resolute in your love and doing whatever it takes show your partner they are #1 and your relationship together is a #1 priority.
If you are the betrayed, it takes a willingness to heal, forgive and open up your heart again.
Together as a team, you can face the weaknesses and change the emotional climate between you. Channel your attention towards making your relationship strong. And keep saying these words to each other: “I love you,” “You are important,” “We matter,” “I want only you.”