nging my day and to spend time with this person? If…I doing or talking about with this person? Are they things I don’t do or talk about with my spouse? Am I hiding? Am I rearranging my day and to spend time with this person? If any of these are issues, you are get…
The Good Men Project
Hiding Something In Your Relationship? That’s Cheating
Emotional infidelity is a common relationship killer — but is the solution avoiding emotional connection with anyone but our intimate partners?
Nice article! The “Am I hiding?” question is how I define infidelity or “cheating” in an relationship. Being out in the open allows the behavior to be changed if your partner disagrees with it. But letting them know too late usually causes irrevocable loss of trust.
- Any time I’ve been in a relationship where the emotional connection came before the sexual connection, the sex was ultimately unfulfilling. And then my partner and I have been stuck in an emotionally-fulfilling but not sexually-fulfilling relationship. I’d say that sex is so important to relationships that this is a recipe for heartbreak, particularly if the relationship is supposed to be monogamous and lifelong. And, in my experience, no actual relationship ever starts if the good sex doesn’t lead to an emotional connection. So I would disagree that the emotions should come first, especially if you’re trying to be exclusive sexual partners. Sorry, but it’s better than a sexless marriage!
- I think emotional infidelity is the best argument I’ve heard for an open relationship and polyamory in general. Most people associate ethical nonmonogamy with outside sexual partners. But as you wrote, it is easier to get over a hook-up than over an emotional connection with someone else. My perspective is that it is emotionally depriving to ask someone to never have an emotional connection with another potential sexual partner ever again (i.e. someone of the opposite sex for straight individuals). My experience has been that I end up isolated while dating, because I can’t connect emotionally in a deep way with 50% of humans without cheating on my partner. That includes discarding any contact with all exes, even if we still care about each other and want the best for them. And, given that passionate love lasts 6–30 months but companionate (compassionate) love takes 10–60 years to grow to that level of intensity, obviously most relationships are going to end when someone looks for outside emotional connection after dating exclusively for 2–10 years. So then we end up “serial monogamists” hoping this partner is “the one” despite the last 5 partners not working out because of those inherent love dynamics.
I’d argue it’s not worth throwing away a meaningful relationship, especially one that lasted 17 years like the other commenter, simply because the partner found a deep friendship with someone of the opposite sex that they are attracted to.
Yes, I am always going to be more interested in talking to someone I’m attracted to, even when I’m in a relationship. It’s one of the ways we are able to form an emotional connection — we like looking at each other!
Unfortunately, our culture says any too-deep friendship is emotional infidelity because of how we define monogamy.
I buy that argument, and agree that it is a breach of trust and is cheating.
But don’t we just encourage codependence, enmeshment, and toxic relationships by being fearful of cheating emotionally and become overly dependent on our partner?
I think it’s not healthy to buy into the idea that we are “not enough” because our human partner wants an occasional romantic, emotional, or sexual connection with another human. Biologically, we are polyamorous primates, not pair-bonded birds.
Of course, polyamory is not a cure-all, and it is still very possible to cheat. (It happened to me!) And cheating by violating boundaries (explicit or unspoken) creates the same mistrust.
Plus, it’s almost impossible to open a relationship *for someone* without it feeling like cheating.
But, I’d say that we can get out in front of it and have healthy, adult communication about agreeing in advance to be open to outside romance without violating the relationship.
I, for one, always end up socially isolated and inauthentic in an exclusive relationship because I’m constantly reminding myself not to flirt and not to create emotional connections.
But then, when one partner or the other is struggling, we end up terribly alone. In the past, I’ve blamed my partner for not being emotionally connected when I really just needed more female friends.
Which is more mature?
- “You’re making me jealous" with your special friend
- “I feel jealous” when I see your special friend
In adult relationships, shouldn’t we explicitly agree on our boundaries and take responsibility for managing our own emotions?
I think that’s healthier than having to read an article on Medium to learn that deep, opposite-sex friendships can be considered emotional infidelity through our Disney-informed cultural lens.
Here’s a quote by Esther Perel on the subject:
“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic”
Here’s to happily ever after! Thanks again for the great article.
Photo credit: The Author