‘Cheating’ For Other Reasons Besides Sex


Here’s the situation, you’re in a committed relationship or marriage. After a few years you start to feel dissatisfied and unhappy. You start to feel like there is ‘something missing’ in your love-life.

Sex is OK, if not predictable. You still ‘love’ your partner/spouse but something’s wrong. You start to realize that you and your partner/spouse are living with a bit of emotional distance between the two of you.

You don’t really talk anymore, except about the practical stuff, the kids, the bills, the family. In fact, you’ve been ‘talking’ to someone else you’ve met. He or she is a really good listener, and the two of you have a lot of interests in common.

You don’t think your partner/spouse knows him or her, maybe, maybe not. In fact, lately, you’ve been speaking a lot to this person, just about every day. At this point your partner/spouse doesn’t know about it and you say to yourself, why should he or she anyway. You’re not doing anything wrong.

It’s just talk, right? You’ve never had sex with him or her. Whether or not the thought has occurred to either of you, you tell yourself it’s not that kind of relationship. Even though you do miss him or her, if you can’t have that frequent phone call. You’re not sure exactly why.

So you’ve decided to try to let him or her go. You discovered it wasn’t so easy. This other person is now part of your emotional life. You wish your partner/spouse could talk with you the way he or she does. But that’s a fleeting thought.

Your partner/spouse is so busy and preoccupied. You don’t feel comfortable bringing it up to him or her. He or she has so much to deal with already. You’re so glad your partner/spouse does what he or she does to keep things going. You don’t want to disturb that.

So you try to live with this ‘division’ in your love-life. You’ve gotten to the point where you now ‘need’ two people, your partner/spouse and this other person. A close friend over coffee said you were ’emotionally cheating’ on your partner/spouse because you kept mentioning this other person so often. You reacted defensively.

You reassured yourself and your friend that you weren’t cheating. That there was no ‘sex’ involved. Now you have this bothersome unanswered question that keeps coming up in your mind. “Am I cheating?” Let’s analyze the problem.

There is something missing in your committed love relationship, right? And you’ve found the missing item in a relationship with someone else, right? An alternative solution would be to find out if what is missing is possible in your committed relationship. People can change, if they want to, if they’re motivated to change. Problem is you’ll have to upset the apple cart to find out.

Would your partner/spouse change to have a better relationship with you? The answer to this question will tell you what you need to know. Sometimes we prefer not to know because we anticipate the answer will be painful. We might even assume an answer to the question before finding out what the other person is prepared to do about the problem. Either way is a limited solution.

It’s emotionally harder to confront your unhappiness by finding out if your partner/spouse is also unhappy and interested in a mutual change of some kind. Something the two of you agree on and change together for the good of your relationship. For example, you don’t stop trying to talk and listen to your partner/spouse, and he or she works on listening to you and talking about his or her own thoughts and feelings.

If the answer is no, it will hurt temporarily, but you’ll then have an opportunity to make a ‘real’ choice. One option is, stay in the relationship the way it is without guilt or fear, with your ‘need’ being met by someone else. Or leave the relationship, get over it, and find someone else who can meet your needs for emotional intimacy in a committed relationship.

Either way, you get a chance to live honestly and freely without feeling like you’re ‘cheating.’

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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  1. MP on May 20, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Dear Dr.,
    Thank you for your blog. I am the “other man” in the triangle. We have been talking to each other almost an year.
    At first I would tell you I am an Indian. I will tell you two parts of my love story. One is before her marriage and second one is after her marriage.
    We had first met each other in 2005 when we were young. I was like 17 yrs old then. She actually came to visit her relatives in my town. At that time, we met each other for 3 days only. We talked a lot to each other. Not about love but about studies and other things. After talking to her I began to have a huge crash on her. But I could not tell her. Then she left for her home which is quite far away from my home. I really fall for her at that time, but I could not do anything as I was too shy to ask someone about her. I didn’t have her mobile no. nor she had mine. After that I got busy with my studies. And she got married in 2008.
    Last yr in 2013, we again met in Facebook after almost 8 yrs. And we started to talk each other. She told me she missed me so much after we met in 2005. I too told her I missed her so much. I felt so regret, even now I regret it why I didnt I try to communicate her at that time. After sharing our feelings of 2005, we again fall in love with each other. She openly told me that till now she had been in love with two persons – her husband and me.
    She tells me that she, before marriage, even told her husband that she loved someone before..but didnt tell my name. It has been 5 yrs. of her marriage, I would like to tell you how she describes her marriage. They had one year relationship before her marriage with her husband. Since the parents of her husband decided to arrange the marriage for her husband with another girl, hence they had to elope in her early age. She was only 21 then. She openly tells me that they were so much in love with each other in earlier stage of marriage, but the problem was that they are not compatible at all. Her husband does not listen even a single suggestion she gives. And her husband is so dominant that everything he does he does according to him. She tells me that her husband cheated her that he does not do smoking and drinking. When I met her last year she was quite depressed as she told me.
    She tells me she had tried so much to correct the habits of her husband, but her husband does not listen. She has given up the hope.
    She shares me almost everything. I too tell her everything about me, about my family, about my habits. She regrets that she used to talk to her husband before their marriage but she did not know what to talk. So she could not know him properly. When she married, then only she came to know that her husband is completely opposite to her.
    We have been talking to each other for a year now. We love each other so much. She is so soft and compassionate I cant tell you in words. She shares me all her feelings with me. I too tell her everything. We talk a lot in phone, do chatting. The way she behaves with people around her, the way she behaves with her in laws just impresses me. She has got so positive attitude. She would be a perfect partner for me. She tells me that no one loves her so strongly than I do. The kind of openness we two share I cant tell you in words. She tells me my love for her is completely different from others. As she is married, we tried not to talk any more so many times, but every time we tried we became closer and closer.
    But the problem is that now her husband knows about our relationship. Accidently she forgot to delete the recording file of our conversation in her tablet and her husband found it. He warned her that he would tell her parents about that recording. But as she was scared of ruining her image, she asked him to forgive her and told him that she would not do again. Problem is that even after knowing our relationship; her husband does not allow her to go away. Recently, she came to her mother’s home, but she had to go back to him after he repeatedly told her to go back to him, every time she made any reasons not to go he warned her that he would tell her parents about that recording. After going back to him, she had even told her husband that she wanted divorce, but her husband did not give attention to it.
    I am in so much love with this woman. I don’t want to lose her. But I am concerned of what my friends and family will think, as I am from rural India so I am worried. I know my family will not support me for the marriage. Sometimes I become confused that if our relation too become the same as her relationship with her husband now!!
    I have not told any of my friends about my relationship. I told her to live with her parents and she was okay with it but her husband does not allow her. And I have planning to do my marriage a little bit late, probably after 3 years, I have told her this before our relationship began, and she is okay with it as she too don’t want to marry as soon as she gets apart from her husband.
    I love her so much.
    .Plzz give me some suggestions.
    If you have a way I can contact you please let me know !

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